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Simple Rules for Workplace Harmony

Shari Caudron imagines an HR department's exhaustive proposal for bringing peace to a cranky workforce. Will naps and Jell-O shooters help?

March 5, 2003
Related Topics: Corporate Culture

Memo to all employees
: Corporate human resources
Re: Eliminating workplace irritations

    As all of you know, our company has experienced a tough couple of years. Profits are down, competition is up, and many employees appear to be leaving their happy faces at home in the morning. Although we can’t change the marketplace, we can, we believe, improve the merriment quotient of our workplace.

    In an effort to do so, the human resources department recently surveyed employees to learn about the irritations that are preventing workers from having a joyful experience at our company. It turns out there are a lot of irritations. Hundreds. Maybe even thousands. This was shocking news to those of us in human resources who’ve labored tirelessly to make our workplace "fun." Remember Fish!--that zany training program with the colorful stuffed guppies? That was fun, wasn’t it? Not that we’re defensive (ha ha). It’s just that we were surprised to find that no matter what we do, it’s still not enough for you people.

    So this time we’re going to do it your way. We’re going to tackle the stones in our shoes head-on, and if that means mixing metaphors, so be it. Consequently, we have used your input and suggestions to craft a set of regulations designed to eliminate pet peeves and petty annoyances from our work environment. As you told us, it’s the little things that make your jobs enjoyable. Or not.

    Henceforth, at your request:

1. Posters depicting colorful nature scenes along with words like "Achieve," "Believe," and "Succeed" will be removed from our hallways. They will be replaced by dartboards, posters of SpongeBob SquarePants, and chalkboards depicting the Jumble from the daily newspaper.

2. Exceptionally fit and good-looking employees will no longer be permitted to change into their workout clothes at the office. Envy, it turns out, is a major workplace distraction.

3. All cream-filled fruit candies will be removed from the bowl on the receptionist’s desk. (Apparently, many employees find these to by "yucky" and "gross.") This fruit candy will be replaced by chocolate, caramel, and, on Fridays, toffee.

4. All meetings that cannot physically be held at Starbucks will be held on-site with background music provided by Bob Marley.

5. Computer technicians, graphic designers, and others who make fun of people who don’t understand GIFs, TIFFs, and JPEGs will be terminated.

6. Starting April 1, there will be at least one bathroom on every floor that is truly private. A sign-up sheet will be posted nearby.

7. The human resources department will endeavor to describe, in detail, once and for all, what the terms "business casual," "value-added," and "strategic partner" really mean.

8. Nap time will be held every afternoon from 2:15 to 3:00. Blankies will be available for rental.

9. Employees will not be allowed to explain the progress of their head colds in detail no matter how interested someone may seem.

10. Marketing employees will be asked to take their lunch one hour later than the rest of the workforce. We believe this will cut down, if not thoroughly eliminate, the number of wet straw wrappers that are shot across the lunchroom each day.

11. Alcohol will be served in the employee cafeteria. (We are currently looking into the feasibility of meeting special requests for "blasters" and "Jell-O shooters," and "Green Geishas.")

12. The words basically, totally, and irregardless will be forbidden.

13. Employees who nervously jiggle their legs, tap their pens or pull their facial hair during meetings will be asked to lie down until the behavior ceases. Same goes for anyone engaging in excessive eye-rolling during management presentations. You know who you are.

14. Fifteen minutes will be set aside every morning for employees to talk about the previous night’s television programs.
Fans of The Sopranos, Survivor, and Anna Nicole Smith will meet in specially designated conference rooms.

15. Managers will not be allowed to explain, justify, or substantiate their decisions by referring to conversations with their spouses--e.g., "As my wife said the other day . . ."

16. Only geographically appropriate air fresheners will be allowed. For example, Coastal Breeze will be banned from our St. Louis office, and Mountain Pine will no longer be tolerated in our New York headquarters.

17. Photocopy machines that make horizontal copies of vertical documents, vertical copies of horizontal documents, or blank copies of upside-down documents will be replaced by machines that can intuit the user’s intent.

18. Whenever possible, employees will be asked to refrain from making silly jokes about the obvious. For instance, if you find Richard sitting at Tina’s desk, please resist the urge to say something along the lines of: "Wow, Tina! When did you grow that great mustache?"

19. Our technical department will strive to make sure that the clocks on our employees’ computers agree with the clocks on their telephones. (The time displays on your wristwatch, car, and alarm clock will remain your individual responsibility.)

20. Employees should refrain from having --or promising to have--any conversation "offline."

21. Anyone caught repeating the story about our human resources director taking off her clothes in Denny’s Restaurant will be terminated immediately. (And just for the record, her behavior had nothing to do with the Grand Slam Breakfast Special, as was widely reported.)

    We thank all of you for your help in creating --and adhering to--this new set of guidelines.

    Hopefully, but who knows with you people, eliminating irritations like those mentioned above will give a much-needed boost to workplace morale. After all, if there’s one thing we’ve learned in human resources-- and believe us, we’ve learned a lot over the years--it’s that it’s hard to satisfy all the people all the time. Heck, it’s difficult to satisfy some of the people even once. But we’re trying. We really are. And we’re willing to concede that some of your current discontent may stem from the fact that those of us in human resources often work from our own agenda, not yours.

    From here on out, we promise to squelch the urge to laugh with hysterical abandon at your petty grievances. We promise to address those grievances with the respect they deserve. And most importantly, we promise to listen more than we speak. It won’t be easy. We like to think we have all the answers. But as your concerns have shown, there’s a lot around here that we don’t control. Maybe by working together we can make our work environment more enjoyable.

    Thanks, in advance, for your support of these guidelines.

Workforce, March 2003, pp. 22-24 -- Subscribe Now!

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