Tag Archives: office

I’m just saying

The whole floor got called in for a meeting after lunch. There’s way too many of us working on six to fit in the conference room at the same time, but our manager Jackie didn’t care at all. “Where am I supposed to sit?” I asked her, standing in the entranceway of Conference Room C, pointing inside, shrugging my shoulders like, for real? Really, we all have to shove in there? “Isn’t that against the fire code?”


“I don’t know,” she said, “Do you have a copy of the fire code on you?” Of course I don’t have a copy of the fire code, but I didn’t know what else to say, so I just kind of exaggerated my shrug for thirty seconds or so before saying, “Do you?”

“Just get inside, stand against the wall. Please.”

Which, yeah, when I write it out like this and read it back to myself, it doesn’t seem like she’s in the wrong here, or, what I mean to say is, you can’t really get the sense of the attitude she was passing along to me, like shut up and get inside. But she didn’t say shut up. She said please. Whatever, trust me, it was your classic case of I’m-the-boss-stop-asking-me-questions.

I went inside. Did I mention how crowded it was? And Jackie was standing by the door. Part of me wished that there was a big fire right there, and the only one who’d make it out alive would be Jackie, and she’d have to go before a big investigatory panel, “Why’d you make them all squeeze into Conference Room C?” the fire marshals would grill her, “You’re a manager, aren’t you at all familiar with the fire code?”

I didn’t really want that to happen. I wanted all of the consequences of that to happen, but without any of the actual fire, nobody dying or anything like that. I certainly don’t want to die in a fire in Conference Room C.

But it was getting really hot. Someone said, “Someone open a window,” and I couldn’t even tell who said it, because I don’t know everyone on six, not on a first name basis, and it was so crowded I couldn’t really see where the voice came from. Someone else answered, “Why don’t you open a window?” And then Jackie closed the door behind her and said, “The windows don’t open, we’re on the sixth floor.” Someone else shouted out, “Isn’t that a fire hazard?”

“Yeah!” I said, and looked right at Jackie, hoping she’d look at me, realize that I’m not the only one concerned about the potential that we’d all be trapped in here. But Jackie didn’t look at me, she just pretended not to hear what I said, which, that was probably a smart thing to do, because I would have started asking questions like, “Did anybody bother to make sure the coffee machine is off?” All sorts of crazy fire related questions.

“Everybody,” Jackie spoke up over everybody else talking, “The faster everybody quiets down, the faster we can get through this and get back to work.” And when she said it like that, “get back to work,” I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Get back to work. What is this, communist China? Get back to work? Why don’t you get back to work, Jackie? I didn’t say that out loud, but I could have. It’s like, every time anyone walks in her office, you can always see a game of Scrabble reflected from her computer screen onto her glasses. And whatever, I play Scrabble, everybody plays Scrabble, I’m not trying to judge. But you’re a manager. Don’t tell me to get back to work.

“It’s about that new box of staplers we had shipped in a couple of days ago. They’re gone. I need them back. I don’t want to make this a big thing, OK? If you took them, put them back, it cost like two hundred bucks to get everybody new staplers, OK? Can we do that? Any questions?”

Monica raised her hand, “Look, I think it was Terrance. I mean, he’s the only one who ever complained about the old staplers. That’s all he ever talked about, staplers. And he’s always getting pissed off if you take a pen. Always accusing people of taking his pens. Hey Terrance, they’re not your pens, OK? They’re from the supply room. Just because you put them in that mug on your desk doesn’t make them yours, OK? I’m just saying.”

And Terrance looked pissed, like he was about to say something, but he couldn’t figure out what to say. So I jumped in, “Well, Monica, thanks a lot for that. I’m just saying. I’m just saying that it’s not very professional to start calling out your coworkers in front of everybody else. Just saying.”

Monica looked at me like, what the fuck? Who asked you? But she didn’t have time to say anything, because Jackie interrupted, “All right! That’s it! No further discussion!” which, can you really stop us from talking? That’s like power going straight to her head right there. “Everybody back to work!” Back to work. She’s fucking crazy.

But yeah, why would I get involved, right? I mean, even I know that’s not my place to get involved. But I thought, what if they find out that Terrance didn’t steal those staplers? Look, just between us, I think he totally stole them. Seriously, that guy’s like a total office supplies wacko. But just say that they prove it’s not him. Who are they going to come after? They have to go after somebody. Maybe me? I don’t know, maybe Monica will say it was me, because she’s still pissed off at me for telling her not to accuse Terrance. I feel like by throwing my voice into group, you know, sticking up for Terrance, maybe people will think about that, maybe it won’t make sense to point any fingers my way.

I felt like I was suffocating in there, so when Jackie wrapped things up, I was a little aggressive in getting out of Conference Room C. And on my way out, Jackie said to me, really sarcastically, “Thanks for your help in there.” And I just shot back, “You got it boss, any time.”

Networking with my old friend Bret

My friend Bret from high school sent me an email out of nowhere. I hadn’t seen him in years. It’s not like we cut the chord or anything, but it went down like most high school friendships went down. We went away to different colleges, sure, I think we might have hung out a few times over the course of the next year, the first Thanksgiving back, stuff like that. But after that, that was it. Facebook wouldn’t be around for another two years or so, and by the time it became massively popular, it wasn’t like I was sitting around thinking, you know what I should do? I should send Bret a friend request.


But that’s how it happened a few months back, all of the sudden I got this friend request, it was from Bret. I said yes. And then the next day he sent me a message. “Hey Rob,” he started off with some introductory remarks, stuff like, “It’s been such a long time. How are things with you?” which, I never really got the whole asking a question via long Internet message. Yes, it’s a mostly nice thing to do, and if we were standing face to face, say we’d just bumped into each other randomly, all right, I can see it happening, “How’s it going?” “Great, you?”

Anyway, after he got all of that mandatory chit-chat out of the way, he got to the crux of the problem. He needed a job, badly, and he was wondering if my company was hiring. And I always kind of clench up at request like this, which is crazy, because how else are you supposed to get a job? It’s not like sending your resume out to the Internet is ever going to work. You have to like know people.

And even though I wouldn’t really say that I knew Bret, certainly not anymore, even though I hadn’t actually clicked all the way through his Facebook page, I was more than certain that, had I given some time into finding out what he’d been up to, I would have totally been surprised as to how different he looked after all these years.

Still, I thought back to all of those times that I needed a job, how I would’ve loved some random acquaintance from way back when to have pulled some position out of nowhere for me. So I said, “Sure, I’ll definitely pass it along.” And I hoped that would have been the end of it, I could have walked in to HR, dropped off a resume, done.

But it wasn’t done. I forwarded Bret’s email to the HR lady, and she wound up shooting me a response right away. “Rob, did you even check this guy’s resume?” And I didn’t, of course I didn’t. I’m not a resume guy. Whatever got me to where I’m at right now, it certainly wasn’t because of my resume. If anything, I’m currently gainfully employed in spite of my resume, that trivial obstacle that I always wind up tripping over as I make it a goal to figure out how to get work.

The back and forth emails were constant, like every two minutes or so, to the point where I clicked print and took the elevator up to HR, maybe see if we couldn’t iron everything out face to face. “Hey,” I told Sarah, I think her name was Sarah, she interviewed me when I was applying, but I don’t know, I hadn’t really been up to this floor in a while. And I could never really gauge how to approach HR, like what was the relationship? Back when I was still a potential employee, she held all of that power over me. It’s not like she was my boss, but that feeling of seniority still felt very present, whenever there was an email, or a face to face, like right then.

“Yeah, sorry, look, I haven’t seen this guy in like ten years. So I didn’t really feel right going through his resume. I kind of just wanted to do him a solid, pass along the document. You know what I mean?”

And she shook her head no, like she didn’t know what I meant, “Rob, look, if you want to network, and I get it, OK, I get the whole networking thing, it’s really important. But if you’re going to do someone a favor, do them a favor. Look at the resume. Do you see all of these typos? It looks like this thing’s current as of 2012. If you’re going to pass along a document, if someone’s reaching out to you for help, you should try to help.”

And this is exactly why I didn’t want to get involved in the first place. Like I said, what was I going to do? What if I tooled around with his resume and it wound up backfiring? What if whatever skills I brought to Bret’s resume wound up negatively affecting whatever chances he’d have not only at gaining employment here, but everywhere? Especially since he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that actually updates his resume, I couldn’t bear that, the idea that I’d be permanently hindering this guy from getting a job, all based on good intentions, it doesn’t matter.

Sarah looked at me, she was still kind of shaking her head back and forth, but eventually she did this sigh before looking up at me and saying, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to do you a favor. I’m going to call your friend Bret in for an interview, but you have to spend some time helping him with his resume. OK? When I see this guy next week, I want to see something polished, is that cool?”

“Yeah, that’s cool,” I didn’t know what else I was supposed to say. Maybe she was doing me a solid, but she definitely felt like a boss in this situation. Worse, when I got back to my desk, there was another email, it was from LinkedIn, a message from Sarah, she wanted me to join her professional network. And that sigh that she did when I was up at her office, I was doing it right now, I tried to log on to LinkedIn to accept her friend request or whatever, but I couldn’t remember my password, or my username, I couldn’t remember which one it was that I couldn’t remember, it had been so long since I’d signed up for that site.

A week later, Bret shows up for the interview. I had to meet him for coffee and we had to go over his document and it was just like I knew it would be, I barely recognized him. And the part that I did recognize, it just sort of jostled in my memory how Bret and I, we weren’t even like direct friends. We hung out with the same group of people, but I never did anything with Bret one on one, it was always within the context of the larger group.

Even weirder, Bret wound up getting the job. Sarah made a comment to me, something like, “Nice work!” And I couldn’t tell if it was my resume-building advice, or if she meant like nice work on finding such a great hire. But Bret got hired, he was joining the HR team. And so now, I mean, I never see Bret, he works on a different floor. But every time I run into him, that thin veil of old friendship, it’s totally overpowered by the slightly thicker veil of is-this-guy-my-boss? And I don’t know? Is he my boss? What’s the HR relationship with the rest of the company? I wish we had a flow chart like I see at other agencies, like an organizational hierarchy, because it’s so weird, I don’t know how I’m supposed to address anybody, and I worry that I’m constantly coming across as too standoffish, or not serious enough.

I’m sorry but, you’re fired

I just don’t think we have any room for you here, not enough room, not with these numbers. What are we supposed to tell the shareholders? Nobody wants to see you go, well, nobody except for Maggie, but her objections … well, I probably shouldn’t have said that. Let’s just say that … I can assure you that Maggie had nothing to do with … with this. And between you and me, Maggie’s not going to make the next round of cuts. So don’t think of this as Maggie over you, I mean, nobody’s winning here. Sure, it might be hard to walk out of this office and not notice Maggie sitting there pretending not to smirk, but just think …


You know what? Forget I said anything about Maggie. And please don’t tell her what I just told you. Because if she confronts me … look, I’m going to be real with you here. I’m thinking that we’re going to fire Maggie. But I shouldn’t have told you that. I see now how that was a mistake. But I can’t take it back, and I’m realizing now how you don’t have anything to lose, because we’re already letting you go, and so I’m sure getting in Maggie’s face and telling her what I just accidentally told you, I’d bet that would bring some measure of satisfaction. I can see her just sitting there, not looking up at you, but smirking, smiling as you pack up everything from your desk into those boxes.

I don’t know why they make us give you these boxes. I mean, do you really have many personal belongings here? At work? Sure, I guess I’ve got these photos, although, I’m not really attached to any of them. If I were in your position, I’d gladly leave everything here, “You get rid of them,” I’d tell whoever shoved a box in my face, telling me, I have to be out of here by the end of the day. Of course, if I were in your position, I wouldn’t be in my position right now, and so I guess they wouldn’t be my picture frames. Would they be yours? No, that doesn’t make any sense.

What I’m trying to say is, jeez, I really shouldn’t have brought up Maggie. Look, I’ll be straight with you here, OK, if you tell Maggie what I just told you, I’m going to have to deny it. All right, Maggie’s going to come storming in here, talk about lack of professionalism, because again, I really shouldn’t have said anything. Do you know that you’re one of my first firings? Not the first. But definitely the second. The first one was Charles a while back, but he probably knew it was coming. And in his case, I think I said too little. I’m not sure I got across the whole let go aspect of the termination. Is he still coming in? Regardless, that definitely went a lot smoother than this is going right now.

Basically, if you tell Maggie, I’ll deny it. And it won’t end there, OK, because I can’t deny it and then fire her next week. She’ll be like, “I knew it!” And I can’t take that, not from Maggie, jeez. And so I’ll have to keep her on, indefinitely, probably. And so do you want that? You want her to keep her job? Or do you want her to get fired?

Obviously we haven’t made any final decisions regarding Maggie, or any of the cuts really, I’m just thinking that, there’s no way she makes it past next week. Which, yeah, it’s just unfortunate, you know, the whole company is just resizing or rescaling, or restructuring, what do you call it? There’s a lot of rebranding. Like this is new for me, letting people go, that’s like a rebranding. Man, I hope this gets easier. For me, I mean, you seem to be taking it all in stride.

And who knows? I mean, it was a bad quarter, yeah, and it sucks that we kind of have to go quarter to quarter here, but what if the next quarter is good? What if it’s really good? We’re probably going to be looking at some un-restructuring, which, I think you’d have to talk to HR again, I don’t know if they’d make you go through the whole interview process. Did you interview with me? When you first started? I mean, so yeah, you probably wouldn’t get me again, not unless they re-rebrand me back to hiring. Right now it’s strictly firing.

Not firing, you know, let go. Man, thanks for being so cool about this. Like especially in regards to Maggie. I seriously can’t stress enough how much I shouldn’t have brought her into this, OK. And like I said, even though I’m pretty sure we’re going to let her go, she’s definitely staying if she confronts me with any of this. Hell, I’ll suggest she gets promoted. So yeah, just keep your chin up, all right. Do you need a box? Because I have all of these boxes if you need to … like if you want to carry anything out. Yeah, I don’t really get the boxes.

But just, you see her smiling, just don’t even smile back OK. Just have like an inside smile, the smile of satisfaction that you get from me telling you … I mean, I’m not telling you … but I’m telling you telling you, Maggie’s out. But only if you don’t even look her way. Because any sort of nonverbal communication, like even a knowing smirk, OK, and she stays. Cool? All right. Sorry to see you go. Best of luck out there. You’ll be fine.

Hey, we should grab drinks sometime, now that I’m not your boss anymore. Ha. All right. Can you send in Rich on your way back to the desk? You know what? I should probably get him myself. Don’t worry about Rich. All right. Great. Thanks.

Workplace diplomacy

You have no idea what kind of lunatics I have to deal with at work. The other day Maggie, one of my coworkers, she comes busting into my office, she’s like, “Rob, you know, if you’re not going to make any ice cubes, it’d be nice if you didn’t use them all. OK? Because now there’s no ice. So thanks a lot.”


And yeah, I did take all of the ice cubes, but just the way she came at me, like no knocking, and no, I wasn’t on the phone or anything, but I was in the middle of reading something, I was on the Internet. And she’s all like yelling and pointing, she’s holding a can of Diet Coke in one hand and an empty glass in the other, like look Rob, Diet Coke, glass, no ice. Thanks a lot.

Sure, I could have been a little more diplomatic about everything, right, I told HR that I’d do my best to handle office situations like this a little bit more diplomatically, that’s what the letter that they made me sign said, I just remember that word, diplomatically, like I’m an office diplomat. But I lost it, I said, “Maggie, what the hell’s your problem?” and she kind of smiled, because yeah, I came out swinging, I said “hell” which isn’t very diplomatic, and so I could just tell she was already filling out the official complaint in her head, “And he was cursing,” and then I’d have to write out my own counter-complain, explaining how technically “hell” isn’t a curse, even though, yes, it is all about context, and no, I shouldn’t have said that.

But I was already knee deep in, and so I pushed ahead. “One, what are you, in charge of the ice?” And she was like, “Yeah, I filled up the ice tray this morning. Now there’s none left.” At this point she pointed to my desk. I had a huge glass of ice, which, whatever, yes, I used all of the ice. And this I admitted, albeit not very diplomatically.

“I’m sorry,” I told Maggie, “I didn’t know it was your ice. I thought it was the office’s ice. OK, and I filled up the tray with water after I was done. Why don’t you just come back in a couple of hours and you’ll have all the ice you want?” and she shot right back, “Well how about next time, you save some ice for the rest of us, especially considering you weren’t the one who filled it up this morning, I did, because I was planning on having an ice cold Diet Coke right about now. And now I can’t. Because you took all of the goddamn ice.”

Now I smiled back, I was already mentally adding on my future report to HR, that not only is “hell” not a curse, but if it is, then maybe you should talk to Maggie about cursing, because she told me “goddamn.” “Maggie, where’d you get that Diet Coke, from the office kitchen?”

“Yeah? So?” she said. “Well, it’s from the fridge right? It’s still cold. I don’t understand what you’re complaining about. Why don’t you just chill the f out …” shit, I shouldn’t have said f. Even though I didn’t say “fuck,” I only said f. There’s a lot of room for her to make it look like I said “fuck” and this was potentially a problem, because I could just see my response to HR, in my head, there was no way of phrasing a defense without writing out, “f,” or even, “fuck,” no, just “f.” Still. That was sloppy.

She smiled, “Well you know what? I filled up the ice. OK? And who are you to talk about ice cold soda? You’re telling me to drink it from the can, but you’ve got an ice cold Coke right next to a glass of ice. Don’t you think that’s maybe a little hypocritical?”

It’s true, I was using a full glass for my own refrigerated Coke. I like pouring just a sip, and then I drink it, and then another. Each drop perfectly chilled without being diluted. But I was on the ropes now, I didn’t have time for any concessions. “Look, it’s ice OK? It doesn’t matter who fills it up, and even though I’m grateful that you replenished the tray …”

“Bullshit you’re grateful.”

Bingo. I continued, “Even though I’m grateful, I didn’t think I had to ask everybody in the office if I could take some ice. Do you go around asking people who replaced the toilet paper in the bathroom? Huh? You want to get into that time I saw you not refill paper tray two on the annex printer with fresh paper? Remember that?”

And Maggie just looked at me, I was smiling, we were even for curses, and she said, “You know what Rob? Go fuck yourself, asshole.” And she stormed out.

I thought, ha, talk about a win. And I’d be the bigger person here. I had the cold drink. I didn’t see the need to involve HR.

But then ten minutes later I thought, you know what? Fuck Maggie. And I opened a new Word document and told HR all about how Maggie stormed into my office and told me to go fuck myself. I hope she gets fired.


Of course I’m a team player. I just don’t like being told what to do. So as long as we can establish some team rules, you know, a solid foundation upon which we can build this team, a platform if you will, well, I don’t know why I said platform, it’s the same as foundation, but you get the idea right? We’re a team, and we’re always mindful of the principles that bind us together, first and foremost, don’t tell me what to do. Not you.


Definitely not Susan. Seriously, if she tells me to do one more thing, well, we’re still all going to be on a team. All of us, except for Susan. She’s going to be on a different team. By herself. Go ahead Susan, see if anybody wants to join your team. Anybody feel like switching sides? Because I hear Susan’s recruiting. What’s that Susan? You brought donuts? Sorry Susan, but nobody wants your cheap store-bought donuts, OK?

If you want real donuts, please, go to Dunkin Donuts, OK? And Steve, while you’re there, can you grab me an extra large with milk? And a bowtie? See if anybody else wants one. Please. See if the rest of the team needs any coffee. Team. Listen up, Steve’s going out for coffee. Here, Steve, put it on the corporate card.

Or, if you like, you can always switch teams. I hear Susan has a new team, a bunch of real up-and-comers. Who did they get? I heard they stole someone away from our side not too long ago. It was right about the same time that that box of old store-bought powdered donuts disappeared from the office kitchen. You know, the ones that must have left there by mistake last week, because nobody ate them, I don’t even think anybody bothered to open the box.

Oh yeah, that was Susan, right, she’s the one that we lost. But who else? Did anybody else switch sides? Nobody? It’s just Susan? Well, that doesn’t really sound like enough people to make up a whole team. It’s more like she’s her own non-entity, a free-agent of sorts, although, considering how there aren’t too many other teams around this office, you know, besides our team, I can’t really see anybody picking her up. She’d have to make a pretty generous offer.

She’d have to go out and treat everybody to burritos. And not on the corporate card. That would have to be like a personal gift, from Susan, to the rest of the team. And even then, it’s not like we’d just let her back on the team automatically. The burritos would be a good first step, absolutely, but it would be an act of faith. Maybe we’d let her back on. Maybe not. Probably not.

But maybe. And even though I’m not guaranteeing anything, I do guarantee this, that if and when we decide to let Susan back on the team, she’s starting from the bottom. And Susan, I don’t know why you haven’t already started taking everybody’s burrito order, but you should pay attention here. If we start you from the bottom, temp, or assistant temp, it’s not a punishment, no, it’s for your own good. You’ve got to learn the fundamentals of being a team player. You need like a foundation.

There I go, saying foundation again, totally unnecessary. I need some coffee. Is Steve back? What, he didn’t leave yet? He’s on a call? Hey Susan, good news, it looks like there’s actually enough for a new team, now that we’ve had to let Steve go. You hear that Steve? Yeah, you’re on a new team, it’s just you and Susan. You like that? Do you?

Hello? Yes, this is Rob. No, boss, I was just doing some teambuilding exercises. She said what? No, that’s crazy, I don’t know what she’s talking about. Well, was she drinking? Like, did she go out for lunch? Well, I don’t know, maybe she had a couple of drinks. She wasn’t really receptive to any of the teambuilding.

No, I just thought we could have used some … OK fine I’ll stop it … well why do I have to go to HR and sign papers? I don’t want to sign any papers. Because I was just joking around, why does everybody take everything so seriously? You’re telling me I don’t have a choice? Listen, boss, I’m not trying to make any threats here, but I’m this close to switching teams, OK, and to think, I was just about to buy everybody lunch. Do you like burritos boss? You ever have flautas? They’re delicious. They’re like little mini taco burritos. I’ll get you beef. Just hang tight boss, I’ll be down in fifteen.

Hey Susan, put down some beef flautas for the boss. Come on, this will be just the lunch to bring the team back together. Come on, Susan, please. Susan put down the phone. I said sorry. Come on Susan. I’ll tell you what, put down the phone and I’ll buy you lunch. You like chimichangas?