Workplace Revenge

USA Today is reporting that nearly half of 1,000 Americans sampled in a survey — 44 percent, to be precise — have admitted to seeking “workplace revenge” against a fellow employee.

57ced8b263393bfcc559fc398afcf4a7-office-space-meme-office-humorThe definition of “workplace revenge” used by the survey is pretty broad, and the results suggest that people who participate in such antics aren’t exactly deep thinkers, either.  For example, the most popular form of “workplace revenge” found by the survey is workers “causing a purposeful decline in the quality or quantity” of their own work — apparently in an effort to get back at a supervisor.   Even if you were a vengeful type, this seems like a poorly considered strategy if you want to actually keep your job.  Another popular form of workplace revenge is “quitting in an unconventional way” — and all of the survey respondents who followed this course probably did so convinced that their loud, “unconventional,” no doubt public departure from their job would teach their mean bosses a lesson that they would remember forever.  Of course, anyone who’s got much workplace experience would realize that temper tantrums by departing employees are pretty common and that many co-workers who witness the “unconventional” resignation will be inwardly thrilled that the vengeful co-worker is hitting the road.

Hey, do employees who want to inflict “workplace revenge” grasp the concept of a self-inflicted wound?

According to the survey, other popular forms of revenge are “spreading unflattering rumors” and “hiding a co-worker’s possessions” (starting, perhaps, with staplers?), as well as eating a co-worker’s lunch, sabotaging a co-worker’s work, and getting a co-worker fired.  And, interestingly, the likelihood that an employee will try to take “workplace revenge” increases with rank, with “senior managers” and “general managers” more likely to engage in these tactics than entry-level employees.

The survey really makes you wonder how many toxic workplaces exist, and makes me grateful that I’ve never been the target — at least, not to my knowledge — of a “workplace revenge” scenario.  Is it really that bad out there?  And if supervisors are regularly taking part in the vengeance, then we’re definitely into truly dysfunctional territory.

Jobs are hard enough without worrying that your fellow employees might be trying to stab you in the back or get you fired because of some perceived slight.  No wonder so many Americans want to retire early!

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The Lot Of The Working Stiff

Starbucks is embroiled in protests in Philadelphia due to an incident in one of its stores.  As CNN reports it, two African-American men initially initially asked to use the restroom inside the store “but were told the cafe’s bathrooms were for customers only. They then occupied a table without making a purchase, which many observers have noted is a common occurrence at the franchise’s locations.  A manager called police after the men declined to leave the premises because, they said, they were waiting for an acquaintance.”  Police then took the men out of the building, and the men were detained.

The incident has provoked outrage and resulted in a sit-in, other protests, and lots of criticism of Starbucks, and the manager who called the police is no longer working at the location in question.  Starbucks CEO has apologized, and Starbucks has announced that every one of its 8,000 stores in the U.S. will close the afternoon of May 29 to “conduct racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores.”

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But this post isn’t about the unfortunate incident, the protests, or Starbucks’ response to the incident.  Instead, it’s about one picture taken during the protests, which appears at left — a photo of a Starbucks employee behind the counter at the store, wearing bright green Starbucks garb with “Zack” written on his apron, staring stolidly ahead while facing a protester with a bullhorn who is standing about three feet away.  That one picture, to me, aptly illustrates the lot of the working stiff.  Zack, the order-taking counter guy, isn’t the CEO of Starbucks, or the manager who made the decision to call the police, and we don’t know whether he was even in the store when the incident occurred.  But when things go south and the corporate crap hits the fan, it’s the little guys like Zack who show up for work and get sent out to face the music — and in this case, the bullhorn.

I’ve never had jobs where I had to deal with sit-ins and protesters using bullhorns, but I expect many of us have had jobs where we were the minimum-wage workers who had to deal with the red-faced customers who were angry about a decision we didn’t make.  And if you’ve had such a job, you suspect you know exactly what Zack was thinking at the moment the above photo was taken:  he’s thinking that the pay he’s getting just isn’t worth it, he’s wondering how long it is until his shift ends, and he’s trying to get to his mental happy place.  We’ve all been there.

And it also makes you wonder:  wouldn’t it be interesting to see how CEOs and high-level executives would deal with the bullhorn scenario?

Seriously — Mayochup?

Heinz is encouraging Americans to vote on a question that could affect the tabletops of restaurants throughout the land.

The question is:  do Americans want Heinz to release a new condiment called “Mayochup” — a combination of Heinz Ketchup and Heinz Real Mayonnaise.  If 500,000 people vote yes, Heinz will roll out the new product and send it to stores.

mayochup-1Set aside the sad fact that some Americans have actually taken time from their days to cast their vote on what is clearly a marketing campaign ploy.  In modern, bot-ridden America, you could get 500,000 votes for just about anything.  Come hell or high water, Heinz obviously is going to bring their new condiment to market.

Set aside, too, the fact that the name “mayochup” sounds like some mythical creature that parents use to frighten their misbehaving children in southern Mexico, or the noise made by a barfing cow.  It is a truly awful name for a product.  Just having something called “Mayochup” on a table where food is being consumed is troubling.

And, finally, set aside the fact that “Mayochup” is made with mayonnaise, which is a disgusting, greasy, ugly substance that should never have been invented by the French back in the 1700s in the first place.

No, the worst thing about “Mayochup” is that it shows just how lazy Americans have become.  If some poor, benighted souls like the combination of ketchup and mayonnaise — which really says something disturbing about them, doesn’t it? — they can squirt some ketchup from the ketchup bottle, add some mayonnaise from the mayo jar, mix it up themselves, and go to town.  What’s next for Heinz?  An equally poorly named product called “Ketchtard”?

The Syria Dilemma

There’s news this morning that the United States, Great Britain, and France have launched air strikes against the Assad regime in Syria.  The strikes are in response to what the three Western allies call a chemical weapons atrocity committed by the Assad regime on its own people, and are targeting laboratories, production facilities, storage facilities, and other elements of the regime’s chemical weapons capabilities.

5ad199560f2544131873fb90Nobody wants to see civilians assaulted by chemical weapons, of course, and I agree with President Trump that anyone who uses chemical weapons is a “monster.”  The problem is that the Assad regime denies any use of chemical weapons, and its allies — namely, Russia and Iran — are backing the regime.  Indeed, at one point Russia claimed that Great Britain had, for some elusive reason, staged the chemical attack.  The outlandishness of that claim gives us a pretty good idea of how to assess the relative credibility of the charges and countercharges concerning who did what.

But in the curious arena of international affairs, questions of credibility and truth, and right and wrong, often don’t mean much.  Attacking Syria will have consequences for our relations with Russia and Iran, such as they are, and might put other American allies, like Israel, at increased risk.  Of course, it could also risk drawing the United States deeper into the quagmire of internal disputes in a foreign nation, a la Afghanistan and Iraq.  On the other hand, do countries like the United States, France, and Great Britain, which have the ability to take concrete steps to try to stop the use of chemical weapons, have a moral obligation to do something like launching these attacks when international organizations like the United Nations prove to be incapable of protecting innocents from monstrous and barbaric attacks?

It’s a dilemma that is above my pay grade, and one which I hope our leaders have thought through thoroughly and carefully.  I’m all for stopping the use of chemical weapons, but it is the unpredictable long-term consequences that give me concern.

The Oldest (And Lamest) Joke

When did you first hear the “why did the chicken cross the road” joke?  (And, when you first heard it, did you scratch your head in bewilderment about why the joke was supposedly funny?)

diginomicaThe jest about the wandering but evidently purposeful chicken is generally considered to be one of the oldest continuously circulating jokes in the modern world.  It actually has its own Wikipedia page, which traces the history of the joke back to an 1847 reference in a New York magazine called Knickerbocker.  In that pre-Civil War publication, the joke is presented as a “conundrum” or “quip and quillet” — a kind of riddle that the writer clearly thought was a real groaner.  The arc of the joke can then be traced through the ensuing decades, where it added bells and whistles and additional information all designed to cause the listener to think that the answer is something other than the traditional one.

But while the joke books of the late 19th century present the chicken and road joke as one of many overripe chestnuts you might hear from that joke-spouting uncle who thought he was a real card, you can see that many of the other common jokes that were in circulation in those days have long since been buried.  You don’t hear many “parson” jokes these days, or jokes about chickens generally, for that matter.  And yet — the awful chicken and road joke endures, like the B.O. that couldn’t be eliminated from the car in that Seinfeld episode.  Why?

The Wikipedia page describes the joke as “an example of anti-humor, in that the curious setup of the joke leads the listener to expect a traditional punchline, but they are instead given a simple statement of fact.”  That clinical description doesn’t really fully capture the point of the joke, though.  Unlike most purported jokes, which hope to provoke a laugh from the listener, the chicken joke is obviously designed to allow the joke-teller to laugh at the listener’s expense while the listener feels like a perplexed idiot.  I’m pretty sure that happened the first time I heard it, and it has left me wary about jokes ever since.  It was a valuable lesson, I suppose, but it’s just too bad that I had to hear the chicken and road joke to learn it.

Big Zucker

Today I followed my time-honored morning routine.  I got my cup of coffee, pulled out my cell phone, and checked my work email messages.  My Facebook app was showing there were messages there, too, so I clicked on it.

“Good morning, Bob!” the Facebook page read, a little too cheerily.  “Skies are clearing in Columbus today, so enjoy the sunshine!”  It also gave the temperature in Columbus at a spring-like 25 degrees.

03facebook-xlarge1I recognize that, as a 60-something male, I’m not in Facebook’s target audience.  Perhaps 20-somethings feel warm appreciation for the fact that Facebook is so tuned in to their lives that it gives them personalized weather forecasts and wishes them a heartfelt good morning.

Me?  This increasingly cranky old guy gets a case of the creeps that Facebook thinks it knows where I am and presumes to provide weather forecasts for my assumed location and addresses me by my first name.  It also bugs me that Facebook does things like prepare slide shows of Facebook posts that happened in March, or videos celebrating the “anniversary” of the start of a Facebook friendship.  I feel like Facebook needs to back off and butt out.

The fact that Facebook has been implicated in the Cambridge Analytica story heightens the risk arising from the mass of data that Facebook is compiling about the people who use it.  Rather than making me feel warm and fuzzy that Facebook cares about me, Facebook’s little devices, like the weather forecasts and the slide shows, just remind me that Facebook holds all of that data and can use it however it wants.  It’s not an appealing prospect.

Perhaps George Orwell’s 1984 should have been written about huge, data-compiling social media companies like Facebook, rather than the government.  Instead of Big Brother, maybe we should all be worrying about Big Zucker.

Tippecanoe And His Accidency, Too

Yesterday marked the 177th anniversary of an interesting point in American history.  On April 4, 1841, President William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia, only 31 days after taking office.  He became the first President to die in office, and remains to this day the President who had the shortest tenure in the White House.

125274-004-91e5633aBut that’s not the interesting part, in my view.  Instead, the interesting question was:  what comes next?  The Constitution, at that point, made no specific provision for what to do if a President died in office.  Vice President John Tyler, who ran with Harrison on the catchy if somewhat dismissive slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too,” decided that he inevitably should ascend to the presidency and become President himself.  The Constitution wasn’t exactly clear on that point, and whether the Vice President should simply remain Vice President but exercise presidential powers when necessary.  But Tyler was resolute.  He took the oath of office, insisted on exercising the full powers of the presidency, and even gave an inaugural address.  He also was reportedly very prickly about how he came to occupy the Oval Office, and purportedly refused to acknowledge correspondence addressed to him as “Acting President.”

We should add, incidentally, that Tyler may not have been motivated solely by a desire to avoid a constitutional crisis:  by becoming the President in name, Tyler’s annual salary increased five-fold, from $5,000 a year to $25,000 a year.  And Tyler wasn’t exactly a good guy, either — he was a slave owner who later supported the Confederacy and died while serving in the Confederate Congress.

But eventually the Congress went along with Tyler’s approach to presidential succession, and even though his foes derided him as “His Accidency,” the “Tyler precedent” on presidential succession was established — to be followed after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the assassination of James Garfield, and all of the other instances of vice presidential succession until the 25th Amendment, which established specific rules on the succession process, was ratified more than 100 years later.