Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chillax

Plankton is going through a very busy time, and everyone is currently working very hard. However it is vital that we learn to relax to ensure we maintain the work/life/sitting-around-doing-nothing balance that society tells us is so important.

Unfortunately, people feel that they shouldn’t be seen to be relaxing at work. We are all employed to work a certain number of hours a week and even though we may meet that weekly requirement it can make us feel a little bit naughty if we are caught napping on the couches or Googling ourselves .

Rest assured, though. Plankton understands that to get the best out of its employees, we all need the opportunity to work, rest and play. (Note that the dollarshop sells Mars bars for this very purpose.)

So as employees we need to not only relax, but to revel in our relaxation. It is rare that during a lunch break we see someone reading a book, playing ‘Grand Theft Auto: Norlane’, or practising the sousaphone, but these are exactly the kinds of activities that will revive your body and sharpen your mind, and therefore make you a more productive drone.

If your work commitments truly do make this kind of overt relaxation impossible, then you can relax by making a game out of your work. If you’re writing a requirements or design document, set yourself a fun challenging phrase to try to insert into the document (e.g. “this software will contain no bugs or design flaws”). If you are writing code, try avoiding any keywords that contain the letter ‘e’ and see if it compiles. If you talk to people on the phone, pretend to be different people by using exotic accents.

In short find something to do that will help you relax. Dying of stress will not help Plankton meet its deadlines, and so will not look good on your next performance review.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Side-skilling

It is the nature of all businesses that there will at some stage be a skills shortage. This could mean that you will be called upon to perform tasks that aren’t normally part of your general duties. You will be tempted to use this as an opportunity to show off. Don’t. If you excel in this extra task, or even if you perform it remotely adequately, it will be added to your general duties, and you will remain doing it long after the skills shortage lengthens.

For this reason it is important to make the job seem harder than it really is, and make sure you let everyone know how difficult it is. This way, regardless of whether you succeed or fail, people will not only be impressed that you even undertook the task, but will also know not to ask the whiny guy to do it again.

When executing the task try to keep your name off any documentation that may arise. If any evidence exists that you have performed the task once you will always be referred to as an expert in that field. It is an extreme, but in some cases acceptable, measure to chase down anyone that can provide anecdotal corroboration to your involvement and cajole or even threaten them accordingly. Bribery is expensive but can be used as a last resort.

In all cases the best option is to avoid the task altogether. This can best be achieved by acting so busy on your current tasks that even the act of approaching your desk seems such an imposition on your time that it is not worth the hassle. Under the current climate this should not pose a problem.

Friday, July 24, 2009

So you are new to Plankton

For a start let me be the first, and possibly the only, person to welcome you to this wonderful company.

In your first few weeks here you will learn a great deal about Plankton's products, business model and its future direction. Plankton believes an informed staff is a happy one, and it relies on the standard corporate communication methods of hearsay, rumour and assumption. As part of your induction training you will be shown an Organisation Chart detailing the various Managers, General Managers and Senior staff that you will report to. Note that this chart is drawn in pencil. Do not commit it to memory, as it is likely to change soon.

Regardless of your role, there are certain responsibilities that will be expected of you as a Plankton employee. These include, but are not limited to, accidentally using the “Reply to All” button on a company wide email, deleting entire tables from our development database and complaining to the DollarShop that we have run out of coke.

Do not be afraid to speak up in meetings. Every idea has value, and your co-workers will not ridicule you for your opinions as they will be too busy offering their own to listen to yours.

One word of warning, though. Many people have been at Plankton so long that they have forgotten what the real world is like. When speaking to someone who has worked here for 10 years or more, try not to mention other companies, or technology that is newer than 8 years old. This can excite and disorient some of the older employees to the point where they need to sit in a room with a dial phone and an abacus until they calm down.

So again let me say welcome to Plankton. We like to think we are one big family. We never clean our rooms, we spend too long in the bathrooms in the morning, and we argue over which TV show we want to watch. No one has got to the point of stealing someone’s boyfriend, but it won’t be long.

So you are leaving Plankton

It’s a sad day. Presumably. For someone. It’s your last day.

You may be given the opportunity to give a goodbye speech to the staff. Many see this as an opportunity to get things off one’s chest. If you feel you must do this, avoid blanket negative statements about the entire company. Remember some of us still have to work here. Instead, address individuals and provide positive feedback specifically for them such as:

  • Terry. I don’t care what Ryan says, I think your anecdotes aren’t at all tedious, and your personal hygiene is at least bearable.
  • Amanda. When I fantasise about having an office affair, you are usually the one I think about.
  • Ryan, I agree with you about Terry. If you want to get away from “Boring-Story-Stinky-Pants”, there may be a position open at my new company. I’ll send you an email when the dust settles.
  • Hannah. When I fantasise about having an office affair, you are usually the one I think about.

Don’t forget to mention at least two of the following:

  • This is easily the best place I have ever worked, and I’m not just saying that.
  • It’s the people that make this company special, and I’m not just saying that.
  • I think we have one of strongest products on the market, and I’m not just saying that.

Instead of a speech, you may send an email. If you do, be aware that most people who receive such an email simply use a word search to see if they are mentioned, and then delete the email if they are not. To make sure people actually read your email, copy they entire staff contact list in to the bottom of it.

When you leave you may be given a gift. Accept it with all due grace however remember that 78% of Plankton employees come back within 3 years, and you will be asked to return that gift “as new” if you do.

We will miss you. Until you come back.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Make a clean break.

They say that a cluttered desk is an indication of a cluttered mind. However, they also say that an empty desk is an indication of an empty mind. All we can really take from this is that “they” clearly cannot be trusted.

While you might expect that desk cleanliness is a matter of personal comfort and each employee should work in the conditions they prefer, studies have actually found that the messier someone’s desk is, the more efficient their work.

The fastest way to strip a document of all relevance, accessibility and usefulness is to file it. Documents put into a filing cabinet or neatly archived in folders will never be seen again. While this is fantastic for process and methodology documents, for documents that are actually needed it can be a curse.

In contrast, files simply left on a desk will follow the laws of Darwinian theory and survive or not depending on their importance. Oft-used files will gravitate towards the top of volcano-like piles, while less useful ones will drift to the bottom, eventually to be stuck to the desk with a combination of spilt coffee and smears of blu-tac.

There are times when Plankton is visited by important members of society: clients, film crews and Nigerian royalty who are down on their luck. At these times management will ask us to ensure that our desks do not reflect poorly on Plankton's image. Many take this as a request to clean up their desks, but it is in fact a request to make sure your desk is as messy as possible. After all, by proudly displaying the mess you are demonstrating the productivity that helps Plankton thrive.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Towelettiquette

You only need look around the office to know that the paper towel is a valuable Plankton commodity. Most, if not all, employees have a roll of company supplied paper towel on their desk. Why? Because it’s convenient, absorbent and, most importantly, it’s free.

Some use it to keep their desk clean, some as a way around Plankton’s “we don’t give tissues to the peons” policy, and you’ll notice that the long term employees have drawn faces on their paper towel rolls and call them Wilson.

However, recent health concerns in the workplace have provided another reason to always be near this precious, and now potentially lifesaving, apparatus.

Paper towel, along with a few other readily available office supplies, can be used to create your very own face mask, to help keep diseases at bay. Using only a piece of paper towel, 2 small bulldog clips and a couple of rubber bands, you can protect yourself from at least 84% of airborne germs and 100% of lunchtime companions.

Also, after wearing this makeshift mask, people will know that you take public health seriously, that you have concern for your safety and the safety of your workmates and, most importantly, that they shouldn’t steal your filth-ridden paper towel roll.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Proved Overtime

Working on a project that requires overtime offers unique evidentiary challenges to us all. Proving that you are at work and not simply at home swanning about in your underwear is a vital office survival skill. It’s not that management don’t trust you, of course - it’s the others they have to worry about.

Way back in the late nineties, proving you were at work was as simple as sending a perfectly innocent late night email to your boss (or even better to all the staff). However, in these days of web-based email and telecommuting this will not prove that you are actually doing anything beyond spending a couple of thousand rupiah at a Balinese internet cafe. More creative measures must be employed.

Web cameras are cheap (and ultimately tax deductible) and can provide video evidence of your presence. Be sure to find a good excuse for filming yourself with a copy of the weekend paper or showing how dark it is outside.

For a more subtle (and perhaps cathartic) approach, ‘accidentally’ damaging work equipment will prove that someone was on the premises, and if you are stupid enough to take the blame no one will doubt you for a second.

If all else fails you can trigger the weekend alarm. This will ensure that not only has someone seen you in the office, they will have also scrutinised your photo ID, witnessed your signature and taken a statement.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Meetingized

Since their invention by Thomas Edison in the late 1920s, meetings have been a vital part of the decision making process. Studies have shown that any idea is almost completely ineffectual until it has been workshopped, reviewed, kicked-around, scrummed or in some other way “meetingized”. (Grammatical pedants may believe that this word should be spelt with an s, but this is an American idea and as such deserves the extra excitement that a z can bring).

It is vitally important that you give every meeting the respect that it requires of you. Remember that you do not choose to attend a meeting, a meeting invites you.

The most effective meetings are those where everyone participates. While your meeting effectiveness will be scored (and yes, it will be scored) on your participation; it is the level, and not the quality, of your input that will be judged. What you say doesn’t matter, as long as you say it loudly and with confidence. You will get extra credit if your point is made over the top of someone else’s (this is called meezumping).

Likewise any props you bring or use will be looked upon favourably. Powerpoint presentations, whiteboards and laser pointers are passé, but can be used in a pinch. Preferable modern meeting tools include disposable cutlery, witch's hats and small breeds of dog.

In no time your calendar will be full of meetings and your productivity and creativity will increase exponentially until you will begin to schedule meetings during lunch time and at 4:45. At this point you will become the meeting master, and all whom you invite will look at you with awe and respect beyond measure.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It is important to note that, when sending emails or writing documents, some audiences only read the subject line or heading, and will not read the actual text. For this reason it is important to put as much useful information in the subject line or heading as possible, to ensure your message is received by as many people as possible.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Holding the Door

Politeness comes in many forms, but one way in which it manifests itself regularly in the workplace is holding the door open for someone. Studies have shown that if we leave it to individuals to open doors for themselves, society will quickly decline into chaos and anarchy. This is why more advanced societies, such as those found in hotel lobbies and Gold Class cinemas, employ people whose sole occupation is to open doors. We should study these societies more, as they will lead us all to enlightenment.

It is important, then, to maintain the delicate balance of our society by ensuring that you open as many doors as are opened for you. This can be easy when there are two doors within quick succession, but otherwise it is highly recommended that you keep score. Keep a note of how many times the door has been opened for you, and how many times you have opened the door for others.

Also keep a note of the people who never seem to hold the door open for anyone. These are the types of people who are likely to use your coffee mug when you are not in the office, or borrow your scissors to cut their nails.

People who big-note themselves by always holding the door open, and who make a point of ensuring that everyone can see they are doing that, should also be noted. These are the types of people who are likely to use your coffee mug when you are in the office, or borrow your office scissors to cut their pets' nails.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Productive Conversation

Conversations are an important part of office life. Not only are they a form of communicating ideas, they foster the social bonds that are necessary to preventing us from killing each other over the last of the pre-packaged sugar portions.

Some people, however, are very busy and feel that they do not have time for the social side of conversation. These people can be seen as aloof and self-important. If you are one of these snobby individuals, do not despair. Help is at hand.

All that most people require from a social conversation is the impression that they are being listened to. If someone is talking at you, nod appreciatively as if you are actually listening. While this is happening you may go through to-do lists in your mind, map a route to the nearest fire exit, or plan your pet's next birthday party.

When you notice a gap in the white noise of the other person's idle chit chat, use this as an opportunity to politely end the conversation or, if you are feeling adventurous ,continue it with a generic encouraging statement. Be careful though. Statements like 'Really?', 'Do go on' or 'That once happened to my uncle' although generic can backfire and show that you haven't been listening:

"I got my paycheck this week..."
"Really?"

"So then the surgeon said that he would have to go in from the other end. I can show you pictures if you like."
"Do go on"

"After my cat's birthday party, she's going to have a hysterectomy"
"That once happened to my uncle"

Monday, February 16, 2009

Driven to Distraction

It's a trait of human nature that people are more likely to concentrate on a distraction than they are at the job at hand. This can be used to good effect in your day to day work at Plankton.

Talk to the people that are in charge of your role (once you have worked out who they are), and say you would like to change what is on your position description. Tell them that, instead of your current duties, you would like to change your job to be "Looking at cool stuff on the internet, talking about last night's TV and getting myself drinks of water".

That way, when you go to, for example, look at cool stuff on the internet you'll immediately get distracted by the piece of code that somehow found its way onto your computer, or that Design Document that you started in your spare time.

Just make sure you quickly get it done before the boss finds out.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Get out of the kitchen

Computers and their users are both known for buckling under the pressure of heat. This is ironic as both are also excellent sources of hot air. Here are some ideas for dealing with the scorching heat.
  • A problem shared is a problem halved. Make sure that everyone around you understands how hot you are. This will endear you to them (as you will both be "on the same team") as well as provide an excellent and original conversation starter. I like the simplicity of "Hell's teeth it's hot, isn't it?" but others prefer the more jovial "Hot enough for you?". Feel free to make up your own.
  • Wear less clothes. Let's face it: people who work with computers are inherently good looking people. We should not be afraid to flaunt it, and the hot weather is the perfect excuse. Dust off those shorts, undo that top button, pull out those sandals and be proud of those knee caps. But make sure you still wear socks. No one wants to see your toes.
  • Inform Management. Did you know that once someone attains the title of "Manager" (or even "Finance & Facilities Officer") they no longer have human senses, and such mundane feelings as "heat" do not register with them? Also, management have complete control over the weather. For these two reasons it is vital that they are informed regularly of the conditions.
  • Book a meeting room. Meeting rooms are the perfect place to hide from not only the heat, but also from the annoying people who wear too little clothing and who constantly bug you about how hot it is.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Christmas Break

If you have decided to take an extra couple of weeks off over the Christmas break, try not to think about or do anything at all work related. This includes writing a humour article for the company newsletter.