Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I can’t go for that – Workplace traditions I’m not feeling

Part of the problem with working for other people is well… you're working for someone other than yourself. You spend a lot of time in the promotion of that brand as opposed to pushing TeamOne. Or as I refer to mine, CheleCo. CheleCo can't prosper while I'm hustling day and night for Big Corporate Co. Plus, Big Corporate Co has all sorts of random expectations (beyond just delivered work product) that grated on my last nerve. Here are just a few:

The obligatory birthday celebration: Le Huge Sigh. I listed it as number one because it is my least favorite thing. The passing of the card (always some drama). The herding of people into the conference room for the singing, cake cutting and whatnot. If you don't go, you're anti-social. If you go but don't want cake, you're making other people feel bad. What if I'm on a diet? What if I don't care for the person whose birthday we're celebrating? What if it's my birthday? You want to wish me a happy birthday? Give me the day off with pay. Nothing says "Happy Birthday!" like getting paid to sleep in.

Weekly Staff Meetings: Very few people know how to run these well. Just because a meeting is scheduled for an hour doesn't mean we have used every second. If we've done the updates and status reports in a half hour… cut us loose. But no. There's always one person who has some drama and waited until the staff meeting to bring it up. This also plays into my peeve above about folks who call a meeting but have no agenda.

Bosses' Day: I'm sorry. What is this fake-ass holiday about? Don't I spend all year doing for my boss? I'm required to show some special appreciation too? I once remarked (loudly), "Isn't EVERY day Bosses' Day?" My VP didn't appreciate it. Guess who was in charge of the celebration. L

Performance Appraisals: I know they are necessary. The problem is that people rarely use them as they are meant to be used – to set goals and review your performance against previous goals that have been discussed and agreed upon. You don't let somebody eff up all year and then nail them in the performance appraisal. The appraisal shouldn't be used as a weapon. Also, there should be few surprises. No one should find out on page nine of their annual review that no one thinks they are a team player. An effective manager really should level-set expectations. If someone thinks they are shining and about to get a juicy increase/promotion and you put them on a 60-day warning… that's a manager FAIL. Don't get me to preaching performance management.

State of the Company: Otherwise known as the All Hands' Meeting. If it's via conference call, it's almost bearable. But how painful is an all-day mandatory all hands on deck in person meeting where the muckety-mucks roll out the corporate speak: "We've had a challenging quarter but our turnaround strategy is sound. By innovating and striving for continuous excellence, we can reach our potential. But we need everyone giving 110% with their head in the game, it's going to take us rolling up our sleeves and making a team effort. Quality, Service-Driven, Results Oriented… that's our plan." Okay but what does that mean?

Team Building Exercises: I've played games, I've run races, I've gone on retreats, done the backwards trust fall, held hands and sang "Wind Beneath My Wings" (I wish I was joking) all in an effort to team build. I've never understood how forcing me to play Pictionary with the Benefits Manager after hours at the Director's mansion does anything other than solidify my opinion that the Benefits Manager was an idiot and that there was four hours of my life I'll never get back. Whenever I'm asked to provide ideas for team building I say the same thing: have everybody stop working one Friday of the month at twelve. Force them to sit together while you feed them then send them home early with pay – that's team building.

One day, I'll have to go in on Holiday parties, Company picnics and Freakin' Secret Santa. I could go in all day. But let's hear from you. What cutesy work "thing" drives you nuts? Are you sick of the white sheet cakes was super sweet frosting? Do share. The floor is yours…

38 comments:

RichBrand said...

You hit the nail on the head with performance appraisals (and struck a major nerve with me personally). The example you gave was exactly what happened to me at my job in Atlanta, hence why I'm no longer at that company, nor in Atlanta. I won't go in too much on it personally, but pretty much there are a lot of suss managers out there who (knowingly and unknowingly) are absolutely horrible at managing performance.
If you manage folks, READ THIS CAREFULLY: when you rate someone's performance in writing, that's an internal (and sometimes external if people want to be real sneaky) resume for that team member. Like Chele said, it's just as much your fault as the manager if that person is not performing well (or being perceived not to perform well) and you wait until they're on probation for them to know where they stand.
Ok, I digress.

CurvyJones said...

I'd rather go to the dentist than participate in another secret santa. Make it the orthodontist if it's a White Elephant gift exchange.

ASmith said...

::slow clap:: for the pointless meetings.

Whenever I run an organization the way we do meetings will be all kinds of new. I'm not quite done planning it, but I'ma have it copyrighted when I finish, cause it's that deep. Meetings are supposed to be purposeful and not make you hate your life and yet I leave almost every meeting I have hating my life. Meetings are not counseling sessions, they are not time to step up your passive aggressive skills, they are not the opportunity to kiss ass, nor are they the time to have private discussions. If what you have to say isn't pertinent to the ENTIRE group, then hush up and send it in an email. Lawd.

In our performance appraisals, we're always "cautioned" by our super-boss (as in boss of the bosses) that this is to be a "conversation" between a manager and employee. The performance appraisal is supposed to go both ways. As in, while my manager appraises me, I appraise him. That sounds great but in reality... what do I look like going in telling my manager he sucks and I could do a better job (even if it is true?) At the end of the day, his appraisal of me is what matters to my paycheck. Not so much vice versa. Nothing quite bugs me like a bad manager. Do you not get that to a point the people you manage's performance is a reflection on you?

I mess with team building activities, but not in the workplace. Someone yesterday said they laugh when people call working groups teams. I agree. A team all really does have the same goal, but not in the workplace. We're all working for the same group, but our goals differ because we're all trying to make sure we look good individually.

rickyfontain said...

1. Birthday celebrations and "team building." Well I have always chalked this up to cultural differences. My European brothers tend to view grand expressions of pseudo love as part of corporate culture. While African Americans tend to hate fakeness above all. Hence my disdain for the term "Team" when we all know we can't stand each other. Or celebrating a birthday with someone that won't promote you.

2. Bosses Day......Ohaaa.....Please.....I've never had boss stupid enought to think they were getting any recognition on this day. Didn't even know they had a day.

3. State of the Company......If your organizations holds all day all hands meetings than you work for morons.

4.Performance Appraisals........There is this magic thing on the back of every one that says "Comments." If my appraisal comes back bad I use it to verbaly destroy my supervisor. Enumerating how his many failings as a boss have effected his perception of my performance. Guess what.....if you can turn a sentence the way I can your supervisor will be rewriting that appraisal pronto.

Mia Williams said...

Lots of valid and humorous points! However, this sounds like the rantings of a lazy person. Do everybody a favor and just quit your job!

OneChele said...

I work for myself now but excellent insights on my over 15 years of work experience based on these 6 paragraphs. Thanks for visiting the Black 'n Bougie blog.

Angel said...

This is an EXCELLENT list!! You captured all that I hate about corporate world.

I HATE pointless meetings! My office has weekly meetings and folks do just as you say....wait til the meeting to bring up stuff. Oh, and scheduling meetings to plan meetings. Who wants to meet about meeting??

Team building irks me to no end too. I have a coworker that is all about it, and started "First Monday Bagels" where we each take turns bringing in bagels on the 1st Monday of the month. She wants us to sit around and tell a funny anecdote about each person. o_O

Also, this same chick has started an office book club (that they're trying to make mandatory). All the books are related to work/teambuilding. I barely have time to do regular work at work, and I'm NOT taking that crap home because I barely have time to read for pleasure. Ugh...

JaymeC said...

What in the world is Bosses' Day? Is that a real day?
Oh, read one of the comments below... someone always has to come to BougieLand and try.

Mia Williams said...

A mandatory office book club??? That's crazy!! I think I would join the club and purposely not read the book, just to piss them off! Then if they ask me a question about the book during the club meeting, I'd complain about not having time to read the book.

Mia Williams said...

Didn't mean to sound so snappy! Sorry! :-)

Rose said...

All of these were excellent but you must include one on company picnics and how these should be banned from all work-related events. If I have attend another ridiculous, I didn't know he was married, overcooked bbq, we choose the hottest day of the year, bug infested, bring all of your bad kids, with the black dj at an all white company picnic I'm going to scream... Did I say mandatory to bring up company rapport because we are a family and families stick together foolery company picnic? I digress....

Queen of Me said...

I just got back from a four day team building retreat where we all went to the m'ing-f'ing woods and did rock climbing and yes the trust fall and rope wlaks and sat in a "circle of truth" and sang... Broken Wings. BROKEN WINGS!!!

Not only did I have to live through that but now back at the office, I'm behind on my work. Running to play catch up. Maybe if I hadn't been made to sit in the rainy and sing 80s pop I could get the work they actually pay me for done.

Here endeth the rant. You just hit a chord with this one.

Reads4Pleasure said...

The company picnic, the fall festival, the holiday party, baseball games, all of the "we're going to make you feel good, but we're going to do it on your time, not yours" events that my office plans work my nerves. Shutting down the zoo for us, cute. Having an ice cream social on the plaza while the homeless are showering in the fountains right behind us, not so cute.

OnlyMe said...

How about I'm in charge of the monthly cake celebration. How about they tried to switch it to a birthday veggie tray and people almost had a mutiny. Exact quote "If I have to come to these damn things, there better be chocolate!"

Ola said...

Oooo! You forgot office potlucks! I don't feel like cooking for all y'all and I ain't eating nothing outcho dirty dog/cat-hair filled kitchen!

MeetCharlieL said...

I know you wrote down that All Hands speech as a joke but I swear I just heard those exact words from our Chief Operating Officer. And after he finished we allclapped politely while asking each other, soooo what did that mean?

BintiM said...

I can totally relate with the Team Building one. In my previous Company (call centre) we considered team building picking one Saturday afternoon, driving off half an hr out of town, and getting down to the business of nyama choma eating (Kenyan version of BBQ meat) drinking, (we take our beer very seriously), bitching about anything and everything bout work and generally making merry. We had only 1 rule: Management were NOT invited!! I didn't play a single game, and I don't know if it ever improved my working habits, but I made some great friends that I'm still in constant touch with!!

SLynn said...

My company had an all company meeting, we have these each quarter. This one just happen to land on Cinco De Mayo so in this huge auditorium they had this light show that would blink based on the beat of the music to song that was playing The stage was decorated with sombreros and other "Mexican" like decorations. But what made it the best and truly "authentic" (insert extreme sarcasm) that none of the damn songs they were playing were even from Mexican people. They played Gloria Estefan and Ricky Martin people who are NOT even MEXICAN in this continuous loop.

JNicole said...

The birthday thing really irks me & it's a recent onset. I'm not sure why I'm so bothered as it's usually one of my favorite things to help plan birthday celebration for friends/family. Hmmm, maybe that's it. I've recently started a new gig & I feel no connection to any of these people. Since I've been here (5 mo), there have been at least 6 b'day celebrations that I was forced to participate in. I'm tryna lose weight, so I declined cake & was looked at like a leper. I also hate having to find something to say in a birthday card for a person I barely know because I always feel like a simp just writing "Happy birthday!"

Potlucks also a thorns in my side. I'm a picky eater & don't eat everyone's cooking so I always get the side-eye when my plate usually consists of what I brought + store bought items only, heh.

Max said...

Ugh. This post brought to mind two exceptionally awful events the management at my former company, Farking Douchebags, Inc subjected us to. The first was an all day meeting called the FD Summit which we affectionately renamed "The Plummet" because at the end of it we wanted to throw ourselves off of the balcony of the penthouse the after party was held at. Basically we were divided into teams to put together communications pitches for ridiculous events like Oprah taking over Apple. We were to do the pitch in front of our peers and get critiqued on our delivery by management. Props and coordinated outfits were involved. Long story short, we all got slammed by management and the worst group won. Possibly because the team leader was a huge suck up. The second event was a team building exercise that required actual exercise where we were again broken up into teams to play basketball and do rock climbing. No. Bueno. We renamed this one The Special Olympics. We were also required to get changed in a locker room with people from work. What was seen can not be unseen and no amount of alcohol at the after party could blot it out.

Max said...

My co did the same thing. Except somehow the Cinco de Mayo cocktail event had Hawaiian luau decor and in addition to Ricky and Gloria, somehow Bob Marley got involved. Would it kill these cats to Google stuff before they slapped these hackneyed events together? Ugh!

bougiesis said...

As a long time HR professional, I was waiting for the right time to provide input:

The obligatory birthday celebration: I really must co-sign on this one. Can I just say that this is much worse now that I can’t eat cake due to the flour allergies? When people bought me a cake that I couldn’t eat for my birthday, as you say, Le Sigh.

Weekly Staff Meetings: Can you say agenda? Dear Mr./Ms. business leader start using an agenda for your weekly meetings and feel free to cancel them when there is nothing to say. Please and thank you.

Performance Appraisals: Wouldn’t it be something if they were actually used to provide performance feedback? Instead, they are more often used to justify favoritism and salary increases for said favorites.

Max said...

YES on the meetings about meetings. Then we'd have a meeting about the meeting that we just met about. One dude actually sent me a meeting minder about a meeting at his desk. Dude sat across from me in the cube farm. Did I mention that it was less than a foot away? I promptly responded that we should meet at my desk as a joke and that doofus accepted it! What is it about corporate employment that makes everyone so dumb?

ASmith said...

See, that's a shame. If this celebration is for me, then why haven't you checked with me on what I can or can't eat? That says to me this is obligatory and not really about amking me feel special.

Once we had a b-day celebration for a co-worker and by the time she was able to make it to the conference room (cause she was...well...working) all the food was gone.

OneChele said...

I don't even know what to say about Bob Marley at the Cinco de Mayo celebration. Unless someone is confusing reggae with reggaeton? And that actually makes it worse...

OneChele said...

Okay yeah - the only thing worse than the cake celebration is getting in there and seeing veggies wrapped around a candle... FAIL

rickyfontain said...

See here is what get's me. How do you backstab each other 350 days a year and then come together for "Team Building" on a handful of days. "I know I've been trying to get you fired but it's your birthday...Let's have some cake and talk about your kids!" I'm sorry but this is cultural I think. I wonder what corporate america would be like if black people ran it. That degree of fakeness wouldn't not be tolerated I think. :-)

Ebonee said...

Sometimes it's not even mandatory to have a weekly meeting. If you're communicating regulary, teams could probably survive with bi-weekly or even monthly meetings.

Angel said...

LOL @ the accepted meeting request! My coworkers do that crap to and it irks me! Time to find a new job lol

Evansaw said...

So do I. The last two I was in here at my current job, my department head got my name both times. the first time, she forgot to get me a gift, and the second time she gave me a gift that she has bought for her guest that did not show up for our Christmas party (smart guy!). The worst part was being humiliated both times in front of the whole office. Scheesh. No more "Secret Santa" for me!

LikeLena said...

The Christmas Party... totally ruins my holiday spirit. There's the forced gaiety and drama of who to bring with me. There's the folks who shouldn't drink around co-workers and the spouses you wish you'd never met and the dancing with people you never wanted to stand that close to. Ugh.

Larry said...

I remember my first holiday season at one company, I was told all managers and directors had to work together to plan, prepare (decorate, cooking, clean up) and host the annual holiday party for our hourly employees. Man, I was pissed. I just wanted to go home for the holidays and call it a year. Long story short - seeing how happy these holiday parties made the staff to this day brings tears to my eyes.

I have worked for the best of corporations and the worst, but I have been blessed to have shared a laugh, a smaile and yes a few tears who some great people.

MidwestDominicana said...

Love, love, love this post. One of my faves so far. Dear Chele, you absolutely tapped into it!

We don't even have team building (at least not in my area)!! Which is fine because I'm sure 99.9% of the staff would want to disfigure, maim or otherwise murder my boss. What we have instead is called our "Quality of Work Life" week....imagine Spirit week in high school, complete with dressing up in thematic outfits, carnival like games and various sundry "treats" (read cheap...popcorn, hotdogs, and soda) topped off with a "pep-rally" of sorts by the executive management. o_O

One thing you left out is the obligatory after work happy hour. as mentioned below, some people should just NOT drink...ever, especially in front of co-workers. Uggh. "Yes, I'm anti-social and no, I do not want to spend more than the 8+ hours I already spend with you and no, I will not be inviting you over to my house...really!"

The annual Christmas party is by invite only at my boss's house (she is a VP and I work for a Fortune 500 company)...so, being one of the few people on my team that gets invited, you can imagine the lovely hostility that awaits me after the holidays....not awesome.

I could soooo go on and on.

ASmith said...

The more shared on this post the more I just shake my head. That's some real white people stuff. The dressing up and all that. I mean, how am I supposed to work with half the office walking around looking a fool? I wanna video that and put it on youtube!

At our annual Christmas party one employee got lit and proceeded to call our super boss (boss' boss) a word I'm not going to sully this blog with. Then she laughed.

Well, we all laughed, including super boss, but... it was awkward.

The main reason I had to quit doing happy hours with the co workers was they like to get college drunk, and well... I don't function well hung over. Never have, not going to start now.

Melzie said...

ROFL! So true. Don't get me started with the obligatory baby showers...boooo!

Singing Wind Beneath My Wings with coworkers should be accompanied by pitchers of margaritas, other than that it sounds a bit disturbing....hee hee

Max said...

Those pathetic events were just the tip of the cultural ignorance iceberg.

tiffanyinhouston said...

This has given me life. Thank you all! LOL!!!

Kandia said...

LOL!!! and don't you hate having to on the sneak tip ask "who made the casserole" when they have the office potlucks.

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