what process or problem has yet to be solved at your office?

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We can video-chat with people on other continents, store things in the cloud, and automate processes that used to take a whole team of workers to get done, but we still haven’t found a way keep the damn office fridge clean. Or found a conference call technology that doesn’t result in calls like this. Or figured out how to put people in an environment where they can both collaborate and get needed privacy.

What process or problem has yet to be solved at your office? What does it feel like there should be a technological (or common sense) solution to but for some reason one has never been found?

I’m going to use your answers to inform an upcoming column, so please share in the comments!

{ 560 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. The Nameless

    My office still hasn’t figured out a way to keep offensive lunch room smells in the kitchen. I get that people want to eat at their desks, but the smell of cabbage, fish, and burnt popcorn (among others) waft out and make those of us with very sensitive olfactory receptors sick. There’s a blanket policy at my office about scented products such as perfumed hand lotions, room fresheners, etc but there’s nothing that covers the offensive lunchroom smells.

    Reply
          1. Jamie

            You are the first person I have ever heard say that – In my entire life this is as validated as I’ve ever felt – thank you anonymous internet person.

            This is why I will not allow them in my house, even when my kids were small – they absolutely smell like urine.

            Reply
            1. businesslady

              I cosign this! the Honey Nut kind don’t bother me, but I definitely get that association from regular Cheerios too (& for a while I just thought it was because I often encountered them in…child-centric, shall we say, environments).

              Reply
              1. Tinker

                In the realm of oddly crossed wiring, I smell baby wipes along with certain genres of odor that… shall we say are strongly associated with the use of baby wipes, even when it is obvious that there are no baby wipes around the thing that produced the odor in question.

                I chalk it up to that the sense of smell is notoriously weird, and I probably smelled the two smells together a lot during some prime developmental period.

                Reply
                1. Elsajeni

                  This association can happen the other way around, too, which is why we no longer keep a scented candle in the bathroom in my household. (“Isn’t it enough that we’ve RUINED LAVENDER FOREVER? Do we have to ruin pumpkin pie, too?”)

                2. businesslady

                  yes! we used to have this vanilla-almond body spray stuff someone gave us that we’d occasionally deploy to cover up bathroom odors, & now whenever I smell someone wearing it (it’s from Bath & Body Works, or at least they have a fragrance that’s similar) I have some seriously negative associations.

                3. lonepear

                  Oh, yes. I have a pink grapefruit shower gel that I love and have been using for the past year or two, but I can no longer eat/drink grapefruit-flavored things, because it feels like I’m eating soap.

                4. tcookson

                  For the longest time, there was a certain scent that, when I smelled it, it would instantly take me back to my grandma’s house when I was a small child. It would be like I was right back there: I could see the rooms the way they were then, and see the family members who were lounging around the kitchen, etc. I never could put my finger on what the smell was, though, that triggered the reaction.

                  Then, when I had children, I was putting diaper cream on one of them and had the reaction again. So the scent that took me back to grandma’s house was diaper cream — because my mom and all the aunts would hang out there together with all their babies and children.

          2. Christine

            Yes, they absolutely smell like pee! I’ve thought this for years and no one has believed me. Thank you!

            Reply
            1. R

              I always say that Cheerios smell like babies. In my head, the smell is more akin to baby spit-up than urine, but I’m inclined to think they go together! (Like businesslady, Honey Nut are fine by me.)

              And Tinker, I just recently had that same reaction re: baby wipe smell. It’s so weird!!

              Reply
          3. CheeryO

            Don’t ever move to Buffalo! We have a General Mills plant here, and a certain section of the city ALWAYS smells like Cheerios. The smell makes me gag, but apparently some people like it.

            Reply
        1. Andrea

          Fritos smell like dog paws. I say this as a dog lover. I do hate Fritos, though.

          Campbell’s chicken noodle soup smells like BO. Am I alone here?

          Reply
            1. Ellie H.

              Exactly – dog paws smell like Fritos. So do (sometimes) the rubber soles of slippers. When I was really little my grandmother had a pair that smelled like them.

              Reply
          1. Artemesia

            All canned soups have that effect on me. They all smell like BO or the way your clothes smell when you come home from an ethnic restaurant that has a strong smelling cuisine. Canned soup evokes the smell of homeless shelters, unwashed clothes, the halls of low rent apartment buildings.

            Reply
          2. lonepear

            I don’t think BO with Campbells’ chicken soup–I think it smells the way being really congested smells.

            Reply
    1. Ethyl

      Due to working in a very popcorn-heavy office for a couple of years, I now HATE the smell of popcorn with a firey passion. Blecch.

      Reply
      1. The Nameless

        One of the women in my office popped some last week and burnt it. The smell lingered for days. It was finally gone this morning. So what happens? A different woman pooped some today and burnt it. Awesome. The smell makes me gag.

        Reply
        1. jrm

          The smell of burnt office popcorn brings me back instantly to being hungover in college. The dorm I lived in my freshman year had one community microwave per floor (I think they were banned from individual rooms) and gack, that smell….I actually will turn on a small fan at my desk because the smell repulses me/reminds me of being hungover THAT much.

          Reply
        2. Alicia

          I sent an email to my senior colleague saying “I just pooped by your office”…

          … thankfully we are on friendly terms because I am not sure how else you overcome accidental bathroom humour.

          Reply
          1. Andrea

            No kidding, that comment made me laugh hard. It would crack me up at random times throughout the day if someone sent me that accidentally in an email.

            Reply
      2. Cath@VWXYNot?

        Working in a movie theatre for a summer put me off popcorn for years. Ditto strawberry picking.

        Funnily enough, working in a pub didn’t put me off beer, though…

        Reply
      1. Julie

        The burnt popcorn smell doesn’t bother me as much as the fake butter on the popcorn. When someone sticks that stuff in the microwave, and the fake, oily, gross butter smell wafts out, I seriously feel sick to my stomach. Thank goodness my desk is far enough away from the pantry that I don’t smell it at my desk.

        Reply
  2. Erica B

    I haven’t figured out how to get the boss to just say “bye” when he leaves. He comes in for maybe 15 mins a day- an hour is rare- and then just vanishes when you go to your desk 15 ft away to get something to ask him about. Its frustrating. Not that we necessarily need him all the time, but it would be nice to not wonder if you have missed him for the day.

    I asked him one time if he could just say, “bye” or “I’m heading out” or whatever but he just laughed and walked out the door.

    We also have a marker board where we can write when we go out to do field work, and we all use it, but he pretty much stopped over a year ago. Half the time we don’t know if he’s at home doing something, or working in the field.

    Reply
    1. James M

      Get a dog collar and a cowbell. With backup from your peers, present your manager with a choice: use the whiteboard or wear the cowbell.

      If he doesn’t get the message, try positioning the cowbell near the door and ask him to hit it on his way out.

      Reply
      1. Ashley

        We actually joke at my office that we need a GPS tracker for my supervisor. He’s been known to go up to other floors or even to get a haircut without saying anything.

        Reply
        1. Sascha

          When my director started a few years ago, he made a policy that we all use a specific IM client and keep our statuses updated – most of us telecommute on various days so it’s very helpful. Does my manager do this? No. He leaves his status to “online” ALL THE TIME, even when he is on vacation. Completely defeats the purpose. I’d love to put a GPS tracker on him.

          Reply
        2. SCW

          When I was in graduate school, my adviser was NEVER there, so much so that we had a joke about it. It is kind of sacrilegious so I hope no one is offended.

          What’s the difference between God and [Adviser]? Answer: God is everywhere, [adviser] is everywhere but here!

          It was really true–and he was terrible at responding to e-mails, so you’d hear through the grapevine that he was in China, and then off to New Zealand, and then come in one day and he’d be there. It may have been a reason I didn’t last in that program!

          Reply
    2. Anon30

      He probably chuckled because he didn’t know why you were asking. Maybe ask again in an upcoming meeting and clarify why you and others would like to know.

      Reply
      1. Erica B

        oh he knew. I explained it. I told him that it would be nice to know when he was planning on returning just so we know whether or not to ask whatever it is we needed. lol

        Oh, and we don’t’ have meetings. Atleast not “real” ones. Once a month we travel for work together for a couple hour drive, and I use that time to chat about things if we need to.

        Reply
        1. Mishsmom

          i used to have a supervisor like this. i would just politely say “bye” every single time she left the office (bathroom, for the day, didn’t matter – but polite and cheery.) after THREE YEARS (i’m not kidding) she finally started saying if she was gone for the day. that’s as good as it got. good luck! :)

          Reply
        2. Anon30

          Hi Erica B – Ok. That’s too bad then.

          I can sympathize – I rarely have meetings with my Supervisor either. It’s so frustrating because some things should be discussed in person, even for just 5-10 minutes!

          Reply
    3. todanon

      I used to work in an office where this was a potential problem, and the field office manager mitigated this by having everyone use a web service called “inoutboard”. I am sure there are others like it as well. Basically, you check in as “In”, “Off”, “Fieldwork”, “Conference”, etc, as well as entering what time you will start and finish doing that particular activity. Everyone in the office has access to the staff list, and this makes it very easy to check what time(s) you can expect a person.

      It’s also good for safety when doing fieldwork (“hey, it’s 7 p.m. and Bob hasn’t come back from Chocolate Teapot Mountain, even though he should have been back by 3…”).

      **I don’t work for inout board! Pinky promise.

      Reply
  3. Anonymous

    How to enforce writing (software but really any writing) to standards when there are employees that don’t think it is important and the supervisors don’t understand that it is important enough to show up on a performance review.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Getting EVERYONE to learn how to use Office Applications
    Getting EVERYONE to use the same database for contact lists

    Seems simple. But it’s not.

    Reply
    1. rek

      And, on a similar note, getting EVERYONE to keep their on line calendars up-to-date so scheduling a meeting can actually be done using the tools we are meant to use. (Short circuiting a flood of email questions and “reply all” responses at the same time – a double win!)

      Reply
        1. Jamie

          Thank you. I want to work with all of you who understand the importance and ease of using a company calendar.

          Reply
        1. Puddin

          Oh puleez this^
          /open vent
          We have thousands of employees, everyone has Outlook. First Dept I worked in had everyone track their out of office time (biz and personal) on a Google calendar. So then we had two calendars to update to make sure we were showing as unavailable for meetings etc to those outside our dept. Why? No one knew, it was just always that way, so it stayed.

          Current dept, I have people walk over to my desk to see if I am available for x time on x day. Hmmm let me check my CALENDAR lol.

          Finally, the busiest people – upper mangers and directors never seem to bother filling in their calendars. I get the need for confidentiality on things, but there are ways to lock stuff down. So I invitre those folks to meetings and client events and I get the response, ‘I am out that week – didn’t you know that?’ uhg.

          thank you
          /vent closed

          Reply
      1. Kacie

        Our prez doesn’t want anyone to see her calendar, so it’s not shared. Never sure if she’s available or not, and her office is off the beaten path. You can only make meetings through her admin, who you’re also not sure if she’s in or not.

        Reply
        1. Anon for This!

          Ha! Our CEO’s assistant still prints out a template and uses that to create his calendar. He doesn’t ‘like’ Outlook. So inefficient, especially when trying to book meetings with multiple people (and the assistant isn’t the fastest to respond, either).

          Reply
        2. Ruffingit

          That is ridiculous. If she doesn’t want people to see her calendar, the least she could do is create some sort of calendar that shows the basics as in whether she’s in or out of the office. Fine if she doesn’t want to share where she’s at, but it would help people to know when she is in and available. A calendar could easily be made to show that minus details if she’s so concerned.

          Reply
      2. EvilQueenRegina

        And getting everyone to grant access to all those who need access to their online calendars. It’s not a lot of use otherwise.

        Reply
      3. Hooptie

        And getting everyone who uses Outlook to designate ‘all day events’ as Busy or Out of Office. I have no clue why Microsoft would have those automatically coded as ‘free’. I set up meetings for anywhere from 10-20 people at a crack, and people not knowing how to use their calendars correctly makes what should be a 5 minute job drag out across days by the time you figure out when everyone is really ‘available’.

        Reply
    2. Anon

      IME the worst offenders are senior management. What are you supposed to do when the IT director’s boss is the one refusing to use anything more modern than Office 2000 and insists that the entire organization work around their inability to open documents in a modern format?

      Reply
      1. Anon2

        I have a CEO who insists on using WordPerfect. Four years ago, its worldwide market share was 4 percent. I can’t even open it on my computer. None of our vendors/partners use this software. And yet.

        Reply
        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

          That’s probably because WordPerfect is a superior product in almost every way. I hate using Word. I do it anyway, because everyone does, but given the opportunity (as in, when it’s just me that needs to use the document) I choose WordPerfect. Luckily my office has it available for us. You will pry my Reveal Codes function out of my cold, dead hands.

          Still, annoying.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            God, I loved Reveal Codes.

            But yeah, it’s kind of like arguing about the superiority of Betamax or Esperanto. Even if it is, what does it get you?

            Reply
            1. Jazzy Red

              I had a hard time learning WordPerfect, but once the reveal codes were explained to me, I loved it. I tried to explain them to my team, but they never embraced it. I could always tell when my boss would yell out, “what happened to the formatting?” that he accidentally deleted the first of a paired command.

              Reply
              1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

                It’s just so nice to be able to say “Oh, that’s what’s going on in that paragraph.” As opposed to Word– “Wait, I added a space and it changed the whole formatting! Why is it now indented half an inch? What happened to the line spacing? I’ll delete the space. Wow, it went back to the way it was! But I really need that space there. Add the space. Holy cow, it just created a numbered list!”

                I just despise how Word think it knows what you want it to do, because it’s usually wrong.

                Reply
                1. Editor

                  This. Why can’t we have a tech solution to the tech problems Microsoft introduces with software upgrades? To mix advertising metaphors, I want an Easy button that I can slam every time Microsoft changes something for the worse, so it can be changed back or actually improved rather then just changed.

                2. SA

                  +1
                  I get especially aggravated with the way bullets are handled, always different from what I wanted

                3. Fiona

                  So much this. I think if you dig around in the advanced options, there are ways to turn some of that predictive crap off, but I haven’t taken the time. I should, because it would probably SAVE me time in the long run.

                4. Lore

                  Yes! And no matter how many times you deactivate all the auto-formatting options, making sure to do it in a blank document so it becomes the default, every time IT upgrades with a patch or something behind the scenes, all those settings reset to the “fix things for you” presets. Incredibly annoying.

                5. Windchime

                  I can’t reply to SA so I will reply here. I hate, hate, hate the bullets in Word. That’s why I create anything that is bullet-intensive in OneNote, and then paste it into Word when I’m done. Because OneNote magically handles bullets exactly right. Both are Microsoft products, so why can’t Word get it right??

                6. SA

                  Windchime, my theory is that Microsoft bought OneNote instead of building it on their own and that’s why it’s so much better than other MS applications.

                7. Vox De Causa

                  I find myself saying “STOP HELPING” to Word quite a lot for this reason. I learned WordPerfect first and really miss reveal codes. And then Word teases with that ¶ that doesn’t show you everything…

            2. Emily, admin extraordinaire

              Hee. My family still owns a Betamax. To watch the stuff we recorded that no is longer available any other way (the 1985 BBC Miniseries of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, I’m looking at you!) but that we haven’t gotten around to transferring to a newer medium. What can I say? We also bought an Atari 7200 when everyone else was buying the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and a Sega Genesis when everyone else was buying Super Nintendos. We’re a family of rebels.

              Reply
              1. Editor

                My preferences are the Marketing Kiss of Death. Like a particular cereal? It will be “improved” or discontinued as soon it is part of a happy morning routine. Find the perfect shade of lipstick? The perfect shade will be long gone before the next shopping trip. Find a car interior color that doesn’t show the hairs the people and the pets shed and camoflages mud? It won’t be available with any of the exterior colors on the dealer’s lot. Want to buy two bags of the same Halloween candy mix that you got last year because the kids loved it? Nope, those combos all got a remix and the one bar your office or kids leave in the dish is what’s been added. Need a skirt of a certain length? Hemline facism has returned and you will not get the length you want for another two years. Taking your elderly mom to buy another pair of the only sneakers she’s comfortable with? They don’t exist any more, but there are three models that don’t fit her feet that the store will claim are the same. (New Balance, I’m looking at you). Want your newspaper to come seven days a week instead of Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday? You’re going to have to spring for the NYTimes because the local paper has gone all modern… but you won’t get the advice columns or the comics every day in print. Do you wish companies would survey customers before they make these changes? Forget it — when the Asiago Roast Beef sandwich goes away, no amount of griping on the online survey form seems to transform chunky steak into thin roast beef.

                Reply
                1. VintageLydia USA

                  The Asiago Roast Beef is gone!?!? I’ve been in a salad mood the last few times I went to Panera and didn’t notice and now I’m mad! That was my favorite! (I hate the way the new menu is designed, too. Its so confusing!)

                2. athek

                  We are total kindred spirits. I discontinued my Costco membership because they magically stopped selling everything that I used to purchase there.

          2. Anon

            I’d be fine with people who want to use non-standard programs if they’d learn how to convert their stuff to and from formats that other people use and take responsibility to do so. Semi-regularly someone will email me a document complaining that it’s in a modern format and they can’t open it, and would I please convert it for them. My soul dies a little more every time.

            (I am the anon from the grand-comment, not the one that you replied to directly.)

            Reply
      2. Sascha

        You shrivel up and die. That’s what you do. There are few things more frustrating than high-level “technical” people who are stuck in the past. Especially when they love to tell you how “tech savvy” they are.

        Reply
    3. Zelda

      The problem with office applications – particularly word processors – is that people *think* they know how to use them effectively when in fact they’re only using them at a basic level. With other tools they’re usually more aware of their lack of skills and seek training. Gaps I come across every day include setting up and using templates, styles, change tracking…

      Reply
  5. Chinook

    How to track invoices and get them all paid in a timely manner. Supposedly we have new software coming in so we can just have people email their approvals and we can track where the invoice is and why it hasn’t been paid, but it is less of tech issue and more of a user issue. Today I have dealt with 6 invoices atleast 6 months old that were sitting on someone’s desk and a dozen more thay a vendor claims to have sent in but was never received by A/P. How hard is it to look at invoice, put an account code and stick it in an interoffice mailbox (which then takes 4 days to go 2 floors and get entered, but that’s another issue).

    Reply
    1. iseeshiny

      Yeah, my boss had to start threatening to take late fees out of people’s pay and we still sometimes have issues with this. (She never does this and I’m pretty sure it’s not actually legal anyway but sometimes I wish she would.)

      Reply
    2. Apollo Warbucks

      Maybe you can try something called negative approval, get all the invoice sent to AP and entered on the system, then send a list to all approvers telling them the invoices listed will be paid next week unless they tell AP to not pay them.

      Reply
    3. Jill of All Trades

      E-invoicing. I used to administer the e-invoicing AP system at OldJob. The right system will let the vendors directly enter or upload their invoices, everyone has visibility, notification and reminder emails are sent automatically, invoices escalate based on the approval matrix you’ve loaded in, and invoices no longer sit on anyone’s desk because the vendors will get with the program really quickly. It’s not very expensive amd can be set up to interface with your ERP so there can be minimal touching of the invoices.

      Reply
  6. Lillie Lane

    How to get people to stop superfluous emails (esp. reply-alls to a large group). The worst are ones with responses like “I agree!” or “Thanks for sharing!”

    Gaaaaaaaah.

    Reply
    1. Cat

      The reply alls are definitely unnecessary on the “Thanks for sharing” e-mails, but I’m glad people send them; and I often am glad people hit reply on “I agree” e-mails. It makes it much easier to track where we ended up and who has weighed in on a given matter.

      Reply
      1. Lillie Lane

        Very true. I’m just recalling the co-worker who would send the “I agree!” emails as responses to someone else who replied all with “Thanks for sharing!”

        Reply
    2. vvondervvoman

      For me, it’s actually the opposite. I think executives have tried to combat the reply-alls by sending out protocols on how to email properly (when there are no protocols for almost anything else). It doesn’t work and the “reminder” emails are sort of funny, but mostly patronizing and insulting. Aside from the how-to instructions on a simple thing, they’re sort of announcing that their mailbox being smaller is the biggest priority.

      Reply
    3. A.Y. Siu

      Not the most elegant solution, but you can sometimes get around this by Bcc’ing a group instead of putting them all in the To: or Cc: fields.

      Reply
    4. Andrea

      I think that sometimes the “thanks” or “I agree” email is okay… as long as it’s not sent to everyone. I HATE reply all. For my work, it’s almost never useful or necessary. One person on my team uses it every time. On the basis of this one thing, I have decided that she is probably an idiot. (Yes, I know that I’m probably a jerk…but seriously, is it that difficult to ask yourself, “does everyone need to read this, or can I just respond to the sender?”). I don’t know why, but getting emails that I don’t need grates on my nerves.

      Reply
      1. Whit

        Fellow jerk here…I’m so with you on this! Mindlessly hitting “reply all” shows a lack of brain power. Critical thinking, try it some time.

        Reply
    5. Apollo Warbucks

      The best use of reply all I have ever seen was a few years a go a message had been sent to a whole business unit of about 800 people informing them of some important system changes and actions they needed to take. This guy emailed everyone back saying he was too busy and it would cause him a load of problems and it was really unfair to inconvenience him and loads more whinging. One of the senior managers emailed the guy back saying “….. if you’re looking for sympathy you’ll find it in the dictionary somewhere between shit and syphilis. In the mean time can you learn the difference between reply and reply all” And then berating him for sending such a stupid message to so many people, but he’d hit reply all himself.

      Reply
      1. Julie

        I wish we could tell people this and have them just do it:
        ————–
        If you receive a message that doesn’t apply to you and doesn’t require any action on your part, just delete it! No need to reply to all 1,500 people on the list asking to have your name removed (or worse, saying “this doesn’t apply to me”)
        ————–

        I don’t understand why “reply to all” is the default action. It’s not like it’s any easier to click “reply to all” than it is to click “reply.” I sincerely don’t get it!

        Reply
    6. Noelle

      This. So, so much. I just started a new job and there are a lot of chronic over-emailers. I get over 100 emails a day.

      Reply
  7. CH

    Climate control! We have one thermostat for every 3 offices. I am in a thermostat office and my neighbor is always sneaking in when I’m out and boosting it to 80 degrees. Unfortunately, it seems her office is really that cold and mine ends up unbearably hot when she does this. Part of it is differing personal comfort levels but much has to do with our wonky heating system.

    Reply
    1. PJ

      Buy that woman a heater! She can keep it under her desk. I have one and it’s wonderful. Stopped a lot of arguments.

      Reply
      1. Mena

        Your local fire department would be horrified as would the company’s insurance carrier. Space heaters are a no-no. I take it you don’t have a facilities department – they are usually the ‘police’ in these matters.

        Reply
        1. Kathryn

          Space heaters are not necessarily a fire hazard. There are plenty of new ones with built in safety measures that would all be fine in an office setting (as opposed to in a camping tent etc).

          When I had a similar cooling/ heating preferences problem my head of facilities bought me a space heater (and a plug in timer to make sure it always got automatically shut off after like 5pm) and he is no stranger to fire department regulations as our offices are the floor above a chemical research laboratory!

          Reply
        2. fposte

          We have really strict rules at our university, and space heaters are fine here as long as they’re the warmed-oil type, not the blow-your-papers-onto-the-heating-element type. So I don’t think this is overall true.

          (Power consumption issues are a different matter, but so far they haven’t made such heaters prohibitive here.)

          Reply
          1. Julie

            My office has the same rules. You have to order the oil-filled kind through the office supply ordering system, but those are allowed. And thank goodness! because it gets really cold in the office in the SUMMER.

            Reply
            1. Erica B

              our thermostat is controled by the monkeys at our physical plant on our campus. It’s cold enough in the summer that we were sweaters at work, until 3 pm where the themostat goes into crazy mode, and it shoots up to 80 degrees. But only in the summer. In the winter it’s cold and it thinks it’s warm. You go over to the thermostat where it’s set at 78- push a button- it thinks its 75 but go to the thermoter 5 feet away at that reads 66. 66 is warm on a nice spring day. 66 is cold in a room where there’s a breeze because the A/C is blasting to keep the room at “75″. The only way we can get the heat on is to surround the the thermostat with frozen ice packs to trick the stupid thing. It’s so stupid.

              Reply
          2. tcookson

            We have to use the heated-oil kind, too. I have one under my desk from this winter, when the heat in our building went out and it took two-and-a-half months (!!) to get the new unit in. It was 48 degrees in the building for that whole time.

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          3. Mander

            The oil filled ones are great. My living room does not have a heat source (long story) and we use one of those plug in oil radiators when we want to warm it up. No noise, no stuff flying around, no exposed electrical elements, less electricity, you can use it with a timer. The one we have does not get hot enough to burn your hand, let alone paper, but it is very effective (especially if you can close off the space). I wish I’d had them at my old job — I would have distributed them to all the cold people so that I wouldn’t have to have a fan in my face all day!

            Reply
        3. Jazzy Red

          There are panel heaters that do not pose a fire hazard. I guess they don’t get as hot as a space heater, and can’t ignite anything. I do know they don’t get very warm, though.

          Reply
      2. AAA

        I work for a fire department. Almost 1/2 of the staff has space heaters under their desks…I guess the building is full of fire fighters in case something goes wrong…

        Reply
      1. CH

        No, cannot do. I am at the departmental border–she is another department. And actually she does use a space heater (as do many people here), with the permission of the facility manager.

        It really seems that if you turn up the thermostat 3/4 of the heat comes into the thermostat office (mine) and the other two get to share what is left.

        Reply
        1. Meg Murry

          Do you have forced air heat (vents)? Covering up part of your vent may force more of the air into their offices. Look up “magnetic vent covers” and see if you can partially cover your vent.

          Reply
            1. Becky B

              I’ve also covered up vents with clear packing tape just to stop them blowing down ON me because drafts aren’t fun. We have a wonky HVAC system in our elderly building.

              Reply
              1. Windchime

                We used to do this at OldJob because we were freezing. People would huddle in their coats and gloves under blankets, and Maintenance wouldn’t let us adjust the heat (they put a locking cover over it). People blocked the vents with paper but Maintenance caught on to that quickly, so then we changed to clear packing tape. I know, I know….the system is “balanced” and that throws it all off. But when people are freezing, what else is there to do?

                One person got really smart and started putting a cup of ice on the locking thermostat cover and that would sometimes trick the AC into going off and the heat to come on.

                Reply
              2. Erica B

                ^we have done that. Also if you have a drop ceiling see if you can look at the air vents. There is usually a switch or lever that controls air flow. It could be set to “wide open” for you. See if you can get someone to look at it.

                Reply
        2. SA

          LOL at the departmental border. I have been involved in a turf war as an innocent bystander. A person left our group and I was being moved into his office (I did not request the move but it was my first window office and I wasn’t saying no). His new management did not inform him so the day of the move I showed up with my stuff and had to tell him. Awkward!

          Reply
    2. James M

      I have a climate situation that I’ve been able to mitigate using magnetic sheets (the same type you find on fridge magnets) that are large enough to block most of the vent in my office.

      Reply
      1. kbeers0su

        that is so smart! i have a shared air conditioning unit with the un-used office next to me. so much wasted cold air going into the space during the summer- i’m going to redirect it to mine!

        Reply
    3. Momghoti

      Omigosh yes! Or, anyway, architects with some common sense. In my old company, they re-divided an area into closed offices–but left the ducting etc alone. Turns out that the thermostat was in one office and the air vent was in a different one. Yeah.

      Reply
    4. Vox De Causa

      We have this! Except they are locked and in order to get the thermostat changed, you either have to call the Facilities people or you have to pick the lock. It’s really unhandy when you’re grouped with someone who is cold-blooded while you’re sweating all day.

      Reply
  8. thenoiseinspace

    I’d settle for a printer that worked the majority of the time. It seems like every time someone tries to print a page, there’s a problem and we have to take the whole thing apart.

    Reply
    1. Lore

      Yes yes yes! Our main printers double as copiers (networked copier/printer/scanners) and the wear and tear is insane. They never work.

      Reply
      1. thenoiseinspace

        Exactly! And then the repair people are useless. We had one guy who was having a lot of difficulty finding our office. After texting him directions and explaining the building to him multiple times, my boss got a text back that read “Fixed it – you’re all set!” He never showed up at our office. We have no idea whose printer he fixed.

        Reply
        1. EvilQueenRegina

          We had one who fixed one fault and then managed to wipe everyone’s details out of the memory for the scanner. That was fun.

          Reply
    2. James M

      Set up an additional printer and make sure it works, then don’t touch it until the main printer shows error code [x_x]. When that happens, put the ‘on deck’ printer into use, set up another printer (at your leisure), and send the broken one to the island of broken printers.

      Reply
      1. Lore

        If only we were allowed to order printers that way…we share four printers among about 75 people. So they’re all major industrial-sized things, inordinately expensive, and no single department is allowed to just order one, let alone set it up…

        Reply
    3. Cassy

      I’m the marketing/design person at my company and I share a printer with Sales and Finance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attempted to print brochures or training binder inserts (in nice small batches so I don’t hog the printer for more than 5-6 minutes) and then had someone walk by and say “I really need this sales acknowledgement now so I canceled your print job.” I know sales are important (obviously), but the system is set up to email sales acknowledgements to customers – why do you need to print one out?

      I’ve resorted to printing all my jobs securely so they require a password to cancel. Might seem a bit overkill to some, but when a larger print job gets canceled, it’s very annoying to hand count the brochures to make sure you had the 50 the manager requested.

      Reply
      1. ali

        argh. especially when you’ve loaded the printer with your specialty paper for your job and they end up printing your sales thing on your good paper!

        Reply
          1. Ruffingit

            Definitely. I have, more than once, been tempted to purchase my own personal printer to bring to work to mitigate a lot of these problems. Just set it up next to my desk and be done with it. I’ve never done that, but the temptation is there especially when you share a printer with tons of people and it’s a huge hassle to get anything done.

            Reply
    4. MissD

      Somehow I’m always the ONLY one in the office who knows how to fix the printer and change the toner and drums.

      Reply
      1. Windchime

        I’m guessing you’re also the only person who knows how to change the water jug in the water cooler as well. Or at least the only person who will admit to knowing how!

        We don’t have water coolers in this office, but we did at OldJob and people were constantly draining the tank without replacing the bottle. I understand that they are heavy; if you can’t lift it, find a strong co-worker to lift it for you but don’t just drain the tank and waltz off, leaving it for the next person to replace.

        Reply
      2. Julie

        When I read this quickly, I saw “…and change toilet paper…” and I thought how can you be the only person who knows how to change toilet paper?!

        Reply
    5. kbeers0su

      Ditto. We have both a printer and a color copier, and for some reason on random days neither of them will work. We have five computers in the office, and it’s like a game of roulette trying to figure out which computer will actually print correctly on that day. So we end up sending one another files, or highjacking each other’s computers while others are out, trying to get things printed. So frustrating!

      Reply
  9. Tasha

    Forwarding my office phone to another number (e.g., my cell) can only be done physically from my office phone. So if I leave the office and forget to forward it, I have to call someone and ask them to go into my office & take care of it.

    Reply
    1. Phones

      FYI – this depends on how your phone system is run. Part of my job is managing all of the IP phones in my workplace, and I can easily set this up so that users can forward their line (or any line on their phone) to whatever number they please from their internet browser of choice.

      That being said, the majority of people don’t care/find it easier to just have someone do it from their office/call me and have me to it for them. Most people also do not know about it – I think I’ve set this up for one person (ever). But if you are constantly forwarding your phone places and often forget before leaving the office, this may be beneficial to you.

      So talk to your IT department. Depending on your system, this may be possible.

      Reply
    2. MaryMary

      We had a VOIP (voice over IP) phone system at OldJob, and it was the BEST! You could forward your office phone to another phone, run your office phone through any computer with a USB port and an internet connection (i.e. your laptop when at home or on the road), and it emailed you text files when you received a voicemail. I miss it so much.

      Reply
  10. The IT Manager

    Taking good meeting minutes. Surely there is an application that could help by transcribing the minutes of our online (Lync) meeting which we do not have. Still we would need someone distill those minutes into something useful.

    Actually I think it is something we lost. Secretaries used to be trained to take minutes. Now we no longer have secretaries, but the more highly skilled people that have preplaced them cannot take as good a minutes as a well-trained secretary might (or maybe I am glamorizing the past).

    Reply
    1. Anon Accountant

      Not glamorizing the past at all. I’ve read meeting minutes of clients where the minute taker has omitted that a bank account was closed and several new ones opened but included lines about the board members’ quarreling.

      I think it should be required training of personnel who are going to take minutes on what’s important and must be included.

      Reply
      1. Jazzy Red

        Those would be the most interesting meeting minutes that I’ve ever read!

        Why is it so darn hard to convince managers that whoever the minutes taker is should be trained?? You can’t just throw them into a meeting room without knowing anything about what’s going on or who’s who, and expect to get coherent, concise minutes.

        Reply
        1. Fiona

          True story. I take minutes for a couple different standing meetings in my office, and when I first started I wrote down e v e r y t h i n g because I didn’t know what was important yet.

          Reply
      2. Chinook

        Could somebody tell me where you go to learn to take good minutes? It has become part of my job (I am not an AA but admin-like and cover for her when she is too busy too lose a full day in meetings). It is a skill that everyone wants someone to have but not one that is easily taught.

        And I agree that you can’t participate and take minutes. It is why I firmly refuse to do it for any volunteer group I am part of – you miss the conversation while you try to figure out who was saying what.

        Reply
        1. Jessica (the celt)

          Roberts Rules of Order (AKA “Bob”) is where I learned to take minutes while on Parliamentary Procedure teams in high school. That skill has followed me in very good stead, because no one seems to know how to take minutes anymore. You report what happened during the meeting, not what was said. So if an action was taken (like the bank account being closed, from an above comment), then you report that. If people are squabbling but no action is taken, nothing is reported. (http://www.robertsrules.com/faq.html#15 )

          I was the team secretary for two different organizations for a few years each, one of which went to nationals my senior year. I think that my love for order in meetings came from those practice sessions, because I hate meetings that last forever and nothing is decided. If we don’t need to decide things, we don’t need to have a meeting. Meetings are not to distribute random information, but to make decisions! (Can you tell that pretty much all of the “regularly scheduled” meetings I’m involved in are pretty much things that either I don’t need to know or that could be explained with a simple three-sentence email for each item? But they last at least an hour or more?)

          Another thing is just looking at well-formatted meeting minutes from others. I did this a lot when I was preparing for meets, and I still marvel when I find well-prepared minutes from a meeting. They are a thing of organizational beauty!

          Reply
    2. MaryMary

      It’s also very hard to be a participant in the meeting while taking good notes. There’s something to be said for a person whose sole responsibility in the meeting is to take notes.

      Reply
      1. Becky B

        Yes. We’ve started designating a note taker in our meetings, though I’ve found it hard not to participate as well, when I’m the one doing it.

        Reply
    3. Kacie

      Good meeting agendas and minutes would be great. Managers should go to workshops on running meetings effectively. It’s not the time for everyone to talk about everything, and someone has to make decisions, assign tasks, and call for next steps at the end.

      Reply
    4. the_scientist

      One of my roles is to prepare agendas and take minutes at our scientific meetings, and this sounds super snotty of me….but I didn’t realize how HARD taking good minutes is. Luckily I have been told that I take excellent minutes, but it is tough and takes some practice. And yes, it’s nearly impossible for me to participate in meetings while taking minutes, but that is why I am the designated minute-taker, because I’m the junior member of the team.

      Reply
    5. Cath@VWXYNot?

      I sometimes have to take very detailed minutes of full day or sometimes even 2 day technical meetings, to which I’m also expected to contribute as a full participant.

      Once, when I was bemoaning how long it was taking to convert my rough notes to a presentable draft, a friend sent me this:

      “And so while the great ones depart to their dinner,
      the secretary stays, growing thinner and thinner,
      racking his brain to record and report
      what he thinks that they think they ought to have thought”.

      Reply
      1. Gjest

        That is awesome. One of my main roles is as rapporteur for our scientific meetings (usually multiple days long), and I am frequently stuck in my hotel room writing the report while everyone enjoys their dinner. The best tip I got from someone when I first started this job was to delegate writing tasks to other participants as much as possible. If someone gives a presentation, ask them to send a paragraph on it. In other words, make them all write as much as you can get them to do!

        Reply
  11. Anon Accountant

    Our old tax software would pick up tax files as viruses and delete them. We solved the problem by changing to a different software.

    Not sure if this counts but it sure was a PITA when you’d lose a big tax return you prepared and go in to e-file it and discover the system had deleted it.

    Reply
  12. Randy

    It doesn’t seem like much, but get rid of the “reply all” feature so that one does not need to see myriad non-essential e-mails because people are not capable of repsonding only to the relevant person(s).

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth West

      I have the exact opposite problem; I always forget to Reply All when I should and end up only replying to the last person. Then I have to send the damn thing all over again.

      Reply
    2. Laura

      Getting rid of that would really mess up a lot of email exchanges we need to have – but an “are you sure” feature would be awesome. Sadly, the worst offenders often are sure (and in fact will add people to the chain, who probably don’t need to know).

      Reply
    3. Anonymous

      I think any attempt to “reply all” should result in a warning pop-up that reads, “Are you sure you want to reply to ALL of these people?” with options for “Yes, I’m sure” and “Heck no.”

      Reply
      1. iseeshiny

        I would like to second this. Likewise, gmail has a feature that notices if you’ve used the word “attached” in the body of your email and is you don’t have an attachment it asks you if you would like to add an attachment that I would really love for Outlook to pick up. I tend to notice about thirty seconds after I’ve sent an email that I’ve forgotten the attachment.

        Reply
        1. Laura

          Oh man yes. Emails that are a reply-all to the sender’s previous email with text “Oops, and here’s the attachment” or variations thereof are so painfully common. Both in my inbox AND my outbox, sadly….

          Reply
        2. Cat

          I love that gmail feature. I’m also fond of the “undo” option. I don’t know that I’ve ever used it, but it’s nice knowing it’s there.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth

            I have, mostly on emails to friends where I am just dashing off my thoughts. I have a tendency to hit “send” and then immediately think of something else I should have added.

            Reply
      2. Elysian

        I would request an “are you sure?” message for each individual – “Are you sure you want to reply to A?”
        “Are you sure you want to reply to B?”
        “Are you sure you want to reply to C?”

        Thereby forcing you to make an individual decision about every person on the email. Annoying, maybe, but you would save so much grief.

        Reply
      3. tcookson

        I wish there were an optional feature that could be turned on in Outlook for people who constantly overuse “reply to all” or unnecessarily add additional people when replying to all.

        This feature would, when they hit “reply to all”, open a pop-up window with the names of every single person cc’d on the email and a blank next to each name requiring them to type a short phrase — visible to everyone cc’d — explaining why each particular person is copied. Maybe at first the blanks are not even free-form, but they have to choose from a drop-down list of acceptable reasons.

        They get the feature removed from their Outlook account when they have proven that they can cc with dignity and restraint.

        Reply
        1. Sissa

          At one of our offices, the reply-to-all button was actually disabled by IT because e-mail was used as a conversation medium instead of informative medium.

          Sadly they enabled it again later. :<

          Reply
  13. CollegeAdmin

    I have dreams of a copier that can somehow scan/copy documents without my having to remove the staples from the original. It would save me so much time.

    Reply
    1. Kelly L.

      And the worst is when there’s a sheaf of 50 loose pages but somewhere, buried in the middle of the stack, are two pages stapled together that you don’t even notice till you hear the RIIIIPPPPP!

      Reply
      1. Aunt Vixen

        I’d really like a copier that can tell a single-sided page from a double-sided page on its own, so I can just choose single- or double-sided copies without having to specify the kind of input (or run three jobs if I have one double-sided page in the middle of a hundred single-sided pages).

        Reply
  14. Anonsie

    I bet a lot of people will sympathize with the issue of having a beautiful telecommuting infrastructure set up by the institution, then then they discourage/disallow you from using it.

    Reply
    1. AAA

      Yes. This. Why do you have a telecommuting policy written and on the website, if you, in practice, have an unwritten policy that no one is allowed to telecommute…?

      Reply
    2. Anon

      Also vague double standards about telecommuting. My boss encourages me to telecommute whenever I want or need to. We have an open floor plan and I often find that I’m more productive in the peace and quiet of home. However, if I telecommute more than one day a week, I start to get dirty looks and snide remarks from others on my team, including supervisors at my boss’s level. So it’s not clear what I should go by – my boss’s directions or the department’s culture.

      Reply
      1. Anonsie

        Oh yes, this. Or when one supervisor in an area allows it but another doesn’t, so some people in a cube group can do it but others in the same group can’t.

        Reply
      2. tcookson

        Oh, yes. Not only about telecommuting, but having people who sit right next to each other but are beholden to different rules because they have different supervisors.

        We recently combined three departments that used to be in three completely separate buildings into the same office suite: three department heads have private offices, and three admins share an open work area outside their offices.

        Two department heads are pretty easygoing and their admins have a lot of autonomy to handle things with minimal supervision re: what time we come in, take lunch, leave work, etc. The other dept. head is very much a stickler about things like that. Also, when we’re making interdepartmental plans, two of us admins are allowed to answer for our bosses (usually after a quick chat with them to understand their general preferences), but the other admin can never contribute anything to the discussion beyond, “I’ll have to ask Boss about that” because the other dept. head won’t trust anybody to act as a proxy for him. It’s like he doesn’t recognize the difference between what is important and what is inconsequential or trivial; he has to have his finger in every pie.

        Reply
  15. Laura

    I just wish people would clean the microwave after their food explodes in it. Not only is it gross when it has coated on food, but it also eventually can lead to damaged patches on the interior paint, arcing, and the death of the microwave.

    Which in fact happened to our last microwave.

    I do what I can: any time I microwave something that creates a fair amount of steam, I grab a paper towel and wipe down the interior (since it’s all nice and softened from the steam, and ew). But if people just cleaned it up when the mess was first created – with the handy paper towels on the table two steps behind them – it would be so much nicer.

    Reply
    1. PJ

      This was a losing battle in our office. We cried “uncle” and arranged to have the cleaning crew clean the micro every evening as part of their rounds.

      Reply
    2. EmilyG

      In my office, someone has hung up a genius sign that says something like “The microwave is clean. If your food explodes or spatters, clean it up!” It sets the expectation that the default state of the microwave is clean–and it is! Not sure whether it’s the sign, or I just have great colleagues. Anyone want to do an experiment and see?

      Reply
      1. Cassy

        Our sign says “If you want to help, please cover your food and keep the microwaves clean.” They’ve been clean ever since the sign went up.

        Reply
        1. Jazzy Red

          This didn’t work in our office. Eventually the company stopped replacing dead microwaves, so we ended up with just 3 (started out with 7).

          Reply
  16. Random Reader

    In my office, we’re all pretty much in cubicles- sound carries amazingly well. Getting people to understand that, yes, you can have a conversation with your neighbor… but the person alllllll the way across the room can also hear you. Certain coworkers not being aware of their natural volume is a huge pet peeve of mine :/

    Reply
      1. Puddin

        I might be that loud person, I am sorry. I try to moderate, but sincerely count on the forgiveness of those in earshot.

        Reply
        1. thenoiseinspace

          Oh no, it’s not usually a problem for me! It’s the other way around – my coworkers sometimes make confidential calls, and I’ve heard my other coworkers mention that they’ve accidentally overheard private information about bank accounts, etc. It’s not because they’re snooping, just sitting in their offices. We just all have to be extra careful with calls, otherwise everyone will hear them!

          Reply
    1. Random Reader

      Just to clarify, I don’t want it tomb quiet- I’d just like to work instead of feeling like I’m an unwilling part of every conversation.

      Reply
      1. Windchime

        Me too. And really — I know that sound carries, but if I can hear every word that you are gleefully shouting at the other end of the huge cubicle-filled room I am in, please stop!

        Reply
        1. Editor

          So, the technical solution here is the Cone of Silence, a remote-controlled unit that clangs down over the offending shouter. Kind of a combination of a drone and Maxwell Smart infrastructure…

          Reply
  17. Lia

    Giving people in the same roles or offices the same level of access to data. It took over a year and intervention from our VP to give me full access to the things I needed to do my job, and every so often, I still find things I can’t access but need.

    Along with that, getting everyone on board with just using freaking Outlook calendars for scheduling. Instead we have to do POLLS on an internal website for meeting dates/times because about 1/4 the staff refuse to use Outlook.

    Reply
    1. Anon College AA

      Yup. Been at a new job for 6 weeks now, still don’t have access to the data that I need. Took 3 weeks to get a login (that didn’t actually let me do anything other than log in), 2 more weeks to get access to part of the data needed to do the job, and after requesting from me & my boss I still don’t have the ability to enter data. So instead I’m using my co-worker’s login. Because that’s secure!

      Reply
    2. TRT

      Seriously. We all have Outlook, yet one or 2 people will email a team and say “Hey are you available at x day and x time?” No, if you would look at my calendar, you’d see I am not available. Yet, we have to have a 10 message email chain trying to figure out a time.

      Reply
    3. Elsajeni

      Data access is a big one at my office, too. I think a lot of it is that the access control is so compartmentalized — I need access to student data, access to employee data, access to course schedule data, and the ability to create and run queries, and each of those is controlled by a different office that requires its own special form and its own special training before they’ll sign off. I understand why it’s split up like that; I just wish the left hand would talk to the right hand a little bit.

      Reply
    4. Marie

      We had a new online e-filing system rolled out in the last year. We immediately ran into a hilarious problem. Wakeen makes a report and puts it into the e-filing system, and then when he tries to open the report later, is told he does not have permission to access it.

      This literally took a full year of arguing to get fixed — yes, the people who actually write and submit the reports should have access to view them later, that is not a security risk, good lord.

      Reply
        1. Windchime

          You would love the exchanges between our dev team and our DBA (who isn’t really a DBA). We have been needing read-only access to the production server for months, and he’s not able to figure out how to set it up. So we all use the service account that has full permissions. Smart, eh? Not dangerous AT ALL.

          Reply
  18. Anon College AA

    -Lack of on-the-job training. I’m in academia, where there is one admin assistant per department, and most people are just shoved into the position with 0 training from someone else who has actually done the job and are just supposed to figure it out.
    -Handwritten forms with the same info on it multiple times, that is then re-typed (often with errors) into the ancient computer system.
    -Really badly made PDF forms, in an attempt to “digitize” the forms – the font sizes are all bizzare (some giant, some tiny – in the same form one line after another), that can’t be saved and therefore must be re-typed, printed, signed and mailed so that someone else can re-type it into another program.

    Reply
    1. Kelly O

      Totally agree about training.

      I got a week at New Job, but it was not at all applicable. I basically sat there for a week taking notes on things I never use, and then spent the next six weeks figuring out how to actually get something done.

      Add in the fact that every office does things slightly differently and you have a recipe for disaster. It would have been more helpful to have someone who actually does what I do come in (but those people were all busy doing their own jobs, so I got a couple of well-intentioned but a bit too high above the day to day to truly understand it.)

      Reply
    2. Cassy

      I have made it my mission to create PDF forms that are actually usable and the challenges you list were all ones I had and overcame quite easily. Out of curiosity, who is creating these forms for you? An internal design person or someone else?

      Reply
      1. Anon College AA

        An idiot? Someone who doesn’t actually test forms before sending them out into the wild? I’m not sure who it is exactly, its such a giant dinosauric bureaucracy. I know *I* could make better forms, but I can’t do that because then I would be using the wrong version of the “official” form. Besides, I don’t want to fill out the PDF form – I want to send it to the person electronically for approval, not type-give up and hand write – sign – pass to 3 other people to sign – photocopy – interoffice mail – email when there is nothing accomplished from the form – repeat.

        Reply
    3. Anonsie

      Oh my gosh the pdf forms. We have an epidemic of people requiring pdf forms but then editing in Reader is disabled.

      Reply
      1. zoe

        This…omg. This. I cannot stand that.
        Also, we have a ton of Excel forms we have to use, that are universal within my department. But whoever created the original form way back when must have been out of their gourd, or completely lacking in any concern for appearance or functionality. So many unmerged cells, random fonts, different sizes, no word wrap…complete formatting chaos. And if I were to clean up or change any of them, it would be frowned upon, because it would no longer be the “original format” that everyone knows and dare I say, loves. :-/

        Reply
    4. Jennifer

      I hear ya. It took me over a year to get trained on some things in this job. I had a lot of arguments about needing more training. Don’t even get me started on ranting about this one :P

      Reply
  19. Anon

    Getting every department on the same project management software and getting TPTB to all agree to share administrative responsibilities among the admins and project coordinators. Heck — I’d settle for one master calendar that includes all functions that are happening at my site instead of a different calendar in a different format from each department!

    Reply
  20. clobbered

    Keeping meeting short and to the point. Yes I know it can be done… have yet to see it actually happen.

    Reply
    1. PJ

      If you have yet to see it happen, you don’t “know” it can be done — it is merely an unsubstantiated rumor. Doesn’t happen in my office either. We can dream…

      Reply
      1. Ethyl

        The “big boss” at my internship in grad school was some kind of meeting-keeper-on-tracker god! I was so grateful to get to see that in action.

        Reply
    2. Jamie

      I do this – I’m famous for it because it’s so rare in my land.

      Key is to start and end on time and let the stragglers have to ask what they are accountable for in the part they missed by strolling in late.

      Learning to how politely redirect those who go off on minutia or side issues back on track before their conversation gets going.

      Written agendas and data (when applicable) sent beforehand so they can be prepared. I cannot stress the agenda enough – it becomes the bad cop when you want to keep the pace moving…oh, I’d love to talk about that one thing that happened 12 years ago that’s kind of tangentially related to the topic…but we need to stick to the agenda.

      Reply
      1. the gold digger

        Yes. You have to have a written agenda. Doesn’t hurt to put that in the meeting invitation, along with a short summary: “The purpose of this meeting is to decide how we will train the international offices on the CRM system.”

        Then stick to the agenda! Write a follow-up email with meeting notes. My notes always include accountabilities:

        Set up one-hour meeting blocks. one per week, on webex for India, UK, and Vietnam – Jamie
        Outline classes 1, 2, 3, and 4 material to be covered – Joey
        etc

        Reply
        1. Jamie

          Mine too – my follow up summary email has a table of what needs to be done, by whom, and tentative deadline agreed to in meeting.

          Reply
      2. JNC

        I would add to this – making sure everyone is actually prepared for the meeting and not catering to those who came unprepared. So much meeting time is wasted catching people up who have not read documents or prior meetings notes before the meeting. If you’re unprepared, catch up on your own time, similar to your stragglers point.

        Reply
      3. Kera

        Expenses. At the moment, I fill in an online form, print it out, print out a second, difficult to get to, auto generated page, hand-write a few extra details, post the print-off to my assistant (in a different country) Who then scabs in my receipts, attaches them to the probably-right line of the statement, sends the whole thing back it me to check. I then post it to my boss in a third office, who signs off on every line, then has ther assistant type up everything for the online system, so there’s s record.

        And the online system frequently fails.

        Reply
  21. Me

    This may just be me not getting accounting practice, but at a job where I did clerical stuff in that department, I would file the paper invoices alphabetically in an A/R drawer. Then when the check run printed, I had to pull the invoices from the files and staple them to the checks so the bosses could see what they were signing. Then I had to mail the checks and file the stapled stub/invoice combo in the A/P drawer by company.

    So it was file, unfile, refile, every month. In each letter in the A/R drawer, the invoices themselves weren’t in order; they were all mixed up. For certain accounts, they would use one check to pay twenty invoices, so I had to page through every freaking invoice in that letter file to find and match them to the check stub.

    I never understood why they wouldn’t just do the A/R by company (it was the same stuff every month!), instead of making me file it randomly by alphabet and then just pull it back out again. It was a HUGE waste of time. And it could have been digital too!

    Reply
  22. Carrie in Scotland

    That a manual of office procedures is not the same as on the job training.

    That change of the sake of change is not necessarily a good thing. Sometimes continuity is a good thing.

    Reply
    1. A Bug!

      And that having an office procedure manual is useless if it’s not kept up-to-date. The entire manual is rendered unreliable if any of it’s obsolete. After all, a person unfamiliar with the office procedures won’t be able to identify the obsolete portions.

      This is one I haven’t really solved completely for my own office, because it’s a very small office and procedures just kind of change over time. I try to set aside some time every couple of months to review the manual (such as it is) and at least mark it for changes, but finding the time to do that, let alone actually make the changes, is a challenge.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        Hear hear. I made one at Exjob to help me keep track when I was being trained, and then I expanded it for any time I would be absent. It was an electronic doc, but I printed it and put it in a binder in case anyone had to refer to it. If anything changed, it got updated right away. Once a year I went through it and reprinted it.

        Reply
  23. Just a Reader

    Onboarding. We are a huge company and onboarding is very confusing and self-service. I had to set up 20 accounts with 20 different passwords my first day and even then, you don’t know what you don’t know, so I would come up short when someone asked me if I’d enrolled in XYZ yet.

    Conversely, there are important policies and best practices that aren’t documented anywhere, just passed on by word of mouth.

    Basically for the first year you just have to ask a lot of questions and hope you don’t screw up.

    Reply
    1. Smilingswan

      This! I just started a new job and the training has been haphazard at best. No SOPs, no documentation of any kind. I guess I’m just supposed to muddle through.

      Reply
  24. Joey

    1. How to get people to stop printing unnecessarily.
    2. How to get everyone to be okay with the thermostat setting.
    3. How to get people to better manage their healthcare costs that impact the bottom line.
    4. How to find an HRIS system that is easy to use for BOTH the employer and applicant.

    Reply
    1. AnonHR

      #4- We did the vetting for a new payroll service last year… and this is like my biggest dream. Our payroll system looked nice and was easy for employees to use, but we lost data on a regular basis, had to use “work-arounds” for everything we did, every payroll run was a gamble to find out what random thing changed without notice, and it had all kinds of great applications that weren’t actually usable unless your policies fit into a neat little box (I’ve heard that their major competitor was much the same). We now have a system that works brilliantly from our side and allows us tons of flexibility, but our employees hate because the portal looks like it was made in geocities, is not intuitive, and has way too much going on. In the end it was the best choice, but couldn’t their developers get together and make a dream team? They would make so much money. I would switch right now.

      Reply
  25. Confuzzled

    I work for a medical school and believe it or not we don’t have a central database for student records! Each department uses their own Excel spreadsheet, which is wildly useless and often times inaccurate to say the least.

    Reply
    1. Anonsie

      Not only do I believe this, I’d be shocked if you did have a central system. Fragmentation is the name of the game.

      Reply
      1. Sascha

        That baffles me. I’ve been working in higher ed for nearly 8 years now, and I have never come across a school that did not have a central student information system. Sure, they had a bajillion other superfluous systems for various departments, but for basic student records and registration, there’s one database. Is this something common to medical schools? Or is it more common in academia in general than I’ve experienced?

        Reply
        1. Anonsie

          I don’t know how common it is in academia overall (my university sure had that problem, though) but it’s extremely common in medicine. That’s where the whole universal electronic medical records push is coming from.

          Reply
          1. Confuzzled

            There is a central Student Information system to view grades and class schedule, but not one to create queries or reports, or really anything useful you’d think you’d need.

            Reply
          2. Anonymous

            I worked in academia and there was a central repository for student records – except for the medical school, which had its own database.

            Reply
  26. drives me crazy

    Understanding what everyone does so that people don’t spend half a day trying to fix a problem when they could have just gone to the person responsible for that area and taken care of it in 2 minutes.

    Reply
  27. Marie

    Just freakin’ TELL somebody when you use the last ream of copy paper already.

    People swiping office supplies off other desks rather than going to the supply room. You see this dance once a month or so, somebody at their desk trying to staple, doesn’t work, tries again, doesn’t work, looks inside the stapler, no staples, wanders out of their office, grabs a stapler off somebody else’s desk, no staples, grabs another stapler, HURRAH THERE ARE STAPLES!!!!!! Abscond with stapler into office. JUST GO GET STAPLES FROM THE SUPPLY CLOSET OMG

    We have an airpot of coffee in my office that gets filled each morning with 36 cups. You have to push a thing on the top to make the coffee come out. This thing you push has a label on it that says “push here for coffee.” When it runs out, it makes a gurgling sound.

    So here is what happens at least once a day. “How does this–” *pick up whole airpot and shake it* “Oh no that didn’t–” *open the top of the airpot, consider pouring it???* “I don’t think I can–” *close top of the airpot, look curiously at the spout* “Well, I guess it comes out–” *notice label finally* “Oh, push down. Push down where?” *pushes on wrong part* “Oh, push where the label is.” And then, if the coffee is out,
    people will stand there pressing on the top of it, making the gurgling sound, for ten minutes. “Hmm, it’s not–” *gurgle gurgle* “Oh, I got a little there but let me try–” *gurgle gurgle gurgle* “Not much left, I guess, but maybe if–” *gurgle gurgle* “Lemme give it a minute, and then maybe–” *gurgle gurgle*

    This is then followed by the biggest unsolved problem in my office (I don’t know if other offices do this, but it’s constant in mine), the Announcement Into the Ether: “Coffee’s out. Looks like we’re out of coffee. Yeah, no more coffee. Coffee’s gone. Huh.” Said, out loud, to nobody at all, in the hopes that somebody will just… do something??? And we have an identified person who makes the coffee as part of their job duties! Don’t just announce the lack of coffee into the sullen and uncaring universe, go tell the actual person who makes the coffee!

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Maybe a sign with a picture and instructions might help?

      My old job hired tons of recent grads. We had instructions by the coffee pots on how to make coffee. To make coffee when you use the last of it unless it’s past 3pm, how long to put the popcorn in the microwave so it doesn’t burn. Seemed to work pretty well.

      Reply
      1. Marie

        Oh, we’ve got signs! There’s a sign next to the airpot. And a sign on the cabinet with the copier paper. And a sign slipped between the third and fourth last reams of copier paper. And all these signs also have the name of the person responsible for this stuff so you can just go ask them if you’re confused.

        We’ve even got signs on the supply drawers, not word signs, signs that just have pictures of what is actually in the drawers. But I can’t tell you how many people walk to the drawer that has a picture of legal pads on it, stare at it, then Announce Into the Ether, “Where are the legal pads??????” I think my office exists in some parallel universe where signs are invisible.

        Reply
        1. Marie

          This also leads to the fun game of Trying to Direct Attention to the Signs.

          “Where are the legal pads?”
          “See the sign right in front of you?”
          *takes two steps to their right*
          “No, right in front of you, where you just were.”
          *turns around*
          “Go back to where you were, and look directly in front of you.”
          *goes back to where they were, looks up*
          “No, look down.”
          *looks at feet*
          “It is literally a sign directly in front of you, taped to the drawer.”
          *staring directly at the drawer* “I don’t see it!”
          *get up, walk over, put finger on sign* “This sign right here under my finger.”
          “Oh!!!!!” *shakes head* “I saw that, I thought you meant a different sign! It’s not very clear.”

          My office must exist in some alternate universe where signs are invisible.

          Reply
          1. JM

            That is my office!

            I don’t understand if you’re too lazy to look just ask someone to get it for you instead of messing around and getting in everyone else’s way. Then, someone has to do it for you anyway.

            Reply
            1. tcookson

              In our house, we use the phrase from that 1-800-Contacts commercial when someone is not seeing something that is directly in front of them:

              “Look! Look with your special eyes!”

              Reply
        2. Jennifer

          Too many signs, i.e. Sign Fatigue, is such an issue at my volunteer job that at one point they made all the volunteers take a test as to which signs were located where. Too many signs somehow leads to everyone stopping SEEING the signs.

          Reply
    2. CollegeAdmin

      The first month at this job, I went into our office kitchenette to find 3 senior faculty members staring at our coffee machine in complete confusion as to how to operate it. I walked over, followed the illustrated instructions posted on the wall that they had apparently ignored in their attempts to pry the machine open, and low and behold, coffee appeared. Now, what makes this truly a good story is the following:

      1. I don’t drink coffee and had never before used the machine (or indeed, any other coffee maker).

      2. The faculty members then said to each other, “Wow, this machine is so complicated! You need a PhD to operate it, haha!” I had to bite my tongue to prevent myself from saying that I had my bachelor’s, and it wasn’t in coffee machine operations.

      Reply
      1. Marie

        No doubt you then became the go-to coffee machine operator?

        No matter how many times I respond, “Actually, I just googled it” or “I just followed the instructions on the sign,” I will still have people swear up and down that “Marie is magical! She has the magic touch!” which to my ears is just an admission that they intend to outsource their work to me dressed up in a compliment.

        Reply
        1. CollegeAdmin

          Better – I got ignored, not even a thank you. (Possibly because I look like a college student, age-wise.)

          Reply
        2. Cassie

          I get that a lot too – “Cassie has the magic touch!” No, I just googled it and/or read the instructions that are hanging RIGHT THERE!

          Reply
  28. Anon College AA

    Requiring passwords to be changed so often, and having such obscure rules about how many characters, symbols, numbers and how similiar it can be to your last 10 passwords that means everyone just writes their password on a post it stuck to their monitor or keyboard. Even better when the system locks you out after 3 wrong tries so you have to sit on hold for 1/2 an hour to get it reset.
    In other words, this: http://xkcd.com/936/

    Reply
    1. Marie

      Yes, this! I now know that you can essentially walk into any public institution that allows access to the public, lift up a keyboard, and boom, you now have access to everything in the servers.

      Reply
    2. athek

      There is a system in my institution that requires a password with a special character, but only certain special characters (they don’t feel the need to tell you which ones are the ones that actually work). All special characters work on one end of the software, but you find out if it doesn’t work when you go to the reporting side and can’t get in. The special characters that do work seem to change every 90 days when our passwords need to be changed. Ugh.

      Reply
    3. LeeD

      I was on the phone with IT about a password and joked about just putting it on a sticky note next time. He said, “That’s what I do.”

      Reply
      1. Cassy

        Our IT guy has his passwords on an encrypted file on his laptop (not sure of the specifics of this file), but then his hard drive crashed and he had no backups of this file… That was an interesting day.

        Reply
        1. Meg Murry

          A friend who is typically an awesome and on-top-of-it IT guy had a great story about the day he decided to make completely uncrackable passwords by using the random number generator in Excel. Which worked great on day 1, but not so great when he found out that each time you close and reopen Excel it generates NEW random numbers. Whoops. I’m sure he was furious that day, but it was a great story over drinks later.

          Reply
        2. Elysian

          Mine are printed out and stuck in the same drawer of my filing cabinet as my social security card and birth certificate and passport. I feel like if I’m compromised, I might as well be all in.

          Reply
    4. vvondervvoman

      Yes! Or even worse, different systems requiring different characters. Most of the time, it’s one system requires a !@#$% character and the other one doesn’t let you use them.

      Reply
      1. JustKatie

        And each system requires that you generate a new password on a different interval, so you can’t remember which use new passwords and which are old.

        Reply
    5. AndersonDarling

      Why does a password need to be 16 characters!!!! My bank only requires 6!
      (I just took my old password and added “4 letter words” to get to 16 characters)

      Reply
      1. Elysian

        Back in the day I used a cite that required users to have unique passwords – as in my password couldn’t be the same as yours, or anyone elses. I literally could not come up with a password that someone else hadn’t used, I even hit random keys on the keyboard, etc… I felt validated as I typed in random string of expletives only to find that they, also, were already used.

        Reply
        1. Tinker

          Adding insult to injury, that’s also a security hole in that now you know what someone’s password is.

          Reply
          1. JustKatie

            No kidding. I actually just registered for a site where you had to have a ten character password (no more, no less), and the first and last had to be a digit, and the middle 8 letters. So… way to limit the number of potential passwords!

            Reply
            1. tcookson

              Our passwords have to be exactly 8 characters long, and must include at least one capital letter, one number, and one special character. Also, no spaces or CTRL characters, and no password that has been used in the past six rotations.

              Then all the passwords have different half-lives, so even if you start out with the same password for every system that we use, pretty soon you end up with about 8 different ones.

              Reply
              1. Lore

                I preemptively change all of mine in sync with the one that has the shortest expiry time–at least then I only have to remember one thing at a time, even if I’m changing certain passwords more than I need to.

                Reply
    6. Brett

      I made a big grid of potential passwords and printed it out.

      When my password expires, I move down a row to the next password on the grid. That way, if I forget it the next day, I just use my old password to look it up again. Periodically I shift columns in the grid instead of shifting down a row.

      If you randomly picked a spot in the grid and started entering passwords, you would lockout 90%+ of the time before you hit the actual password.

      Reply
    7. Mike C.

      I”m sorry, your password must be exactly 8 characters long, contain upper and lowercase letters, numbers and some but not other special characters, must be changed every three months and you cannot use any of the last 24 passwords.

      Why in the f*** can’t they just enable the fingerprint scanner on my laptop and use that instead?

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        You don’t want them to activate your fingerprint scanner because you would have a heck of a time changing your fingerprint every 3 months (as per their security protocols).

        Reply
    8. Mander

      I dread the day I get a real job and have to give up my password manager. So much easier and more secure, but I’m sure that most corporate security policies wouldn’t allow it.

      Reply
  29. Lore

    Tracking incoming and outgoing packages. We have a centralized mail room, so I don’t end up knowing the tracking number of a package I send, and the only way to find out is to call the mail room and have them go through all the outgoing package logs individually–when obviously they used software to create the outgoing label and charge to the right billing, so why can’t a database exist to find a tracking number? (Or, if I have a tracking number for an incoming package, to find out whether it’s still in the mail room, on the cart for delivery, or in my pigeonhole on the opposite side of the floor?)

    Reply
  30. Louisa

    I work for a small non-profit and we just can’t seem to get everyone on the same page in terms of the vocabulary, style, and grammar we use in the materials we write! We’ve tried to start a manual about 1000 times, but it’s never at the top of anyone’s work load, so it doesn’t get done.

    Reply
    1. Ethyl

      It’s not any better at larger private companies either, even when you HAVE set templates that live on the shared server!

      Reply
      1. Ethyl

        Seriously. The Chaos of Powerpoint, argh! MS should make a release that has all the fancy animated slide changes and everything disabled.

        Reply
      2. tcookson

        We have a whole manual on logo usage alone, and university relations will put the smack on anyone who goes rogue!

        We hired a company to make recommendations re: how our school could have a distinct brand among others in the U.S. while still complying with university guidelines. They should have put someone from university relations on the committee, because we got to the end of the process, presented the team’s recommendations to upper admin, and THEN got completely shut down. Lessons learned.

        Reply
      1. Editor

        Writing quality would also be improved with a spell-checker that vetted homonyms and other frequently confused words. If someone typed in straight or strait, the spellchecker would ask about the word and a pop-up box would give a one or two-word definition to help clarify. If someone used reticent, the spell-checker would ask if the right word was “reticent” or “reluctant” and show the two meanings so people could get it right.

        This isn’t technically impossible, but even though I’ve suggested it numerous times since I first started using spell-checkers more than a decade ago, it never seems to be offered. I’m sure other people have also had the same idea, but I guess none of us has an in with Microsoft, so simple errors in writing that could be caught are just ignored.

        Reply
  31. squid

    Getting people in other departments to notify us when staff leave/change jobs. HR knows and that person’s immediate co-workers know, but if that’s my point person in X department I don’t want to be sending her emails into the void for a month before someone lets me know I should be contacting someone else instead. At the very least please update the internal staff directory!

    Right now it’s done semi-consistently and I’m never sure I can trust my address book.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Oh my gosh THIS. I’m responsible for network access changes and distribution group updates when people come and go and change positions and it is the worst. We have tried to automate reports and put reminders out there for the managers to notify us when things change (we need their authorization to change security) but most of the time it ends up being the poor employee on the first day they start their new job asking us why they can’t get into anything.

      Reply
    2. Vee

      Ah, but HR doesn’t always know! I was the HR director at a school with multiple buildings, and it was shocking how often people would quit by notifying only their prinicpal….and then the principal never told anyone else!

      Reply
      1. Specschic

        I solved this by having a report run on our HR system every Monday; the report lists all staff whose positions have been terminated in the system.
        The report is run by the IT service desk and distributed to key people all over the organisation, not just IT eg Facilities (for swipe cards), online phone list editors.

        Reply
  32. Anonymous

    Timely responses from internal service departments. I’ve seen a lot of different processes and ways of handling internal service requests, yet most seem to be painfully slow and unresponsive. This seems especially true in large companies, and those with functional organizational structures.

    Reply
    1. Apollo Warbucks

      ITIL is a great methodology that works for a few reasons but mainly because

      It’s open source
      It’s vender neutral
      Its none prescriptive

      You make it work for your business how you need it to and everyone knows the standard you are working to.

      Reply
  33. Laura

    TIMESHEETS.

    There are many programs to make this easier, but it is still the biggest pain in the butt for employees and a bigger pain in the butt for the person who has to chase down employees who are behind on their timesheets.

    Reply
    1. vvondervvoman

      Yes! Even just the formatting to input your timesheet. It somehow lets you submit that you worked 3-6pm two times on the same day, recording 6 hours. Or if you forget to select am/pm, you could work from 12pm-5am, logging 17 hours. These kinds of things should not be corrected by a human eye.

      Reply
    2. Lisa

      YES! Our accounting department processes time sheets on Tuesday morning. I remind everyone on Monday morning that I need their time sheet by noon so that I have time to review, approve and forward to accounting. One person on my team always turns in his time sheet as he’s walking out the door Monday evening which means I have to stay late to finish them or come in early Tuesday to have them done. I’ve spoken to him repeatedly but my manager won’t allow me to enforce consequences for his behavior so nothing changes. It drives me NUTS! I wish I could dock his pay.

      Reply
        1. Lisa

          I haven’t been able to think of one that my manager will agree to. I tried verbal and email reminders thinking he just got caught up in work and forgot. It may have been in my head, but it seemed the more I reminded him the later he turned it in. So I’ve stopped doing that. When I talk with him, he always has some excuse – he was in meetings all day, he had a client deadline to meet, the time sheet program was slow, etc.

          Reply
          1. AnonAdmin

            We tell people that if they don’t get them in by X day/time, we’ll mark the whole pay period as PTO. That has helped a lot with the late timesheet issue.

            Reply
    3. Lalou

      YES, TIMESHEETS! rant: We have to fill in paper timesheets every week. Each job we do has 3 codes. All of these codes are unnecessarily long with many preceding and/or trailing zeros, and the one code is made up of the department and the year which do not need to be written down 20 times a week. We get moaned at when we don’t fill it all out. We have to translate all of our hours into decimals and add up all of the columns on paper. These timesheets also get lost with annoying frequency.

      I wrote a program to do all of this hoop jumping for me and print it out – I was told that I shouldn’t be using unauthorised software. Fair enough. I then made an excel spreadsheet to work it all out for me and print it out – I was told that the spreadsheet wasn’t allowed either because Reasons. Somebody actually has to sit down every single week and type in 300+ employees’ hours into a computer. They also have to chase up the inevitable mistakes that are made with the adding up. People book 1-2 hours a week just for timesheet filling in. Many in my department including my own manager just use the spreadsheet and then copy it out by hand to keep senior management happy. Its ok though, senior management only book to one job all week and the system is fine for them! \rant

      Don’t even get me started on the super high tech paper holiday request system, or the paper car hire request forms with their paper expense forms. I am drowning in bits of paper.

      Reply
        1. Smilingswan

          To make it worse, I was in HR, which means I had to manually enter all of those timesheets into the database. That’s what I did for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Data entry of timecards.

          Reply
  34. Anon

    getting administrative access to your own computer when you work in a tech (ish) department, so I can update my Adobe software, which I use for my entire job, that way I don’t have to go running to the tech people to update mundane things that will help my software run better. (and yes I know sometimes it’s either a security risk, it’s not here, or it can mess with other things if you update certain programs before the system is ready, also not a factor here)

    Reply
    1. Lalou

      Oh yes, this. I managed to get IT to let me have a local admin-ish account on my computer so that I can update my own software that only my department uses and they know nothing about. I still run into roadblocks on occasion but this way I don’t have to teach them about what I’m doing before they can do it for me quite so often.

      Reply
    2. Kacie

      I knew someone hired for a contract programming IT job who did not have a PC on his desk for over 2 weeks after starting.

      Reply
    3. Erik

      Reminds me of one company I worked at where the IT folks were being a bunch of jerks about Admin access, even though I was an engineer. I had a serious crash that corrupted some files and I needed an install DVD to reinstall. A job I could perform in 2 minutes.

      IT was completely slammed and very short-staffed at the time. and couldn’t keep up with the work. One of the IT guys gave me some flak, but I simply told him “…either I can do it, or YOU can do it”.

      He handed over the DVD and returned it 5 minutes later. They never questioned me from that day forward.

      Reply
  35. Amanda

    I would love it if my boss would figure out how to forward an email without deleting the entire body and attachments first…I get so many emails with a Fwd: blah blah blah subject, and then the body only says “can you deal with this it’s urgent needed to be done yesterday. I’m outta the office until tomorrow.”

    Along the same lines as reply vs. reply-all – I feel like this is just a common sense, take 2 seconds to scan over the email before you send it kind of thing, but apparently not since so many of us deal with it (on both ends!).

    Reply
  36. Jamie

    Bathroom etiquette. If you splash whilst washing your hands wipe the counter. If you miss the basket bend over and pick up the papertowel and try again. If you use the last of any paper (toilet or towel) replace the roll.

    If you see a spider in there don’t send out an email warning everyone about it. If it’s smaller than a cat kill it yourself. If it’s larger than a cat tell me immediately so I can run in terror and not stop until I get to Canada.

    And air freshener is your friend – use it.

    Reply
      1. Jamie

        Ah – I am speaking of the tribulations of sharing an single use bathroom.

        I can’t imagine the length of the list for those using larger bathrooms with stalls.

        Reply
        1. Editor

          I’d really like packets with a soap leaf in them so I can use an unscented, unslimy hand soap I prefer instead of the cheapo blue stuff in the soap dispenser and the overwhelming perfumed stuff with lotion that sits on the counter because no one will use the cheapo blue stuff.

          Plus, when traveling I could also use soap packets instead of taking along folded paper towels with a squirt of the soap I prefer in a ziplock bag. I am sensitive to a lot of perfumes and also I loathe having my hands smell weird — having hands that smell like gardenia all day affects me the way burned popcorn smell affects other people. It’s revolting.

          I used to have a small squirt bottle of the soap I preferred, and I carried that in my purse until it started leaking. I haven’t seen the small bottles among the travel samples in years, and the refillable bottles I’ve found are larger and don’t work as well.

          Reply
      1. Erik

        Also stop peeing on the floor. We had that problem for a short while at my last company – apparently someone had some serious misfire of sorts. The janitors refused to clean up the staffs because it was such a bad problem. It’s pretty bad when management had to put up signs for guys to sit down!

        Reply
        1. Annie

          We just had a pee-bandit here. . .all facilities did was put up a passive-aggressive sign saying “hey, our maintenance people work very hard, clean up after yourself if you can!”

          But it did seem to stop the pee.

          For now. . .?

          Reply
    1. Brett

      Not wiping the counter. Ugh.

      Because of how short I am, I typically have to lean my chest against the edge of the counter and lean over to wash my hands. So many times I have walked out of the bathroom with a bar of water splashed across my chest because someone didn’t wipe the counter.

      Reply
    2. Anne

      But not TOO much air freshener. I can always tell when Bosslady has had a recent poo because I can’t breathe for the freakish amount of air freshener. Annoying on a number of levels.

      Reply
    3. Jean

      Jamie,
      Your image of running straight to Canada has been making me smile since I read it yesterday. I’m not laughing at your terror–I’m laughing at the idea of someone running like the Roadrunner. But I’m puzzled: Do larger-than-a-cat spiders magically stop on the U.S. side of the border?

      Reply
      1. Jamie

        Thankfully no – but I used to work with someone who would tell me about a spider in the bathroom if she couldn’t find a man so I could take care of it so she could go in.

        I am very squicked out by spiders so I’d always ask how big it was and she’d say it was huge – but smaller than a cat. Just became a thing after that.

        And a totally disgusting and horrifying image.

        Reply
    4. Sissa

      I’ll also have to add the toilet brush to the litany. Nothing more disgusting than wandering to the toilet and finding that most ladies in our department think that using a toilet brush is overrated, especially if recent “speed stripes” all the way down are evident.
      I’ve been THIS close to writing a passive-aggressive note on the use of the brush. So far I’ve been able to restrain myself. :P

      Reply
      1. Jamie

        Sounds like you have water pressure issues – I’ve never heard of having to use a toilet brush at work – nor worked in a place where it was an issue.

        I’d lobby for better toilets.

        Reply
  37. LauraG

    New position: I have a logbook I need to fill out to track something. I then need to go to the Public Drive to track it in an Excel Spreadsheet. I then go to a department drive and track it in an Excel Spreadsheet there. I then go to Outlook and set up a reminder of when the report I’m tracking is due.

    It’s stupid and pain staking and prone to mistakes. I keep hearing we’re going to try to get a system that will incorporate with other systems, so no one wants to change the system we have.

    Reply
    1. Smilingswan

      You’re lucky. I don’t have access to excel or word. I can use them, but do not have the capability to save anything. Arg!

      Reply
  38. Sascha

    Getting everyone to use the same software. I don’t care what it is – Outlook, an instant messaging client, Sharepoint – we waste so much money and time on various pieces of software that do the same thing, because there’s always one or two people who refuse to transition. Just do it. It’s part of your job. Life is not over when you have to use Outlook calendar instead of that one random Yahoo calendar no one looks at anymore.

    Reply
    1. Sharon

      This. The last place I worked had both Confluence (knowledge base software) and Sharepoint (knowlege base software). Some teams used one, some used the other, and some just kept project documentation on a networked share drive. It drove me batty.

      A tangential peeve of mine: even in places where we only had one, like Sharepoint, it’s been like surgery without anesthesia to get everybody to use it. People are SO AVERSE to being organized and knowing where to find things, it just blows my mind. Personally I can’t stand when I have to ask a chain of people how to do something or where to find something.

      Reply
      1. Windchime

        I don’t know; we have Sharepoint where I am and it seems like it is set up to be deliberately obtuse and confusing. Where is the document? Is it in the KB or is it in Technical Documentation/SharedDocuments? Is it in this repository or that one? And if it’s in that one, too bad–you don’t have access!

        This is why I hate Sharepoint. It’s probably just the way it’s set up at my office, but to me it’s like dumping my file into a black hole.

        Reply
        1. Sharon

          Yes, it’s the way it’s configured. I’ve used Sharepoint at a couple places now. At one, it was well organized and you could easily browse to find things (or search if you liked). At another, you couldn’t find a bucket of water if you were on fire. I suspect that happens when they put the unorganized people in charge of configuration.

          Reply
        2. tcookson

          I use Sharepoint when I have to for some things at work, but it seems pretty cumbersome to me. Maybe it’s the way it’s configured and it could be changed — but once I’ve logged in to a particular Sharepoint folder, should I then really have to re-enter my password every single time I want to open a new document in that folder?!

          Reply
    2. Karowen

      Abso-freaking-lutely. Our basic systems are the same, thankfully (everyone is on Windows with Microsoft Office), but we use 3 different CRM platforms for a variety of purposes when it would be so.much.easier. to just integrate everything. And then when they decide that x isn’t working on one platform, they don’t look at the 2 other platforms we already have rights for, they go and buy another one.

      Reply
    3. Anonicorn

      I’d settle for everyone knowing what the software is supposed to be used for. Sharepoint as a database? Please no. PowerPoint used to write lengthy proposals. Why?!

      Reply
  39. The Nameless

    Thought of another!
    Getting people to follow the same process each and every time!!! I work with privileged health information and we create, what are in basic terms, legal documents pertaining to medication therapies. I’ve only been here a few months but I’ve realized that the people who have worked her for years have devised their own systems for documenting these therapies and not only can they be confusing, but I’m pretty sure half of them could get us sued. What’s more, when I have to hunt down the information, the reaction I get when I tell them I was trained differently is surprise. Some refresher training every year or so, even just one of those online courses outlining how things should look for every file could be very helpful!

    Reply
  40. Mints

    Getting people to use Excel properly! I have a running list in my head of “Bob doesn’t understand multiple pages” “Steve will delete my formula accidentally and not tell me” “John doesn’t understand hidden columns”
    And so when I send excel files, I need to keep my original file, and then compare it to what I get back like “okay what were they trying to do before breaking everything”
    My inefficient work around is to send PDFs of excels to make people tell me in words what they want changed, then I can do it

    Reply
    1. Jamie

      I agree with all of this and can I add a request that people stop referring to Office applications as sentient beings?

      Word didn’t erase the data you entered – you didn’t save it.

      Excel didn’t decide (?!) to overwrite your file. You didn’t make a copy nor save as another file…so if anyone is out to sabotage you it’s you…Excel isn’t out for revenge.

      Reply
      1. Sascha

        YES! I’m the system admin for a learning management system, and I’ve got a few professors who keep telling me the system “changed the dates, it changed my items, it graded the papers!” No, no it didn’t. I’ve got tracking reports to prove it. And maybe train your teaching assistants to not touch your stuff without telling you.

        Reply
      2. Aunt Vixen

        I don’t know, I hear what you’re saying, but there are times when – even as an experienced user – Stuff Happens, and all I can do is shake my tiny fists in impotent rage yelling “BILL GAAAAAAATES!”

        Reply
      3. Lalou

        Double yes! Computers do not have personalities, programs do not have tantrums at whim, and the computer “system” is not your enemy.

        Reply
    2. LCL

      I was surprised at the confusion I caused by making liberal use of the hide columns feature on a shared Xcel spreadsheet. Who wants to page through all the stuff that isn’t used!!!!

      Reply
      1. Sharon

        My Excel peeve is people who spread the columns out to eighty screens wide. Even worse are people who add unnecessary blank columns between data columns. It’s like they get paid to scroll.

        Reply
        1. Jessica (the celt)

          Or the people who randomly merge cells together for no apparent reason. But they are random cells in random places, so when you try to actually make use of the data in the cells, it’s not orderly and you have to redo everything to figure out what goes in which columns and so on. Sometimes there are four or ten columns merged, but the columns are blank except for the merged item in the first column (nothing in other rows for those columns), so they then make then very tiny. Why?

          Reply
      2. Mints

        Yes. We have a bunch of files where there are a few columns of numbers (like amount of teapots ordered, each variety, 100 200 50 400 60 350) and then one or two columns of a really long note like the transcript of the sales call or teapot flavors, and the formatting just doesn’t work well when people don’t make use of hidden columns.
        I wish I had more authority to teach people things

        Reply
    3. Karowen

      The confusion in my office over Microsoft Office is mind-boggling. My co-workers can type in a program, but adding a new tab in Excel or creating a table in PowerPoint or accepting tracked changes in word is all well over their heads

      I try to be understanding of this with some of my co-workers because a few of them have mentioned that they didn’t start using computers until after college, whereas I’m younger and have had the benefit of knowing how to do the basics in Microsoft Word since 3rd grade. But I still feel like they should know this by now – They’ve been in this company the 5+ years I’ve been working here and have been using Office that whole time. The learning curve shouldn’t be that steep!

      Reply
      1. Mints

        I totally get that being able to use technology is not the same as being smart, and I try hard not to conflate them; I really hope it doesn’t read that way!
        I taught my mom how to use a computer a couple years ago. She was basically computer illiterate and the first few days were literally like “this is how you turn it on” “this is the internet.” And now she’s the proud owner of her own computer, a gmail account, and a facebook. But she approached it like “I have decided learn computers. Mints, please teach me computers” and if she had an office job, I’m sure she’d be more forthcoming in admitting what she doesn’t know and trying to learn more systematically.
        What annoys me about my coworkers is that they won’t ask for clarification, and it’s supposed to be a central tool for the job. Like I’ll say “the 2012 records are on the second sheet” but they won’t ask “what do you mean by second sheet” they’ll just put data in wrong. It drives me nuts because I like teaching people who are excited about learning

        Reply
      2. Not So NewReader

        Where I went to school, they felt no need to teach the students how to use MS products.
        Ironically, the profs would gripe about having to learn a new program. The very same profs that would assign a complex assignment to be done in Excel.
        I felt so bad. It was the night before this one particularly nasty problem was due. I was wrapping up. (I had struggled for days.) I looked up in time to catch a classmate’s eye. She said “How do I use Excel for this? How does Excel work?”
        omg.
        I tried to tell the profs that the students did not know how to use the programs. Their response? “Not my problem.”

        That’s not really work related but it does show an epidemic of apathy– schools weren’t teaching, work places weren’t training. wth. This was ten years ago. I know work places have not improved, am hoping schools have. But am not overly optimistic.

        Reply
        1. Nina

          Excel was glossed over in my high school (’99) but Word was taught in depth. So when I went to college and eventually the work force, I had no idea how to even do a spreadsheet. I had to study some online tutorials, because even a basic data-entry job requires Excel skills, and recruiters assumed that you have all the MS skills (Word, Excel, Office, Publisher, etc.)

          Reply
      3. AnonHR

        4 years later I am still riding the “great first impressions” wave from coming in and being able to grasp how to make new tabs and simple formulas in Excel, which my predecessor couldn’t do… when I caught on to basic formatting for our wiki, I blew them all away.

        Reply
      4. CC

        I think “computers” are a lot like “science” and “math”, in terms of being overly-generic terrifying subjects that a lot of people have internalized as something they’re Just Not Good At. Therefore, because they’re Just Not Good At it, there’s not much point in putting effort into learning it.

        (I have my own set of things I’m Just Not Good At.)

        Reply
    4. zoe

      Ah yes, the personal Excel master copy. I have an entire folder on my desktop dedicated to those. Not a day goes by that I don’t spend some amount of time comparing my original file to the one received back from a colleague, trying to not only figure out what I needed from them, but also what they inevitably and accidentally changed to the format.

      Reply
    5. Anonymous

      A related pet peeve of mine is long-term reliance on skilled users instead of learning to do something yourself. It does get frustrating when someone needs to know the software to do their job, but they refuse to learn and instead expect others to continually help them.

      Reply
    6. jesicka309

      I’m in charge of a huge planning calendar which is housed in an Excel spreadsheet. It literally has all of our marketing activity, previous financial year sales data and budgets, catalogue dates, merchandise buying patterns etc.

      I had someone ask me for a summary of the catalogue dates. I told her it was in my planning calendar.

      Her response: “Oh, I don’tdo Excel. Can’t you just pull the data out and put it in a table in Word?”

      I nearly slapped her I was so mad. Who doesn’t do Excel?!? And the whole point is that the information is all in one easy to access, easy to read place. She just couldn’t be bothered ecause it was an Excel file and she “didn’t do Excel”

      I lost a bit of proffessional respect for her that day.

      Reply
    7. University admin

      This is a side point and kind of related to the person below who talked about orgs not coughing up the $$ for Access – but it really grinds my gears when people try to store massive amounts of text data in Excel and call it a database. It is not a database! It is a spreadsheet, and not the proper program for your mountain of text data! And then they get upset when they sort one column without selecting the rest of the data, or have to update data in 5 different places instead of setting up a simple database where if you update it once, it changes everywhere.

      Reply
      1. Jessica (the celt)

        Thank you! I am in a place that is moving more and more to Macs (and Office for Mac), which doesn’t allow Access. We use it a for a lot of reasons (well, I create them and then people use the databases to make their lives easier), but now I’m trying to figure out what to use on a Mac now that I can’t use any of my programs. What the heck am I supposed to do? Excel can’t remotely do what I need it to do, because I need a database for the exact reasons that Access is not Excel. Grrrr…

        Reply
        1. Looking for new career

          Filemaker Pro is a good database program for Mac. Take a look, if there is a budget for new software where you work.

          Reply
          1. Jessica (the celt)

            Unfortunately, they are pretty against buying new software, and I had to beg to get Access back in the day. With the budget issues, they aren’t buying software if it can’t be used by pretty much everyone. :( The only people who currently use it are those that I’ve created databases for to make their jobs easier, and once they make the switch to Mac, they’ll also just be out of luck like me.

            Reply
            1. Jamie

              I haven’t used it personally, but Apache Open Office for Mac is well reviewed and Base is their access equivalent.

              It’s open sourced so it’s free – and if you change the file extensions most open office stuff works pretty seamlessly with Office proper.

              (I like open office – I’ve used it myself, just not the Mac version so I can’t speak to that.)

              Reply
              1. Jessica (the celt)

                I actually started mucking around in LibreOffice last week, which is another descendent of OpenOffice.org (and many of the most-used extensions are already installed in LibreOffice, including Report Builder for Base, so I don’t have to spend even more time on it with coworkers in the future). The database is a little odd here and there and it has some interesting issues, but I’m figuring things out and have so far transferred one database over (the simplest one) and am working on transferring a more complicated second one. When my specific office moved to Mac a month ago, I did some research and looked around for programs that would work on multiple OSes (because the organization itself is switching little by little, so we’re a mixed-OS org right now). I’m so far happy with it now that I’ve bitten the bullet and started making the databases, but I’m not ready to pull it out company-wide to train my peers on it until I get my more complicated databases built and ensure that they run well. I’ve found a few bugs, but so far have been able to clear them up by doing some research (and am keeping track of how I cleared things up for future reference).

                I’m hoping that this ends up being The One, so I can switch others to it this summer, even before it becomes a necessity due to an OS change.

                Reply
  41. Gail L

    We have some kind of communication issue that eludes correction. My boss and I sat down with 3 people separately to get their take on the problem and ideas for solutions. Then we had a meeting summarizing what everyone said and the proposed solution. Everyone was fine with it. Then we codified it in writing and sent it around, and suddenly someone has a problem with it. What? She didn’t bring it up in the private meeting, in the group meeting, but now that it’s written down she disagrees! She blames personality conflicts for the issue in the first place, but I think the problem is she wasn’t thinking / listening when we asked for her contributions. Instead of proactively working on a solution, she waits until it’s a problem and complains. Arg.

    Reply
    1. drives me crazy

      Or she’s passive-aggressive and also an introvert who won’t speak up in meetings but politely throws you under the bus in written word or to your boss without you present (can you tell that I am speaking from experience???!).

      Reply
  42. MaryMary

    The amount of money and time wasted by working with outdated technology. People in the comments here have complained about unruly printers, user-unfriendly HRIS systems, timesheets, and assorted email and calendar problems, that’s just the beginning. I’ve been working in offices for over 15 years (oh jeez), and I’ve probably spent a good 3-4 years watching my computer clock, staring at the login screen when the server is down, unjamming the copy machine, recreating lost work after my computer crashed, doing something manually because it wasn’t included in the conversion, or figuring out how to do something in Excel 2007 that has a nice easy button in Excel 2010.

    I know software and hardware cost money. But businesses (large and small – I worked at a Fortune 1000 company where we didn’t have enough server space to process first of the month billing and invoicing) seriously underestimate the cost of old, outdating, barely working technology.

    Reply
    1. Apollo Warbucks

      I feel your pain, my firms massive and our time and billing system is shocking the amount of time I waste trying to fix things is stupid and there’s no chance of replacing it within the next two years.

      Reply
    2. James M

      The line I always hear is “But it works; why fix it?”. Despite my growing list of reasons, there is always some minor imagined inconvenience that derails any attempt to use up to date software.

      Reply
      1. Marie

        We have a database in my office that was made in 2004. In 2005, it broke. Also, in 2005, the one-person business that made it for us went bankrupt, and later that year the guy who ran the business died of a medical complication. The database cannot be updated (it still has lists of people or items or facilities that existed in 2004 but no longer do, and we can’t add the new things), and we can put data into it, but can’t get it back out — we just print out reports that made sense in 2004 but no longer do, scan the data, make a guess at how accurate it was/wasn’t, do some numbers magic (i.e. make it up), and then report those numbers.

        In 2007, we got a guy to make a second database that ports out some of the data from the first database, and with that, we’ve been able to get somewhat more accurate reports. But this guy is not super great at his job (but everybody in my office is very non-tech-savvy, so had no idea of his level of competence), and the reports are still pretty inaccurate and tend to break easily.

        I’ve been trying to convince my boss since I started there that we need a new database, but I keep getting the “Why? It works fine!” line. I try to explain, no, no, it’s like we had a motorcycle, and it broke, so we attached a sidecar with one flat tire to the motorcycle and now we drive the sidecar around, and that’s not the same thing as the motorcycle not being broken, because that motorcycle is BROKE. But the sidecar works fine! Mostly. Compared to the motorcycle, anyway, it works great!

        Reply
      2. MaryMary

        I had a client who was looking into updating its HRIS system a couple years ago (2010, 2011 or so). We were pleased because their system was awful and needed to be updated. I found old meeting notes from when we’d first landed the account, talking about how the HRIS system was antiquated and needed to be replaced ASAP. These notes were from a meeting in 1997.

        Reply
    3. AAA

      Adding to this: The problem of refusing to adopt new technologies when they are readily available, or continuing to use outdated tech because “that’s how it’s always been done” without logically thinking through if it needs to be done anymore.
      e.g. Paper memos. Everyone is sent the memo via email. It doesn’t make sense to print out 60 copies of the memo and deliver them via inter-department mail to various offices and then have them placed on a clipboard that no one even looks at anymore, because they received the memo via email yesterday. Why waste the trees?!

      Reply
    4. Lalou

      There is a laptop that I use most days that I just don’t shut down unless I’m out for a week because it takes between 1-3 hours to start back up. So much of my day is wasted waiting for programs to load or for massive amounts of data to process on my desktop computer with its terrible processor. I think the amount of time wasted on this simple stuff is really underestimated.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        I was in a similar situation a few years ago. My computer processor was about 10 years old and it was slooooow. For my job, I had to run statistics that would take hours of processing on that old computer. Frequently, I would just set the program to run overnight, and I would keep my fingers crossed that no errors came up. Other times, I would just sit there at work with nothing else to do but wait for the old computer to process.

        Near the end, I started teleworking as often as possible. Those complex statistics that took hours on the old computer took mere minutes on my home computer. MINUTES!

        Reply
  43. AdminAnon

    Getting everyone to use the same calendar is a huge one in my office. At the current moment, we have 2 shared wall calendars with training/event schedules for the year as well as an Outlook shared calendar, a Basecamp calendar, a website calendar, and several departmental calendars. It’s a mess. Theoretically, the calendars should all be identical, but everyone has different preferences and updates their favorite calendar without notifying anyone else. Add to that the fact that I’m in charge of maintaining my personal calendar as well as the calendars of the three top executives and….well, it’s a shit-show.

    Also, getting people to follow processes in general is an uphill battle. Until just recently, we were a very small office (~5 employees), but we’ve experienced exponential growth in the last year or so. As that has happened, our policies/procedures have become more important, but the older employees are not exactly embracing the changes, which makes everything 10x more difficult.

    Reply
  44. Apollo Warbucks

    How to set the temperature of the heating so the office is warm in the winter and cool in the summer it shouldn’t be hard!!!

    Reply
    1. James M

      My mom is a librarian at an elementary school. The school does climate control via calendar (Mayan, I think) instead of something sensible… like a thermometer.

      Reply
      1. Editor

        It would be nice if cubical walls came with some kind of retrofit so the forced hot air and air conditioning systems could route heat and cold through the cubical network to keep everyone comfortable and out of direct drafts.

        For places with a lot of computers, it might be interesting to see a piping system that could be retrofitted under the false floor with all the computer wiring and without damaging the wiring.

        Reply
  45. Anonymous Tech Worker

    Personal prejudices that block others from fulfilling basic job duties. In my current and previous job, men with equivalent or more junior positions than mine are given access to all the systems they need to access, whereas I’m told that it’s not appropriate for my job even though it’s in my job description.

    I need to vent today. The sexism where I work is so bad that it’s reduced my productivity by about 50%. I just don’t get the resources that I need to do my job and I’m constantly being belittled and condescended to. Sometimes, the insults (especially from those in more senior positions) start to get to me and I’ll telecommute or even take a sick day to avoid my work environment.

    Upper management has noticed and has taken some steps to address it, but there’s still a lot of negative stuff that I’m dealing with. Reporting it isn’t an option and only tends to backfire.

    I just wish there was a way to force people to judge their co-workers by the quality of their work and how they treat other people, not their gender, ethnicity, etc.

    Reply
  46. AmyNYC

    Sometimes notes ARE the best way to get the information out there (like the microwave thing) but has anyone figured out how to leave notes that don’t seem passive aggressive?

    Reply
    1. Marie

      I think what makes us think of a thing as “passive aggressive” is when we are avoiding direct, assertive communication. Like, if Wakeen left his dirty dishes in the sink, we could go to Wakeen and say, “Hey, dude, clean up your dishes,” in which case leaving a sign that says “DO NOT LEAVE DISHES IN THE SINK” would be passive-aggressive. But since we often don’t know who’s up to these small shenanigans in the office, a generalized sign becomes a more appropriate way to communicate (since it may not be an email-worthy or “the boss addresses it in a meeting”-worthy event).

      I just try to keep my signs brief and to the point — no “your mother doesn’t work here” commentary, just “PUT X HERE, PUT Y THERE, ASK WAKEEN IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS.” They still seem passive-aggressive to me because signs just always do seem that way to me.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous Tech Worker

        Right. Even with notes addressed to a wide audience, there’s a way to be direct and not passive aggressive.

        Reply
      2. Lynn Whitehat

        Ugh, hate the “your mother doesn’t work here” signs. Like if she did, obviously she would be happy to clean up my messes all day? For a time when I was a teenager, my mom taught at the school I attended. There were a lot of those signs, and every time, I thought, “as a matter of fact she DOES, but that doesn’t make it OK…”

        Reply
        1. Andrea

          Right with you there. My mom had better things to do than to clean up after me, even though she was a SAHM. She taught me to clean up after myself, and if I didn’t, she made me.

          Reply
          1. VintageLydia USA

            I’m a SAHM and my kid is 1 and even HE cleans up after himself (I mean, as well as a 1 year old can!) I have a toy bin in the living room and putting his toys away is great fun for him! He even puts books in the book cubby and stuffies in the stuffie cubby! Not neatly, of course, but I will not follow after him and clean his messes through adulthood. That’s ridiculous.

            Reply
            1. Jamie

              You are doing him such a favor – you’re a great mom!

              I didn’t do so well at this part of parenting when little and their teenage years would have been so much easier if I had.

              Reply
    2. Anne

      I’ve gotten a good reaction to making them funny. Someone kept leaving soggy teabags in the kitchen sink, and it was gross. So I put up a note that said “Please stop teabagging me! Thanks, The Sink” with a super sad frowny face.

      My office of developers all got the joke, thought it was hilarious, and stopped putting teabags in the sink for other people to deal with.

      Reply
  47. LeeD

    I wish we were further along in converting to a paperless office, but things seem to have stalled out somewhere along the line. Case in point: I get document by email, and I have to return it with my approval. I can return it by email, but before I do, I have to print it, sign it, and scan it.

    Reply
    1. Aunt Vixen

      Scan your signature, save it as a .gif, slap that graphic on your electronic document, save-as, and go. Now you’ve got an electronic document with your Real Signature on it but you don’t have to print and scan every. single. time.

      Reply
      1. LeeD

        Sadly enough, that idea was shot down when it was floated. And we are asked to put additional information by our signature – information that also appears in the email that accompanies the attachment, and which differs for each signed document.

        Reply
  48. Lora

    Tech transfer. Every organization and every client I’ve ever worked for each has their own non-method for doing this and their own vastly different set of policies and rules, and the methods for valuation of IP are invariably…not in proportion to their actual revenue potentials, let’s just put it that way. Just because you put a lot of resources into something doesn’t mean it’s actually worth ANYTHING.

    Worked for exactly one company that really had their tech transfer act together: They had checklists, timelines, schedules and minimal data requirements to be met before a transfer could proceed, training presentations, central data storage where everyone involved in the project could access all the relevant information all the time, specific points of contact between departments. It was beautiful. They were legendary in the industry for having one of the smoothest, most trouble-free operations in the world.

    Naturally, nobody else can be bothered to do anything similar, even though many of the people who worked there and did the tech transfer process themselves are still local and keep in touch.

    On the plus side, introducing something as simple as a tech transfer document checklist and a spine to enforce it makes you a kind of demigod for the rest of the industry, so at least there’s that.

    Reply
  49. Celeste

    I haven’t read all of the replies, but my angst is from admin-creep. Now that we scan and attach everything, apparently we don’t need admin staff anymore! Or as much office space for filing! However we DO need to think about the load it puts on the technical staff to do all of this extra admin stuff, and we don’t. A big chunk of the day is already given over to disparate databases that need passwords (that have to be changed all the time YET be something you can remember).

    You can really feel like a data-entry clerk some days.

    Reply
    1. JNC

      Is this for support or information? I switched our team from single inbox support to Desk.com last year and it made our lives so much easier. No more having to reply all with “Got it!” but still having the same email answered by two or more people at once.

      Reply
    2. Anon30

      Can you assign people to it on different days or different parts of the day, unless that said person directs it to someone else?

      Reply
  50. Anon30

    Convincing my superiors that we really do need software to help with managing donor and volunteer information. I work in a small non-profit. Most others in my position have some sort of software to help them do this. Would save so much time!

    Reply
    1. ali

      +1

      Also allow for training in said software. I work for a company that makes this type of software and the #1 reason our customers cancel? They aren’t given enough time to learn it by their director/board/etc. Even after they’ve spent thousands of dollars getting the software in the first place sometimes.

      Reply
      1. Anon30

        Thanks Ali. We are small enough to where it’s not really in the budget (but we need something), so I was trying to convince them to even go for a few that are $25 a month and lower – and there were some on Techsoup that were software based and not a monthly fee – But no luck yet.

        Reply
  51. Anon

    How to get an organization to appropriately understand, fund, and judge the work of the IT department.

    I’ve seen way, way too many organizations that say “oh, we just need an IT generalist” and then expect to pay $50,000 for someone who can manage the office network, manage a dozen servers in a high-availability virtualization suite, code up database applications from scratch, and manage the company website. Hint: those are all separate career tracks and each require several years of experience to be any good at.

    Of course, you can find someone who will *tell* you they can do all that who is willing to work for the same pay as your secretary. Then that person will go on to cost you an order of magnitude more, in terms of lost time and efficiency, 95% of which you’ll be blind to.

    Or if you do end up with competent IT people, there’s a constant battle over funding. Most companies don’t need the latest and greatest, but they do need the basics to be solid and work, and that includes a lot of stuff that most people don’t even knows exists. It’s almost impossible for non-IT people to tell the difference between ‘IT always wants more and better stuff’ and actual false economies. Really good IT departments can communicate this info adequately, if management has actually spent the money to hire them and will listen to them.

    Then there’s the question of how upper management can tell if their IT people are good at their jobs, or only good at BS. I really suggest bringing in an IT consulting firm to help with hiring your top IT people and any time there’s questions about their competency. Then listen to them.

    There’s also an axiom in IT that you can teach technical skills, but not soft skills, which is (mostly) true. However people often fail to recognize the amount of deliberate time and effort that has to go into training. Simply throwing under qualified people into the job and expecting them to figure it out as they go is a recipe for frustration on everyone’s part.

    Phew, sorry for the novel. Can you tell this is a subject I’m passionate about? As a junior-ish IT person, I’ve gotten bitten by all of these issues, often simultaneously. It’s a major, major problem. I’m trying to become the kind of person who can help solve these issues for my employer, but it’ll be a while before I get there.

    Reply
    1. Marie

      I’m one of those people who has a really good grasp of technology, and am usually the best at working with tech in any office or social circle I’ve been in, but I am not an IT person and can’t replace one. What I can do is be the person who can communicate with IT and solve a good chunk of the lower level things that would usually be trouble ticketed and require an IT person, like the “I moved the thing and now I can’t find the thing and it deleted everything and I never USED to have this problem!” kind of problems.

      It’s an interesting position to be in, because I know my technical limits, and I can see a pretty clear difference between a low-level technical problem and something that requires a really skilled, really knowledgable person, but non-techy people really CANNOT see the difference at all. So because I know how to fix a broken spreadsheet, keep a well-made website running, make a very basic database, or use some of the advanced features that come with our software packages, I also get asked to do things so far out of my league (or just downright impossible) that I can’t even adequately describe them. I also have trouble communicating small technological fixes. If I know a very quick, small, temporary database can help us crunch some numbers we need, and I can whip that up in half a day, it’s hard to communicate that to management who think databases are as obscure and magical as the Hadron collider, and think I am proposing some massive project that will change how everything works.

      It’s a little scary sometimes to see how few people understand some basics of technology. Or, I should rephrase this, because not everybody necessarily needs to understand those things, but every office needs leadership who either can understand basic technology or knows who they can assist them with this. Sometimes our program manager asks me a tech question so naive or preposterous that I fear for our budget the next time a snake oil techie gets near them.

      Reply
      1. CEMgr

        Yes, I have seen very similar things myself. It IS scary to realize how many people are completely helpless in understanding the functioning of the technical world around them.

        Reply
      2. Aunt Vixen

        So true. A friend of my parents’ just last week told me “If you ever wanted one, you could get a job in IT.” Which – there’s no point in arguing about it, but no, no I could not. … Maybe I could get a Tier 1 call-catching job, but let’s just say I would Rather Not. I can provide family-level tech support. That’s it. (My fiance is the professional.)

        Reply
    2. James M

      This. From what I understand, management typically sees IT as a cost center to be minimized. The biggest question (imho) is how to get executive level people to realize that the digital infrastructure of their business needs high quality maintenance just like their new sports car, and is worth quite a lot more than said car.

      Reply
      1. Anon

        Yes, it’s amazing how ‘I don’t understand it’ and ‘we haven’t had any major problems so far’ gets mentally translated to ‘therefore it’s unnecessary’.

        Reply
    3. Chinook

      Anon – I have to say I love my company because they hired an IT programmer who is creating programs for us (that we both can’t believe don’t already exist). He is single handedly slaying excel spreeadsheets with workable databases that we can customize. Part of my job is translating our engineers’ needs into something a computer can do and then explaining it to him so that we can design it to be used now and in the future (cuz I hate data entry with a passion) while creating interfaces that allow even the most adament luddite accept that maybe this isn’t so bad (we actually have one field guy who is thee litmus test – if bob will use it, then it was ddesigned right) . He is doing it with various departments and Changing lives by slashing paperwork.

      Reply
  52. Emily, admin extraordinaire

    Office supplies. Either we have too many (PNPLE, or Post-it Notes Past Life Expectancy) or not enough (my kingdom for a sharp Sharpie!). In other words, “Where have all the staplers gone? What happened to our paperclips? The ballpoint pens are gone again. The sticky notes have lost their sticks.”

    http://youtu.be/Nepjrjaia4s

    Reply
      1. A Bug!

        I guard my Sharpie like a dragon guards its hoard. I just cannot for the life of me figure out what people do with Sharpies to mangle the tips the way they do. These are people who seem to have no problem holding pens and writing with them at a reasonable pressure level, so why do they seem to regress to Kindergarten when they get a Sharpie in their hot little hands?

        (I can only conclude that they are taking them outside and using them to write graffiti on concrete and brick.)

        Reply
    1. LV

      I’ve been at my current job for under 11 months and in that time, our procedures for ordering supplies have changed 4 times. I have no idea who’s in charge of this now because all the people I’ve spoken to claim that it’s not their responsibility anymore. And of course it can’t be as simple as just running to the nearest Staples and submitting the receipt – we have an approved list of vendors and an approved list of people who can deal with the vendors… if only anyone knew who they are.

      Reply
  53. EA

    1. Don’t test your code in production!
    2. Follow proper change management procedures. Production changes should not be randomly instituted in the middle of the work day.
    3. Internal software that requires it’s own login. We have an enterprise-wide LDAP system, and ActiveDirectory … I don’t know why I have 18 different passwords that I need to keep track of.

    Reply
  54. Laura2

    Getting people to respond to emails and phone calls that are about things that cannot go to the next step without their approval, and getting those same people to understand that requiring their approval for every step means that they also have to be okay with nothing happening until they do approve it.

    Reply
    1. zoe

      Every day. I’m only able to sit here and read all of these comments right now because I’m currently waiting on an email approval reply before I can complete the routine task I started two hours ago. And then being questioned tomorrow as to why this hasn’t been completed yet, by same said person whose approval I’m waiting for.
      *head asplode*

      Reply
    2. Mints

      Story of my life!

      “where are we with Thing?”
      “I’m waiting for you to choose option A or option B” “oh good”

      “so option A or B?”
      … Literally days go by…
      “option B”

      (I too can read everything on this site because of ineffective management)

      Reply
    3. Noelle

      My old boss used to do this all the time. I started phrasing my emails like this: “I’m working on this and the options are A or B. I think B is the best option and I will proceed with that unless you have any concerns.” I’d also give him deadlines, like, “If I don’t hear from you by tomorrow morning, I’ll go ahead and send this letter to X.” It didn’t work for everything, but it definitely helped.

      Reply
  55. some1

    People making coffee without aligning the pot correctly so it spills everywhere.

    Getting people to dump drinks in the sink instead of the water cooler reservoir, which are meant to handle a few drops, it can’t drain a whole cup of water.

    Reply
  56. AVP

    As much as my boss may wish our staff to be full of psychics, we have not yet invented the technology that will allow us to read his mind, particularly when he hasn’t communicated to us at all about a various project or topic and expects us to have it finished and perfect…before he opens his mouth to tell us what he wants.

    Reply
    1. Kay

      This so much!

      My boss does this all the time. He’ll ask me what’s going on with “X” project that I’ve never heard of before and I have to say “What project is that?” and it hasn’t even been created in our system because no one told me about it when it started.

      Reply
    2. Jazzy Red

      I had a boss who chewed me out because I didn’t know who came into our office and left something on her desk. I was on reception desk duty at that time, down the hall and around two corners, and I couldn’t see through the walls. Not a good enough reason.

      During my exit interview, I told the HR guy to get her next secretary from the Psychic Network (it was a long time ago).

      Reply
    3. JustMe

      We have a similar issue with sales reps. For example, we could get a phone call from a non-local rep around 3:30: “I have booked a meeting 24 hours from now. Please send me 30 copies of that 80 page binder document by then. I need the documents collated in clear plastic sheets.”

      Because the other stuff I have to do is no big deal, and everyone knows shipping companies are open all night, right?

      Reply
      1. Anon30

        JustMe – That’s so ridiculous. Is there any protocol that would make these reps give appropriate notice? Or, if they don’t, then they would have to pay a penalty? Just a thought.

        Good luck – If I were you, I’d bring it up with a Supervisor.

        Reply
  57. Anon for this one

    We are required to take the remaining hours to zero before resolving a task in our scheduling program.

    The scheduling program will happily let you (or even SOMEONE ELSE that it’s not assigned to) resolve the task with the remaining hours at zero, and then the boss will tell you off later that month and count it against your performance review.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the scheduling program alerted you that the remaining hours were non-zero and made you update the completed and remaining hours before resolving the task?

    Reply
  58. TheExchequer

    Nobody ever cleans an office refrigerator. Working as a temp, I have been in and out of more offices than I care to count. Even with a sheet, even when someone goes in the refrigerator weekly and cleans it out, it never seems to be clean. I learned long ago to bring my own lunch box with an ice thing in it.

    How to load the dishwasher was a CONSTANT argument in the last office I worked in. (I also learned long ago not to drink out of any shared office mugs).

    There is no updated information on what documents go to which person. Ever.

    The workstation is rarely, if ever, set up for a worker on the first day. It’s gotten to the point I’m always mentally ready to be asked to go home by lunch on the first day, because even when they’re given ample warning, computers aren’t set up, phones aren’t set up, there are no pens, there is no paper. You knew I was coming. You asked me to be here!

    People who blatantly disregard the rules and proccesses we have in place are often rewarded by having their needs attended to first. Never fails to irritate me. I understand the occasional need to bend or break the rules, but there are some people for whom everything qualifies as an urgent and they still get expedited. Why bother having the rules?

    And I know this is not strictly something we can automate, but the fact that some people seem to have a need to comment on food choices that have nothing to do with them never ceases to amaze me and make me wish I had a mute button.

    Reply
    1. TheExchequer

      And I just realized the last one could come off as passive aggressive (it’s Monday!), so I’ll just say that I dislike certain food odors as much as the next person. I meant to include the “oh, that’s so unhealthy for you” or “wow, you really like carbs” kind of remarks. If I want to eat three chocolate chip cheesecakes for lunch, that’s really not anybody’s concern but mine.

      Reply
      1. PJ

        And God forbid you should let it slip that you have a sensitivity to gluten, because from that moment on everybody in the entire office will be watching and commenting on every bite you put in your mouth, even though you are accepting full responsibility for it and its consequences and are not asking for their input, and the woman who caters the Board meetings will apologize EVERY SINGLE MONTH that there is nothing on the menu that you can eat except the salad even though you let her know EVERY SINGLE MONTH that you, and you alone are responsible for what you eat, not her, and she should for the love of all that is holy PLEASE stop worrying about it, and at lunches out she will wave the bread basket in front of your face and say, “Oh, you can’t eat this, can you?”

        Whew!

        Reply
        1. TheExchequer

          And all the powers that be help you if you let it slip you’re on a diet. The food policing that goes on . . . it would boggle your mind.

          I will say that, at least in my experience, this is *very* gender specific to women. Nobody gives a flying fig WHAT men eat.

          Reply
  59. CEMgr

    Just getting people to use our systems above the 25% level. I work in a Fortune 100 company that lives and dies by its computer systems and automation. But there is no leadership voice for efficiency globally. Here are some things we DON’T do:

    * Use issue tracking systems effectively (email instead)
    * Use databases effectively (spreadsheets stored locally instead)
    * Use spreadsheets effectively (email instead)
    * Coordinate accounting and financial processes so the “TPS report” can use a summary as prepared by Finance (no, it needs to be refactored on a different dimension…every time!)
    * Reserve conference rooms efficiently (there is no penalty for gross overbooking so the more ruthless types block multiple rooms for full day blocks and then don’t even use them)
    * Review performance with respect to goals (we have an automated performance management system which we created internally, and it contains everyone’s goals, but these CANNOT be viewed by someone who has been requested to write a review in the system)
    * Agree on processes and procedures and remember the agreement or definitions for more than a few weeks (agreeing is easy and so is forgetting)
    * etc.

    There are local havens of excellence for all of the above, but the overall standard is mediocre on a good day.

    Nonetheless, we can’t stop babbling about how excellent we are.

    Reply
    1. Editor

      If financial auditors were also required to provide IT audits and estimates of cost efficiency and also the amount of money that needs to be set aside annually to prevent technological obsolescence, would that help? I’m trying to envision a technical solution for what is essentially a management failure, and an audit is the only solution I can think of.

      Reply
  60. Meg Murry

    Refusing to spend money on software like Microsoft Access or Microsoft Project, and instead insisting employees can do it just fine with Microsoft Excel. I had to spend days upon weeks creating what was essentially an Access database in Excel (complete with macros to add items to hidden tables) because the company wouldn’t pay up for MS Access. My salary in the time I spent making that Excel spreadsheet/database was far more than the cost of Microsoft Access.

    Reply
    1. AAA

      I have a related problem. I have Microsoft Access 2000. I don’t know enough to use it efficiently (and end up using Excel for a lot of things that I suspect there would be an easier solution for in Access), but I don’t want to invest a lot of time in learning an outdated piece of software. I would happily invest this time if I had Access 2013 (or heck, even the 2010 version!) but software that is already outdated seems silly to learn.

      Reply
      1. CC

        They’re not all that different, especially if you’re not doing anything that pushes the limits of its capabilities. I last used Access over 10 years ago, and just last month I picked up a new project in Access. Needed to refresh my memory on where to set some of the properties and what were the names of some of the functions (google knows all), but how it worked was basically the same.

        If you want to learn to work with Access but only have 2000, you can start with that. When you get the newer version, the learning curve to upgrade in knowledge will be there, but it won’t be anywhere near as steep as learning it in the first place.

        Reply
    2. Lynn Whitehat

      Every place I’ve worked has been very penny-wise and pound-foolish when deciding between a small expense that will be a line item somewhere and a large expense that does not have to be directly accounted for. They’ll waste $50,000 of employees’ time rather than spend $500 on a product to save that time, because someone will have to write a check for the $500, but not for the $50k. “Ooh, we saved $500!” No, you wasted $49,500, but it’s not written down anywhere and therefore doesn’t count.

      Reply
      1. Colette

        When I was at a large high-tech firm that was having financial problems, they replaced the cream in the kitchens with powdered creamer and said “Oh, you can go to the cafeteria if you want cream”.

        Let’s say there were 30,000 engineers in the company. If each one of them takes an extra ten minutes to get a coffee, how much have you saved on cream, exactly?

        (The high tech firm no longer exists.)

        Reply
  61. LMW

    File naming conventions and file management practices. Right now I’m working in a huge corporation where everyone names their files how ever the heck they think is right at that moment and they are mostly saved on individual computer hard drives.
    My first job was at a 300 person company where there was a strict rule for how you saved every single type of file and everyone knew where things needed to be stored and exactly what the back up and recovery procedures were. It was part of your orientation and you were given clear documentation. And if you messed it up, you were gently corrected and shown the right way to do it. And if your file disappeared, most of the time you could recover it, because everything was stored on a server that was backed up every two hours (so two hours was the max amount of work you could lose). I desperately miss that type of efficiency on a regular basis.

    Reply
    1. Karowen

      This. I have a co-worker, who I love dearly, that will stick files created a year ago in a folder titled “Old” and then name whatever she’s working on now “new.” So the file is named CompanyName-Flyer-New. Which is great…Until the file ages and she sticks it in the old folder and starts working on another file named CompanyName-Flyer-New. Then on top of that she has been here for almost a decade so she uses the search function to try to find a document and winds up pulling up something that is 5+ years old and gets confused because she would’ve sworn she had something newer. It drove me batty until I finally convinced her to include the year in items.

      Reply
      1. CollegeAdmin

        My boss kind of does this – she’ll create a file and save it as “Event X Flyer.” And then she’ll edit it, and instead of saving over it, she’ll save it as “Event X Flyer – current.date.” She’ll do this EVERY TIME she edits it, so we end up with about 10 versions of a file. (And one will get named “FINAL” along the way but it’s never actually the last one.” Gee, she wonders why our files are a mess.

        Reply
  62. LV

    I haven’t yet figured out how to get my boss to stop sending me email, then immediately walking over to me and saying, “Have you seen my email yet? I need you to…” and then repeat all the information that was in the email.

    With some coworkers, different communications preferences can cause minor issues. I prefer email by far in most situations. I’ve had coworkers respond to an email by phoning me or showing up in person. I work at the front/reference desk of a library, so there’s a good chance that our conversation would be interrupted by a request from a patron. Obviously, if the matter is urgent/time-sensitive, I’ll call or go in person, but in all other situations, there’s a reason I emailed you in the first place!

    Reply
    1. Aunt Vixen

      I had a colleague who would always respond to an e-mail or an IM by calling me. Not a lot I could do, because he outranked me, so.

      But now I have a colleague who reads more slowly than I do – so we’ll both get the same e-mail, for example, and I’ll respond to it, and five minutes later she’ll say Oh, do you see this e-mail from X about the Y and start reading it to me. I’m still able to maintain some patience in my voice when I interrupt to tell her than not only have I seen that message, but I’ve already responded to it. I hope that skill lasts long enough for her to learn to read everything before reacting to anything.

      Reply
      1. athek

        I worked at a job once where I would get e-mails from my supervisor saying, “can you call me?” or “can you come to my office?”

        Reply
  63. Leslie Yep

    How to share priorities/progress in a way that actually creates a visibility and transparency into what other functions on our team are working on.

    Reply
  64. Ms Enthusiasm

    Yes, a lot of things are done electronically now which is great but not my job. I still need to print so much. And my filing cabinet is full so I have stacks of paper just sitting every where on my desk.

    Reply
  65. Karowen

    This has been touched upon elsewhere, but just communication in general is a huge issue for us.

    I working in Marketing. I am supposed to be selling our goods to clients. Yet our department doesn’t find out about new products until someone calls saying “Hi, I can’t find the flyer on this, I need to send it to a client,” and we’re stuck scrambling because we literally had no clue it existed. It’s a shame. And yet at the same time, we’re told to create flyers for a product that doesn’t exist yet but will be here in Q2. So we create the flyers, and then when the product is finally sold to a prospect in Q3 we find out that the product was scrapped.

    Reply
  66. Marie

    Putting documents in folders! We have a shared drive, and it has appropriate subfolders (Administrative, Financial, HR, Reports, etc.), most of which are empty, because people just dump the documents into the shared drive.

    Which leads to problem #2: Nobody uses the shared drive, because “I can’t find anything in there.”

    Which leads to problem #3: People either take the things they need and put them on their desktop, until their desktop is as cluttered as the shared drive, or outsource the work of looking for what they need by continually emailing somebody else in the office who found it for them once. Admin creep!

    Which also means problem #4: There is no point in ever updating any forms because everybody will be using the form they put on their desktop in 2008 or the 2009 version Wakeen has on his desktop (because that’s what he sends whenever they email and say “Wasn’t there a new form??????”)

    Reply
  67. The Other Dawn

    A copier that can clear it’s own paper jam would be nice. Getting people to at least attempt to clear the copier jam is impossible. They like to leave it for the next person to find, and it’s usually when there’s a time-sensitive document to print.

    A self-cleaning microwave would be nice, too.

    Reply
    1. Marie

      Yes, the copier is the most frequent site for Announcements Into the Ether.

      “Copier’s broke.” *long pause, look around* “Yeah, I think there’s a jam.” *look around, poke a button repeatedly, sigh, louder sigh* “I don’t know how to…” *poke button some more* “Yeah, it’s definitely jammed.” *long pause, walk away*

      WHO WERE YOU TALKING TO THOUGH

      Reply
      1. Sissa

        I have a colleague who does this a lot of things. Outlook, Excel, the air conditioning, the microwave, her cellphone. I’m a helpful person by nature, but I can’t stand the exclamation of “Excel decided to delete these rows!!!!” or “How do I turn this thing down?” for the 100th time.

        Reply
          1. Jamie

            When I get frustrated with people like that it helps to remember it has to be a lot more frustrating for them than the people interacting with them.

            We just have to deal with it at work, they live in the confusion 24/7.

            At least that’s why I tell myself to keep from rolling my eyes so hard they stick that way.

            Reply
    2. AndersonDarling

      Or they go to whoever sits closest to the printer and ask them to unjam it.
      Because geographical proximity to the devise raises ones responsibility of it.

      Reply
      1. Marie

        I once went to a conference seminar called “The Accidental Techie,” which the speaker defined as “the person who sits closest to the copier.” Pretty accurate.

        Reply
    3. A Bug!

      I once worked in an office where the printer was so poorly-designed that it was actually possible to break it completely if you didn’t know what you were doing. I mean, it wasn’t easy to do, but if you tried to pull the jam out from the wrong direction and your response to resistance is “pull harder”, then yeah.

      A loud snap and a muted clatter, and the printer’s out of commission until a service call can be arranged.

      Reply
      1. Lore

        Our copier/printer has 10 different locations where it can jam, 9 of which are accessible from 3 different doors or hatches on the machine. The 10th is only accessible by turning a knob that comes off completely if turned the wrong way, removing the toner cartridge, and basically flinging oneself bodily into the center of the machine.

        At least 3/4 of the time, it’s flashing a jam in one of the theoretically accessible locations, but really jammed in its central guts. And the only way to figure that out is to methodically clear locations 1 through 9, multiple times, until it finally stops showing any visible shreds of paper in any of those spots. Then you can call for a service.

        This happens approximately twice a day right now.

        Reply
  68. KAS

    I work in events and event coordination. My work place is still using a program from, wait for it, 1999. It glitches all the time and is incredibly difficult to use. It barely functions on our computers, which are actually really new. We keep being told a new program is slated on the 5 year plan…this as been circulating around the office for nearly ten years.

    Reply
      1. KAS

        Sadly, this program is a core essential to my job. It kills my soul every time I open it and get the dreaded ” Not Responding” circle of doom.

        Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Oh, oh! I beat you by a year, one of our most important pieces of software is from 1998. Also glitches all the time. If we switched to a newer piece of software we could stop having people, for example, retyping things we print from this software program, because a newer version would almost certainly have an “export” feature. And perhaps, a spellchecker. And maybe support for things like our internal network.

      But oh, I dream. My office will never ever get a newer version of this software. It’s just inconceivable. There isn’t even a plan.

      Reply
      1. KAS

        Same thing for us! And for me to get a single line built, something that would take maybe 20 seconds in word, takes almost 20 clicks of a mouse, typing, corrections, followed by hopes and prayers that when I export it into FileMaker to create a pdf, it’s actually right. Currently, the managers are all having to go to these meetings where two guys ask them about their feelings and daily operations and whatnot in order to determine what new program would suit our division. It’s a two year long process. *head hits desk*

        Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      That is so sad, but I am laughing.
      I went into a well known building/home store a few months ago. I was interested in ceiling tiles, lighting and such. I asked a few questions and the man who waited on me had to use the computer to look up the information.

      I looked at the monitor. “That looks like DOS.”

      He said “It is.”

      The whole company uses it.
      This happened a couple months ago!

      Reply
      1. doreen

        We have most of our records in a horrible system that is variously referred to as either “mainframe” or “bluezone”. I don’t know if either name is actually accurate, but I can tell you I despise using it. It’s left over from the ’80s- green type on a black screen and all . Everything is separate – so if I’m looking at a a particular person’s record in function A and now need information about that same person from function B, I have go all the way back to the main menu. The narrative sections are the worst. If I don’t leave enough blank space at the end of each line , a typo means retyping everything after the error.

        I would be happy to have something from 1999- but we only got real email in 2005, so I don’t have much hope.

        Reply
  69. AndersonDarling

    People not opening a ticket when they need something done.

    Instead, they call or email and tell you all about it, and when you say that they need to enter a ticket… “Oh, this isn’t a big deal” or “This won’t take much of your time” or “do I really need to?” Or the worst… “I don’t know how to put in a ticket, even though I was trained on it and signed off that I understood how to.”

    Or the worst of the worst, “You can put the ticket in for me, right?”

    Reply
    1. Jamie

      Yes – or stopping you on the way to the bathroom to explain some complicated problem.

      This goes hand in hand with my #1 pet peeve in the office is people who cannot communicate clearly in writing. Basic ability to express a simple idea isn’t as universal as it should be.

      Reply
      1. AndersonDarling

        I know! Like I’m going to remember everything that was said by the time I get back to my desk!

        Reply
    2. LMW

      On the flip side of this…tech help systems that operating on an archaic ticket system that no one outside IT is trained on and no one ever responds to. I will pretty much always sit on hold with the help desk for 45 minutes because it’s still faster than trying to get a ticket fulfilled. And the categories I’m forced use are never appropriate for my problem anyway.

      Reply
    3. Lalou

      I wish we had a ticket system! Most of my department’s jobs come from a mixture of random emails, people catching you in the corridor asking “oh by the way can you…” and telepathy.

      Reply
    4. Anonymous Tech Worker

      And the opposite – when people put in a ticket for something they know how to do themselves, that would have taken less time than filling out the ticket. For example, “Could you please upload the attached files to an ftp site for me?”

      Reply
    5. Ruffingit

      OMG, yes! People who ask you to put the ticket in for them. It’s your problem, YOU put the ticket in.

      Reply
    6. Brett

      I just love how many times I have put in a ticket, only to have my own ticket routed back to me to solve.
      “Hey Chocolate Teapotter, this ticket is for a Chocolate Spout system. Please fix it.”
      ‘Um, yeah, I am the only one here who uses a Chocolate Spout system, so that would be my ticket.’
      “Oh good, then you already know the problem. Go ahead and fix it and we’ll close out the ticket.”

      Reply
    7. Anonymous

      On the flip side, not closing the ticket in a reasonable amount of time. I put in a ticket for something back in August and it still has not be resolved.

      Reply
  70. TheExchequer

    Oh, yes! This one has always bothered me: the fact that it’s nigh impossible to have more than ONE block of text that I need to copy/paste “at hand”, so to speak. It seems like it should be so easy – just have a little viewing pane of which one you’re currently copy/pasting. It would be really nice, since I send out several different form letters, not to have to go back to the source file and copy/paste each time.

    Reply
    1. LeeD

      Have you considered putting digital sticky notes on your desktop that contain the info? The free PostIt version allows you to format your text, and that formatting carries over when pasted into word.

      Reply
      1. TheExchequer

        I hadn’t thought of that, but the form letters are long enough that it would clutter up my desktop and hide all the icons. Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe not such a bad idea.

        Reply
        1. jordan

          A couple years ago someone taught me a secret to form letters that changed my life:

          Save all your format letters as a “signature” (I do this in Outlook, but I assume other mail clients have the same function.) Then, when you need to grab your form letters, you just select from the Signature dropdown menu, and voila!

          Reply
          1. Jill of All Trades

            I saved my form letters as contacts in Outlook. Then when I got a new co-worker I’d just share my contacts with them.

            Reply
    2. University admin

      There is. It’s called AutoText, and is in Word and Outlook (discovered it a few months ago). It is AMAZING – basically, you highlight your block of frequently used text and are able to save it into a “library” of frequently used blocks of text, which you can name, categorize etc. It is awesome. To get to it in either program, go to Insert -> Quick Parts -> AutoText.

      Reply
  71. amp2140

    Keeping Chat logs.

    In the settings of Lync, it says that is turned on, but I assume it goes to IT, because it isn’t on my computer. If you ever accidentally close a chat, you can’t get the conversation back, and if someone is offline, you can’t IM them at all.

    Reply
  72. Glorified Plumber

    One thing that comes to mind: We’re very matrixed with a corporate structure and an onsite project structure more or less independent of each other.

    We have not yet figured out: How to educate people that the people who lead them on the “project side” are not their “bosses” in the “Manager who hires and fires you” sense, and therefore are NOT the right person to go to for “Managerial” needs. Engineers are NOT the bosses of designers (this has been the hardest to reinforce). Senior engineers are NOT the bosses of junior engineers. Project managers are NOT the bosses of us all. The process lead is NOT the boss of other process engineers. Process engineering is NOT the boss of electrical engineering (second hardest to reinforce).

    The other side of that challenge is: People need to know that their ACTUAL manager is NOT the correct conduit for project related needs. The staffing manager does not CARE about your project scope change and what to do, and cannot help.

    I don’t envision any technological needs to shore this up. Just people needing to stop being ignorant and think for two seconds about the actual project/corporate structure. Maybe a remedial “Office Structures 98″ course on how companies and projects are set up.

    I still see 30 year experienced designers asking 3 or 4 year experienced engineers about stuff like “Can I get promoted again soon?” and “Can I have more money?” and “Can you approve my time off…” and “I have HR asking me this, can you deal with them for me?”

    Makes me want to bang my head into the wall as someone who gets asked “managerial” approval questions when I have ZERO managerial authority over people.

    Reply
  73. Anonymous

    After reading some of the comments, I’m come to the conclusion no university can do simple stuff like keep track of current employees, students, and what equipment is owned by the university.

    Some fails at my uni:
    Having my department then OIT come by in a 3 month period to register all computers in use in the department, made even more fun by the fact that some computers (running equipment) were so old that they were running DOS still and no one even knew who had originally purchased it, let alone who currently “owned” it. And wanting every computer to have a password to log on due to “security”. It runs a piece of equipment and is so old there is no way it will ever get on the internet, and software on it is confusing even people with PhDs can’t understand it.

    Being told by risk management they had no way of keeping track of who worked in what lab. Ummm, you have to train people and don’t you have access to student and employee records? Answer no, and they still have no way to track people except by sending out yearly emails asking people to update who has started and left.

    Getting sent a letter that required writing info in blanks such as when I started, what my job title was, what items I had that I had been issued by the uni, to help with further onboarding and offboarding of employees which then had to be mailed by campus mail back to HR . Since I didn’t even check my campus mail for about a month, I didn’t get it in by their deadline.

    Reply
  74. Ruffingit

    In the last few offices I’ve been in, it’s very basic organizational things – no one has any idea where certain manuals are and there’s no point person for keeping company documents. If you need to access something, you’re almost better off making it from scratch again rather than trying to find it because, while it’s needed every month (or quarter or whatever), no one has any idea of where it is.

    It’s also apparently akin to splitting the atom in the backyard to have a working copy machine. It’s the joke of all offices, but seriously it’s amazing how often you can’t get basic office equipment to work. The company refuses to deal with it so you end up having to MacGyver everything in order to get a fax sent.

    Reply
  75. Manders

    I’m one of two admins in the same office who do overlapping tasks. We don’t have a system for tracking who did which work because a lot of it is just responding to requests by phone or email. Many tasks only take a few minutes, but we might get dozens of requests in an hour.

    Most of the time, we can just turn to each other and say, “Hey, did you do that already?” If someone calls me about a task that the other admin was already working on, I can just transfer them to her. But when there’s just one of us in the office, I might not have any idea what the other admin has already done or was planning to do when a client she emailed two weeks ago calls me. We need to come up with a system of tracking these little tasks that’s quick, sufficiently detailed, and easy to search months or years later.

    Reply
    1. Manders

      I should mention that this system would have to be be 1) HIPAA compliant, 2) intuitive enough for people who struggle with computers to use, and 3) backed up frequently and not prone to crashes. We’ve tried out a bunch of programs that claimed to be made for this sort of note-taking, but everything was either too time-consuming or too buggy.

      Reply
  76. Not So NewReader

    Train managers (especially in retail) to count how many times a week they say “This new process will only take a few minutes.”

    One company said that at least 10 times a week, times 52 weeks a year.
    This means 520 new processes that take a few minutes. Let’s pretend the new task takes three minutes. It doesn’t, but roll with it. Let’s also say the new process only has to be done once a day. (Highly unlikely. Usually numerous times per day. But keep going.) So that is 3 minutes times 520 small tasks brings us to 1560 minutes per day have been added by the end of the year. This converts in to 26 person hours per day.

    Clearly the next action step is to reduce the number of employees.

    Managers do not grasp that you cannot keep indefinitely adding tasks with out adding crew or giving your part-timers more hours. It won’t work.

    Reply
    1. VintageLydia USA

      Its not usually the in-store or even district managers that come up with how many hours a particular store had, but some accountant at corporate who is only looking at the bottom line who never ever communicates with operations. The funnest part is that no matter how simple or efficient a new process is, there is always a week or two of extra hours needed for training. We would get 10 extra hours for one week and by the way we have 30 employees and not everyone works every week or have overlapping shifts. Also you need extra hours to set up the new process so even if the training goes off without a hitch, if you have a new inventory process that require rearranging the entire back room and parts of the sales floor to do, you need at least one over night shift for 2-3 people (including at least one manager) to accomplish without having stocking activities go on during sales hours (strictly forbidden at my old store.) Which of course was something we never got and instead of one night of extra hours it takes us over a month to finish the reorg which slowed everything down and made it all a living hell.

      Ask me why I left retail.

      Reply
    2. Marcy

      It’s not just retail. It’s office jobs, too. I actually end up working a lot of unpaid overtime because I keep getting new duties dumped on me. I’ve only been in this position and I am already assigned 12 more duties than the person who was in this position before me. I just can’t do it all without sacrificing my personal time.

      Reply
  77. Sarah

    My CEO is awful at leading staff meetings (staff of 9). Our bi-weekly meetings end up being 2 hours! I have offered to find ways of structuring the meetings to be most effective (i.e. agenda, time limit for topics, etc.). None of this has come to fruition.

    Reply
    1. Anon30

      We have the opposite problem. It’s really difficult to even get the CEO to conduct a meeting on a regular basis – they always complain that they’re too busy. And then proceed to complain and get frustrated when certain tasks get behind. Sometimes, they say – we only have 15 minutes – even when something does get scheduled.

      Reply
    2. Marcy

      We have this exact same problem- they are a minimum of 2 hours. One of my co-workers started creating an agenda for the meetings, but it hasn’t helped.

      Reply
  78. Bananka

    I work in a relatively small group of 7 people. I am a manager, however, the most junior manager on the team with zero authority. We have 3 associates on the team all of whom started within a year. They take unplanned time off or call in sick every week in addition to being habitually late to work. We have heard every possible excuse for not showing up to work, from old and tired food poisoning to scraped knee and torn stockings. Whenever there are deliverables due, I cannot count on the associates and end up doing the work myself. I am urging my senior managers to take any action, report them to HR, and at least talk to the associates, to no avail. And it seems that because there is no disciplinary action, these attendance issues just flourish. Today is our regular Monday, with only 1 out of 3 at the office. It’s almost 9 pm and i am completing the work i have been stranded with.

    Reply
      1. Bananka

        that is exactly what i’m doing ! this post was more a rant than anything else. it’s not worth dealing with this frustration.

        Reply
  79. Hunny

    How about checking data accuracy internally? We collect stats monthly from 6 different departments, filtered through several layers that are supposed to proofread it (supervisor checks that it’s inline with their knowledge of the front line staff’s work, manager gets from supervisor and checks that it makes sense compared to previous performance, director reviews and give final approval before including it in reports). But it seems no one is thinking critically about the numbers because it always gets to me and then… “Wait, why did we double our levels from last year?” Ugh!

    Reply
  80. R

    My office uses a computer system that is older than me. I’m 32. There’s a web-based system that we can use, but it’s so slow and counter intuitive that most of us choose to use the old DOS-based system. When we suggest solutions to the issues with the web-based system to make our jobs easier, we are told that changes are just 18 months away. They’ve been feeding us that same line for five years now.

    Reply
    1. Marie

      Oh, we have that joke in my office, too! “The new database will handle that.”

      I mean, I’m pretty sure my boss doesn’t think that’s a joke, but the rest of us seem to have a more accessible memory of the last five years of waiting for this heaven-sent new database.

      Reply
  81. Brett

    Wireless networking. I just hate wireless networking.

    “I can’t log into this system, what’s the password?”
    ‘You are not allowed to log into that system, use the public network password on the board.’

    “I can’t see my shared drive now.”
    ‘Because you are on the public network.’
    “Well then log me into the internal network.”
    ‘You are not allowed on that network.’

    “I’m disconnecting from this, put me on the other network with your credentials then.”
    ‘I am _not_ giving you my credentials to log in.’
    “Someone else did it last time… Hey! My wi-fi is gone!”
    ‘You didn’t disconnect. You uninstalled your drivers?!’
    “Fix it!”

    Reply
  82. Windchime

    We have a system at work where we are all required to submit two ideas for departmental improvements per year. It’s called “ACT”. There is a form to fill out, but it is buried deep within the bowels of the intranet. My first ACT idea was to move the link to someplace that’s easy to find so that people aren’t discouraged from submitting their idea when they can’t find the form!

    Sadly, that idea was rejected. We finally put a link on our team site so that at least we can find it. But seriously? it would be about a 5 minute task.

    Reply
    1. Kay

      Along a similar line, the company worked for used to have procedures requiring that each employee submit a certain number of safety recommendations per year. Unfortunately the safety team did not follow up on all of these, which left the company open to all kinds of liability. Eg – once, my dad suggested moving a bench that was blocking a fire exit. Nothing was done until he happened to see a fire marshal and ask if the bench needed moved. Why have these policies if you’re not going to use the information to actually better the company?

      Reply
      1. Ruffingit

        Yes, exactly. Don’t implement things you aren’t actually going to use or follow-up on. It’s the old suggestions box problem. If you don’t actually care/won’t do anything about or say why you can’t do something about the suggestion, then don’t bother with the box. Just accept that you don’t give a crap what your employees think or want and move on. IOW, empty gestures are harmful to morale, stop it.

        Reply
  83. Rawr

    Remembering your own damn logins.

    I’m not IT; not even close. I can physically set up the hardware and plug in your machine, but once it gets to user accounts and permissions you’ll have to talk to Boss 1, who’s the one who sets up accounts, permissions, passwords and etc. Boss 1 also likes making difficult and secure passwords (with capitals, numbers, letters and whatnot) so it’s not something insanely easy to guess.

    One particular coworker has repeatedly asked me “What’s my password to my computer/server login/email login/program login for our five different programs?” as if I would know, and because of Boss 1′s secure password processes above, there’s no way I can guess. I just give her a blank stare and tell her she’ll have to take it up with Boss 1.

    Reply
  84. mitchell

    Can we announce that someone is leaving before their vacant job is posted? I get that some people don’t want a big retirement party and its awkward when someone gets fired but how hard is it to do things in order? Step 1. Announce Jim no longer works here, send work issues to coworker Anne. Step 2. Post Jims now vacant position. Step 3. Introduce new employee!

    Reply
    1. Laura2

      Yes. Also, if you post a job that sounds suspiciously similar to Existing Employee’s job and then don’t tell them you’re just hiring a second person, you’d better be prepared for some awkward questions or for EE to spend the next month job searching instead of working.

      Reply
  85. Vox De Causa

    Our problem IS process – we’ve had a lot of turnover in the past year, and as a result, there has been a loss of knowledge. Instead of go-getters adding value to what they do, they have begun shoving work downhill or just closing tickets that aren’t really resolved (and the VP who watches their numbers loves this because it’s making them look much more efficient). I’d love to have a meeting with all of the related departments, with a list of responsibilities, and hash out who is really responsible for which pieces. As it stands, the few high-performers are doing way too much and the others are getting away with murder.

    Reply
    1. Laufey

      I can tell which of my coworkers had to wash the dishes as children, because they no only load their dishes in the machine, but they now how to maximize the loading volume.

      Reply
  86. Kay

    Not sure if this has been mentioned, but it would be really helpful if large companies would make their training and safety meetings/seminars applicable to job function and location. When I temped for a large oil company, I sat through trainings and had to sign promises to wear a hard hat in certain locations that didn’t even exist on our premises. My job was completely computer/office based, and the farthest I ever went for work was to take papers to another floor of the office building…

    Reply
  87. Jamie

    I was thinking about this and I think it’s a problem in a lot of offices.

    How do you hold people accountable for project type tasks being done on schedule when the project manager isn’t their direct supervisor.

    Everywhere I’ve worked there is always a lot more follow up required when the people responsible don’t directly report to you and it means pulling in other managers to make things a bigger deal than they should be.

    It’s not a universal problem as a lot of people are very motivated to do their jobs properly and well – but how do you address those who don’t when the task isn’t optional and it’s part of their job.

    Reply
      1. Anon30

        Hi Jamie – If a Supervisor is copied on all email correspondence, that may help with accountability? I’ve noticed that in my field. If the Supervisor is copied, it motivates the person to be more on top of the task.

        Reply
  88. Meg Murry

    People doing a half-assed job or avoiding going through official channels because of statistics or metrics. For instance, our manufacturing sites were expected to have a certain % of perfect batches with no raw material adjustments. Rather than admit to management the fact that their goal was completely unachievable, the plant would go through all kinds of things that were “not officially raw material adjustments” or test and retest the same batch over and over again until it passed to keep their metrics (and therefore bonus %) above the target. Same thing happened with defects – if a customer called about a defect, rather than go through the official channels and get dinged as a “customer complaint” but actually try to solve the problem so it didn’t happen again, they would go through all kinds of round-about channels like telling the customer to throw the defective one away and then send them a “free sample” as a replacement.

    Show me a company where the metrics are really high and only half the divisions are meeting them, and I’ll show you a division that is training their employees on how to get around the metrics.

    Reply
    1. Prickly Pear

      +1
      When my company finally figured out that our metrics couldn’t possibly be as good as they were and made them cheat-proof, so many places dropped. Of course, that was coupled with ever-higher targets, because the best way to motivate is to make an already-unreachable goal harder.

      Reply
  89. Maureen P.

    Re: telecommuting. I think this word means different things to different people. I think many, many jobs are open to the idea of allowing occasional (or regularly-scheduled) work-from-home days. I encourage my staff to work remotely, and I do so myself 2-3 times a month. However, I would absolutely not allow 100% telecommuting – it doesn’t mesh with our work culture, and face-to-face meetings are essential to our work.

    Reply
  90. Cath@VWXYNot?

    - F*&%in’ printers, man
    - Thermostat settings that keep most people happy most of the time
    - Getting people to actually use the project Wiki page rather than emailing me all the time with questions whose answers are on the Wiki
    - Doodle poll responses that actually match reality
    - Cloud computing resources with servers that are physically located in Canada so I’m allowed to use them
    - Keyboards that don’t randomly switch to French Canadian when I accidentally hit some magic key combination that seems to change weekly
    - Finally, as someone who often compiles and then edits sections of proposals contributed by different people, I would really like a function in Word that recognises, flags, and allows you to standardise any discrepant spelling or formatting choices (e.g. US vs. British spelling, different heading or bullet formats, etc.).

    Reply
    1. Anon30

      YES – +1 on Doodle poll responses. PLEASE, please give truthful answers. And please don’t email after a decision is made and distributes to say you’re not available when you said you would be!

      Reply
  91. Editor

    One technical solution I’d like to see is requiring software vendors to ask people working with the software at the lowest levels in offices about upgrades before issuing all new software packages. If Microsoft wants to keep its market share, it needs to stop jerking people around with upgrades that make things harder or more awkward to do. Software designers should have to evaluate changes to make sure people don’t have to relearn all their muscle memory because of some random change to key combinations.

    The other thing I’d like to see is some way to track work hours for white-collar employees so that if low-level exempt employees have to work more than 50 or 55 hours, they’d get overtime at some point. This is not just a technical fix, but also a legal fix, but I’d like to see something done to keep unpaid overtime under control for people who aren’t earning six figures a year. In addition, if there were sensors instead of time clocks to show when retail employees were on the premises, maybe the stores couldn’t get away with requiring people to be at work early or stay late to clean without paying them. This would also preclude having someone clock in for them. Likewise, employees out for smoke breaks at offices could be tracked, so they weren’t paid for excessive breaks; if state law allows for 15 minutes in four hours (a break in the morning and one in the afternoon), the sixth trip outside for a cigarette may mean staying late to get work time in.

    Reply
  92. Lamington

    How to fill out properly a personal performance review. Leadership told us they want 1 page of performance review like a resume and the form is 3 pages with nothing written on it. That just shows they don’t fill the form :( but keep hammering is very important for us to do. Now I even doubt they actually read them.

    Reply

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