Companies and the dangers of stupid rules

Much like how old (and good) Need For Speed games such as Underground, Underground 2, Most Wanted and to an extent Carbon and Undercover seemed to be related, story-wise, I figured I’d try the same, at least for these 2 posts.

Last time around, I told you about the baffling “silent mornings” rule a friend of mine has to endure. In short, there is a set period of time during the day when people have to whisper to one another instead of speaking at a normal volume, all for the end-goal of increasing productivity.

I figured that this time around I should discuss about 5 stupid rules, excluding the one above, that make an employee’s life that more annoying in a company/corporation. The rules are biased towards my annoyance to them, if you have any other silly rules that annoy you, feel free to comment below.

1. Internet restrictions

This one is hilarious, especially if you’re a programmer. While programming sites were not restricted at the company I worked for that enforced this rule, other sites such as social media ones and entertainment ones (you know, YouTube) were restricted. This forced people into having to find the will to continuously work without so much as a glimmer of hope for a break.

Internet restrictions in this day and age are so bafflingly stupid I don’t even know where to start. Suffice it to say that most people use YouTube as a way of listening to music or podcasts while working, so as to avoid the chit chat around them in order to focus. Also, breaks are fine, managers, NO ONE can work 60 minutes an hour, 8 hours a day, not if they want to keep their mental health at an acceptable level.

2. Dress code

Where I’m from summers tend to get really hot. And I mean 37 degrees to 40+ degrees Celsius hot. So forcing someone to come dressed in long pants during such times is a freaking atrocity and insult to…just about everything. Add that to the fact that most people have to endure a subway ride or local transport ride to work and you have a very…not nice image of what dress codes may lead to.

3. Time off rules

Why must there be rules about having to have at least X people in the office from a department at a given time? This is especially annoying when there are Bank holidays that link up well with the weekends if you take an extra day off, e.g. Bank holidays on Thursdays or Tuesdays. But no, some people have to draw the short straw and be at the office those days because of these rules. If you’re not working in a hospital or in some place where 24H maintenance is a must, these rules are stupid…period. Sure, emergencies can happen, but with a bit of preparation beforehand, the number of critical situations can be drastically reduced.

4. Attendance and participation rules

I really hate companies that give you that weird look when you say you are not interested in participating at a certain event, be it a team-building, an office party or whatever. This gets even more annoying when you are selected to be the organiser of said events, because of some stupid rule that says: “everybody should take turns in organising these events”. FFS people, you hire a person to do a certain job, stop shoving down other annoying tasks that have NOTHING to do with his/her job down his/her throat. It’s annoying and a really s****y thing to do to an employee, especially since most of the time it’s volunteer work, meaning there is no pay at the end of it. Volunteering usually comes from the employee, it is not something to shove down one’s throat.

5. Any and all communication restrictions

Sure, this group includes the “silent mornings” rule mentioned, but other brilliant examples are mobile phone restrictions, IM app restrictions (e.g. when you can’t use Skype or other apps to communicate with friends and family), social media restrictions (you know, Facebook) and so on.

So, what of the dangers of these rules? Well, it’s a simple answer. Each and every job description says the company is looking for professionals. The logical result of this is that each and every company is comprised of professionals. And professionals KNOW what to do and don’t have to be treated like children. We’re talking about adults here, people that have went through school, who know how to behave and who know that in order to be paid, they have to work. And sure, there are companies where there seems to be a lack of professionals, but that’s the management’s fault, no one else’s. So if you’re hiring professionals, just let them do their job without restricting them.

A decent amount of rules is good. But for the love of logic, if you see someone misbehaving, do NOT punish the whole company because of him/her. Just talk to the person and tell him/her to start abiding by said rules. Punishing everyone for the actions of a single person is a surefire way to make people want to leave your “best company in the world” for the next “best company in the world”.

Advertisements

About blaming others for everything…

You know of the people who love to complain about being unhappy and when you ask them why, the answer is usually one containing something about others being at fault for this? If you don’t, then count yourselves lucky, because there are a lot of people like that out there.

Now on this subject, one of the most baffling office rules I’ve heard of recently was something called “silent mornings”. What does that mean? Well, apparently, there is a defined period of time where people are not allowed to talk loud. Instead, they have to whisper to one another. And all of this for the sole purpose of increasing productivity inside the company.

Since this is a blog, and not a vlog, you will have to use your imagination to picture the flabbergasted look on my face when the poor soul who has to endure this rule told me about it. I mean, I can’t be the only one that finds this rule not only stupid, but potentially the start of the downfall of a company, right?

And the reasoning behind it is even more baffling. The rule, as I’ve said, was put in place so that people could work better and be more productive apparently. Now I don’t know if it works or not, but what actually made me write this post is the reasoning behind this rule, which relates to the title of the post. I am not productive, others are at fault, am I right? And yeah, I know that when there is a lot of noise in an open-space office, it tends to get annoying, but there are so many ways in which this can be addressed, I could write a separate post about it.

It’s time to stop blaming others for your incompetence at work. The only one at fault for not getting your work done, especially when you don’t depend on others (like in a cross-over team between your company and the clients’ company), is YOU! You want to know what is keeping you from actually doing work? Social media, news sites and any and all distractions you choose to indulge instead of saying “No thanks, I have to work”. Also, being a tad more organised will help you become more productive.

There will always be things that are out of your control. That is just the way life goes. Trying to control them will only lead to sadness when you realize you can’t do it. But there are also things that are in your complete control. The way you work is one of them. Soooooo how about you start looking into what YOU can improve instead of blaming others and creating stupid rules? You’d be surprised at the outcome of this decision…

Anxiety and the corporate life

Some 3 years ago I was stuck in the very definition of a dead-end project, where I was required to make sure that the web application I was working on would work on Internet Explorer 5 (which was released in 1998)…yeah, I was working on a project so old it would have been a freshman or sophomore in high-school should it have been a real person.

And during that project, I learned to hate corporations for the first time in my life, mostly because when the time came to stick up for their employees, the lovable managers of the company I was working for decided to stick it up our “place where the sun don’t shine” hole. This was very annoying because there was a period of two months when some people from the client side were stationed at the HQ of said company and made each and everyone’s lives a living hell, with constant overtime during the week and also during the weekends.

During those two months I also learned to hate the people who tell you you are a little b***h for complaining about your corporate job, because you should be grateful to spend your off-work time at work, am I right? And another thing I learned is the devastating effect that working in a stressful environment has on your physical and mental health. Because during that time I’ve seen many of my colleagues break down, a whole host of them left not too long after the project had ended (or during the project) and I myself experienced a panic attack, when I had to go out and get some fresh air because of all the stress. And aside from the mental picture I have of someone being shocked that I had to take some food supplement pills (in order to get my vitamin levels up so as to avoid this scenario again), there was nothing funny about those times.

Living in a constant state of anxiety, stress or fear of what’s to come is probably one of the leading factors to becoming numb or even worse, depressed, because of one’s work. And it’s more annoying when managers don’t do anything to help the situation, because of this stupid rule that “the customer is always right”.

I’ve said this before, but basing your actions around this quote is a sure fire way to alienate each and every last of your employees. Why do I say this? Because more often than not the customer doesn’t really know what he wants and actually welcomes input from the teams working on the project. And if he does know what he wants, then the problems should, in theory, not be there. I get that some customers are more difficult than others, but taking a giant dump on your employees instead of telling the customer to back the f**k up is a really s****y thing to do to the very people that actually BRING YOU THE BLOODY MONEY!

I originally set out to do a sort of X ways to handle anxiety at work, based on how I got through those times, but I feel that this issue is a bit more difficult and I think that I need to mull it over a bit more before I come up with ways to beat anxiety. Suffice it to say that you should NOT feel guilty if you feel overwhelmed at work, regardless of how many people tell you about the infinite number of other workers who would absolutely love to be in your place. If corporate, anxiety and stress-inducing jobs were so lovely, you’d have a line of people forming around the block to join said corporations, not to leave them, which seems to be the case as of late.

The overbooking phenomenon

By now you may have heard of the debacle at United Airlines and their less than gentle way of handling overbooked flights. If you haven’t, there was this flight that was overbooked and the crew asked the passengers if they would like to go on the next flight, which was the next day. They didn’t, so the crew chose randomly. I think 3 out of 4 passengers were ok with the decision, but the 4th one wasn’t and he was dragged out by the police.

Anyhow, this event reminded me why I hate this overbooking phenomenon and why airline companies and hotels need to STOP THIS! Seriously, why would you run the risk of having overbooked flights? Why do that? Why be so damn greedy? Sure, the statistics are on their side, because more often than not, if they overbook a flight, some passengers might not arrive to catch that plane and so they don’t have to worry about it. But why? Why, in an age when people travel so much do these companies STILL feel the need to do this? It’s one of the sh*ttiest things you can do, and handling it the way United Airlined did doesn’t do them any favours, especially in this day and age when stuff like this goes viral.

And hotels have followed this direction as well. Last year when someone I know wanted to go on vacation, the hotel they booked, through a travelling agency, turned out to be overbooked, and they had to be moved to another hotel in another resort. While it all turned out ok in the end, I still don’t get why the traveling agency did not inform them before hand (they found out on the spot, after the plane had landed and the guide wanted to see where each passenger had to go afterwards). This kind of stuff doesn’t just happen overnight.

In a previous post I have stated that there is a medium sized list of things that annoy me, with politics and news being number one. Well, safe to say that at number two we find greedy f*cks like airlines and hotels who practice overbookins and want to squeeze every last penny they can find, even though there is plenty for all of them. People travel a LOT these days, there is absolutely no f*cking need for you to be so freaking obsessed and greedy!

I can only hope that events like the one mentioned above are scarce. There is an easy way to handle situations like this. If you were so greedy that you overbooked, you either pay the unlucky customers a hefty amount of money (you know, because you’re a sh*thead) OR you offer them accomodation nearby if the flight isn’t on the same day. Or, you know, you can continue to forcefully drag them out of the plane even though they have paid for their ticket and have every bloody right to stay on the plane if they wanted to.

Workaholics

Nobody wishes they’d have worked more when their time is up. This is a fact stated by many people when asked what they regret about their life. NO ONE REGRETS having not worked more in their life. Shocking, I know.

Where am I going with this you ask? Well, as the title might suggest, I am going to talk about workaholics. What is a workaholic? A person who willingly, irresistibly etc works long and hard hours, even though no one asked that person to do it. You may have them at work, those people who come in at the same time you do and then almost refuse to leave until they are the last one standing, even though everyone around them has gone home or is telling them to leave. Let’s face it, work never ends, and your productivity goes down exponentially once you’re tired. And make no mistake, you DO get tired. You may not think you are, but your body and brain know.

I’ve always wondered why people do this. I mean, excluding the ones who have big debts, for whatever reasons, workaholics who actually have a stable financial situation or even moreso a FAMILY are just plain imbeciles. There is now sugar coating this, you’re a bloody idiot for wasting precious family time (or free time in general if you have no significant other) working for someone who I can guarantee doesn’t give two craps about you.

People have this belief that if you work hard and long, your boss will somehow hold you in high regards or will be there to support you when times get rough. You know what will happen if you get sick or have some other trouble? You think your boss will be there to support you in your time of need? Fat chance. The first thing he’ll want to know is the time you’ll be back and how much it will cost HIM (yes HIM, not YOU) to either replace you for a determined period of time or how much your medical bills are. Sure, he might SEEM he cares when he asks how you’re doing, but he doesn’t really care. He has a business to run, you’re just a cog in that business, so easily replaceable it hurts if you think about it.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some companies where overtime (unpaid, of course) is actually encouraged and those companies can f**k right off. That is one of the worst behaviors I can see in a company and of course, the ACTUAL people responsible rarely pay the price. I am talking about the managers of course, the ones who should be able to allocate enough time for the project, including periods of holidays, downtime due to whatever technical reasons or unclear specs which force the teams to have to redo some work. More often than not though, in order to impress the client and get a “who’s a good boy? you’re a good boy” out of the them or the CEO, they are WAY too optimistic and come up with a deadline so unrealistic you may as well put it in Hogwarts and hope all unforseen events are automatically solved.

In the end, people need to realise the following: no one will care about your career once your time is up. Not even you. You think your offsprings will care about that time you helped a complete stranger achieve success, a success you only get crumbs from? Probably not, but they will always remember the day you skipped an important event in their life in order to put in that extra effort for said stranger.

5 things corporations completely misunderstand

I’ve been out of the corporate world for almost a year now and this has allowed me time to look back into what exactly goes wrong in certain corporations with regards to their relationships with their employees. And while there are a great many things former employees might tell you is wrong with the corporation they won’t leave, I’m going to try to nail it down to 5 meta-things. By meta I mean ideas and terms that have a domino effect if implemented/understood wrong. So here it goes:

1. The definition of proactivity

Proactivity in its ACTUAL definition means to be aware of the fact that you are in charge of how a certain stimulus affects you. Proactive thinking is the opposite of reactive thinking, which basically means that you have no control over how a certain event influences you. A proactive thinker will think a traffic jam means more time to reflect on his goals or alternate routes for the future (or he realizes there is enough time for Bohemian Rhapsody to end without him having to sit in the car for a good 5 minutes). A reactive thinker will simply get annoyed at the traffic jam, because that is the normal reaction to a traffic jam.

So what in the name of dictionaries and self-development books do corporations think being proactive means? Even they are not sure. But from what I can gather, it involves a lot of “pick me for this task, boss” attitude, which is NOT a proactive attitude. This kind of attitude shows a whole host of other traits such as eagerness, ass-kissing for that raise or lack of experience because you’re a junior and want to get noticed, without a second thought as to what you’re getting yourself into.

2. The importance and use of a company culture

Corporations fall into 3 categories, 2 enormous ones and an outlier. The 2 enormous ones contain corporations that either have a company culture in place but hire people which represent the opposite of their values and the ones that have a cult, rather than a culture, in which you actually expect to be fired (or worse), for not adhering to any and all values and creeds and beliefs and so on. The outliers of course are the companies which have decent values, which are explained in detail and the management actually hires people who fit into the company culture.

As for the use, well…let’s just say I’ve seen corporations who only have the values because they’ve read it in a book. Company values are useful because they help you as a company decide what you stand for and what you want the people you hire to stand for and believe in…in normal amounts.

3. The importance of putting employees first

It’s like Richard Branson said. If you take good care of your employees, they will take good care of your customers. But if you treat your employees like what you wipe of your shoe, you really have to have a highway long amount of nerve to actually ask them to be nice to your customers. They don’t care about your customers and they will certainly not care about the image they project to them about your company if they are treated badly.

4. The importance of having an answer to WHY the company exists

Simon Sinek has a book called Start With Why. And while it’s way too Apple oriented for my taste, the ideas in it are genuinely good. If a company doesn’t have a purpose in this world (other than money), it will only attract people who have no direction and are only in it for the money. Results are important, but you always have to remember WHY you exist as a company. Having that answer will attract people who believe in the same goal as you and will yield greater results since the people who are working in your company believe in the same thing as you do, and motivation will always be there.

5. The values of employee input and transparency

Ever been to one of those All Employee Meetings where the CEO always tells you that everything is fine, even though the project you’re working on sucks the life out of you and people around you are fleeing the sinking ship faster than people claim they’ll leave their country because of who is leading it? I have, and it’s pathetic. Corporations who don’t allow employees to have a say and who don’t listen to them will end up losing them. I’m not saying to give every detail to everyone, but always claiming everything is fine when it clearly isn’t is bad for business, because it won’t motivate anyone to improve the things which are actually damaging the company.

While these aren’t necessarily all the things that go wrong in corporations, I feel that a basic understanding of human interactions (and overused terms) is vital to the success of any and all relationships and businesses. Sadly though, this will probably always get lost in translation between all of those managers telling you how good their business is going while you’re handing in your resignation.

Post-school depression

School is quite possibly one of the most important time periods in one’s life. Most notably because you have many different stages in school, from kindergarten to college. And it’s a time of both highs and lows which more or less determines the field you’ll be working in once you’re done. I say more or less because in this day and age, people can change working areas much easier than in the past and the profile of your school has diminished in importance.

While on the loveable World Wide Web, I’ve noticed that some people claim to have lost their happiness and or sense of direction once school was over. And even if they didn’t, they still long for the days when they were students. Of course, some responsible (read BORING) adults might say that it’s merely because, while in school, you have very little responsibility and very little to care about, apart from exams, dating partners, latest music trends etc. Those same adults fail to see, in my book, that there might be more to it than that. And I’m going to try and give you 5 reasons as to why people miss school:

1. Their field of work is not what they were told it was

You know what I mean. When you wanted to become a software developer, all you had in mind was how you’re going to revolutionize the programming industry and be the next Bill Gates, only to find yourself trying to work through decades old code (no, I ACTUALLY mean decades, not a mistake there…believe me, I know) to figure out what in the world is causing that ridiculous bug the client wants solved yesterday. It kind of depresses you to see all the hard work you’ve put in to get your diploma and/or grades, only to end up doing pointless and meaningless work.

2. The sense of accomplishment and purpose is all but gone

When you’re in school, you know WHY you are in school. You know WHY you do it. It’s so you can get a diploma at the end of it so you can then have an easier time in getting a job so you can provide for yourself and your family. So any and all hardships you endure are for a greater purpose, which you KNOW and actually want to achieve.

But once school is over and you get a job, you’ll more often than not find that the work you put in…has no real purpose whatsoever. It doesn’t really matter how many times you hear the phrase “’cause the customer said so, man”, you won’t find motivation in doing what you do if you can’t associate it to a higher purpose. And it won’t matter how many tasks you mark as done in JIRA either.

3. Coworkers will never be your friends

Sure, some people end up in a place where their coworkers are actually decent people. I am working in such a place right now, where, given the fact that we aren’t a big corporation, you get to bond with people much more than in a large company. But for most others, going to work is essentially them having to spend 8 hours doing something they vaguely enjoy while being surrounded by people with whom they don’t really have much in common. It’s very rare that you actually end up in a team of people that have similar interests. In school, whether you were with 1, 2 or 10 friends, you had similar interests and similar tastes and you could behave more naturally, since the people you were surrounded by had similar life values and/or hobbies. Your work relatinoships tend to be way more forced and unnatural.

And no amount of forced company values and/or team buildings will help solve that issue.

4. You don’t get to spend as much time with your actual friends

An extension of the previous one, but you get what I mean. If by some miracle you actually work in the same company as your school friends, then consider yourself lucky, but the chances for that are very slim. And while I and so many others still keep in touch with old friends, it’s still not the same as hanging with them and facing challenges together.

5. Lack of predictability and closure

School is predictable. You go to class, write down what the teacher says (or record or whatever), then go home and prepare for the next day by doing homework. And save for the odd pop quiz, it’s pretty much the same, year in, year out. And sometimes, predictability is good, because it allows us to be prepared for what is coming.

When you graduate, things tend to get unpredictable really fast. Because while your job may seem secure now, you never know when the company you’re working for hits a crisis, or when it needs to downsize, or when your boss might become an outright prick and fire you. And this might cause some people to work with the blade of the sword right upside their head, which inevitably leads to stress and a lack of a will to live.

Also, work never ends. There is a beginning, but there seems to be no end to the project you’re working at. And for some, me included, closure is important. It’s a very good feeling to see the project I’ve been working on go live and get used by people. But save for one, and even that one for a small company, which is being used by 5 or 6 people, if it still exists…

So yeah, these are my thoughts about why this post school depression might appear. I don’t think I’ve suffered from this, at least not that bad. I don’t think people actually miss school. People usually miss the idea of school. The idea of working alongside their friends in order to surpass seemingly insurmountable challenges. And the idea of celebrating that success once the challenges are over.