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Friday, September 24, 2010

Today With The Short Straw ...

It's not actually a straw ... it's a red marble. On one of those "Bring Your Child To Word Day" debacles, some kid left a game in the break room. It sat in Lost/Found forever, so we pilfered several marbles from its contents ... one red and about a dozen white ones ... to help our office perform a hated monthly ritual. The task is vile. Loathsome. It makes you feel dirty and in immediate need of a hot shower. The morbid task is emptying the company suggestion box and logging the comments into the computer system!

We haven't actually "drawn straws" yet, but I have that feeling at the base of my brain that says my number is up. Like when you get the letter in the mail from the court house and your brains screams "Jury Duty!" This is the first company I have ever worked for that takes its "suggestion box" concept so seriously. Since the first of this year, I have had the honor once ... in April, I think. It really isn't difficult ... get the key, unlock the box ... a gaudy-looking rectangle that hangs from a wall near a set of public restrooms ... collect the slips of paper or folded notes or whatever, go back to your desk and log into a part of the Human Resources intranet, and finally key in the information. A monkey could do it ... well, I guess there are a few procedures that require a human with basic decisionmaking abilities. The "suggestion" must be typed "as is" ... verbatim. And there are check boxes for whether the entry was "written" or "printed" from a computer as if to disguise the contributor's identity. There is also a blank for putting the name of the contributor if they have happened to sign the comment. And believe it or not, some idiots want credit for the inane crap they propose. As a joke, I once considered suggesting something wildly stupid like "Stall-less Unisex Bathrooms" or "Chinese New Year's Day as a paid day off for anyone who could prove they were a cock, rabbit, or dragon" and then signing someone else's name to it ... like that douchebag in Fulfillment who always codes my mailings incorrectly. Too much time on my hands some days, I guess.

Anyway, last April when I "earned" the honor of viewing the wisdom of our collective office ethos, I had 16 suggestions to record. Most of them were of the printed variety to protect employee anonymity. Of the 16, only ten were actually suggestions ... six were just general complaints or the rantings of malcontents. But each was specific and needed to be recorded. "I need a raise!" was one comment; another was "Our company president needs to be told where to find a decent haircut."

One of my favorite concrete suggestions was "teach the cleaning crew how to clean." On the surface, this sounds pretty snarky, but I was betting that the contributor was actually being kind. Our custodial staff is mostly comprised of Hispanic-Americans who genuinely seem to have problems understanding English. I know that they get their instructions from a supervisor with a dubious work ethic ... they probably would do a better job if they were properly shown what was expected.

My least favorite
suggestion from last April was "award the top salesperson each quarter with a party and a front-row parking spot." COME ON!! ... our sales staff already enjoys a very generous bonus program and, to be honest, many of the rest of us bring in just as much business in other ways ... we just don't have the word "sales" in our position titles. Where's our incentives? Front-row parking would be cool, though ... especially in the winter!

uring my tenure with the suggestion box, there was one truly stellar suggestion that management is actually pursuing. Some clever individual wrote "put keycard 'roadblocks' in each major department so people aren't just roaming around the building."

company operates out of one major building with a few nearby satellite facilities. Our main entrance has a clearly-defined front desk staffed my a number of very bright, friendly, and conscientious individuals that monitor the comings and goings of visitors, sales reps, delivery personnel, media inquiries, etc. But occasionally, those same people are away on break or out sick or busy helping complete a big company mailing or other project that distracts them a bit. People do slip through and it can be annoying. I myself have been sitting at my desk when a printing rep or a paper salesperson just walks in and sits down with a big grin and starts talking. The majority of those times I am too busy to deal with the individuals or unprepared to discuss business particulars. Other times, I'm just not in the mood and would put them off for a day or two. Regardless, keycard "checkpoints" would stop this from ever happening again.

by and large, the absolute worst part of checking the suggestion box ... hands down ... is the idle gossip and personal "espionage" that gets reported. Every month, there are little jewels like "someone in accounting is stealing from petty cash" and "I smell alcohol on so-and-so's breath all the time!" Those "suggestions" I feel really slimy about recording into the computer. I guess I could always crumple them up, put them in my pocket, and pretend like they never existed. But what if the "rumor" was true and reporting it could have helped someone? Or worse, what if the contributor goes the next step and directly lodges a complaint. Then I get drawn into a game of "I said/they said" and my integrity gets called into question.

st April, I had the misfortune of logging a "suggestion" that caused quite a stir. On a slip of ivory stationary was the statement "Clark Jones ... the very married Clark Jones ... is sleeping with Melody Hayes." And Melody works as an assistant in my department.

my knowledge, unless it is a relationship between a direct supervisor and a reporting employee, our company has no prohibitions on office romance. Clark and Melody work for very dissimilar departments which are even at a great physical distance to each other. They seldom cross paths ... well, if the gossip is true they're "crossing" much more than paths. Anyway, Clark's supervisor ... a very prudish lady with a reputation for being a hardnose ... was apparently informed of the rumor and has made it her mission in life to make Clark's worklife miserable, saddling him with every nuisance project she can find. I've heard people comment that he'd consider getting fired a blessing! And no one even knows if it's true. And regardless, it wouldn't matter!!

, God ... I hear the marbles! Someone's shaking the damned bag we keep them in. Maybe I should just go hide in the bathroom. Happy thoughts! ... Happy thoughts!

OF RANT: "Truth" is such a fickle bitch!!

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