As a writer and contractor, I have had the pleasure of working for many wonderful companies on many wonderful projects. This last one was very enjoyable, minus the commute (1.5 hours on a good day, 2 hours on a bad one). There are many environments that have been encountered, many different kinds of people rules, regulations, etc. And some rules just make you laugh. And everyone has that one place that was so…quirky, that it bordered on insane.
And on this last job, that was the case. While the people where great and they were very good to me, the rules were…well, you be the judge. Oh, how many quirks can there be? Let me count the ways…(Get ready to laugh)
No jay walking – OK, who isn’t guilty of jay walking at some point, especially if you live in a big city, or if you have the pleasure of working downtown? But they had a strict no jay walking policy, and I was informed that it was an offense that could mean immediate termination if caught. And maybe this one is a bit understandable – After all, it is unsafe and one might be hit by a car. Or a minibus. Or an angry cyclist (this is Atlanta). Or a displaced Krispy Kreme delivery truck. Or a scooter. Or Segway…or maybe get hit by one of those pesky ladders, or mattresses, or other strange object that may end up on one of the Atlanta roadways. My question was exactly how far did this “No Jay_walking Zone” go? Was it just the surrounding streets, or did it extend down several blocks? What if I jay walked in a different city, like New York, could I be fired for long distance jay walking too? Could I be fired then too? What about jay-dancing? If I did an elegant and graceful waltz across the street against the light, would that be just a bad?
No staplers for you! – or tape dispensers. Or push pins. Not really sure about this rules…maybe they were considered safety hazards? I mean it is possible an employee could get mad and try to assault someone with a stapler Or try to tape them to death. Or…poke an eye out with the push pins…? But that just seems like an awful like of trouble, though they would get an “A” for creativity in my book.
No throwing paper– This small office prank was not allowed, as it was a safety hazard. This one kind of reminds me of a line from one of my favorite holiday movies – “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” I mean, those paper cuts are dangerous, and hurt like a mutha. Really, no one should be subjected to that kind of cruelty and danger.
No hanging in cubicles – Many people hang papers, such as org charts, phone extension list, or whatever important information that may need to be referenced quickly. Nope, not there. Even though the cubicles were fully quipped with cloth over cork board walls, specifically for using push pins and post papers, this was also not allowed. Again, maybe a safety hazard? After all the possibilities of injuries from not only those paper cuts, but also from poking yourself (or others) with a push pin, is a liability issue. I know I would scream workers comp the first chance I got.
One or the other – The solution to not being able to hang anything in your cubicle, was to use magnet on your small white board, and hang reference material there. But you could not both write on the whiteboard and hang paper. You had to choose (because the space was too small for both). Choosing is not something I am great at, as illustrated by how many pairs of black pumps I have. I want all the options, not just one. Nut choose I did (mainly out of laziness). I stuck with the writing on the whiteboard, so i didn’t have to get up, erase what I had written, buy magnets, bring them to work, then hang papers on the white board with them. Perhaps this company was trying to instill disciplin?…Many times in life you have to choose just one…so why not start with write or hang?
The “Great Trash can Sweep” – I was told of a time where all desks had nice little trash cans, and everyone had equal opportunity to throw things away to their hearts content. And then came the Great Trash can Sweep, where 90% of the trash cans were taken away. Employees were then told they could only throw trash away in the break room, and the few trash cans left would need to be shared and were ONLY for paper. Except the trash cans that were left were not the pretty blue recycle trash cans, so all would Know of this rule. No, they were the regular every day desk trash cans and the rule was only known by word of mouth. I threw away every kind of left over lunch food waste imaginable before I was told – only paper. But by then it was too late, and a habit had formed that could not be broken. I continued to illegally throw trash away in my shared desk non- trash trash can. You could, however, legally dump whatever trash you wanted in the receptacle, if you brought your own trash bags. Alas, I was too lazy.
No writing on the wall – While this may seem normal, it wasn’t. There was a small white board at every cubicle. And then a wonderful frosted glass to the back. Being a writer, I like space to write down lists of questions tasks and other such things on writing surface. So I promptly filled up not only the white board, but the great glass perfect for continued white boarding. No, no, no, I was told. That is not for writing, even though most places let you do it. That is just for decoration. You must not actually use it, and must erase it immediately. And I did. But I dreamed at night of writing on the glass walls of my cubicle, and it was bliss. I hated to wake up, but that was mainly sue to the hour…
Bed checks – Most are familiar with this term…but at work, where there are no beds? When I first heard this term I was intrigued…could it be that they had beds in a nap room, like companies I had read about in trade magazines? Not so much. My hopes were dashed when it was explained to me that that bed checks were when a manger or PM, gently walked around, up and down your isle, looking, taking notice of who was in their seat at their desk and who wasn’t. If you weren’t at your seat at that time, you failed the bed check and it was a mark recorded against you. What if you are in the bathroom, or a meeting, or stepped into the break room to get coffee, or have to go to the break room to throw something away, I asked? You failed that bed check. I failed a lot, because I can’t sit still for hours on end, ass strapped to my chair. I get up, walk around, talk to someone instead of sending and email. And then I have to get coffee, and coffee leads to going to the bathroom and, well, you get the idea. Really, as long as the work is done by the deadline, who cares if I stand n my head in the lobby? They do. And that’s understandable. After all, employees are the most productive when they know that big brother is watching them, accounting for every moment they have stepped away.
The Nosy Managers – Not your managers, but another manager, of another team, maybe even another department…is watching you. I was informed that another manager didn’t like that I was in the lobby talking on the phone for so long (arranging chemo treatments for my dad), so they complained. For me, if any manger that’s not mine has time to notice where I am and what I am doing, they have way too much time on their hands and are not tending to their own sheep. I mean really, unless you are naked and smoking crack in the parking lot while cleaning your gun, it’s not another managers business what you are doing, or where you are doing it.
Honorable mentions – There might be other rules that I have forgotten, but there are a few honorable mentions that were before my time there. One was no sticky notes. Not sure what the issue was with sticky notes- maybe someone had an ex spouse that worked at 3M, maybe some executive was the real inventor who got beat out on the patent application and never got credit, or maybe they just didn’t like the wonderful array of colors…but for whatever reason, stickies were banned from the office for about 3 years. Another was no office supplies, at all. No stickies, no pens, no paper, no nothing. You had to supply your own. Safety hazards? Let it not be said this company did not take paper cuts seriously. Supply and handle at your own risk. I wonder if they had signs posted like “No lifeguard on duty” to let employees know that they were on their own when it came to paper cuts, running with scissors or even the occasional pen incident?
Every place of work has it’s quirks, and some are funnier than others. So always find the humor in life. And remember,it’s important to know the rules, so you know which ones to break and when.