Monday, November 24, 2008


Due to my recent liberation, this blog will likely not have many postings on it until I return to the grey paradise of a cube farm. Please read my posting at my other blog here. A little perspective on my new-found serenity.

Hope to be posting here again soon. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Forced Socialization

One of my biggest pet peeves in the workplace is that of forced socialization among co-workers (epitomized here).  

A good example is today, where my office provided lunch for everyone and everyone waits in line chatting about mostly stupid things related to work and eventually once you get your food you are free to do whatever you like, either eat with others or go back to cubicle and eat alone.

Somehow this is supposed instill a little camaraderie among co-workers.  Eating is so ingrained in our culture that I guess it makes sense for events to be organized around food.  I want to be able to choose who I eat with, not forced to stand in line and stand awkwardly around with others that I don't really know and/or like.

I've gotten to the point where I don't even want to take part in the free food.  I'd rather wait until everyone has eaten and returned chained to their desks so I can see if there is anything left and then not have to talk to anyone or act grateful for the food that was provided.  I'd rather eat something brought anyway.

Sound bitter?  Well, I probably am.  And I'm not feeling well, so I'm grouchy.  I've had about all I can stand of cliche showing of thanks in the work place. 

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Top 100 Places That Will Drive You to Drink

It’s a little surprising how Corporations boast about the awards they are given by “business” periodicals.  They use these “designations” to recruit potential employees, impress current employees, and something for the bigwigs to feel good about.  The thing is, the “business” periodicals probably hang out with a lot of these corporate bigwigs at cocktail parties and that’s where this whole awards thing started.  

Here’s a hypothetical exchange:

“Business” Peridoical Bigwig:  Hi, I’m Dick, Media-Titan-in-Chief of Crappily Run Business Monthly.

Corporate Bigwig:  Hi Dick, I’m Tim, overpaid, unqualified, badly dressed (not to mention badly out of shape) Chief Bigwig of Crappy Consultants, Inc.

 “Business” Periodical Bigwig: Tim, we’re doing a list in a couple months honoring companies that are overachievers.  We think your company might be a contender for one of the top slots

Corporate Bigwig: I tell you what, Dick, we’ve been providing our employees with electricity for several years now and we think that this progressive thinking has made us one of the best companies to work for.

 “Business” Periodical Bigwig: Wow, Tim.  Letting your employees have access to electricity is really setting the benchmark for other companies.  You really must your employees to be able to see what they are working on.

Corporate Bigwig:  Well Dick, it’s a costly proposition but we feel that treating our employees like people is pretty important and providing them with electricity rather than candlelight is just the first of many new ideas at Crappy Consultants.

 “Business” Periodical Bigwig:  Tim, I’m confident we’ll be able to find a spot for Crappy Consultants on this year’s list.  Now let’s get drunk and hit on some interns!

 Corporate Bigwig: Sounds good Dick!

Now this might seem like a stretch but it’s my position that it’s not.  Should large, liquid companies be given awards for seemingly basic treatment of the employees?  Surely not.  Should reasonable resources, given the company’s capabilities, be made available to the employees?  Hopefully the answer is yes. 

 The problem persists however, that unsuitable technology, inadequate benefits, and overall bigoted treatment of employees is still the norm.

 I’m not saying we should be working 30 hour workweeks but we shouldn’t have to settle for laptops that can’t run more than one program at a time and sitting in chairs that give us crooked spines and sore legs.

Oh, and working for incompetent, self-absorbed, corporate soldiers.  

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Entire Presentation with Your Fly Down

Working in a large office unavoidably leads to working with a large number of people. Further, it is extremely unlikely that you are acquainted with every single person in said office. Even if you are acquainted with everyone (If you do, you’re likely a CEO or other senior executive who’s duty it is to like everyone [with the exception of the executives gunning for your job]), you likely don’t like every person in the office.

This will inevitably lead to awkward encounters around the office. Silent encounters in the elevator, awkward hand-washing in the bathroom (which is an awkward environment anyway), crossing paths in the hallway, or in the kitchen getting your lunch or watching as your sworn enemy finishes off the coffee pot.

How best can one approach these encounters? There are several schools of thought:

1) The Make Eye-Contact and Smile Approach – This is a popular approach for deranged employees who are happy to be at work on a daily basis, try their best to like everyone and look for the virtue in every person at the office.

2) Look Anywhere but Directly at the Person Approach – Possibly the most popular approach. Approaching the person in the hallway or in the elevator, the individual simply acts as if the other person is transparent and will look around as if there is something far more interesting on the ceiling in the corner of the elevator or in the sink of the kitchen.

3) The Eyes Dead Ahead Approach – This approach is preferred by narcissistic individuals who are acknowledging the person without actually acknowledging the person. It is apparent by the person’s obvious forced dead-ahead stare like their eyeballs are locked in place and will explode the instant they waver.

4) The Half-frown/smile-half-straight-face Gaze Approach – This particular approach is also quite popular. It only varies between smile and frown depending on the mood of the particular person that day. The face made appears as if the person wants to smile or frown but doesn’t quite go full-on either way and the look basically says, “I know you’re on this floor, I don’t know you, but we work for the same company so I don’t want to completely ignore you because I’m not a complete psycho.”

This is not an all-encompassing list but these seem to be the most popular reactions I encounter. Whatever approach you choose personally is up to you. Personally, I don’t stick to one but adjust depending on the individual I am crossing paths with.

One other especially strange environment (as I mentioned above) is the bathroom. It is, without question, the most popular room in any office. No one is immune from the lure of the urinals and stalls.

Because of the high traffic, this often leads to awkward moments between co-workers of the same sex (unless you work in an especially “equal” office that has co-ed bathrooms). Unlike choosing roommates, you don’t get to choose co-workers and thus, you are forced into sharing a bathroom with and people you can’t yell at for less than satisfactory etiquette.

The most popular infraction is the lack of hand washing. Imagine this scenario: you’re in the facilities, doing your thing, finish up, and go to the sink, your normal routine. As you’re scrubbing furiously with the liquid soap, a co-worker that you are acquainted with (and possibly friendly with) finishes up and walks out without exchanging words or ever remotely glancing at the sink. You freeze. Did he/she just make a mistake? Are my eyes playing tricks on me? No. They walked right out the door without washing their hands.

In these situations, rather than confront the person as if you were their parent, you must inform the rest of your co-workers about the negligence and warn them of the possible germ-spreading in order to discourage all contact with said offender. Only then will the scofflaw of hygiene recognize his/her error and amend their ways.

Now, some of you out there may utilize the “I don’t pee on my hands” rationale but we all know that is BS. Individuals that aren’t washing their hands should be cast out into the darkness. Doctors and nurses wash their hands before surgery for a reason. Think I'm overreacting? Read this. This basically reinforces the notion that everyone should be washing their hands.

One final area that I will touch on is awkwardness in the elevator. Perhaps you were introduced to a person once. You never engaged meaningfully or worked together since. However, you might end up crossing each other’s path in the elevator. Potentially the second-most popular common area, the elevator leads to many one-on-one encounters that can be slightly uncomfortable. Fortunately, the elevator encounters are short lived and silence isn’t so bizarre that people would notice. However, if you have enough awkward encounters with the same person, you may start avoiding the elevator all together just so you don’t have to endure another 30-45 seconds of awkward silence.

This avoidance can lead into other re-routing of your comings and goings around the office. Bathroom, hallway, kitchen, lunch, coffee breaks, etc. If you are observant enough, you’ll notice that most people in the corporate world (and probably humans in general) are creatures of habit. This allows you to predict an individual's (or a group of individuals) habits and routines with surprising accuracy and assist in avoidance of those particular individuals whose presence causes your skin to crawl, or who just annoy you enough to point of considering giving yourself a swirlee.

In closing, avoiding all awkward scenarios is, of course, impossible, however, minimizing these scenarios is crucial to your overall health in any corporate environment. I wish you all good luck in attempting to live a less-awkward existence at work. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, July 28, 2008

How Many Days in Row Have You Worn that Shirt?

How did the culture of “I work a massive amount of hours, so I am successful” enter the mainstream of the American Professional? Just to clarify, for the purposes of this posting, I am talking specifically about people that work for a professional services company with a background in either accounting or finance (e.g. PricewaterhouseCoopers, JP Morgan).

I know many professionals, including myself, that have met this 80 hour threshold on numerous occasions. EIGHTY HOURS. For those of you not adept at arithmetic, that is TWO traditional workweeks in ONE. Many people have blown away the 80 hour week with 90 and even 100 hour weeks. I’ve even heard of 40 hour WEEKENDS. Why on earth did we do that and why do people continue to do it?

Believe it or not, some people work these hours as a badge of honor. People actually boast about the amount hours they worked yesterday, last week or last busy season. This is puzzling to me.

99.9% of people working in accounting and finance are not being paid hourly, so there is no incentive for overtime. Unless you are truly psychotic, this would not likely be a personal goal (e.g. “I’m going to work 14 hour days all week this week!”). See? Read that aloud and that just sounds nuts.

Some possible motivations might include people that want to impress their boss in order to get ahead. This makes sense because a large portion of the professionals in financial services works for a boss. 

The problem is good bosses would never ask their subordinates to work unnecessary hours.  And as we all know, there are very few good bosses but plenty of bad bosses. One trait of bad bosses is bad communication. 

If the expectation of hours to be worked isn’t clear and only an ultimate goal is known, the effort to achieve said goal is the unknown variable. Put another way using an old cliché, "the end justifies the means".  These "means" are often not elaborated on and the terrible interpretation is often made that "means" involve slowly killing yourself by sleeping three hours a night (two of which is your commute) and eating copious amounts of pizza, hot wings, and various Asian foods on a daily basis. 

Huge pressure on a big, seemingly important projects have to be completed by a certain date.  These dates are not, in any situation flexible.  "If this audit is not completed by the third Wednesday of the third month following the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, there will be HELL TO PAY."  

Take your pick: IPO, a financial statement audit, tax filing deadline, a merger or acquisition.  They're all basically the same.  Just different people wearing the same wrinkled clothes day after day, after agonizing day.

Oh, and did I mention money? The large investments banks are given business by rich people. These investment banks have to arrange for audits, filing of tax returns, due diligence (fancy business talk for making sure people aren't complete idiots), and retain other financial services in order to keep the rich people rich.

Ultimately, the people in these professions are going to continue to work the hours phantomly mandated by the project at hand. And as long as there incentives to working these crappy hours, people will continue to take the positions.

I invite anyone to share horror stories that they may have.
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We're Really Sorry We're So Evil... Here's Pizza!

I got a request from a fellow cube-hand for the topic of eating at one's workspace, specifically dining on fish.

Her feeling is one of totally grossed outedness. This is understandable considering you never hear anyone say, "that mackerel smells wonderful". In general, foods that are especially fragrant should not be allowed within the confines of a cube farm.

Granted, certain "congregation foods" (e.g. pizza, Chinese take-out) are an exception but typically these are confined to one area and forces socializing so that not everyone is back at their desk immediately before piling on the drippy, cheesy grease or MSG.
That brings up the point of management's dangling of the carrot in the form of food. There is a strange pattern of behavior among many corporate management teams out there that demonstrates their feeling that food, specifically unhealthy food, somehow makes everything ok. No matter how evil their transgressions, somehow pizza (the most popular medium) makes everything ok.
I had the unfortunate experience of eating pizza every Friday for the better part of year. Clearly, management felt that they were so deeply indebted for reparations that pizza every single week for the remainder of our time on Earth was warranted.

"Caleb," you say, "you live in New York, the pizza there is great. What are you complaining about?" Well, pizza is good. But too much of good thing sometimes messes with your digestive system and stains one too many shirts to be appreciated any more. Further, I can only stuff my face with so much platitude sincerity.
But I digress. Fish at the desk. Probably a no-no. I invite other thoughts regarding food that should be banned from work spaces.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hi, I'm Bob, Partner in-Charge of...

I work for a Limited Liability Partnership or LLP. Hence, there are no shareholders but partners who are the owners of the firm. I’m told that making partner is a pretty big deal. Maybe it is but that’s really just the beginning.

After making partner, then EVERYTHING is a big deal. Where your office is, who your administrative assistant is, which partner you’re sleeping with, which partner you’re doing drugs with. Basically, it’s where the real fun starts. Most importantly, there are other partners to compete with for special, super-duper important-sounding tag names in order to earn some credibility among other partners.

Examples include: Partner in-charge of Subtle Racism, Partner in-charge of National Recruiting of Hot 20-something Girls, Partner in-charge of Tongue Lashings, Partner in-charge of Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

The point is that these partners, important as they think they are, have to make a name for themselves. How they choose to do that seems to be a matter of how many names someone in the HR department can come up with so no one is left out. Here's a quick example of an introduction at a meaningless cocktail party:

Partner #1: Hi, we haven't met. I'm Bob, Partner in-charge of Lame Cocktail Parties

Partner #2: Hi Bob. I'm Jim, Partner in-charge of Keeping Subordinates in Line

Partner #1: Oh, ok Jim. So you're responsible for making sure that when someone gets hammered at one of these lame cocktail parties that I'm in charge of, they either have partner approval or are a partner themselves.

Partner #2: That's right Bob. Sometimes your job makes my job pretty difficult. But hey, at least we're both rich!

Partner #1: That's right Jim! HAHAHAHAHA!

Parnter #2: HAHAHAHAHA!

As you can see, very important business is conducted among these partners.

The titles pretty much sum up each partner’s responsibility: Partner in-charge of Wining and Dining. Partner in-charge of Propaganda. Partner in-charge of Squashing Sexual Harassment Suits. Each partner will also be happy to tell you why he/she is so excited to be in his/her role and the importance of that role. Hence, if something is important to the firm and their isn’t a role for it, you can probably make it up and they will make the position for you.

Partner in-charge of Button-up Blue Shirts. Partner in-charge of Lame Jokes. Partner in-charge of Crappy Technology. The list goes on and on. Please feel free to share some of your favorites. I want to make sure that I’m not missing anything.

Also, please feel free to navigate outside of the LLP. Corporations will probably have more impressive positions that I’m not aware of. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Where is Joan Rivers When You Need Her?

I had a couple of friends in town this past week and one of them works in finance. His company has the policy of a "business professional" dress code. This means he wears a suit everyday. That means EVERYDAY. No casual Fridays, no dress down Tuesdays, nothing.

Personally, I find this to be a little refreshing, as the whole dress code thing has gotten a little out of hand. My friend's biggest complaint is that women are able to get away with murder when it comes to what's considered appropriate and what is not, while men are held to a very strict standard.

This could be debated for hours on end and I don't really want to get into a gender battle so I'll focus on my particular comment, which is, certain people will always look unprofessional, no matter what they are wearing, and others will always look extremely professional.

For example, when I worked in Denver, I wore jeans on Fridays, no exceptions. The geniuses in the Denver office were constantly flip-flopping (geeky election-year term) on whether we could wear jeans to the office on Fridays or not so I decided that I could make up my own mind and decided to wear them every Friday. I rationalized this in a number of ways:

ONE: the constant indecision on the part of management was annoying and I decided to do it out of spite.
TWO: Denver is a pretty casual town, people are wearing jeans everywhere in the downtown area, including in our building, no one is going to notice.
THREE: I looked better (and hence, more professional) in my jeans than most of the guys at the office who were wearing unpressed, baggy, Chipotle stained trousers.

For the most part, I will focus on point three because, isn't this the real issue? Whether or not I'm wearing a shitty pair of dockers shouldn't be the point. The point is, does the individual appear professional?

The answer is that 75% of men do not appear professional on a normal day and on a casual day those percentages go up to 99%. The numbers are made up but the point I'm trying to make is that most men in the corporate world either don't know what they look good in or they don't care. Either way, it's completely unacceptable.

I see guys wearing black belts with brown shoes, no belts at all, untucked shirts, shirts that should be worn to the country club rather than the office (i.e. short-sleeved button-ups), baggy golf polos, baggy trousers, striped ties with striped shirts (most combos don't work), poorly fitting suits, wearing blue shirts five days a week, shoes that look like they came out of the dumpster, the list goes on and on.

In short, most men do not look "professional" at a place of business. They look more like a contestant on Geek, Dweeb or Spazz (yes, the SNL skit).

I imagine I will visit this topic again but in the meantime, let's starting calling these guys out or at the very least, start pointing them out our friends. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hey Willie, I Hear PWC is Hiring...

Refer to my post on Sophomore discussing Willie Randolph's newfound freedom. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Obsession with Buzz Words

Welcome to the 1st edition of my new blog. It will hopefully make some of you laugh and also give you an outlet to vent, if necessary. Anyway, here goes...

I work in the profession of accounting (tax/audit, whatever). And let me just say, before I get too far along, that I have worked and do work with many, many great people. Super-intelligent, funny, great at their jobs, and not-to-mention good-looking. I definitely think of these people as colleagues and friends.

They will read this and just laugh because they know what I am saying is true. The one thing about these people is they know that it’s lame and they are happy to laugh about it and make fun of the lame things they encounter.

Having just attended a week long seminar, I’ve had about a year’s worth of lameness to witness. The positive thing that comes out of such an experience is a lot to write about. One of these lame things is buzz words.

Buzz words. Anyone in that has ever worked in the Corporate World knows exactly what I’m talking about. Those annoying little words and phrases that you hear over and over in the form of metaphors, analogies, and the like.

Why, why, why on earth do people in the corporate world use buzz words? Because they heard someone else say it? Because they actually think that it makes it easier to understand something? How about because someone is JUST PLAIN LAME. There are so many lame people in the corporate world. Not lame in the sense that they aren’t good people but perhaps that they are just boring people. The way they dress is lame, the food they like is lame, and definitely the way they talk is lame.

Here are a few examples of buzz words that drive me up the wall:

· Best practices – refers to common methods used in one’s industry or practice that has proven to be affective for one person but usually results in a complete debacle for everyone else

· Hot topics – subjects of interest affecting one’s industry or business. Typically hot topics become something that everyone tires of hearing about and phase out of being a hot topic to “this shit again?”

· Head’s up – involves someone notifying you in advance of something that they are going to tell you about in the future. Typical response to a head’s up might be: “Thanks for warning me that I’m going to have to talk to your lame-ass again”.

· Any football metaphor (e.g. blocking and tackling, quarterbacking, kick-off) – the usage of football metaphors are immensely popular among sports-loving men. However, women who love football have been known to use them as well. All sports, all the time happens to be tremendously lame. Sorry, guys.

· Credit crunch or credit crisis – this is an example of implementing current events to buzz words. This is mostly the fault of producers in the lame business media (CNBC, Fox Business News)

· Quick question – When someone has a question for you that, on the surface is simple and will be “quick” to give the answer to. For example, a truly quick question may be “what day is it?” I can quickly respond, “Friday”. A “quick question” in world of accounting and auditing may be: “are you familiar with Financial Accounting Standards Board Statement 157 and its potential impact on the valuation of hard-to-value investments held by investment companies?” This is neither a quick question nor a quick answer. Hence, what the hell is quick about it?

· What’s on your plate? – A disgusting way of asking someone how much work they have to do. Typically gets asked late in the evening when a manager needs something done that he/she doesn’t want to do themselves and asks someone who already has enough work to last until the end of the year.

· Pretty straight forward - A phrase utilized to wrap up an explanation that is anything but "pretty straight forward". This phrase, in fact, means that whatever was explained to you is actually, completely bassfuckingackwards.

· Circle back - refers to someone going to check on something that they don't know the answer to and communicating back to you once they do know the answer. Usually when you hear this, no one plans on getting back to you at all.

· What if what you said/wrote was on the front page of the Wall St. Journal? - This is a hypothetical scenario that management thinks you should consider before forwarding an email, picking up a DOJ authorized tapped phone, or hitting on a hot co-worker.

Now if after reading these, you find yourself thinking, “these seem to be effective ways of communicating to a large group or to anyone in general”, please stop reading my blog.

This is by no means an exclusive list. Please feel free to comment with some of your more annoying examples. Sphere: Related Content