Saturday, February 26, 2011

Backfield in Motivation

"Covey hands off to Lombardi ... Lombardi passes to Pacino ... touchdown!"
Some call it the greatest motivational speech in film history. Others become nauseated by the notion of millionaire jocks struggling with existential crisis.

We're talking, of course, about Al Pacino's impassioned, spittle-flying pregame soliloquy from "Any Given Sunday."

Business executives love this clip. They've even been known to make it the centerpiece of presentations intended to fire up the troops (often as a prelude to the arrival of really, really, really bad news). The appeal is no secret. Pacino's character, the embattled coach of a professional football team comprised of mentally unstable dirtbags, digs deep into his psychological playbook and comes up with pure, cliched gold.

The team has been torn apart by strife, jealousy and player wives who think they're Lady Macbeth. However, the coach assures his charges that they can overcome any adversity as long as they pull together and sacrifice for the greater good. (Business translation: unpaid overtime, salary cuts, etc.)

By the end of the speech, the locker room is electrified with inspiration. The Miami Sharks take the field ready to unleash all that simmering homoeroticism and redeem themselves.

But what happens next? Well, let's just say that executives aren't big fans of spoilers.

Pacino's team does win the game. In the process, though, two aging superstars suffer career-ending injuries and a member of the opposing team loses an eyeball. The Sharks go on to lose the next contest and get knocked out of the playoffs. Then Pacino announces that he's quitting to join an expansion franchise -- and taking with him the prima donna quarterback who caused most of the Sharks' headaches in the first place.

In the world of the real-life workplace, bittersweet details get lost on the cutting room floor. Or in the shredder.


Monday, February 21, 2011

The Employee Handbook: Addendumbs

We here at workingstiffed want The Employee Handbook to be a living document, like the U.S. Constitution or "A Shore Thing" by Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi. Therefore, the Handbook will periodically be updated. It's right there in our mission statement, we think.

You can find the original at In the meantime, we proudly present the first of many -- or perhaps several -- updates. So punch the clock and get ready to embrace the horror!

MUSK OX: A male employee who arrives every day cloaked in a near-visible aura of cologne and/or body spray. Extreme cases may lead to landmark HR complaints in the realm of olfactory harassment.

STRYCHNINE/SACCHARIN: A worker whose demeanor alternates between poison and artificial sweetener in the never-ending quest to get his/her way. Can be found in the ranks of both labor and management. As with almost any substance, prolonged exposure to either component poses serious health risks.

FARMACOLOGY: An addiction to playing FarmVille during work hours. Symptoms include inflamed joints from repeated mouse-clicking and tearful outbursts whenever the addict fails to successfully hatch a Cayuga Duck.

STAFF INFECTION: The civilian equivalent of Blue Flu, in which employees simultaneously fall victim to a mysterious malady.

CROCKOSHIT TEARS: A tactic in which an office bully, having realized that he/she has gotten maximum usage out of intimidation and browbeating, switches strategies and turns on the waterworks.

Friday, February 18, 2011

True Tales From the Office: The Ratings Game

Our story begins in the conference room, where the employee and the supervisor are discussing a recent external audit.

SUPERVISOR: As you can see, the ratings for your section are down from last year.

EMPLOYEE: Didn't you say these audits were all subjective?

SUPERVISOR: I don't recall saying that.

Fast-forward to the conference room one year (and another external audit) later.

EMPLOYEE: You'll notice that my section's ratings are up this year.

SUPERVISOR: Yeah, but you know the thing about these audits ...

EMPLOYEE: They're all subjective?

SUPERVISOR: I'm glad you're finally paying attention.

And ... scene!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Empire Snipes Back

Management has been known to take its lumps here at workingstiffed, and I ain't talking about coffee. So in the interest of equal time and fair play, we are publishing the following response, which I'm sure you will find both timely and thoughtful:

Dear Malcontent Jackass,

I am a mid-level manager who has read your blog. I must say, I haven't laughed so heartily since my eighth-grade Biology teacher delivered a lecture on the mating habits of the woodpecker.

Do you think it's easy supervising people? Do you think it's a pleasurable experience?

One of my employees enjoys watching reruns of "Project Runway" on her iPod and remarking aloud on the possibility of "turning around" someone named Tim. When I asked her to refrain from doing this during work hours ... or at least in the middle of client meetings ... her co-workers anointed her the new Norma Rae. When I drew the line on wearing beer helmets on Casual Friday, my charges prepared to storm the Bastille.

And don't imagine for a minute that I am immune from the torment of my managers. Crap flows up as well as down, and I am trapped halfway up Crap Hill.

Try walking a mile in my Florsheims, smart guy. You'll be laughing out of the other side of your cubicle.

In closing, it is my sincere hope that you publish this rebuttal so that your untold dozens of fans can get the other side of the story. Managers are neither the pint-sized tyrants nor the grotesque villains you make them out to be.

I have attached a current photo of myself. Feel free to use it.

The Emperor will not be pleased with these budget numbers

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Turning Down a Promotion

The top ten list of morale-boosting initiatives rejected by your company:

Ten We're Turning Furloughs Into Fun-Loughs!

Nine Outsourcing Bingo

Eight Secret Suck-Up

Seven Hunker Down and Party Down at New Austerity Disco Nite

Six Prozac Potluck

Five Wheel of Harassment

Four Layoff Olympics

Three Decontamination Derby (aka Office Fridge Cleanup)

Two Let's Go Postal!

One Gruel and Hardtack Cook-Off

Saturday, February 12, 2011

True Tales From the Office: Just Like Clockwork

Our story begins inside the supervisor's office, where an employee is receiving his first annual review in three years.

SUPERVISOR: Your tardiness is a problem. Today, for example, you came in at 10:30.

EMPLOYEE: But I came in at 9.

SUPERVISOR: No, you came in at 10:30.

EMPLOYEE: I'm sure it was 9.

SUPERVISOR: (Bristling) I'm telling you it was 10:30. We're done here!

Employee leaves supervisor's office and stops by a co-worker's cubicle.

EMPLOYEE: Just so I know I'm not crazy, what time did you see me come in today?

CO-WORKER: Well, I got here at 9:15 and you were already at your desk.

EMPLOYEE: Thanks. I may have to subpoena your testimony for my next review.

And ... scene!

Friday, February 11, 2011

These Are the Droids They're Looking For

First it was assembly-line automatons. Then came Rosie, the Jetsons' wise-cracking digital domestic. Forget about immigrant labor -- the real threat to the American worker comes from cheap replacements that speak in ones and zeroes rather than hilarious accents!

"Look out! The new guy is downsizing
people with laser beams!"
Think about it: A robot has no grasp of weekends, vacations or religious holidays such as Halloween or Shark Week. A robot doesn't insist on wearing neckties celebrating its favorite cartoon characters. A robot won't leave the restroom smelling like a methane leak at the landfill.

When faced with the choice between precise, emotionless efficiency and cranky humans who would rather play FarmVille all day, what employer in his right mind would hesitate to throw his own species under the bus?

Researchers predict that this year alone, 1 million robot workers will be installed worldwide. They key word is "installed." No awkward interviews, no background checks to determine whether a job candidate has ever been featured on "To Catch a Predator" -- just plug 'em in take credit for the spike in productivity.

But that's not the worst of it. Many businesses are currently conducting experiments to perfect a human-machine hybrid!

Impossible, you say? Simply ask yourself if you have ever heard any of the following terms used in reference to a fellow human employee:

"Fatal error"




Wake up and smell the microchips, fleshy! You're already being assimilated.   

Hostile work environment
But resistance is not futile, because the robots have overlooked one critical factor: There is no environment more unforgiving to machines than the average workplace.

We will spill scalding coffee on our electronic adversaries. We will ignore their service schedules and otherwise void their warranties. We will paper-jam them, choke their bandwidth by downloading pirated music files and clog their caches with cookies for porn sites until their casualties become unacceptable.

The war for humanity's survival will be fought in the cubicles. And we will emerge Linda Hamilton-like to tell the enemy once and for all, "You're terminated, f---er."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Take the Management Quiz!

Answer the following questions and see if you have what it takes to become the kind of leader you currently despise.

Part 1: Type A-hole
Pick the phrase that best describes your personality.

a. Stabbed more backs than Norman Bates.
b. Having a torrid affair with the sound of my own voice.
c. So mean I urinate acid.

Part 2: Irony Deficiency
How many of the following statements can you utter with a straight face?

a. "Why are you so negative? Of all your bad qualities, that has to be the worst."
b. "You haven't taken any vacation days this year. That's something you need to work on."
c. "Improve morale or you're history."

Part 3: Graveside Manner
Your company has just completed a round of layoffs. The ideal method of comforting the remaining staff involves:

a. Sending out a memo with the heading "The Tribe Has Spoken"
b. Sub-letting vacated cubicles to the local unemployment office
c. Hiring a motivational speaker whose previous clients include AIG, General Motors and Enron

Part 4: Line Item
Which movie quote would you co-opt as part of your management philosophy?

a. "Failure is not an option." Ed Harris, "Apollo 13"
b. "Show me the money!" Cuba Gooding Jr., "Jerry Maguire"
c. "You are so f---ing fired." Glenn Close, "The Paper"

Part 5: Productivity Placement
An employee is having trouble completing a project. You respond by telling him/her to:

a. Do more with less
b. Do more for less
c. Do more with/for nothing

Calculate Your Score
Each answer of a, b or c is worth 1 point. If you bypassed the questions entirely and convinced a co-worker to write a Mission Statement that you will present as your own, give yourself 10 points ... and welcome to the team, Manager!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Employee Handbook

Your Guide to the Synergistic Purgatory of the Office.

Let's Play Lingo Bingo!

   The following is a list of everyday terms that you will encounter in your journey through the workplace. Learn them -- and in many cases, fear them.

PERFORMANCE REVIEW: A yearly evaluation prepared by a supervisor who, having spent the previous 11 months and three weeks ignoring the employee in question, compiles a list of transgressions both real and imagined. This exercise typically plays out like a TV program from the police-procedural genre (i.e., supervisor will pepper the employee with accusations in the hopes of eliciting a confession before he "lawyers up" by consulting Human Resources).

TECH SUPPORT: Any of the various ironically named departments (i.e., "Information Services" or "Data Solutions") responsible for maintaining computer systems. Typically staffed by young males whose lack of motivation and aversion to physical activity prevent them from blossoming into serial killers. Employees are unresponsive to service requests and other external stimuli, except in cases involving female co-workers who bear resemblance to their favorite anime heroines.

LABOR-SAVING DEVICE: An underling who functions as an executive’s manservant/
handmaiden. Also known as Administrative Assistant.

SALARIED EMPLOYEE: This type of employee is ineligible for overtime regardless of the number of hours worked but is fitted with an ankle bracelet programmed to alert management if he/she leaves the building at any point before 39:59:59 during the workweek.

SEVERANCE PACKAGE: A collection of unattainable goals or onerous directives intended to separate an employee from his/her metaphorical testicles.

BENEFITS: A form of auxiliary compensation that consists of letting worthless ingrates keep their jobs.

Meet Your Co-Workers!

   Remember the annoying kids and emotionally unstable teachers who made school such a challenging opportunity? Well, they're back -- along with some new faces! Together, they make up the colorful cast of characters who will be with you from now until retirement or death, whichever comes first.

WIND TUNNEL: A co-worker whose superhuman lung capacity allows him to talk uninterrupted for several hours at a time. Topics range from his glory days on the high school gridiron to what he had for lunch three days ago.

JOHNNY PAYCHECK: An embittered employee who spends most of his work hours fantasizing about the day he resigns and verbally sets fire to the building but maintains a death-grip on the job he so desperately hates only because it pays better than unemployment.

COSMONAUT: An attractive female worker, well-versed in fashion trends but little else, whose career remains in fixed orbit around an older male superior. (The male version is known as Cougar Cub.)

IKEA EMPLOYEE: A new associate who possesses the basic skills for the position but will require some after-market assembly. Examples include the clerical worker who can text 100 words a minute on her PDA but has trouble translating that proficiency into official company documents:
   OMG! weve got nu ceo
   dont breath toxic solvenz :{

CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT: This employee provides management with invaluable surveillance data on the malfeasance of fellow co-workers. Accuracy is optional. In many cases, the CI barely completed high school but still understands the concept that the constitutional right to face one's accuser does not extend to the workplace.

HALF-BROTHER: A Caucasian employee laboring under the  delusion that he is beloved by racial minorities. Will often greet an African-American colleague with a statement such as, "Hey, bro. Did you peep LeBron against the Celtics last night? Now about those invoices ..." Any Human Resources investigation pursuant to such remarks will only reinforce this behavior by creating the illusion of a shared history of oppression.

THE SPHINX: A supervisor who communicates exclusively through the use of unanswerable questions. All inquiries will be met with resolute inscrutability, regardless of subject matter.
   Employee: "What time it is?"
   Supervisor: "I don't know. What time do our customers think it is?"

PENIS FLYTRAP: An insatiable connoisseur of office romance whose every sexual conquest has mysteriously wound up as the subject of an EEOC complaint, including her current husband.

Speak the Vernacular!

  These unofficial terms are proof that not everything you need to know can be found in the manual.
GOT QUIT: A term describing the mysterious departure of an embattled employee who might have been fired but might also have resigned. Example: "Did you hear about Sally? She got quit yesterday." The exact circumstances surrounding this type of severance are hazy, often to the employee herself.

GOO-GOO GALLERY: A workspace where every available square inch is decorated with baby pictures, celebrating the occupant's singular achievement of human procreation.

CODE BROWN: A heightened state of workplace alert triggered by the sight of a certain employee entering the restroom with a newspaper tucked under his/her arm.

GUT INSTINCT: The belief that the consumption of fat and carbohydrates will boost morale under any circumstances. Example: "Effective immediately, we will begin a force reduction of 37 percent. Now who wants to dig in to this delicious ice cream cake?"

BLACK BOX MEETING: A gathering in which management and employees attempt to identify contributing factors behind a catastrophic error. The term "contributing factors" means the least popular person in the room. Also known as Post Mortem and Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

ESCAPE HATCH: Deployed as a countermeasure against unexpected cubicle visits, a window containing work-related material that an employee can rapidly click in order to hide the porn on his/her browser.

ALCHEMY: A management strategy involving the mystical belief that workload can be increased 25 to 50 percent with no deleterious effects on existing job responsibilities. An exceptionally charismatic alchemist can find a second career as a consultant.

TOY DEPARTMENT: A workspace festooned with troll dolls, foam projectile weapons, superhero action figures, bobble-
heads, etc. Avoid eye contact with occupant at all costs.

We've Done More ... With Less!
Important Handbook updates are available at: