Tag Archives: workplace

Seasoned employees don’t use exclamation points

Two men at work writing an e-mailWhen I compare my work e-mails today to the ones I wrote as a new hire, there’s a noticeable difference.

My e-mails today — though friendly — are often brief and to the point. The sentences are simple, and the punctuation is basic.

“Hi John. Please send me a copy of the check. Thank you.”

Of course, when writing to upper management, I’ll usually throw in a semicolon – just to show off that I know how to use one. (You never know when good grammar might score you points.)

“Hi Boss. The project is nearly finished; however, there’s been a delay in receiving a copy of the check. I reached out to John in Accounting, but because he’s not as committed to the company as I am, he’s been remiss in providing a timely response. Thank you.”

However, when I look at the e-mails I wrote as a new-hire, the obsequiousness is downright obnoxious. To compensate for my lack of confidence, I used a nauseating number of exclamation points and smiley-face emoticons.

“Hi John! You might not remember me, but I’m the new guy down the hall!!! I sit next to Emily! Isn’t she a hoot? 🙂 She’s been super, super helpful in getting me acclimated. Anyways, can you please send me a copy of the check? Only when you have a chance! I know you’re like, super busy and stuff, and I’m still learning, so just when you can! OK? Cool, and thank you!!!!!!! 🙂 🙂 :-)”

OK – that was a slight exaggeration. I wasn’t quite the shrill Valley Girl as portrayed above, but as a new employee, I did want to be perceived as friendly and eager to help.

I’m not sure where that enthusiasm went. I used to be the passionate newbie, but now I’m just the crotchety killjoy. These days, when a co-worker knocks on my cubicle for help, I just narrow my eyes and give them a Clint Eastwood snarl. That’s how bad it is.

It’s as if job longevity transforms us from fawning, ambitious sycophants to cantankerous, grumpy curmudgeons.

Over time, as we establish our roots in the position, the exclamation points and smiley faces start to dwindle, then disappear entirely. Blunt curtness replaces the once-cheerful tone of our interoffice correspondence.

Where once our writing exuded wholehearted passion, now it just drips with Dilbert-like cynicism.

I can always tell a new employee based on their e-mails: the deferential tenor; the overeager intensity. It reeks like the leftover salmon someone microwaved in the breakroom.

Come to think of it, microwaving fish in the breakroom might be the one instance these days where I’d use an exclamation point in a work-related e-mail.

“Note to employees: Someone this afternoon microwaved fish in the office breakroom, creating a rancid stench that’s offensive to our environment. And not to place blame, but I have a strong suspicion that it was John from Accounting! If you see him in the hall, please let him know how appalled you are by his thoughtless behavior! Not only is he a detriment to the team, but that incompetent jerk still hasn’t given me my check!!!!!”


Superfluous fashion: Time to retire the tie

businessman in meeting wearing a tieEach morning when I wake up, I’m grateful for one thing:

I don’t have to wear a tie.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m grateful for my life and my health, too. But mainly, it’s the whole not-having-to-wear-a-tie perk that instills me with gratitude.

I’m lucky that my job doesn’t require a tie. (But come to find out, it does require competence. And despite all my lobbying, they’re not yet willing to waive that outdated demand.)

Although I don’t like ties, I’m not a slob. I always wear a collared shirt to work, whether it’s formal button-up or a polo. I’ll even put them in the washer, on occasion.

I also make an effort to look nice. Big emphasis here on “making the effort.” If I run a comb through my hair, I think that shows I’m trying. (The same can’t be said for my sandals with black socks.)

Despite my strict no-tie policy, I always carry an air of professionalism. (I always carry a rubber chicken, too, because I like to be prepared. You never know when you’ll be asked to meet with the CEO.)

Ties should be abolished. Other than decoration, they serve no useful purpose. (Unless, of course, you want to hang yourself following an unexpected layoff.)

Ties are also uncomfortable. And when you’re striving for productivity, comfort is crucial. Call me crazy, but I’m not exactly at my best when I’m being strangled by an abrasive piece of cloth cinched around my throat. Keep reading…

A day in my old life at the real-estate office, Part II

home for sale sign in front of house

Working at the front desk of a busy real-estate office requires patience, a professional demeanor and a cheerful attitude. So naturally, I had to pursue another profession.

Two minutes before quitting time, a man walked in to pay his rent.

“By the way,” he said, “I’m pretty angry that no one’s called me back.”

“About what?” I asked.

“About my house!” he snapped.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t work in property management.”

He glowered. “I offered to buy the house at market value. They never called me back.”

“Who did you speak to?” I asked.

“I don’t know!”

I frowned. “You don’t know who you talked to?”


“Well, I don’t know, either,” I said. “That’s why I’m asking. Was it the owner? A real- estate agent? The property manager?”

“I said I don’t know.”

“Well,” I said, raising my shoulders, “I don’t know what to say. You’re not giving me much to go by. Even Dick Tracy would have trouble cracking this case, based on the lack of clues.” Keep reading…

A day in my old life at the real-estate office, Part I

receptionist in front office talking on phonePhone ring and caller say, “Hey, is property manager there?”

So I say, “No, but I can forward you to her voice mail.”

So caller say, “Yeah, but I really need to talk to her, when is she going to be in?”

So I say, “I don’t know; she’s out doing inspections and move-outs and walkthroughs and postings, so it may be an hour, it may be two hours – it may be the rest of the day.”

So caller say, “Well, I want you to give her a message for me.”

So I say, “Well, I’m not in Property Management; let me just forward you to her voice mail so nothing gets lost in translation.”

So caller say, “No, you’ll write this down: My garage disposal gurgles and makes a weird humming noise when there’s no food in it but when I put food in it, it clanks and grinds and makes an even weirder noise and then it shakes the sink so basically it doesn’t work and I need a guy to take a look at it but he can’t come on Mondays and Tuesdays because I’m off and I sleep in and he can’t come Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays because I’m on graveyard and I’m asleep during the day so he’s going to have to come on Saturday but he can only come between nine and ten-thirty, but that’s only if he calls first to make an appointment because I won’t be home so I’ll have to have my neighbor let him in because I don’t want strange people in the house when I’m not there, and I also have a dog that can’t be let outside and he doesn’t bite but I don’t want him getting out because if he gets out I’ll sue the guy and I’ll sue your company and then you’ll be sorry, especially if my dog gets hit by a truck and dies.”

So I say, “That’s a lot to write down; can you give me a minute?” Keep reading…

Not much networking, but plenty of debauchery at the local chamber mixer

If you want to party like it’s 1999 (minus the hand-wringing anxiety caused by the possible Y2K meltdown), then look no further than your local chamber of commerce.

Chamber mixer

Depravity and debauchery are hallmarks of any successful chamber mixer. And if you can network a little during the festivities, then so much the better.

I sense your skepticism, but I’m serious. Chambers of commerce party more often than your local chapter of Lambda Lambda Lambda. Plus, there are no annoying resident assistants to break up the fun.

Many chambers participate in monthly events called “chamber mixers,” which is a business term meaning “alcohol-fueled orgy where participants can network, make contacts and wake up in a neighboring county with no memory of how they got there — and all while promoting the corporate agenda.”

I have personal experience with these lascivious, libation-drenched displays of celebratory overindulgence. At the peak of my freelance writing career, I worked as a $10-an-hour receptionist for a small real-estate office. My duties included greeting customers and answering phones. All that hard work and money I had put into obtaining a journalism degree had finally paid off.

The office was part of the local chamber of commerce. And each month, the chamber would pick a different venue to host its mixer.

Usually, the location was at the place of business of one of its members.

And sure enough, our turn came. I received the foreboding news one morning that the next mixer — and all the carnal, frenzied festivities that term implied — would be held within the delicate confines of our meek and meager little office.

An announcement of such magnitude required extreme preparations. We catered pizza and sandwiches, chicken wings and taquitos. Workmen arrived to wash the windows and steam-clean the carpets. I was enlisted to dust bookcases and straighten furniture. As always, I seized the opportunity to put my bookish, cerebral journalism education to good use … so I grabbed a toilet brush and scrubbed like a madman. Keep reading…

Guess I should have called in sick

I Should Have Called in Sick

A co-worker approached my desk. “Good morning,” she said, looking at the floor.

“Good morning, Sally,” I said.

She looked at the ceiling. “How are you?”

I narrowed my eyes. “Fine.”

“That’s good,” she said, studying the wall behind me. “I wanted to touch bases with you about your report.”


She glanced at the picture hanging above my desk. “So … how’s it coming?”

I crossed my arms. “It’s coming along just fine. I’m aiming to have it on the boss’s desk by Friday.”

“Great,” Sally said, looking down at her shoes. “The reason I’m asking is that she wanted me to contribute. The boss, I mean. She suggested you and I put our heads together.”

“Uh-huh.” I leaned back in my seat, glaring.

Sally’s eyes drifted across the room. “So … if you want to schedule some time, maybe we can get together this afternoon? I mean, if you’re not busy.”

“You know, you don’t have to keep avoiding eye contact,” I said. “I’m well-aware that I have a gigantic zit on my upper lip.” Keep reading…