what’s the weirdest thing your company has done in the name of boosting productivity?

What’s the weirdest or most misguided thing your company has done in the name of boosting productivity?

To start us off, here are some stories that readers shared recently:

•  “My company is on a big kick right now with a raffle happening this quarter. If you do certain things you get a ticket and can put those tickets into a drawing to win Super Awesome Prizes (that weren’t chosen when the quarter began and haven’t been announced yet.) It was initially announced as a fun, optional way to boost some numbers, and has devolved into supervisors constantly checking in to make sure you’re sending them your ticket requests and randomly doubling the amount of tickets you get for X, Y, and Z and announcing it with important pings on Teams and all the fanfare and urgency of a 90% off sale. I want money, not a raffle ticket, but I appear to be in the minority in my org (and am trying desperately to get out.) But if I get another Important ping about ‘TICKET FRENZY!!!!!’ today, I might just lose my mind.”

•  “Talked to a former coworker this week, and the company we used to work at removed all art from the walls and painted over all the murals and colored walls. Just white EVERYWHERE. Made all employees remove any decor as well. To ‘put the focus where it belongs. On your work!’
I guess they figured people were spending too much time admiring the photo of the Grand Canyon over by accounting? Or maybe the Eiffel Tower one from IKEA that was by the conference rooms was just tooooo distracting? And the gray and white diagonal stripes on the wall opposite the elevator were a REAL time suck? Apparently there was a mass exodus not long after.”

•  “Decided it was necessary to have an entire team read documents, send emails, make comments to a working file, and basically all other things as one entire unit. So for hours at a time, all 10 of us would be looking at a screen while one person reads the content outloud. Boss did this in response to improper communications going out by team members.”

Have your own stories about company productivity misfires? Share in the comments.

{ 892 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    It’s possible I could quote from some of these responses in a future column (here, not for an outside publication — although no current plans to do it) so if you don’t want me to do that with yours, please note that!

  2. SMH*

    When I worked retail the store manager would sit in security office all day, watching employees and then calling them on the store phone when he saw they weren’t working hard enough. One of the Assistant Managers handed out clipboards and don’t employees to carry them around at all times and look down at them frequently to make it look like you were doing something important.

    I worked in the back of the store in the warehouse so we rearranged our stock to block all the security cameras. This was probably a security concern (since the feed for the warehouse only showed boxes now).

    1. AcademiaCat*

      I was store manager for an owner like this. That lasted about 4 months, and resulted in a really horrible termination for me. That’s a whole other story though.

    2. Zephy*

      A veterinarian office that I worked at for about 5 weeks had a similar thing, where the doc’s wife would sit at home and watch the security feed pointed at the front desk, then call people if they looked like they weren’t working or if they were browsing the internet or whatever.

      1. irene adler*

        I cannot fathom the level of ennui one must have to find watching a security feed a productive use of one’s time.

        1. Zephy*

          Right? I also never saw this lady, she never came in to the office but maybe once or twice a year and usually didn’t bother to acknowledge the peons when she did deign to grace them with her presence (from what I was told by the person who trained me, anyway). She sounds exhausting just to be around, I can’t imagine living in her head full-time.

        2. As Per Elaine*

          I used to have to watch security footage for my job occasionally, and I can tell you, even watching on 4x speed and looking for something unusually exciting, like “dude got punched” or “laptop was stolen,” it was hands-down the most boring part of my job, and I was so glad when I got to hand it off to a newer coworker.

          1. JustaTech*

            I had to watch security-type footage of people doing a 3 hour, involved process where their bodies blocked my view at least 50% of the time (not on purpose, just because of the nature of the work and the position of the camera) as part of an investigation once.

            By the time my two coworkers and I finished watching the footage (it took about a week) we all had splitting headaches and blurred vision. And the number one thing we learned was that the guy who did the most video watching had exactly no idea what he was talking about.

          2. Reluctant Mezzo*

            This was actually her job, but my stepmother used to watch video of the Columbia River fish-counting; at least on video she could fast-forward every time the gillnets went in and the water became rather empty.

        3. I remain impressed to this day*

          We have security cameras at our office around the corner and it’s sort of TV for me. People watching, so to speak.
          Our office is next to a clinic and one day there was a bad accident right down the block. I heard the (scary!) crash and glanced at the cameras and that clinic door SLAMMED open with medical personnel pouring out at a dead run. It was amazing to see outside of my normal interactions with them; that, yes, these are well-trained nurses and doctors and, yes, they also need to sometimes respond to medical emergencies and, damn. Not even 30 seconds had passed.

          1. TW1968*

            That is amazing! Thinking they probably went from chatting about work or getting more coffee or anything mundane and then the switch goes off and these folks instantly change to crisis mode, grab their gear and are off before the average person (like me) would even recognize what happened.

            1. Jay (no, the other one)*

              It happens automatically and it’s exactly that. We were right behind a bad accident once and my husband told me he pulled over and looked at me and he could see the moment when I went from “scared and breathless passenger” to “PEOPLE NEED MEDICAL CARE RIGHT NOW” at which point I jumped out of the car and ran.

              Same thing last June when we were on a flight and they requested a doctor. When the flight attendant came to get my info afterwards for his report, my husband told him “I’ve been married to her long enough to know that my job is to get out of her way.” He was on the aisle and was out of his seat as I was unbuckling and standing up. (Emergency was minor, passenger was fine)

        4. Morning reader*

          Well, not for productivity, but sometimes I just watch my cat outside on the catio through my security camera, for awhile. But then I’m retired. And usually listening to audiobook or podcast as I watch. I’ll admit, he’s not that productive. (Although one time I managed to intercept before he brought a slightly alive mouse in… hm, maybe he is productive! There are rarely mice on the catio.)

        5. Cohort 1*

          Can you imagine being the person in a Las Vegas casino watching the zillions of security cameras they have? I’m sure it’s important, but I’d be cross-eyed and brain dead after the first hour.

      2. Pool Lounger*

        I worked in a fancy candy store where the owners did this. They’d sit at hone and watch the cameras. They didn’t provide an instruction manual for things like gift cards, returns, etc, bc they wanted you to call them if you didn’t know something. We also weren’t allowed to read, or just hang out behind the counter, wven when the bery small store was very slow and totally clean and stocked. You had to putter around or you’d get a phone call. Also they played the same 15 pop Christmas songs for 2 months.

          1. Flash Packet*

            I worked at a tiny clothing store in a mall eons ago. We were told to not stand near each other, not to strike up any conservations with each other, and to always, always, ALWAYS “look busy” even if that meant pawing through the same circular rack of shirts over and over again for hours on end.

            Because the store was so small, we had to be aware of where each other was so we could maintain the “non-conversational” distance. Anyone watching from a distance would have thought we were performing an intricate dance with each other.

            The store sold really cool clothes for the target market of teens through late 20’s. We had the most up-to-the-minute pop and rock songs blasting through the speakers in the ceiling. It was supposed to be a club / party atmosphere in order to draw The Young People in.

            Yet we salespeople were like the walking dead, circling and circling the clothing racks, mindlessly running our hands down each garment, stuck in a constant loop of meaningless motion.

              1. "It was hell," says former child.*

                You made me reread that paragraph in a Werner Herzog voice. Totally!

                Hmm, he’s already done Antarctica, and a man who foolishly thought he could commune with the bears. Now that he’s getting older, it might be time to slow down and do The Panopticon of Retail.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          I worked at a shoe store like this. I would work 4-6 hour shifts where not ONE single person would come it. Had to look busy though! Everything was dusted, stocked, organized, vacuumed, perfect. You could not sit and read quietly and discreetly. It was before cell phones. Had to look alert. It was horrible. Literally sat there staring out into the void with a productive look on your face.

          1. Worldwalker*

            I’ve worked at (and managed) the opposite: we never had enough staff, or enough hours to allocate to staff, and were constantly running around like chickens with our collective heads cut off trying to get less behind (actually catching up wasn’t going to happen) Boredom was definitely not a problem. I don’t know if I’d rather have to pretend to be busy instead of being actually (and frantically) busy — each is its own kind of hell — but c’mon, Corporate, there should be a happy medium.

        2. AcademiaCat*

          That sounds suspiciously like my experience with this. Fancy candy store in New England with belligerent owners? Owner living in Florida or something? After he fired me (I should have contested the cause, I got injured and the next day suddenly “hadn’t been doing my job properly”) I realized how much illegal nonsense he was pulling, but was too preoccupied with my health to deal with filing anything about it.

        3. Dry Erase Aficionado*

          “Also they played the same 15 pop Christmas songs for 2 months”

          Surely that’s an OSHA violation, isn’t it?

          1. Pam Adams*

            When movie videos were just starting to be a thing. McDonald’s ran a promotion where you could BUY a video for the low, low sum of $5. My store played Dances with Wolves and the 2nd Indiana Jones movie over and over for the month of December.

          2. Alexander Graham Yell*

            I worked at Express in college and we had one (1) CD for the holidays and one (1) CD for the rest of the year. For 2 years I was haunted by a song that would play every 45 minutes, and the only thing I ever knew about the song was the chorus included the line “Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow.”

            I am 36 years old and I still have nightmares about mid-aughts Express and that song.

            1. Mongrel*

              Oohhh – I know the song. I only know it as the bouncy indie-pop banger.
              I can certainly see how it would become the stuff of nightmares though.

            2. kicking-k*

              When I was a student I waitressed in a hotel restaurant which played classical music on a tape loop on the dinner shift. That wasn’t too bad. But the breakfast shift had terrible covers of Sixties hits, going round and round and round. “Mr Tambourine Man” at 6am… I should be glad they didn’t have “Hotel California”.

            3. Wade*

              I never, ever want to hear “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” again. From Black Friday through early January, every store and shopping mall on the planet plays it every five minutes. Multiply this by decades of Christmases, and you start wishing you had a time machine so you could kill the songwriter’s grandfather to prevent his birth.

              And nobody ever plays the *good* Christmas music like Adeste Fidelis, O Holy Night, Good King Wenceslas, God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen. Only the pop crap.

              1. Wenike*

                One of my coworkers plays a game with his friends every year on who can last the longest before hearing Last Christmas. No calling someone to play the song for them or other ways of forcing it.

            4. Reluctant Mezzo*

              My husband, back in the day, ran movies for a college audience for free or for a dollar to provide something for them to do that didn’t involve protesting (early 70’s). To this day he can recite the entire script of REBEL WITH OUT A CAUSE and SLEEPER.

              “Checking the cell structure…”

    3. ferrina*

      I worked somewhere that had security cameras everywhere (not always a bad thing- got me out of a bad situation with a customer accusation). But I also got scolded a couple times for sitting in a non-sanctioned place (not dangerous, just not pre-approved)

    4. cardigarden*

      I worked grocery for a bit and was on the opening shift Sunday mornings (6am-11am). The store would have 8 registers open (from open) even though we’d have less than 50 customers before around 8:00. We were also given the “look busy” spiel, which was ridiculous because how can I look busy if I can’t leave my register and there isn’t anyone checking out? Solutions my manager gave me: clean the belt every 5 minutes and fiddle with the candy display. Absolutely bananas.

      1. irene adler*

        Whenever I see a cashier or staff doing these tasks, I walk away as I don’t want to interrupt them. Cuz I know they work hard and it’s unkind to interrupt folks if you don’t need to.

        IOW, as a customer I fail to see how the “look busy” method makes for a better customer experience (isn’t that the point?). I wish more managers would think like customers and less like control freaks.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I once worked at a store where they wanted us cleaning the shelves in the aisles when there were no customers, but would lose their shit if we didn’t instantly teleport back to the register when a customer approached it. Like…yeah, I got there as fast as I could, but I’m not magic.

          1. Failed Receptionist*

            I was a receptionist for an archive, so I greeted people coming in and reviewed the rules, etc etc
            I was also supposed to re-shelve items that were pulled.
            My supervisor would get annoyed if I sat at the desk ‘doing nothing’ but was equally annoyed if I was shelving, and thus not at my desk, when someone new entered.
            I was fired after 6 months.
            I’m still not sure how I was supposed to appear busy, but not leave the reception desk.

          2. Thursday Next*

            When I worked for St*ples they got rid of the front of store swing position that could tidy up and greet customers, so they demanded that those on cashier shift go to the door and greet anyone entering. And of course only one person at a time was on cashier duty.

            So the second I got through a wave of customers, the wanted me to go: left, right, right to get out from behind the register booth, 6ft fwd then right to get out of the aisle, then 20-30ft to be near the doors- but keep my eyes behind me at all times for if anyone ventured towards the (now unattended) checkout aisle.

            I tried for like half of one day, then just stopped and stuck by the register because it was ridiculous/impossible. I was one of their best employees and looking for a better job anyway, so I just Bartleby‘ d their absurd bilocation.

            1. Thursday Next*

              Oh one more Staples Story- We also had mandatory (off the books) minimums for how many new rewards accounts we signed people up for per week, and got talked to if it was below the target. Even if literally every customer that week was already a rewards member, doesn’t matter. You need 20 (or whatever) new signups.

              So we’d fill out fake signups with e.g. Bart Simpson at 123 Fake St, and scan them in. I don’t even think we needed to give a real email or phone, just name and fake address, so it’s not like we ended up spamming any real person.

              If your metric is 20 no matter what, 20 you shall get.

        2. Mangled Metaphor*

          “I fail to see how the “look busy” method makes for a better customer experience (isn’t that the point?)”

          Nope. Fairly often the customer doesn’t really factor into it. It’s all about what the company is paying for. They’re paying for labour; constant, robotic, labour. Because they have to justify their costs, because costs affect profit and profit is king. The customer is the incoming part of the equation, but they can’t control it (they can’t strong arm people into the store to spend money!) so they focus on the outgoing bit they can control.
          (I wish more of this was sarcasm).

          1. Mongrel*

            I think there’s a large part that’s just, plain old terrible management as well, either through being taught by the old guard “We’ve always done it like this” and\or the wrong people being promoted to managerial positions with no training, the bad employees who went full on gumption.

          2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Sometimes they look so busy you barely dare to interrupt… I’ve already left a store without buying anything because I didn’t dare ask the busy staff for help.

        3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Living in a place where retail work is definitely more laid back than in the US, I can say that it can be very annoying to be needing help from staff but they’re all laughing out the back.
          Once I was trying very hard to get someone’s attention in a bakery, I just wanted a tin of toffees. I would have just left the money there but only had a big note, like €50 for a tin costing maybe €7. Finally my friend said, OK let’s just take the toffees. We started to leave, and suddenly two guys came running out after us threatening to call the police. I showed the €50 note I had got out, and said I’d be happy to pay, but needed change. A guy took the note, and the other said he shouldn’t give a thief change, but the first guy realised that we could then call the police and it would involve theft of a higher sum of money than the toffees were worth.
          My friend wasn’t white, which may have explained the high level of hostility without excusing it in the least of course.

          Again, we need a happy medium where workers are not exploited and people can have a pleasant shopping experience.
          The toffees weren’t even particularly good.

      2. Chaordic One*

        I worked in the produce department of a grocery store where they had this morbid fascination with “looking busy” and constantly doing something, anything, even if it wasn’t something that actually needed doing. God forbid that I stop for just a moment to stand back and take a look at something, like just to get an idea of what really needed to be done next, to see where there might be things that were misplaced by customers or something like that. It was unnecessarily exhausting.

      3. EC*

        I worked as a cashier in high school, and I used to love the Sunday morning shift. There would be no one in the place, and our manager wasn’t there. So I could read while there were no customers instead of having to straighten the candy or endlessly wash the belt.

        I always wondered why the hell a customer would care. I don’t care if the cashier is reading, or talking to their coworker while not ringing people up instead of dusting the gum. My one and only concern is getting my stuff rung up quickly, silly busy work doesn’t do anything for that. If they’re away from the register doing some “look busy” task, it takes longer for me to get checked out.

        1. FreakInTheExcelSheets*

          I worked a couple different hotel jobs in college with massively different experiences. Both were very clearly student roles (internships) but at the first I was allowed to study/do homework at the front desk because my manager said “no one is going to complain if you take a few extra seconds to respond when there’s a textbook in front of you”. At the second, literally the entire front desk was students from the hospitality college next door, and someone got upset that we were using the computers for school stuff (certain professors loved making assignments only open from 3-7pm, aka in the middle of your shift), so they turned off the internet to these computers…which then meant we also couldn’t look up the places guests wanted directions to (yes this was the era of smartphones, no I don’t know why they’d still ask us for directions).

    5. Terrible as the Dawn*

      My store managers were big on making all the sales staff carry certain brochures in their back pockets and were stunned STUNNED, I tell you, when we informed them that most womens’ pants did not have functional back pockets.

      1. ethanmomma*

        One flip side, I once borrowed my husband’s jeans & I was STUNNED by the pockets in his jeans. So much room! I had no idea. lol.

    6. Yoyoyo*

      I worked at a movie theater in high school and college. In my college days, I often worked the weekday matinees which were about as busy as you would expect. It didn’t take much work to serve the customers and keep the stand clean, and my supervisors were cool with me doing homework if I didn’t have any actual work to do. The owner, however, insisted that everyone look busy at all times and liked to pop in unannounced. So I would basically make sure to have a roll of paper towels and some cleaner near me at all times in order to “clean” the already clean counters should he come in. It was very much “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” Sometimes I would take a pair of scissors and trim loose threads from the carpet to look busy, too.

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        “Sometimes I would take a pair of scissors and trim loose threads from the carpet to look busy, too.”

        Amazing.

      2. baseballfan*

        I had a similar dilemma in college when I worked at a restaurant. The owners would come in and complain to the manager if someone didn’t look busy. Part of my job as cashier was to clean the menus (it was a Mexican restaurant, so people were always dripping salsa). Even if I had just finished cleaning a pile of menus, I would immediately start cleaning the same ones again just to be in motion.

        The owners also would sit at a table for hours doing paperwork and expected to be waited on. And they never tipped. I guess they thought providing employment was tip enough. Nevermind that they took up a table preventing customers who actually tipped, to sit there.

    7. I am just here for the free pizza*

      I once worked someplace where my manager told me to always be carrying a folder when I was walking around so it looked like I was working. Even if I was just going to the restroom or the break room. That was some of the best advice I ever got.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Amazing how carrying a clipboard or a folder turns you from a loafing, empty-handed walker to a busy employee on a mission (especially if you walk quickly and pretend to refer to something on/in the clipboard/folder as you go)

        1. BatManDan*

          When the Dilbert (comic strip) website was interactive and a lot more entertaining, some guy posted that he won a bet and cost a few people their jobs by betting his boss’s boss that he could do 8 hours of nothing at all and not get questioned a single time. He won by walking around with a clipboard, occasionally pausing and pretending to take notes.

          1. TechWorker*

            ‘Cost a few people their jobs’ – well that seems entirely unreasonable… I would notice if one of my reports did no work for a day.. but immediately on that day? Probably not if they were deliberately looking busy…

            1. Worldwalker*

              I’m assuming the people who lost their jobs were managers, etc., who should have realized they had this dude wandering around doing nothing. Possibly they were already on shaky ground for slacking, and this incident hammered in the nail.

          2. Worldwalker*

            You can get away with almost anything if you’re carrying a clipboard. Walk into an employees-only area and nobody challenges you, because you’ve got a clipboard; you must be someone important they don’t know. (outdoors, a hard hat and/or hi-vis vest may also be required, depending on location)

            1. Free Meerkats*

              So very true.
              When a fellow sailor friend gave birth in the early 80s, no one except family was allowed to visit her in the maternity ward. Her family was on the other coast and the father was deployed. So I put on my meatcutter’s white coat, hung my mechanic’s stethoscope around my neck, grabbed a clipboard and walked right in to see her.
              In addition to the hard hat and hi-vis clothing, if your vehicle has lots of flashing yellow lights, you can park almost anywhere.

            2. Sara without an H*

              My late father was an insurance adjustor, i.e., the one who looks at your property and decides how much of the damage the insurance company will pay for. After a couple of decades in the business, Dad told me that, if you wear a hard hat and carry a clip board, you can walk into any building on earth and nobody will stop you. They’ll just assume you’re supposed to be there.

            3. WS*

              When I was working in a hospital pharmacy I had someone show up with a clipboard, looking busy and they asked me to open the door. I told them to scan their badge in (my hands were full at the time) and then they ran away. I thought that was weird, so I told people about it. The guy tried it again the next week, at a different time, but by now security was alert and they were arrested. Turned out to be a former hospital employee who was fired (and deregistered and briefly jailed) for stealing medication, back for another try.

        2. SMH*

          Exactly. At one point about a quarter of employees in the store got written up, including everyone I was friends with. The Store Manager called me in. I assumed I was getting written up, but instead SM thanked me for how hardworking I was. I always made sure to carry around a clipboard and I walk very fast, so he assumed I was super busy and productive (I was not, I’m just good at BS’ing).

        3. Lady Catherine du Bourgh*

          This is like that thing going around social media where people test the theory that you can go anywhere at all if you have a safety vest on and carry a ladder.

          1. Worldwalker*

            A college friend of mine and his buddy stole a canoe from a Sears on a dare — the manager held the door for them. (they put it back)

    8. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      I worked as Receptionist/Dispatch/File clerk for an electrical contractor, whose Accounts Payable/Inventory person worked at the far end of the hall. The boss’ office was off this hall, so he could see when we walked past. This was before computers were really much of a thing (and this particular office was incredibly backward–we had to type contracts out on a typewriter, because they had to be triplicate carbons “for legal reasons” even though by that time most companies had moved off to just printing out duplicates from Word. Anyway) so the files were actually files, which I was creating or adding or whatever. In the course of my job duties, AP and I often had to physically hand files off to one another, which necessitated walking down the hall past Boss’ office.

      Naturally, if Boss saw us walking down the hall, he assumed we were just strolling down to gossip, *unless* he saw we were clearly “on task”. I quickly figured out that if I had to deliver one file folder, or if I had to go get something from AP, I should always carry a spare file or sheaf of papers, so that I would never be passing his door empty handed either coming or going.

      Neither I nor AP lasted longer than a month there. That place was a quintessential example of the “small business/bad employer” stuff we see here on AAM all the time.

      1. Fergus but Not*

        Why does small business/bad employer always go hand in hand? I have seen it myself first hand.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Because so many people think because they’re good at one thing — selling thingies, let’s say — they’re good at everything in business, like managing. Things that are their own whole complex skill sets. You see that a lot with restaurants, which is one reason why so many restaurants fail so quickly: someone decides that since they love to cook, they should open a restaurant, because how hard can the whole running-a-business thing be, really? As they find out the first time payroll is a mess, three purveyors are calling to complain they haven’t been paid, and there’s some kind of crawly thing living under the grill … very hard.

          A friend of mine — and business owner for 40+ years — said that the first employee you hire should be an accountant. And he’s right. Whatever your specialty is, it’s likely not accounting. Nor management, nor design, nor any of the other things that are involved in running a successful business. And these very small (especially family-owned) businesses just don’t get that.

          To would-be entrepreneurs: Know what you don’t know, and hire or outsource specialists who *do* know it, lest you wind up on AAM!

          1. Corgis rock*

            Or instead of being good at one aspect of the business they were a customer of a similar business and enjoyed that so it should be super fun to get to do that all day everyday. Like they love to workout so owning a gym is perfect for them. Only the customer experience and the owner experience are two completely different things.

        2. Seven If You Count Bad John*

          I have a couple of theories actually. One is, small businesses are often (not always!) operated by people who are running their own business because they kind of… can’t get along… inside of a larger corporation, and they struck out on their own to “get away from the BS” or “be their own boss”. Like, underneath it all, the whole *reason* they are there is because they can’t make it anywhere else, and *have to* make it on their own somehow. But the personality traits that make them a Difficult Fit at, say, Siemens or IBM or someplace, also make them Difficult *in general*, and they end up leaning into those idiosyncrasies in ways that are hard to course correct with external feedback because they are The Boss and you’re just the temp receptionist.

          Also, because small businesses are small, the impact of one bad colleague is disproportionate. (You also see this in siloed teams inside larger companies.) Likewise the impact of bad luck or risks that don’t pan out. So there’s kind of a trickle down effect where because those bosses are bad at hiring, the kinds of people they hire are the kinds of people who also kind of can’t get along anywhere else. And anybody who can get out, will, which means anybody who sticks around is equally dysfunctional in ways that let them fit in and survive in that environment. And again, there’s no external evolutionary pressure to change that, as long as the bills are getting paid and Boss is happy.

          1. Mangled Metaphor*

            Huge +1000 to your first theory.
            Throw in a natural tendency towards over-control/micromanagement and *massive* trust issues and you have every small business owner my husband and I have ever worked for.

            If I were to be generous, I could lean towards this being related to the fact it’s their money on the line of something goes wrong – it’s not the same as a corporation with shareholders, it’s literally their livelihood as well as yours. Doesn’t excuse, but might explain.

        3. Cedrus Libani*

          Natural selection. Small businesses can be profitable even if they’re terribly managed. If you’re the owner of a small retail store, you can absolutely spend all day watching your employees on the surveillance cameras to make sure they never sit down. Your store might be more profitable if you spent that time on marketing, reading up on industry trends, or even working the register yourself to save on head count. But nobody’s going to make you do the smart thing.

          If you want to be a big business, you need investors. There’s a lot of competition for investment money, and those who get it are the ones who can prove that they’re making good use of that money. If the local boss is a petty tyrant, she’s very likely to underperform her targets, and that won’t go over well with the regional boss. Corporate has its discontents, but at least this sort of thing is usually dealt with quickly – when your subordinate’s screamy jerkwagon fun time is wrecking your numbers and putting your bonus at risk, you will ensure that it stops.

    9. Francie Foxglove*

      A friend of mine was managing a Burger King around the time that places like that were getting scam calls — remember? “I’m a police officer, and one of your young, blonde, female employees stole from the register, so I need you to strip search her.” My friend never got one of those calls, but he was always reviewing the security footage, and did catch two different people stealing. So his response would have been, “Well, let me check the security footage.” And the scammer would have hung up.

    10. Viva*

      My first restaurant job was in a 24 hour store, and it was not unheard of for the franchise owner to watch the store cameras on her phone at 2 AM and then call the store to yell at the overnight manager for whatever she thought was going wrong.

      One of my coworkers spent an entire eight hour shift with a broom in his hand, striding purposefully back and forth across the store. No one questioned him.

    11. Shiba Dad*

      One place I worked had security cameras in place when I got there. There were three cameras. They were pointed at 1) the copier, 2) the hallway amongst the cubes and 3) at the interior door to the parts room (it also had an outside entrance). Obviously worried more about employees screwing around than security.

      This owner had also hired an efficiency expert prior to when I started. This expert told him that he was the problem, so there is that.

  3. UKgreen*

    Oh, boy, this is going to be good!

    I worked as an IT trainer years ago at a company that updated all of its PC hardware and software (good) and also removed all desk phones and replaced them with mobile phones (VERY NOT GOOD since there was little if any mobile signal anywhere in the building…)

    But having a mobile is so much more freeing and means you can answer a call from anywhere!!!

    1. ZSD*

      Our desk phones have been removed, and now we make calls though our computers using Teams. Many people are dismayed.

        1. Phony Genius*

          Now you know the real reason IT did this. Gets rid of that pesky problem of help requests from annoying users.

        2. Miss Fisher*

          They just did this at my work. They sent out an email saying that if we didn’t have soft phones (we don’t because they won’t give us laptops and get rid of the old towers) we would need to buy headphones with a microphone in it to use. I am not spending anymore money on something I won’t use. Even my phone doesn’t have a jack for head phones anymore, so it really would be for the office.

          1. Chexwarrior*

            I’m not a lawyer, but doesn’t the employer have to pay for any items that are considered job required? So if you must have a soft phone, or headphones with mic then they have to pay for at least one of those. And if they won’t give you laptops/soft phones then they can’t make you pay for headphones

            1. *daha**

              I am not a lawyer either. I understand that in some industries workers are expected to provide their own tools. Example: auto mechanics.

              1. Gatomon*

                That’s more the exception than the rule. An office job that requires phone usage should provide a way to make and receive calls for employees.

            2. Wetpigeon*

              Not a federal American law. The only time an employer needs to pay for equipment is if that equipment is related to a law, e.g., employers need to provide you with a hardhat if you work in a place where you have to wear a hardhat to comply with OSHA guidelines

        1. No Longer Looking*

          Most company phone networks are ultimate VOIP lines anyway, so when the network goes down the phones will go down even if you have a pretty Cisco or Polycom set on your desk.

      1. Moira Rose*

        Ditto. If I have to call the help desk, I have to use my personal cell phone now, because if I call from my computer THAT ISN’T WORKING, at some point they’ll reboot the machine and END OUR CALL.

        1. ICodeForFood*

          Same here. Whenever there’s a problem, the helpdesk’s first line of defense is to ask us to reboot… which, of course, disconnects any call.

          1. Mangled Metaphor*

            That’s why my husband who works in IT support will always ask for an (or give his own) alternative number in case they get disconnected during a support call.
            I fail to see the problem with moving to softphones – we weren’t going to be able to have our handsets on our kitchen tables, bedroom floors, actual home offices, so 2020 just started a new way of doing things we haven’t reversed. Anyone who has since returned to the office has returned their “landline” to storage.
            (We have one exception – a lovely older gentleman whose hearing aids aren’t compatible with the (emergency) softphone headsets we were given at the start of lockdown, so he bought (and was compensated) his own version of a handset to use at home that he’s brought back into the office with him. New hires get a little confused why Ben has “extra weird equipment”)

      2. still anon*

        I’m loving this at my workplace. Half the time calls don’t ring through to my public-facing number so people email me instead. Perfect.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I worked somewhere that got rid of landlines, so all the phones were VOiP. Not terrible except for three things:

      1. If the internet went down, so did the phones.

      2. Sometimes the phones would stop working randomly & the only way to fix it was to disconnect them from your computer, then restart your entire computer. Since I didn’t use my phone a lot or get many calls, I would then realize that I had missed calls from weeks before.

      3. They changed vendors more than once & never arranged to keep the same phone numbers, which meant websites & printed material had to be updated & people needed new business cards (still a Thing then). We were a health insurance company, so external people would call old numbers all the time. Eventually, they stopped putting desk phone numbers on business cards.

      I stopped bothering to learn my own desk phone number.

      1. What She Said*

        Our work campus has two landline phones for emergencies. That’s of course assuming in an emergency we can access those locations. Not everyone has a key to those locations either. Though we do love power outages. No computers and no phones, time to go home then.

        1. JustaTech*

          I had to demand a landline phone for my lab after the wireless phone (it used WiFi) stopped working after the old IT guy left. It took me 5 months to get a working phone in a lab space (so, potentially dangerous and people working alone) that had no cell coverage. I finally had to raise a stink with our Health and Safety person to get a phone because the IT people kept saying “well then use your desk phone” – it’s nearly half a city block between my lab and my desk.

          1. Nea*

            I was caught in a vaguely similar situation once when I started a new job. I couldn’t log in, and the only “help” I got from absolutely all of my co-workers and IT when I finally found a phone number for them was “Well, it’s easy, just go to the online help desk and file a ticket.”

            1. JustaTech*

              On my first day at this job I sat down at my new computer and turned it on, and nothing happened. IT had forgotten to give me a power cable (to a tower). So I sat there like a goose until someone else came who knew the Help Desk number (who actually came down immediately with a new cable).

            2. Environmental Compliance*

              My previous job’s IT would send an email out when the email servers went down, and then proceed to get hissy about the number of IT tickets submitted through the online help desk because they sent an email out!!!1! You all need to learn to check your emails!!1!

              I tried to explain once how absolutely nonsensical this was and it was worse than talking to a brick wall, because at least brick walls don’t argue back.

          2. Artemesia*

            In universities it helps to raise the specter of safety especially if you are a woman working alone at night. I got a phone that way after being told it would be 6 months (before cell phones).

        2. Free Meerkats*

          We not only have a few landline phones to augment the VOIP system, but we have a satphone in case the landlines go down. Of course, we’re an essential utility.

      2. Bit o' Brit*

        I’m definitely the minority, but I like having softphones. Installing the app on my smartphone means I never need to use the awful headsets we have, and it allowed our call-handling team to work from home finally.

      3. Lady Ann*

        My workplace did this too, and one of our locations is a 200-year-old building with the worst internet. It doesn’t work great, but then again, the landline phones would go down whenever it rained, so I guess it’s not technically any worse.

        1. Observer*

          That’s the thing. In our case our internet connection was actually more solid than our POTS line, so moving to VOIP was an improvement. (Now, both our VOIP and POTS lines are coming in over fiber, so it’s all much more solid.)

      4. Rex Libris*

        Yep, we made the VoIP move a few years ago. We now have phones that go down about once a month instead of well, never. The most fun feature was that all our new phone numbers were recently recycled cellphone numbers, so I now look forward to multiple calls each day concerning my auto warranty, my student loans, lowering my credit card interest, etc. etc. that I never got on our old landlines. It’s made it impossible to answer my phone if the caller ID shows an unknown number.

      5. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        I *THINK* the last time I used the phone on my desk was 7 years ago for a Webex conference. Of course, the last two years don’t count, since I haven’t been in my office.

    3. Le Sigh*

      Not a phone thing, but an old job of mine once decided to crackdown on internet use at work and installed filters with much stricter controls that didn’t seem to have a lot of flexibility (this was a long time ago and our IT dept wasn’t the best). Among the websites they blocked? The very sites we ran for clients.

      It lasted about three days before the client-facing team nearly staged a riot.

      1. CowWhisperer*

        That one made me laugh out loud.

        When I taught, some of the websites I’d want the students to use for Bio or Chem activities would be blocked by the school’s filter as games.

        I’d send out very nice IT guy a note that I needed a site unblocked because someone had actually made balancing equations enjoyable and damn, we want in on that!

        That made him laugh and add it to the safe list.

      2. DrFresh*

        This reminds me of the time (three jobs ago?) when IT decided to roll out a new security system that also blocked websites. The head of the project went on vacation the day it was unrolled. It was an out of the box, completely unedited blocking vocabulary. Everything related to body parts were blocked. We were a hospital.

        This also included the hospital website and Gmail which was the backbone of all the medical student’s emails (despite having a non-Gmail domain). Everything was nixed when the CEO complained about not being to access their email.

        Good times.

        1. Another Heather*

          I am work for a school. Our current filtering software is blocking some sites affiliated with our state’s department of education.

  4. Brain the Brian*

    Removed overtime pay for the accounting department in the middle of our annual audit to “encourage efficiency in responding to requests.” That went over about as well as taxes in 1775 Boston.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        The audit took about two months longer than it would have otherwise and pissed off our auditors. We’re a NICRA-eligible USG contractor, so the delay in audit results also delayed our NICRA finalization that year… which then delayed project closeout for numerous USG awards and pissed off a lot of important USG customer reps. Oh, and half the accounting department quit within the next year. It went really well, in other words. :D

    1. Rain's Small Hands*

      This didn’t have to do with productivity, but did have to do with liabilities on the books. I worked for a firm where you could carry over two weeks of vacation into the next year. Their fiscal year end was a calendar year end. So they always pushed to get everything installed so it could be capitalized – over the Christmas holidays. That wasn’t great, but the people who worked there had been living it for years and they’d move their vacation into the next year if it happened (and usually the management at low levels would give comp time on top of it because they knew how much this hit work life balance).

      Then they decided to get rid of the carryover of vacation. So if you had planned vacation over Christmas, but your project got pushed back just a bit, you suddenly needed to work to get it capitalized that year AND lost not only the vacation you were planning to take, but the time since vacation had become use it or lose it with a year end date. And they clamped down on the managers who would say “oh, take a few extra days since you had to be here over the holidays.”

      Were they shocked when a ton of people just up and quit … why of course they were. It was one thing to have to come in between Christmas and New Years, it was another when you lost your PTO to come in between Christmas and New Years.

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Dude. If my PTO had originally been approved and the project had been pushed back, I would just say, “I’m sorry, my PTO is part of my compensation, and we’ll just have to push this project back further because I’m not able to change my plans”. I would not allow my vacation to be lost. Period.

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          It was pretty much choose to loose it or get fired. So a lot of people just quit. It was not a situation where you could say no and keep your job.

          There were lots of problems with that firm that were similar.

          1. Skytext*

            Yeah, I still would’ve refused and let them fire me rather than quit, then collected unemployment.

            1. MurpMaureep*

              Yeah I’m surprised people quit rather than get fired since if they were fired they could more easily file for unemployment. Also would have been interesting to see what they did when multiple people put them in that position.

            1. Rain's Small Hands*

              If they quit, they got the PTO. If they got fired, nope. If they worked through the holidays as demanded, no they didn’t get their PTO.

              (Most of them didn’t quit at that holiday season, they waited for new jobs and then quit – February and March were when the whole “nope, I’m out of here” happened. I was gone by June – I didn’t have a job where I got caught in the having to give up Christmas thing, but had no desire to work for a company that worked that way.)

    2. JayNay*

      this is the best case for malicious compliance i’ve ever heard. Oh no overtime pay? Sounds like i’ll clock out at 5 pm sharp every single day and will make sure to tell all my teammates about that as well.

    3. Hannah Lee*

      We had a variation – management announced they would be reclassifying several departments of workers to be eligible for overtime pay. So for several weeks, they had us all track and submit our actual hours, so they’d have a sense to what to budget for, and mentioned that the pay change would be retroactive to when we started tracking.
      And track our hours we did, and as they added up we were all horrified (gosh, I didn’t realize I was working 60 hours a week -eek!) and a bit gleeful (look at how much back pay I’m gonna get when the change goes through!)
      But when management saw all the hours, they realized how expensive it would be to actually pay people for the hours they’d already worked, and would be working in the upcoming busiest season of the year, they completely backtracked with a ‘never mind’ and left every thing as it was.
      They claimed that when they’d looked at the job classifications, they said the company wasn’t required to pay any employees in those departments for overtime. (Narrator’s voice: According the the US Department of Labor, the company, in fact, required to pay ALL those employees for overtime)
      So all that little Track Your Time project managed to do was remind everyone how many hours they were working and then piss them off when management flipped-flopped on paying them because it would be too much. (while executives were raking in 6 and 7 figure bonuses/stock grants) Oh, and got a few employees to actually look into employment law and realize the company was purposely mis-classifying multiple workers.
      Plus, bonus!, most workers in those departments stopped putting in extra hours, right as the busiest sales period started and the company needed all the orders processed to meet its quarterly sales targets. Oops!

      1. Corgis rock*

        Clearly people were working slowly to take advantage of that overtime pay and by eliminating it they would stop goofing off and get their work done.
        Because it’s completely possible to get 60 hours of work done in 40 hours.

    4. Maverick Jo*

      Worked in a professional ITSales company. My boss was having issues with higher management. He kept delaying the sales teams reviews. So to motivate HIM, the CFO threatened to withhold his paycheck and the sales people’s paycheck. Us sales folks knew nothing of this.

      Sales Boss still didn’t get the reviews completed. All of my instant payment bills hit my account, my paycheck didn’t. So I was punished for the Sales Boss insubordination. Thankfully, the company paid for my bounced account charges. Terrible motivator. Sales Boss didn’t last long after that.

      1. Observer*

        I hope that the CFO also didn’t last long. That’s a RIDICULOUS thing to do. Also, totally illegal.

    5. Nina*

      My company removed overtime pay for a whole swath of people last week. I’m not sure if Finance realize yet that my team’s (highly visible, huge consequences for the company if we don’t hit the deadline) crunch time is coming up… next week! Are they going to get people working overtime, no they are not.

    6. Allura Vysoren*

      My company once did the opposite. We were underpaid and severely understaffed, so management announced that we would be “allowed” to work up to 5 hours of overtime a week.

    7. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

      Completely off topic, but I noticed your name. Are you a Space:1999 fan, by any chance?

  5. Neon*

    It’s not very dramatic, but IMO the weirdest approach I’ve ever seen bosses take is pitching “the shareholders” as somebody we should all be very concerned about.

    It sounds like “We all have to do our part for the shareholders” or similar.

    I’m all for helping *customers*. In my industry they do legitimately important work – plus they provide the money that pays my salary. I’ll do almost any legal/moral thing to help out a customer in a jam.

    I’m happy to help (most of) my *colleagues*. They’re worker bees in the trenches with me, trying to get useful stuff done in challenging circumstances.

    But shareholders? The people who aren’t doing any work but expect to get paid anyway? I don’t see them helping to solve problems or build product – they’re basically parasites. They might be a necessary evil, but they’re sure not somebody who I’m willing to go above and beyond for.

      1. Friendlygoat*

        In my company the largest shareholder is the ceo, the company president is the 2nd largest shareholder.

        In companies that pay their C-suite primarily in stock, of course they want you. To consider the shareholders.

      2. JustaTech*

        Given that the shareholders of my company decided that they cared more about quarter-by-quarter profits than an actual medicine and drove our stock into the ground (stock that employees were locked out of selling until it was of so little value I would have had to pay to get rid of it), pushed us into bankruptcy and got us sold to EvilCorp, my opinion of shareholders *starts* at unprintable and escalates from there.

    1. Roy G. Biv*

      This. I feel the need to shield my customers from the tomfoolery of what leadership and/or mythical shareholders want. The person paying for product is who I will protect.

    2. Spearmint*

      Yeah this is weird. Of course the CEO cares what shareholders think because they are the CEO’s boss, but shareholders far too removed from normal employees at the company for them to care.

    3. Jaques*

      Ah yes, I worked once for a small business owner who would chastise us for not bringing in enough money by telling us that she “needed to be able to pay her mortgage!”. This didn’t go over well considering we were making minimum wage and her mortgage was for a multimillion dollar home in what is infamous for being the uppity suburb in my area. It did not convince me to work harder and in fact sent me looking for other jobs.

      1. FrigidLizard*

        When I worked retail I had a manager who was pushing us to increase the number of pre-sells we were doing in a month so that she could win a company contest for store-level managers.
        How did she motivate us? Did she offer to split the prize with her employees or provide some other incentive? No, she just made it clear that she wanted that prize and expected us to make it happen for her.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      Thank Milton Friedman. He popularized the ideology that a business exists for the sole purpose of maximizing return on investment for shareholders. Not to idealize capitalism before then, but it was considered legitimate to talk about stuff like being a good corporate member of the community. Under the new regime, a charitable donation is stealing from the shareholders unless you justify it as marketing.

      1. Small Investor*

        Milton Friedman used to claim sweatshops were good for society and minimum wage laws bad, because it was better for people to be employed at *any* wage because … actually, I disagreed so vehemently that I don’t remember his justification.
        But shareholders are the source of capital for the business to exist. If nobody wants to invest in a company, the cost of borrowing instead is higher, requiring more revenue to cover the costs of financing. Also, a lot of investment is by (or on behalf of, through pension or retirement funds) individuals putting their savings to work, not the plutocrats. Shareholders aren’t intrinsically evil.
        I blame the analysts who insist that margins have to keep going up, up, up, or they’ll downgrade a stock. A reasonable rate of return that is consistent should be enough – I know that’s what I’m looking for when I invest my savings.

        1. Neon*

          I agree that they’re not intrinsically evil, but they’re also not very motivating and bosses would do well to find another battle cry.

          “Do it for the good of the pension funds!” isn’t likely to get many people to stay late or check e-mails over the weekend etc.

      2. Worldwalker*

        In some situations, the business is legally required to maximize the stock value for benefit of those shareholders, even at the expense of, say, the long-term viability of the business. (non-C employees, customers, etc. don’t even register)

      3. Observer*

        Thank Milton Friedman.

        Uh, no. Sure, he popularized a problematic ideology. But I don’t think that he actually thought that the idea of “maximizing shareholder value” would be a motivator for lower level employees.

    5. ElinorD*

      I think we had the same manager!
      I once spoke to my manager from many years ago about the treatment a customer recieved, a truly horrible situation for which they should have been an exception, and my manager responded with a lecture about shareholders.

      *shudders*

    6. Sel*

      Oh my god my husband’s company is like this. He’s an engineer at a large manufacturing company and they get emails all the time about how they all need to think about how to increase shareholder values and it sends him through the roof. He’s like, “I do not give a single sh*t about shareholder values, I give a sh*t about engineering [powerful motorized teapots] that don’t fail and kill people.”

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I’m chuckling at “powerful motorised teapots.” That either needs to be an AAM username or a band name. (“Hi, we’re Powerful Motorised Teapots and we came here to ROCK!”)

          1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

            As Dave Barry would say, “Powerful Motorized Teapots would be a good name for a Rock Band”

    7. snarkfox*

      When I worked at McDonald’s, we were warned that we always had to make sure to look busy and productive because the owner’s sons liked to come in to make sure everyone is working.

      Oh gee that’s exactly who I care about impressing! 20 somethings whose idea of “work” is visiting daddy’s businesses to make sure all the peons are hard at work.

    8. family company*

      Amen!

      I work for a large family-owned company. Every time the bigwigs talk about our ~ obligations to our shareholders ~, I roll my eyes. As far as I’m concerned, the shareholders are roughly equivalent to the Royal Family: leeches who happen to be entitled to wealth just because they were born into it.

      I care about customers, though. They deserve quality service.

    9. The Other Evil HR Lady*

      It’s like someone confused “stakeholders” with “shareholders” and ran with it. Stakeholders are everybody, from employees, customers, vendors, even the community where the company does its work (as you know). Shareholders…?? Yeah… no.

    10. Poppy*

      Reminds me of working for Target for $6/hr during the holidays. Morning shifts would have to attend a sales pep rally with the floor managers while they tried to encourage us to boost sales numbers. Like I gave a damn if Target made another $5 in profit that day. I did my job and helped customers as much as I could with the limited support I got (I had to refuse to move heavy, team lift furniture pieces by myself and management didn’t like that).

    11. goddessoftransitory*

      I picture shareholders as a group entity, like the ones that kept your Permanent Record back in grade school. So vapory, so dangerous.

    12. Someguy*

      Once upon a time when I was a manager, our site HR professional told me that my most important priority was avoiding liability for the company.

      While if I did my job well I would indeed be minimizing the company’s liability, that approach just wasn’t motivating in the manner intended.

    13. Gumby*

      My current company is employee-owned (and previous employee-owned) so… sure.

      I did have a previous employer that had a company mission statement or something that listed who we were concerned about and shareholders made the list, but were last. Behind customers, employees, the local community, etc. Of course shareholders there were also employees and VC companies.

    14. Mr. Shark*

      Yes, we had a new manager come in, and their introduction to our team was a big speech about our responsibility to the Shareholders of the company.

      I don’t care about the Shareholders, I care about doing my job right and with good quality, so that our customers are happy, and my co-workers respect me because we work together as a team to get things accomplished.

      Thankfully, that manager was gone pretty quickly.

    15. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      To be fair though, a lot of shareholders and retirement accounts of people who are working in the trenches at other jobs. Most people handle retirement through investment accounts either directly or through their employer.

      That said, it is a really odd choice of messaging, because most people are thinking of shareholders as in the guy at the top who owns majority or huge chunk of shares and has more than enough money already.

    1. Dinwar*

      As a migraine victim this would be brutal. I try to keep everywhere I live and work fairly dark, because feeling like you’re being stabbed through the head randomly is somewhat distracting. Being surrounded by white walls and florescent light during a migraine would be nothing short of actual torture for me.

      1. zolk*

        Being on the spectrum, the fluorescent lights and white walls kill me – too bright, plus that buzzing sound? Every day I get a headache and they wonder why I would prefer to work from home.

        1. JustaTech*

          I’ll give our awful renovation this: the walls aren’t dead white, it’s a soft white that doesn’t seem to bother most people’s eyes, and the lights look like fluorescents but actually they’re dimmable LEDs that dim and turn off in response to sunlight from the windows (which have actual functional shades).

          But both the shades and the lights were about saving electricity, not employee comfort.

        2. lilsheba*

          Same here, migraine sufferer and on the spectrum, and the constant brightness of sunlight, white walls, fluorescent lights are TORTURE. I’m so happy I don’t have to deal with those anymore, but they used to make me feel sick.

        3. Michelle Smith*

          I have photophobia (ultra sensitivity to light, not a fear of it) and I wouldn’t be able to work there either. My office has non-pale yellow walls and bookshelves and art and stuff and it’s still too bright.

      2. Captain Swan*

        One office I worked in was open floor plan with white white, white walls, red accents and lots of glass and chrome. I don’t get migraines and I like a well lit space but this was too much even for me.

        I know plenty of people who wore ball caps, tinted glasses, and/or asked the folks around them if we could leave the overhead lights off.

      3. Artemesia*

        my husband has vision issues and so while I would actually like white walls in the front of our house with the lake view, we can’t do that without making him miserable so we found a bone that is muted that isn’t so glary and works for him. Bright white is going to be unpleasant for many.

    2. Ruby*

      During COVID, my kids’ pediatrician took all the decals off their walls. Was that Mickey sticker hiding germs?

      1. Mr McGregor's Gardener*

        Were they washing down the walls? They may have found/feared the decals would have washed off.

      2. WheresMyPen*

        Can’t have those kids lingering in the office for more than 5 minutes staring at the Mickey Mouse decal, lest they spread their covid germs around!

      3. no longer working*

        During COVID, an office building near me lined the elevators with a quilted fabric (like mover’s quilts). I thought this was odd, as the normal elevator walls could be wiped with disinfectant! Unless they washed them daily, this made no sense.

        1. No Longer Looking*

          Those are normally installed when furniture is being moved up and down in an elevator to prevent scratches. It’s usually only for a week or so though.

      4. Vito*

        I used to volunteer at a hospital and you were not allowed to tape thing to your workspace. The accreditation people would come in once a year to inspect and if the found tape residue they would freak out since it could collect germs. I had fun scrubbing the gunk off.

    3. Nobby Nobbs*

      I’ve spent about fifteen minutes trying to phrase the mean joke at the expense of parents and teachers of kids with ADHD without offending anyone. Think I’ll just go with “I’ve seen this one before, and it didn’t work then either.”

      1. Firestar*

        Why are you making a joke that you have to make sound inoffensive? If you have to do that, it’s not a joke.

    4. k*

      It would make me very productive at working on my resume. Maybe not the type of modivation they are hoping for.

    5. Butterfly Counter*

      I just know it was someone who HATED the decorations and used lack of productivity as an excuse to change everything.

      1. lyonite*

        Possible, but I’m getting a strong “consultant looked around for something to change” vibe from this one.

    6. Magenta Sky*

      When I moved from the bullpen into my own office, I was told I *had* to put some art up on the walls. (The office has a stash, but brought in some favorites from home, that everybody admires because it’s much nicer than the cheap prints the office has.)

          1. JustaTech*

            In college my husband got one of those “demotivational” posters: “Meetings: none of us is as dumb as all of us”. He was asked to not hang it up at work.
            (Ah how innocent he was back then, when he had maybe 3 meetings a week where now if he only has three meetings before lunch it’s a victory.)

            1. JustAnotherKate*

              Ha, I love demotivators! I have the Meetings one as a mug, and I still admire whoever snuck their Ambition poster (a salmon having just swum upstream, about to be eaten by a huge bear, with the caption “A journey of 1,000 miles sometimes ends very, very badly”) onto the wall behind the front desk at my old job. That thing was up there for YEARS!

              1. Free Meerkats*

                I once (20ish years ago) spent my own money on about 5 (?) Demotivater posters that mostly matched the colors of motivational posters that were up in the hall. I came in in the night and put the new ones in the frames over the old ones and never said anything. It was months before the manager with the stick up his glass noticed and he blew a gasket. I never ‘fessed up where he could find out about it; think I mentioned it once here.

            2. Magenta Sky*

              I had one in my office for a while about how much easier the job would be without all these damn customers.

              We tend to a somewhat cynical view of the world here.

    7. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      I once toured an international shipping company’s facility on the Chicago-O’Hare area. I think the parent company was headquartered in Switzerland, and holy crap their offices were so sterile it gave me the creeps. The desks were all those low-walled pods, and the employees were not allowed to have anything on their desks that was not company issued. So no family photos, tchotchkes…nothing with even a shred of personality. Even your coffee mug had to be a white one with the company’s logo on it. It was like something out of Severance, but this was like, 15 years ago. Apparently the goal was to “minimize distractions”.

      On the car ride home my boss (who was a terrible manager and person in general) waxed non-stop about how wonderful it was, and she wished they would do something like that at our company, which was already so stodgy and boring I was already interviewing elsewhere. I’m not a huge proponent of bringing your true self to work, but when the environment seems to be all about sucking every inch of individuality out of their employees, it’s just no place I could ever work.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        What about the distraction of realizing you’ve been accidentally drinking your coworker’s coffee?

    8. Gen*

      The financial organisation I worked for back in the late 00s painted all the windowless break rooms red and burnt orange on the advice of some behaviour specialist, and took out the comfortable furniture in there to discourage relaxation so people would get more work done… while also instituting a mandatory hour lunch break. Computers locked for an hour to stop people working through. It got to the point where people would eat in the car park, then management sent out emails telling people not to do that as it looked messy, so we’d all roam the nearby streets. We were in a weird industrial estate that had no food or coffee options within 30min drive, I don’t know why we couldn’t just have padded chairs and normal walls

    9. Hannah Lee*

      I once worked in a department with detailed projects that required a high degree of concentration … for analysis, processing, prep of communication materials, strategic development. There was some collaborative work, but we were all skilled professionals who knew to take that stuff to conference rooms so we could bounce all those ideas around without disrupting everyone else’s work.

      Someone in management thought THE! BEST! way to improve that already high-performing department’s productivity was to move the entire department to an open workspace, with connected workstations and no dividers, open on all sides to corridors … and with no conference rooms.

      It was … not great, Bob.

    10. goddessoftransitory*

      Sounds like someone took Who Moved My Cheese literally and decided people work best in a maze.

    11. Trillian*

      Shades of those strata/condo associations with bylaws dictating Every Unit Shall Appear Identical to Every Other Unit, and All Shall Be White. Or Beige.

      Used to live near one the water, and would look back from my paddleboard and fantasize about Tomato Red curtains and all things sparkly, just for some visual interest.

      That decor is crying for a guerrila decorating spree.

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        I once worked for an organization with a strict interior design policy. My department wanted more cubicles, but any cubicles had to be lined with a specific fabric of a specific design, which had been discontinued. The company that made the fabric was willing to re-start production, for a $30,000 fee (in 2013 dollars). So, we didn’t get new cubicles, we got to share the old ones.

        I also seriously considered bidding on a condo with a nightmare HOA. I read all the disclosures, including several hundred pages of by-laws and meeting notes, and found this insane little saga about door knobs. Seems the complex had an official door knob, but several years before, tragedy had struck – it was discontinued! And replaced with a nearly identical model, but it just wasn’t the same. Oh, the drama. Many reminders were sent out. Remember, just because the manufacturer says it’s the updated version, that doesn’t mean it’s approved! A few months later, another reminder went out. Try small local hardware stores that might not sell many door knobs; they might still have one in stock. Somebody found one at such-and-such scrap yard. We know it can be frustrating, but keep trying, your neighbors are depending on you!

        No, I did not bid on that one. But I was still on the market a year later when another unit in that complex went up. Partly out of morbid curiosity, I read the disclosures on that one too. They’d caught several people with contraband door knobs and fined them; one had lawyered up, trying to get the HOA to assume full legal responsibility for any thefts that might result from said HOA making it impossible for him to lock his front door. They did not want to do this, so with much wailing, gnashing of teeth, and meetings, those nearly identical door knobs were finally approved.

        Everyone needs a hobby, I guess.

      1. No Longer Looking*

        Hah! We had a VP try something like that on us, I think it was “no more than 3 things on the desk.” This was after the merger and the move to a new office where they gave us literally half the storage space as our previous offices. Our department basically declined to participate in his plan, and I personally had a full file drawer worth of papers in vertical files on top of my desk, on the other side of where I had the six inboxes. Like, I’m glad that you don’t deal with papers BOB, but you really need to get your head out of our business.

      2. KH_Tas*

        Marie doesn’t do forced minimalism, or strict rules about how many of anything you can have. The whole point of her deal is ultra-personalising your space based on what makes the individual happy. Both claims, though widespread, are myths.

    12. John*

      It’s glorious! White walls with no window dressings or wall art and pure white overhead LED lighting. I bet upper management is sad their offices aren’t like this!

    13. FreakInTheExcelSheets*

      People get so weird about office decor it’s hilarious! As long as it’s not happening to you of course lol. My favorite happened to my dad about 20 years ago – he’s an architect and was the head of the design/creative team so their spaces were a little less sterile (if nothing else because there were carpet/wallpaper/tile samples everywhere) but he had an office separate from that space as well. Well he’s also a master carpenter and had at some point built himself a beautiful office set (desk, filing cabinet/second desk, shelves…) which he brought in for that office. Someone complained that it wasn’t the standard furniture and why had their request to purchase and bring in their own furniture been denied blah blah blah – it was explained to this person that a) the request to expense the furniture had been denied, not the request to bring in their own and b) they hadn’t complained about this same office set being in his office for 10+ years previously before my dad was their peer.

  6. Former GM*

    Worked for a group of executives that were annoyed with amount of emails they received. So I was tasked with sending a status report on Fridays. But this wasn’t a simple status report. This was 8+ pages in long paragraph form that took almost an entire day to compile – this sucking up my entire Friday. Found out only 1 person read them as well. They sacrificed an entire work day on mine for a report one person read. It was dumb and a complete waste of time.

    1. Saffie_Girl*

      At my last job the executives would always give staff directives to streamline & standardize processes/reports/systems. We’d do a lot of work to get there and the ones who then always insisted on something to be done outside the standard process for them was those same executives. After a while the whole process would start again, and the executives demanding we make things more efficient never realized they were the ones creating all the extra work.

    2. ferrina*

      Yeah, the executives that want to know every detail but also refuse to read….I’ve worked for a couple of those. They want to magically know the details when they need to, but they don’t want to read/listen to status updates to keep informed.

      I had a boss literally tell me not to give her a status update unless something went wrong and I needed help. Then she was surprised when she didnt’ know what was going on.

      1. Erin*

        I had the opposite of a boss, and she was great. She sent out a monthly email, asking for what we were working on, updates, and what we needed from her. She literally gave us a template to fill out. And she read all of them, and would get back within a day or two of dates she could get us what we needed, any ideas she had, meeting times when requested, and just general feedback. It didn’t feel like being micromanaged, but no one felt all alone either. And we could still talk to her at any time about anything. It was just a nice check in, since all of our projects tended to be long term.

        1. JustaTech*

          That is brilliant! My group is small enough, and physically hands-on enough that our boss knows exactly what we’re doing (several times in the past few months I’ve said “Boss, can you help me pick this thing up?”), but that would be awesome for some of our larger projects/ remote groups.

    3. Sales Geek*

      At my oldjob there was a number of senior executives whose job it was to do nothing aside from sending us dozens of emails on product announcements, internal chit-chat and other time-wasting topics. We would get ten to fifteen of these a day.

      My 2nd line manager would forward these emails to us with a brief note which was basically “in case you missed this important note.” So it doubled our daily corporate spam and was a complete drag on productivity. We complained regularly about this in our weekly unit meetings. Our manage would just shrug his shoulder and say that there was “nothing he could do.”

      Finally, he reached the boiling point on this behavior. He sat down one Saturday and went through the week’s forwarded emails. He’d forward these back to our 2nd line manager with a brief “we’ve already seen this” heading. The week’s haul was somwhere in the 80 email range and he forwarded each one with this note.

      The forwarding stopped after that. And our 2nd line graciously organized a unit meeting to be held and a very upscale golf resort. We could bring spouses or SO too. It was a wonderful form of apology.

    4. aunttora*

      My department was swamped and needed more bodies, and my grandboss’s solution was to have us deliver a detailed report every Friday so they could evaluate and re-prioritize. The report took each of us at least a couple of hours every week.

  7. WendyCity*

    This isn’t as funny or egregious as what will show up here throughout the course of the day, but our company tried out a license for one of those Grammerly-type services. It ran through Microsoft Word, and was tailored to our company’s style to offer suggestions about word choice/tone.

    Which would have been great, except that (because of the complex formatting of our standard Word document template) the program didn’t work unless you opened a blank word document, copy-pasted your work there without any formatting, and then ran the service.

    Annoying, time consuming, unnecessary, and expensive. Thankfully the company ditched their license pretty soon into the experiment.

    1. Collarbone High*

      I worked at a newspaper that tried to save money by beta-testing a new publishing system. The integrated spellcheck software was in Swedish, so it marked 99% of words as misspelled.

      1. JustaTech*

        For some reason a few of us at my work keep ending up with cursed versions of Word. Like, not “Word sucks!” (I really like Word) but like the time my and one other coworker’s copy of Word randomly ate every 100th space (a known bug, but hard to fix). Or my other coworker, who would randomly have her Word spellcheck default to French. (Our company has never done any work in French.)

        She also managed to make a template where the spellcheck was turned off by default, and if you pasted a table (something we do a *lot*) it would often but not always delete the second level heading throughout the document.

        1. World Weary*

          I had my default language switch to French multiple times until the next Windows update a few months later.

      2. No Horse No Mustache*

        I think I know what software you’re talking about and the newspaper I worked at back in the day did the same beta testing program with the same results.
        Almost like they jack up the price of the released product so they could just throw together whatever and have the customer pay to beta test it, humm….

    2. New at 28*

      That one I actually respect: they tried something that sounded good on the surface, and when it didn’t work they were ok to admit that and scrap it.

    3. Leandra*

      Best Authority is a legal program for automating creation of a table of authorities in court documents.

      In its earliest form several years ago, it had the glaring flaw of not allowing the user to set the page range for the program to search. If it started on physical page 1 of the document, everything would come out wrong.

      I never understood why they put the program out there before it could handle that.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Ironically, BA turned into the best automated TOA software there is, and the developer was always really responsive to concerns and feature requests. It got sold to a conglomerate a couple years ago, and there is concern they’ll ruin it. Nothing else really compares.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Not only legal documents, for translations too. It was like Word, but Perfect in every way.

  8. Edna*

    I once spent a full 3 weeks of work making minute changes to the workflow charts. Think: highlighter yellow bubbles become lime green, then yellow again because Susan doesn’t think lime green is eye-catching enough, but then Tom suggests maybe a soft shade of maroon? But then Paula says that maroon gives her a headache, so what about lilac? Ad nauseam.

    This was all supposed to be part of an organizational push to review processes and increase productivity. My team decided that that meant reviewing workflow charts (good!) by making small aesthetic changes (mind-numbingly stupid).

    1. Американка (Amerikanka)*

      This sounds like something out of “The Office”! I could see Michael coming up with this idea, Dwight taking it really seriously, and Jim and Pam trolling both of them.

    2. Американка (Amerikanka)*

      The aesthetic changes sounds like some idea Michael would have on “The Office” that Dwight would take very seriously…

    3. NO NAME TODAY*

      My supervisor has my 7 person department an 80 page report of “what we do” every time a new “Big Boss” comes on board.

      I have it on good authority no one reads it. I haven’t figured out who I could ask to see if my supervisor is perceived as daft for making us do it.

      Other departments’ reports are not 8o pages. They are much less!!

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        At a long-ago job, I made a brief, entertaining PowerPoint about what we did, and we had a meeting with the new Big Boss to present it and introduce ourselves, and he played with his cell phone the whole time. SUPER respectful and a GREAT use of everyone’s time.

        1. Sally*

          I had a manager who would take out his cell phone and start reading stuff 10 seconds after I began giving him my weekly status.

          I started saying “do we need to reschedule this meeting?”
          He’d say no but after a few seconds he was back on his phone. After that I just stopped talking and looked at him expectantly until he realized I’d stopped talking and looked up. Then I’d say something like “do you need to take care of that?” and gesture toward his phone. Took a few weeks for him to finally leave his phone alone for my ten minute meeting with him.

          1. TrixM*

            I once worked for a manager who did that during my *job interview*. Which was about half an hour long.

            Thankfully the guy wasn’t my direct supervisor and I soon learned he did the same literally any time anyone spoke for more than two minutes. But very unsettling when you’re interviewing for a job!

            He was actually a nice enough guy and a good manager for practical purposes. But he was eventually eased out of the role when too many booze/coke hangovers began affecting his presence in the office.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      Ohh this happened to us on a big project once. By big project, I’m talking multi-year, multi-million $$. We got a new VP around the fourth year of the project, and he insisted that we change our briefing slide template to his specs. And then he changed the specs in very minor, cosmetic ways about every week or so and mandated that everyone make these changes before every biweekly briefing. This went on for months.

      At one point a couple of senior engineers ran the numbers on how much time was spent on these slides vs. how much time actually spent working the project. It should have been a compelling argument to leave the slides alone and let us get to work. Instead the VP doubled down, those senior engineers left the company (in disgust, they weren’t forced out), and the project tanked. The VP got a short-notice lateral transfer not too long after, but the damage was done and it set back the efforts by almost a decade.

      1. Nea*

        Uuuugh, as a tech writer I’ve been there. “We have a new template. It won’t take you long to change the hundreds of pages you work on.”

      2. JustaTech*

        Gosh that makes the Big Boss I had who insisted that all presentations be in Comic Sans seem very reasonable! (I’ve since learned that there might be good accessibility reasons he liked Comic Sans, but he would never say “I need this font to read it” so it just felt weird and made our presentations look out of place at big scientific conferences.)

        One time, in an attempt to adhere to the company guidelines on colors/fonts/formats I emailed a group asking for the color codes for our two colors. One person in the group emails me back promptly with the colors and I get to work, only to be hauled up to the VP’s office who’s demanding to know why I told the marketing department to write my poster for me. “I didn’t, I just asked for the color codes so they would be right.” “Well, don’t go talking to other departments.” My boss and his boss (and my team) also got lectured about not reaching out of our silo. Even though we had just *specifically* been told to check with Marketing before we did anything like what I was doing.

    5. Hills to Die on*

      Did that too! Thousands of process steps converted into a shade of green that is 2 shades darker than the original color because otherwise the execs won’t be able to read the words. I could go on for days about what a terrible manager this guy was.

      1. TrixM*

        To be fair, insufficient contrast ratio in on-screen text IS an issue. I still use a custom styling browser plug-in for text on a very well-known advice blog, after the template was changed a couple of years ago to a medium grey body text combined with a lightweight font. Even though my eyesight is good enough to read without glasses, if I must, on most web pages

        The idea of green text makes me cringe, but of course it’s fine if the text is large enough, or enough contrast with the background, etc. W3C is an organisation that maintains a set of text accessibility standards, and there are a number of services that will analyse your web pages accordingly. AA rating is good, but aiming for AAA is best.

        Anyway, excuse the blurge, obviously it’s something I’m a bit passionate about, especially as I get older. In your instance, all that should have been covered off in the style guide/templates *before* you created the content!

    6. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      I call this “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”

      I was part of an acquisition that was going horribly – clients were upset, system conversion was an absolute disaster, and millions of dollars of product that needed to be moved out of our facility went missing due to a bunch of logistics errors. The people handling my side of the acquisition (client services) kept changing minor things in the conversion documentation like font, colors etc. and insisted we go over it with the client from scratch every time a change was made. My poor clients were already stressed out and I was mortified to waste their time answering the same questions over and over again. I was supposed to stay on remotely, but I quit two weeks before our facility closed for good because my mental health was in shambles.

    7. DreddPirate*

      I went through a similar ordeal – My boss had me take a standard black and white report and turn it into a color-coded visually pleasing presentation for a big shareholder meeting. Went back and forth several times a week for several weeks with multiple miniscule tweaks like your maroon vs lilac example.

      When a semi-final draft got sent to the grandboss for his review, he said, “Oh, by the way, I’m color-blind, so please replace all colors with grayscale and textured shading.”

  9. Corporate Espionage*

    I worked for a very small start-up. My boss was worried about our staff trickling in “late” due to socializing in the shared lobby—most tended to arrive, make coffee, and get to their desks around 9:05. That’s it! He just couldn’t get over those five lost minutes of productivity.

    In response, he hired a spy (his words) who was supposed to arrive at the office a half hour early. Her job was to track arrival times. If she noted that you were late once, nothing happened. If you were late twice, you would be fired.

    Unsurprisingly, this went over like a lead zeppelin. The policy wasn’t enforced and everyone eventually left for other reasons. To this day, all of the employees are still close friends—and we still joke about one of us being hired for espionage.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        especially since it doesn’t even sound like you got a warning for the first time!

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      At my long-ago awful job, my boss noticed that I was always a few minutes early to the office and was nearly always the first one in. It was, like, the one thing he thought I did right. He was annoyed at people who were sometimes a few minutes LATE to the office, so he had me write down the times that everyone came into the office, and report to him every day. I fudged it a few times when the boss himself wasn’t in yet, so people wouldn’t get in trouble.

      1. ferrina*

        That’s awful! I would conveniently “forget” or “not notice” when people came in. Good on you for fudging it.

      2. Leela*

        At a recent job, I told them in the interview that I was immunocompromised and needed a safe policy for COVID, they said they had 2-3 people in the office tops, and masks were required. I showed up on my first day and there were about 10 people, no masks. They said that the government policy had changed so I shouldn’t have expected it to stay the same. BUT here’s how they kept COVID safety—by forcing me, the immunocompromised person, to walk around to all the areas with all the unmasked people, writing down who was there because people were exceeding the limit they’d set. They were putting me in *more* danger and I found out later they were doing it because they kept having waves of COVID because people kept coming in when they weren’t supposed to

      3. Hannah Lee*

        I once had a boss who was iffy in other ways, but the one thing he did that was great was HE always showed up 15-30 minutes late, or planned a meeting in another location for first thing in the morning.

        He told me once he did it on purpose, because he didn’t care about whether we were their precisely at 8:00:00 AM. A few minutes either way didn’t matter to our overall performance, so by not being there to see when people arrived, he removed “MUST BE ON TIME!” as a stressor for everyone in the department. Senior mgmt were more sticklers for punctuality, so he didn’t want to say “it’s okay if you’re running behind a few minutes” or not note if he knew someone came in late. So he just opted out of being around to see it. (Not showing up, not getting your work done or showing up SUPER late would get you dinged though … my favorite SUPER late story was a very sweet but ditzy co-worker who was running a bit late one morning, and wound up showing up 2 1/2 hours late. Reason “I was running 30 minutes late, I’m sorry … Once I realized I would be late, I thought it would be better if I didn’t show up empty handed … So I stopped and made SCONES for everyone. )

        1. Chexwarrior*

          Wow, I’ve heard of buying doughnuts or some other baked treat as an apology, but taking two hours of time you should have been there to make something from scratch? Something something priorities. Something something, baby & bathwater.

      4. JustAnotherKate*

        Ugh — so frustrating to have to do that against your will! I had a coworker (associate in a law firm) who tracked other associates’ arrival and departure times on a yellow legal pad, apparently of his own accord. I’m not sure if he formally reported on us to the partners — I billed enough hours that my work time wasn’t an issue — but they didn’t seem to mind. He wasn’t a partiucularly hard worker or a star, just a ridiculous kiss-up with a strong tattletale complex. He did eventually wind up making partner, years after I left, and I definitely felt bad for any associate assigned to him and his yellow pad.

        1. World Weary*

          The CFO (My boss) told me off for my team not coming in on time. I asked why he cared. He said the receptionist was tracking their time and her boss (the firm administrator) complained to him. I told him that I’d tell them to enter and exit through the warehouse since he cared about her opinion on something that wasn’t any of her business. My team are achieving all their goals and I’m happy with their performance and he should be too. I am so happy not to be working for him anymore.

      1. Lunch Ghost*

        No, this kind of boss wants people in the office because they don’t believe people are working unless they see them sitting at their desk.

        The kind of bosses who want hallway/coffee chats were participating in hallway/coffee chats.

        1. JustaTech*

          Or my personal favorite: “I want you at your desks!” (But he won’t come down from his office to actually see us.)
          “I want you in the lab!” (But if I’m in the lab I’m both harder to see than at my desk, and less responsive to email/Teams/phone calls.)

    2. Bronze Betty*

      I had a similar situation at a company I worked at decades ago. The VP over our department decided that employees who lined up for their coffee at the coffee machine upon their arrival wasted time waiting in line, so he wanted everyone seated at their desk promptly at start time. No one was permitted to get coffee until 15 minutes after work start time, 8am. Which of course resulted in a line-up for coffee at 8:15 instead of 8:00. I have no memory if he ever even noticed at line at 8:15, but I’m guessing not, because his focus was on 8am, when the coffee machine was clear.

    3. Sundari*

      We used to have an HR person on campus who would report on who made it to work by eight and who came in a few minutes later.

    4. Miette*

      Holy crap, is this a certain company I once worked for in suburban Philly? Where the CEO was so untrusting of employees he’d do a daily “bed check” at about 9:10 to ensure all were in the office? Where whenever someone got back from their lunch break at 2:05 there’d be an immediate email from HR reminding us all of the “approved” lunch break period of 12-2? Where said HR would routinely check the job sites and LinkedIn to be sure no current employees were apparently job-searching, and if you were you’d be fired? Where a project team was publicly called out for arriving late one day–after working until 2:30 am the day before to get a client build out on time?

      So glad to be gone from there, damn.

  10. Web Crawler*

    Our team isn’t meeting deadlines? Time to add more developers! The actual bottleneck is that we’re not allowed to make changes without permission from other teams who take 3 months to review a change to a single sentence. Now we’re up to 10 developers and still no work for them to do. We raise this issue in every meeting, but nobody’s listening.

      1. Web Crawler*

        Unfortunately, not hiring, we’re just getting people from other teams. Which is kinda weird in itself because our project was deprioritized by the higher ups, so it’s not helping the company in any way to have more people here.

    1. mlem*

      Wow, this is almost my company, except the bottleneck isn’t other groups; it’s HAVING TO TRAIN ALL THESE NEW DEVS ON THE PRODUCT.

    2. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

      There’s a well known “law” in software development.

      Brooks’ Law: Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.

        1. lyonite*

          That was still required reading in the CS program at my university in the 90s. Not my major, but I got curious and read the first chapter from my roommate’s copy, and some of the points still stick with me.

          1. Emilia Bedelia*

            This was still required reading in the CS program at my university in 2015 as well.

            Honestly, it still holds up.

        2. OtterB*

          I was thinking about this book too. I think it dates further back than this (I was a computer science major in the 70s). One of the memorable points from it, talking about the futility of adding more staff to a late project, was “You can’t get a baby in one month by assigning nine women to the job.”

          1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

            I believe Brooks wrote it based on his experience getting IBM’s System/360 out the door.

      1. TechWorker*

        I mean the key skill in software mgmt is figuring out reasonable deadlines and if somethings going to be late, changing ‘something’ (extra people, fewer requirements, different date) early enough that it’s actually helpful…
        Agree that once it’s late it’s already late and it’s going to be hard to rescue :p

      2. MaryLoo*

        But if one woman can have a baby in 9 months, then 9 women should be able to have that baby in one month, right?
        /s

        1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

          I once was assigned to estimate a project. I gave it N man months PLUS three months for learning curve (staff unfamiliar with new OS, new tools, etc…).

          For some reason a marketroid was in charge of the whole thing, and I was *LITERALLY* told to “Work smarter, not harder”.

          Guess how many months the project was late?

    3. Sel*

      This reminds me of the (perhaps apocryphal) story of the software developer who, when told my his manager that they would be hiring more software developers in order to speed up the product delivery, replied: “How long does it take a pregnant person to make a baby? Nine months. How long does it take to make a baby if ten people are pregnant? That’s right. Nine months.”

      I can’t remember if I got that from here or from reddit, but it’s stuck with me for years.

    4. Captain Swan*

      I think you or anyone replying to this thread would enjoy The Phoenix Project and its sequel, The Unicorn Project. They are books about improving DevOps/IT business lines but the books are written as novels not how to books.

    5. Calpurrnia*

      Ooh, this is like the polar opposite of my husband’s company (he manages a software engineer/dev team)!

      They’re working to a number of totally unrealistic milestone dates, laid out by the project managers way back before they understood the full technical scope. Some of them make no sense and have dependencies on later stuff, but “this is what we promised to the (customer), so make it work!” Stuff keeps slipping because oh surprise, it’s actually a bigger task than the non-engineers assumed it was, and wishful thinking doesn’t magically fix it.

      Meanwhile the designers keep changing things and adding stuff that should be out of scope, and nobody’s telling them no. So the developers have to figure out how to make this new stuff work on top of all the other stuff they were already assigned, PLUS anything left over from the previous milestone that they didn’t meet.

      And when his team isn’t meeting deadlines, his boss starts going on the warpath wanting him to identify and fire “underperforming” developers (Because… fewer people will totally help the project get done faster???) by doing a bunch of busywork to identify how many lines of code everyone has written (Because lines of code is somehow considered a good indication of how much work someone does???).

      It’s so badly managed. He does his best to protect the team and push back on the bullshit. I keep feeding him AAM lines, like “okay, we can take this on as a new priority, should we push back the timelines on X, Y, or Z that we’re already working on?”, but they come back with responses like “no, they need to be in this milestone”. Seriously magical thinking, and it’s so so frustrating to overhear all the time.

      1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        “Because… fewer people will totally help the project get done faster???”

        [SARCASM]
        Well, duh… because if adding manpower makes it later, clearly removing manpower gets it done sooner!!!!
        [/SARCASM]

  11. Bunny Girl*

    Back when I was in my early 20’s and thin and blonde, I worked in gym part time at the front desk. All of the other front desk workers were similarly thin women in their 20’s. Our boss called the front desk staff into the office and told us that he hired all of us because we were “easy on the eyes” and wanted us to go advertise for the gym in bikinis on the street corner to bring in more male clientele.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      At a place I worked it was “it doesn’t matter how many times you do it, it STILL takes nine months to make a baby.” I heard it at a place I worked – because a huge project was failing.

      It eventually completely failed – management decided to demote a number of peoples’ grades, thinking it would somehow motivate them. And those who were contractors had their rates cut. “That’ll show ’em. Sure will!”

      With the subsequent departures, the project COMPLETELY imploded. Eventually the senior VP was canned.

  12. DisneyChannelThis*

    Hot Desking. How does anyone think that adding 10-15min of finding a desk, setting up said desk and telling everyone else where you are will boost your productivity. Not to mention the lack of personal touches (coffee mug, office sweater, etc) that are now missing as it isn’t really your desk.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      My choice is career path is completely validated by the fact I always have cause to say I need an office with a door that closes. Sensitive conversations, private files. I hope I never have to deal with hot desking.

      1. SJ (they/them)*

        My company went to hotdesking / hoteling this year with their new office reno, which did not include offices for anyone. Not HR, not the CEO, not finance, nobody. If you need privacy you can book a conference room, is the deal apparently. Good times!!

    2. Dinwar*

      Even open office plans where you have assigned work spaces suck. I remember once discussing an upcoming sampling event with someone, which involved some detailed discussions of equipment needs as well as some personal discussions (“I can’t leave until the kids are off to school”, that sort of thing). At the same time a senior VP near us was engaged in some high-level contract negotiations. There is no way either of us overhearing the other person’s conversation made either of us more productive. At the same time, we couldn’t just move to a different location because the whole office was like that.

      There’s a reason people above a certain rank get an office with a closed door. It’s not an ego thing; it’s a privacy and security thing!

    3. Antilles*

      In my experience, it usually has nothing to do with productivity or encouraging cross-collaboration or meeting new colleagues or etc. They might *say* those reasons, but the actual reason is typically some combination of space limitations, saving money on square footage, not wanting to hassle with desk assignments, and/or not actually caring if it bothers employees.

    4. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      You also are more productive as everyone hears your phone calls! My coworker: So about the grand theft auto that occurred last week…
      ( do not worry I wear very big headphones, but other people also have to hear ” and so everyone WAS Kung fu fighting???”

      1. Moira Rose*

        I remember when I was pregnant and trying to negotiate OB visits before I’d told anyone at work. I was in one of those wretched open-plan offices with no privacy whatsoever. I took to momentarily stealing managers’ offices when I noticed they were in meetings.

        1. Artemesia*

          This is the life of a school teacher, particularly before cell phones. Such a joy to have to call the gynecologist from the secretary’s desk or the one phone in the teacher’s room.

        2. Sara without an H*

          I once had a direct report who told me she really needed to call her doctor and didn’t want her coworkers in the open office pen to overhear her.

          I had a meeting at 10:00 a.m., so I told her to come to my office then, make her call, then turn out the lights and lock the door when she left.

          If you’re stuck with this kind of open office nonsense, you need to provide options for people who really, really need some privacy.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            and that works fine because your report felt that she could say that to you. For my colleague needing assisted procreation, and our pervy boss, that wasn’t an option.

    5. WillowSunstar*

      My workplace did that before COVID. You were expected to arrive early enough to find said desk.

      They’re doing it to an extent after COVID, but it’s a non-issue now because only a few people go to the office.

    6. Curious*

      In a hybrid work environment, with respect to people in the office less than 3 days a week, would you expect your own desk?

      1. DisneyChannelThis*

        In a hybrid situation I’d still want an assigned desk. I’d probably be okay sharing it with 1-3 people but I’d want it assigned (with my own drawer or locker or something!) and not just waste time each day finding one and getting setup.

        My prev job had shared desks split by day, Monday to Wed was person A, Thursday and Friday was person B. That was for lab bench space but they functioned as desks essentially. Some people split the shared space by hours, 8-noon person C, and 1-6pm person D. I think that was mainly a covid situation, where we had hard caps on total people allowed in building at once. There’s still awkward what to do when people have a random meeting on not their time share of the desk or bench.

        I think the primary issue for me is lack of storage with hot desking. It increases dramatically the amount of crap I have to haul around. It makes it harder to collaborate (can’t quickly glance and see if A is at his desk or busy or out of the office). It’s also a little bit mental, I can’t visualize my day easily with the uncertainty.

        But more so the annoyance of having to drag my phone charger, my headphones, my sweater, my mug, my pens, my notebooks and articles, my emergency tampons, my box of bandaids and painkiller, my box of tea, my granola bars around (can you tell I like a prepared workspace??). I’m already hauling my planner, my work laptop, my laptop charger, my water bottle, and my lunch bag around. Sure in hotdesking you end up just not bringing that stuff, but then there’s always more unproductive moments of needing that stuff and having to ask around for it. Or to go out to buy a snack instead of just eating desk drawer granola bar.

        1. wonderl@nd*

          My company has some people with assigned desks (think HR & Accouinting), and anyone who wanted one has one, but the rest are hot desking because we have several different types of spaces where people can choose to work. SOme enclosed pods, meeting/conference room, lounge/conversation areas and collaborative spaces. We’re hybrid, wfh, so people can choose the space they need based on what they’re doing that day. Also, everone has a laptop and all the hot desks have docking stations and monitors, so the only thing you need to bring is your headset, laptop and mouse. All the cords are already there. Its really a cool set up .

            1. Nina*

              at my workplace it’s just sweater, pens, and notebook (one notebook). You don’t have two notebooks on the go at the same time because lab notebooks are legal records. Tampons are provided in the bathrooms. Tea and granola bars are provided in the lunchroom. Pens most people keep in their pockets, and if you lose a pen go grab a spare from the stationery cupboard, nobody tracks who’s taking them, they’re just kanban’d for restock.

              1. Michelle Smith*

                I buy my own pens because I don’t like the cheap ones my office buys. I don’t use the cheap, uncomfortable menstrual products in the bathroom – I like to have a say about what goes inside my body. I don’t want to drink the tea and eat the granola bars the office manager buys, I want to eat my own snacks and drink my own drinks that I actually like. This would be a nightmare situation for me, especially as someone who commutes via public transit and doesn’t have the ability to carry much more than my laptop and wallet back and forth because it’s too heavy (back problems).

        2. CL Zama*

          Agree whole-heartedly with this. I just recently left a hybrid job where they’d switched us to hot desking and kept promising to implement a booking system, ensure proper equipment, and standardize locations for different departments.

          They ended up never setting up any type of booking system and restricting certain areas for certain departments that were never actually enforced so you never knew where anyone was. They also took months before they would address the fact that not every office had a functional monitor, clean keyboard, mouse from the 21st century, or proper chair.

          I would spend the first 15 minutes of my day every time I was there hunting around different offices for the right components and cords to connect my laptop. Meanwhile the workload was unbearable and I did not want to waste that time.

      2. Gracely*

        I’d say that depends highly upon the job in question.

        Some people work hybrid hours because there are things they physically need to handle in the office, but only some of the time–if they’re the only one handling those things, a dedicated space can make sense. (example: HR person with employee files/paperwork that can’t leave the building or needs to have a private office space for meetings, but still has plenty of online work they could do at home when not dealing with files or meetings. Or someone in charge of processing items with several steps that you would not want to have moved around mid-process, but that’s only part of their job)

        Also, sometimes hybrid means “work from home half the day, come in the other half” and thus the person is still there most days.

        If people are working hybrid hours because the boss wants them physically there even if they don’t need to be, then I think desks don’t *have* to be assigned, or they could maybe be traded off if people have opposite schedules. But it’s also nice to have your own desk, and it makes coming in when you don’t *have* more appealing than knowing you’re going to have to find a desk and bring all your crap in with you every damn time.

        That being said, I would give up my dedicated desk in a heartbeat if I could work from home 3 days a week.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          And not everyone is the same level of clean. I don’t want to have to Lysol the desk every day to get Jenny or Suzie’s crumbs from yesterday’s lunch off the surface (or any lingering germs from the morning for that matter).

      3. Observer*

        In a hybrid work environment, with respect to people in the office less than 3 days a week, would you expect your own desk?

        In some cases, yes. It depends on what is on / in your desk. In most cases, no. But *ass9gned* desks are another story. Or, in some cases, an assigned cluster. Total hoteling? In most cases, it’s a total productivity killer, even without the morale hit.

    7. Annony*

      The only time I am ok with hot desking is when I am rarely in the office, making a dedicated desk a waste. I don’t understand how anyone expects it to work well when someone needs a desk almost every day.

    8. irianamistifi*

      The WORST. My last workplace went to this method and made it so that you had to ‘book’ your seat the night before you came in so you’d have a place to sit. Before moving to Hot-Desking, I’d shared an office with someone at the same level as me. So I continued to book my seat. But no one else was booking their locations. So I’d go into the office, find someone sitting in my booked seat, and then look online, see a bunch of empty spaces that when I got there, turned out other people were sitting in them.

      I had at least 2 different days where I showed up and there was literally no place to set up. I tried talking to HR and they just said other people should be booking their seats. Cool. I’m doing everything right but still have nowhere to sit. Should I go home?

      Where I’m at now, also moved to hot-desking during the pandemic. This was particularly annoying because when they originally did this, they did not have anywhere you could store items for work. Now, we’re required to be in the office 3 days a week, and I chose a spot that keeps me away from most people . . . only to be told that the spot I chose was one that was preferred by Great Great Grand Boss and I shouldn’t sit there. Number of times Great Great Grand Boss has been in the building on the same day as me since July? 1.

    9. irene adler*

      Disclaimer: I’ve never experienced hot desking.

      What about the lack of ergonomics that must go along with hot desking? I would think this system would do a number on people’s physical health -sooner or later.
      Just a short list:
      -no chair adjusted to your body (or you spend time – each workday- adjusting chairs to fit)
      -lefty or righty mouse/trackball –
      – proper placement of a keyboard and accessories to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome
      -ergonomic keyboard!

      A hurting body won’t do much to increase productivity.

      1. KH_Tas*

        From what I’ve seen, it’s worse ergonomics, more time adjusting stuff, or frustrating work-arounds; with someone I know, there was a period where she was turning up to work at 7am so she could ensure getting her medically required accommodation equipment (!).

    10. Ann*

      Omg and ours just decided VPs are too junior to reserve offices so when we arrive in the morning we have to ask the front desk if there are any unbooked offices and they take a few minutes to look it up and assign one by hand. (There are nearly always lots available!)

    11. JustaTech*

      Plus the time to clean off the debris of the previous users. My friend worked (briefly) at a tech job where it was all hot-desking and pair programming (so we had to sit next to your programming partner for the day), so people would claim a desk by leaving their Starbucks cup on it at the end of the day. But then maybe they wouldn’t end up using that desk, so the trash would just accumulate until Friday when it was a mess and no one could tell what desks were claimed and which weren’t.

    12. Nina*

      My company tried to implement hotdesking only to realize that a) laptops are not powerful enough to run most of the CAD we run so laptops that you dock to a hotdesk aren’t an option and b) everyone in the office has a different set of extremely expensive software so installing all the software on all the desktops won’t work either.

      They’ve given up now.

    13. The Other Katie*

      Hot desking isn’t about increasing worker productivity, it’s about increasing “company productivity” -that is, slashing fixed asset costs for *gack* shareholder value purposes, without regard to what is actually being produced or for whom.

      1. Observer*

        Sorry, that doesn’t make any sense. You can’t improve shareholder value by making it impossible for people to do their work.

        Share holder value, company productivity and employee productivity are all directly tied to each other.

        1. Owler*

          You’re making the mistake of thinking long term value. Hot desking is about flashy savings and short term gains. Reducing the real estate costs associated with a larger footprint looks good on paper, even if it comes at a loss of company productivity which can be a fuzzier thing to track.

    14. UKisOK*

      Hmm. My office moved to hot desking (bookable) after a Covid delayed refit. It works – all the desks are set up the same, there are plenty of rooms/spaces for huddles/meetings/private work, and docking is easy. No-one has an office, not even VP level. I just have to bring my laptop, keyboard, mouse and headset. Everything fits in a light backpack and tote.

      The desks are all cleaned at the end of the day, and everyone has lockers if they need storage. There are a few ‘hub’ desks – people who are in every day like Facilities, people with adapted works spaces etc.

      But on the whole it works, people sit where they’ve booked, you can flex to work beside someone if the project neeeds and so on. And you can still WFH as often as you want/need. It’s evolved into something that works.

      1. Nessun*

        It works for us too – we have a system to book desks, up to 5 days in a row max (but only 5 days in advance, so you can’t just pre-book your whole month at once, you have to pay attention). All you need to bring is your laptop and headset – everything else (extra monitors, keyboard, mouse) are provided at each desk. There’s also a Lysol wipes pack at each desk space, in addition to them being cleaned each night – so you don’t have to make assumptions about how good the cleaning staff was if you’re worried about that.

        And the Office Manager will help you move anyone who sets up in a space you’ve booked for yourself – no one gets to just sit down and work, they have to be in the spot they chose or they’ll get BOOTED. They also gave us all laptop backpacks as end-of-year gifts when the last fiscal year ended. We also have spaces for everyone – and a hybrid WFH system for those who wish it, based on PM approval.

        IF the system is organized and enforced, it can work. But I know it’s a big IF.

      2. Middle Aged Lady*

        How do you handle ergonomics? I have a special mouse and chair and have the desk height and monitor adjusted for my needs.

  13. CTA*

    My former employer started using this service called Bonusly. Employees have a monthly allotment of points that they can give to their co-workers in order to show appreciation for each other’s work. Those points can be redeemed for gift cards or donations to nonprofits. I wasn’t a big fan of this because it depends on your work being visible to others or on you being known as the person who completed a specific assignment. I was a Web Developer. A lot of my work is assignment based. I’m wasn’t visible to many in the company and I was increasingly excluded from project planning because the company was reorganizing and I was slated to be laid off in a few months. Since it was 2020, I guess they were trying for ways to reward employees. Instead of paying for a new service, why couldn’t they have used that money for cash bonuses? And why are they relying on employees to recognize each other? Recognition needs to come form the company itself. I refused to participate in this and I let my points expire. I rarely received points for my work in the few months I was present for this. On my exit interview I stated that I did not like the concept of Bonusly.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      I think peer recognition can be a really good tool, partly because it can make some things visible to management that they might not otherwise have known about. But yeah, recognition definitely has to come from the employer primarily. Where I work, we have a monthly recognition thing (basically an app that lets you post messages of appreciation for people that we share for everyone to see), and while management will give shout-outs to their reports, peers will also do it. I’ve seen my reports get recognition from peers for stuff I didn’t know they did, and it reflected well on them! Of course, the system you’re talking about sounds like a nightmare: my employer looked at something similar a few years back, and all of us in the focus group were like, “yeah, NO.”

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      As someone who works with web developers, I just want to tell you how much I appreciate the often thankless work developers do.

    3. Puppy Wizard*

      I had something very similar to this at an old workplace. It ended up being a way for the CEO to praise people who came in on the weekends to get ahead of extra work — but obviously, only the people who he saw, because he came in randomly. (Don’t get me started on working on a weekend in the first place.) It was such a point of contention among the employees, but the CEO was completely oblivious.

    4. ferrina*

      I hate stuff like this. Inevitably, the people with high visibility get rewarded, whether or not they’re actually doing a good job. And people who accept all praise (deserved or not) will be better rewarded than those who redirect praise to their team/those actually doing the job. Self-promoting narcissists will prosper.

    5. Skytext*

      That didn’t go the way I thought it would. I thought it was going to come up that everyone just teamed up with a buddy and traded all their points every month.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I believe this happened at a previous company I worked for, with a peer-recognition system. Part of the process was that a manager has to approve the recognition, so in this case it was a few colleagues and their manager. I know there was an ethics investigation but don’t recall whether the people involved were fired or just suspended w/o pay.

        I think a peer-recognition system like this works best if it’s not the ONLY form of recognition – generally it worked pretty well at that company (with the caveat that visible work probably got rewarded most often), but it was a minor benefit compared to annual bonuses and raises or management-generated cash awards.

      2. lyonite*

        We had a system like this at my old job, only it was actual money. And then they moved the location and laid off anyone who wasn’t going, so we all maxed out our kudos giving them to each other and made out pretty well from it.

        1. WFHomie*

          At oldjob, we had a peer recognition system that gave points you could spend on merchandise and even travel, and one team started giving each other lots of kudos with the goal of going on a cruise. Subsequent peer recognition systems were reduced to cute emails to prevent that kind of gaming the system.

      3. Ann*

        Same. At my first job we could give $50 “spot bonuses” and I remember bribing people to meet an unreasonable deadline with them. (I was a hapless project manager!) I’d gather like 5 people to commit their spot bonuses. Incidentally it was usually for the web developer!

    6. Gracely*

      OMG, I hate crap like that. For exactly that reason–too many people can’t/don’t see who is doing the work behind the scenes.

    7. Gatomon*

      I had an old job that did something vaguely similar – you just dropped notes in a ballot box and they would be read out in staff meetings and maybe you got a cool pen. It devolved into the same group of 4-5 people nominating each other over and over again, and while I knew my coworkers appreciated me, I started to feel unappreciated simply because my name was never pulled from the stupid box.

    8. JustaTech*

      We got Bonusly in 2020 for the same reason and people have actually really liked it. Partly because previously the only way to visibly/monetarily reward a peer required getting their manager to fill out this somewhat lengthy form which meant that their manager had to agree with you that what they’d done was worthwhile.

      I totally expected it to be a “give points to friends” thing, or a popularity contest, but in reality the people who get the most praise/points are the people who are not usually remembered, like Shipping and Receiving and Document Control and Facilities. And since we have several sites, it’s way easier to recognize your coworkers at other sites this way than to try and figure out who the heck their boss is.
      (Which reminds me, I’ve got to go give out points because it’s the end of the month.)

    9. turquoisecow*

      Much more low tech but my company had little tickets you could give to coworkers for “exemplifying the core values.” Both the giver and the receiver would then be put in a monthly drawing where they could win various small prizes like free lunch in the cafeteria or small gift cards – the most coveted being a close parking spot next to a sign saying champion or something. In theory, a good way for employees to appreciate one another.

      Some people got really serious about it and would give out a large allotment of tickets to their friends just before the raffle drawing to increase their chances, while other times managers and higher ups would give them out very seriously as a recognition for great work on a project. A ticket from Senior VP was a great honor and was given the same weight in the drawing as Bob who gave all his friends tickets because he wanted free lunch.

    10. Frinkfrink*

      Yup, our section of the institution I work for created a weekly peer acknowledgement thing, but I’ve only gotten it once in (2? 3?) years because nobody sees what I do and the majority of my projects are behind the scenes or for external departments.

      That’ll be one of the things I note on my exit interview when I leave.

  14. Juicebox Hero*

    One store I worked at decided that we’d sell more if we approached customers more. Those of us who actually worked with customers knew that approaching them typically got you blown off or worse, and the ones who wanted/needed help would come to you.

    Management, who never listened to the floor workers anyway, decided the best way to accomplish this was to get on the loudspeaker and order the floor workers to “perform an ACN now”. ACN = Approach Customer Now so it was a stupid acronym and redundant all at the same time.

    It flopped after less than a week because they tended to call for an ACN when there weren’t enough customers in the store to go around, some employees (like me) refused to do it, and the customers caught on pretty fast when this announcement came on and every employee on the floor started swarming after them and they’d hustle for the nearest exit.

    1. Американка (Amerikanka)*

      As a customer who prefers being left alone, I’d hustle for the nearest exit as well!

      1. snarkfox*

        I just realized I’m one of those weirdos who actually likes being approached (once, not repeatedly) because I hate feeling like I’m bothering people, so if an employee looks busy, I’ll spend 15 minutes searching the store for something.

        But if they asked me if they can help, I can happily ask them where the thing is. I probably need to work on this, lol

    2. Bunny Girl*

      I used to work in an overpriced lotion store, you know the one. They required that we approached customers every 5 minutes to check on them.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I’ve worked in retail. This would cause me to leave (& wonder if I was giving off shoplifter vibes).

        1. Captain Swan*

          Once I was shopping at a well known makeup chain store. I was approached 6 times in a short period to see if I was finding everything. I told the last poor sales person that asked, that if one more person approached me I was asking for the store manager handing them all my product to restock and having a word with them about possible bias in their customer approach techniques.
          I was in after work that Day and dressed for the office. When I came in other times in jeans and a tshirt no one would help me even if I stood next to them looking helpless. My money spends the same regardless of how I’m dressed.

      2. delta-cat*

        There used to be a lingerie store near my old apartment that I assume had a similar policy, because I could never spend more than 5 minutes in there without someone approaching me. Every 5 minutes until I left the store, with or without buying anything. It happened every time I went there, so it was clearly not a couple of overzealous sales staff, it had to be a store policy. Maybe I’m off-base here but I really don’t need strangers all up in my personal space every 5 minutes while I’m shopping for underpants, thanks.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          If it’s the store about a secret then they are owned by the same company and yes it is or was store policy. I’m not sure what the thought process behind it was, but I think it was so we appeared attentive. It’s obnoxious.

          1. Magenta Sky*

            The thought process behind it is a frequent entry in the “management trend of the month club,” which is to say, if helping customers makes sales, helping them more must make more sales. Up to a point, it’s valid – people will complain just as loudly about not being able to find help when they want it (try to find help in the home center that uses orange as their signature color) – but that point gets left in the dust all too often. And pestering people too often leads the more retail-aware ones thinking that you think they’re shoplifters, which offends them far more.

            In short, there’s little *thought* behind it at all. It’s just bad managers managing badly.

          2. Slightly Above Average Bear*

            I’ve started speed shopping at those stores. I don’t go in unless I know exactly what I’m buying. I can grab it and be at the register in under 5 minutes, while yelling “No, thank you” to the helpful associates trailing behind me.

          3. delta-cat*

            lol, it was actually their major competitor in our region but there is something profoundly unsettling to think that this policy is/was common across underwear stores. (Now that I think about it, the only other store I’ve had a hassled-by-the-salesperson experience that even came close was also a lingerie store in a third, unrelated chain. Hmm.)

      3. UKgreen*

        Ugh. I’m in the UK and there are two shops (The Body Shop and LUSH) that I absolutely boycott because their staff won’t leave customers the hell alone. The last time I went in LUSH – and left without buying anything – I had to tell one young man to back off, and stop asking me personal questions about my day and commenting on my skin and to stop calling me very familiar pet names (I am no-one’s honey and only my husband gets to call me darling).

        1. Bunny Girl*

          Dude LUSH is the worst. I used to really like their stuff but I felt really smothered going in to their store.

          1. Bromaa*

            I always thought Lush was very peaceful and the staff very Normal about customer interaction…. until I shopped somewhere other than my normal Harvard Square location. NOPE.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Boston/Cambridge is just the best for customers who do not want customer service, TYVM. (Signed, Lifelong Bostonian.)

        2. Dinwar*

          It’s why I avoid certain game stores. I get that they don’t want to be babysitters for kids and teens, but when someone in their 30s walks in to see what’s available they can just let me look, you know? I don’t know what I want, that’s why I’m here!!

          1. Magenta Sky*

            They may be concerned with shoplifting. I suspect they have serious problems with shrink, and the best way to stop shoplifters is to give them too much customer service.

            But you really need to be able to identify who *is* a potential shoplifter.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Or, if Dinwar is older than most of their clientele, they might figure “Hey, this person probably has more money than a middle schooler! Let’s glom onto them and make a big sale!” Lol.

              1. Dinwar*

                I think it was this. They were trying to make a sale and get me out as quick as possible. And to be fair, they succeeded in one of those objectives.

                Shoplifting may have been a concern, but I was the only customer there. It would be pretty easy to keep an eye on me while still allowing me to browse the games.

        3. allathian*

          Ugh. I’m slightly sensitive to scent, but LUSH is horrible because you can smell it outside the store.

          Thankfully I’m in Finland, so customer service tends to be a lot less intrusive. American stores that try to introduce a policy of approaching all customers who are just browsing repeatedly usually either go out of business quickly, or change their practices. Most Finns will avoid excessive “customer service” like the plague.

          In the late 1990s when a few restaurants started approaching diners in the middle of the meal to ask how they were enjoying it, there was a big fuss in the letters from readers sections of our major newspapers. Most people hated it. Now we’re more used to it as more restaurants are doing it, but there’s a certain skill in timing it. Please don’t make servers tick off a box of asking customers twice during one meal how they’re enjoying it or whatever. Don’t force them to interrupt diners who are engaged in conversation to do it. That’ll only lead to resentment.

        4. Helpful?*

          I was in Next in the UK, my wife dresses very well, I do not – shabby jeans and t-shirts with heavy metal logo’s. Stood idly there with brain in neutral while wife was looking at clothes for the boys. Asked 4 times by staff if they could help in 4 minutes. So decided have fun, moved close to the really expensive suit rack and just stood there, looking around every minute or so. When my DLW went to pay, I moved abruptly towards the tills and I swear I got 2 assistants to start to run.

      4. Zephy*

        As a customer, I would leave. I would go out of my way to purchase my overpriced lotion from somewhere that didn’t require me to talk to other human beings.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          Yeah. I hated it. I refused to do that and kept getting in trouble for it. The store was itty bitty and if a customer needed help they could ask me. It seems like they have relaxed the policy a bit because I went in to buy a gift a year or two ago and didn’t feel harassed.

        2. Sara without an H*

          This is why I buy my overpriced lotion online.

          I feel bad for all the retail workers who suffer from the kind of managerial incompetence described in this thread. But retail shopping is no longer pleasant, so I do very little of it.

        3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          “I would go out of my way to purchase my overpriced lotion from somewhere that didn’t require me to talk to other human beings.”

          Like the internet! (since I know what lotions and smells I like already)

      5. SQL Coder Cat*

        I believe I do know the one. I deliberately go to the busiest store in my area, on Saturdays. I get my shopping bag from the greeter and the remainder of my shopping the floor staff is too busy helping people with specific questions to hover.

      6. Slow Gin Lizz*

        The one time this happened to me at a store (not a lotion store) and I was approached by each of the three employees in a small store where I could be seen everywhere else in the store, I finally snapped at the third employee that I was starting to feel very paranoid and they needed to leave me alone already. I felt really bad, and I apologized that I know it was their job, but also said they were going a little overboard.

      7. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        That explains a lot! Have not been in one in years (honestly I think I’d get a horrible headache if I did), but I remember that I’d go in and look around and they just kept approaching me and it was so annoying. Poor employees probably hated it!

      8. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I’d walk right out the second time. If I need help, I’ll ask. Otherwise, I’ll feel harassed.

    3. AcademiaCat*

      I feel like this sort of “personal touch” sales works best in very specific settings. In a high end boutique? Hello when they come in and small talk is part of what they’re paying for. At a mid-range mall shop? You wait for product interest or signs of looking for an employee. In a box store? You have to wait for them to approach you. Anything else gets you accusations of theft monitoring.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        There’s a happy medium. Greet the customers when they come in the door (by name, if you remember it), ask them what they’re looking for so you can point them in the right direction, and be around – but don’t keep asking. If you pay attention, you can *tell* when they need help, even if they don’t ask, by the way they’re looking around. And if they want to be left alone, leave them alone.

        1. Whence*

          There’s a store I go to once in a whle that’s started stationing someone by the door to ask what you’re looking for and point you in the right direction, and I HATE it. Partly it’s because I go there just often enough to usually already know where to go. (Also there are giant signs, it’s not hard to make a guess.) But even as someone who already dislikes being approached, I myself was surprised by how much I despise this; I dunno, it feels like a hoop to jump through just to get into the store.

          I pretty quickly started blatantly ignoring the question, though still giving the greeter a friendly hello as I pass by.

          1. 1LFTW*

            I hate that. It makes me feel rushed, like they’re trying to get me in and out as quickly as possible.

            I’ve also felt kinda surveilled. A greeter once asked what I was looking for, and I said Coffee, so they pointed me to the Coffee Aisle, and then I realized needed Cookies, which were in the Bakery Department, visible from the front door. So I started walking over there, and the greeter chased me down, repeating “the Coffee Aisle is that way!”. Like, do you really not want me to browse, and spend more money at your store than I intended?

    4. Cacofonix*

      Ugh, every customer’s nightmare. I love the announcement though “perform an ACN now” which is spelled out “Approach Customer Now now” and I’m thinking “Swarm, dammit, Swarm!”

    5. Richard Hershberger*

      Back in a previous life when I managed a convenience store, corporate would send out a monthly calendar with what item we were supposed to upsale customers on each day. So the guy who came in every morning for his coffee and pack of Marlboro Reds, I was supposed to try to talk into a Coke or Camels instead, because that was that day’s item. I would post the calendar each month, so that the district manager could tick off that box on his visit, but I then ignored it, and certainly didn’t push the employees to pay it any attention. I have always wondered what was the process in the home office to produce this calendar. Did they have meetings? Was this a big part of someone’s job? How can I get that job?

      1. Empress Matilda*

        My husband used to work in a tech store that was definitely not anything to do with radios, or shacks. For a while they were promoting mobile phones, and the staff had to try and upsell *everybody* to a new phone.

        College kid comes in for a $10 USB key to finish an assignment? Do they want a phone with that?

        Harried admin assistant comes racing in with the corporate credit card because his boss has a presentation in half an hour and they need a new charging cable for the laptop? Surely this would be the *perfect* time to tell him about the new zillion megapixel camera on this shiny new phone!

        It did not go over well.

        1. WellRed*

          I’m guessing the same store that forces the poor cashier to try and sell you some sort of tech insurance even when you politely say you’re not interested.

        2. perstreperous*

          A well-known stationer’s in the UK did that to the extent that it was even mentioned in Parliament, as I recall:

          Would you like a chocolate orange with that?
          NO DAMN IT I AM BUYING ENVELOPES

      2. T*

        I just noticed today in the drive though at my pharmacy that they had a sell flu shot goal poster up on the wall. This store was at 30% of the goal….

    6. Paris Geller*

      Oh, as a customer this would be my nightmare! I hate stores that force their employees to constantly check on me. I know it’s not the employees fault, but I still can’t stand it. I haven’t been in a Kohls in about ten years for this reason–I found they were the pushiest with the offers of assistance & the store credit card!

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Oh, lord, the store credit cards. I could fill up a whole comment section with horror stories about those alone!

      2. Forensic13*

        I worked stock at a Kohl’s briefly and they sometimes made me run a register. I just flat-out refused to ask about the store credit card. Fire me. I don’t care. That thing is a menace.

        1. bicality*

          When I worked at Kohl’s (children’s department, which is actually about a quarter of the store), I would go into the dressing room and just sit. This was before smartphones and we had to leave our phone in the locker anyway. I figured if anyone came in, I was (of course) just picking up the left-behind clothes. Except most of the time I was in there so long and so still the lights automatically went off.

      3. bicality*

        Okay, I have a Kohl’s credit story from the early 2000s. We (store employees) had targets as well as promotions for credit card apps. They didn’t have to be successful – someone could get turned down, but you still got credit for having them fill it out. The customer received a percentage off just for applying. The typical was 10%, but sometimes it was a special 15 or 20%. You keyed in the percent off manually.

        We had one cashier that was blowing people out of the water with his credit apps. Like, double or triple everyone else. We really thought he was just an amazing salesperson. (I’m guessing you can see where this is going). This cashier was actually just increasing the amount off their purchase he would offer them until they agreed to apply. Some people were getting 90% off their purchases.

        Eventually, management found out and he got fired.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I was guessing it was bogus applications. Have a friend come in and apply with fake information.

      4. Richard Hershberger*

        I occasionally shop at Kohls and have not had this happen. My guess is that they reduced staff.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          By “this” I mean being accosted on the sales floor. They still push the credit card, though no more obnoxiously than other places.

        2. Paris Geller*

          Very possibly! I just had such a bad experience in the early 2010’s multiple times that I vowed to never shop there again. It could be a very different experience today.

      5. T*

        I worked retail in the 1990’s and if I got a customer to sign up for the store credit card I got $4 extra paid immediately in cash. My hourly pay was $3.25 so you bet I was good at selling the store credit card. Anything else I cared less if the customer bought an upscale coat or not….

    7. scratchedagain*

      When I worked at Bed Bath and Beyond we were required to greet every single customer we saw and ask if they needed anything. I got more than one customer telling me they needed the employees to leave them alone, because obviously. Who actually wants to be badgered every two seconds while browsing?

    8. k*

      I had a similar retail initiative where management decided if a customer was in the store an employee was to be no more than 5 feet away from them at all times (this was pre-covid). The idea was that you should be talking to them, or if not easily available. What it actually was was creepy. And made people think we were monitoring them for shoplifting. And prevented us from getting anything done. I outright told my direct manager I wouldn’t be spending my day making people uncomfortable, which I got push back on. Luckily this plan was shortlived for obvious reasons.

    9. KK*

      I worked at Barnes and Noble for five years in the music department (back when there was a music department), and we basically had to follow customers around while they shopped because we had a huge shoplifting problem. The problem with this was that we were in a fairly high-end mall and the non-shoplifting customers HATED us following them around, talking to them, etc., and the shoplifters just got more clever. One day I discovered that someone had ripped a security sticker off a CD and CHEWED IT LIKE GUM to avoid being seen with the sticker in his hand. I found the wet remnants after he booked it out of the store.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Another technique is to figure out how many employees are in the department and send in a gang of that number plus one.

        A related technique: Back in my previous life when I worked for Walmart, they would occasionally send employees into a different store to try to shoplift, to test that store’s security. I desperately wanted to do this, teaming up with my Black buddy. I am quite sure that I could have walked out of the store with a king’s ransom while he walked around acting suspiciously.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Uh, yes. I keep in touch with a former colleague who happens to be African American. She has been followed by employees in the large appliance department at Lowes — as if she’s going to slip a washer and dryer into her handbag and walk out with them.

          This entire thread illustrates why so many people have shifted to online shopping.

    10. Resident Catholicville, USA*

      When I worked in retail, a manager once complained that I didn’t approach customers enough. The customer closest to me at the time was a man I knew to have mental health issues. He was literally two feet from me, so I turned, asked him, “Can I help you with anything today?”

      As my boss stood next to me, the man loudly exclaimed, “I HAD DIARRHEA IN YOUR BATHROOM EIGHTEEN TIMES SO FAR!” I calmly said, “Okay, let me know if you need anything, ” and my boss never asked me to approach customers again.

      (This is nothing against the man, btw- I had worked there 5 years at that point and knew him, since he came in weekly. All conversations with him were like this.)

    11. Jackalope*

      When I was a kid and a teenager I generally had to shop with my dad who loved being approached by dept store staff. It was a nightmare to me, especially since as a girl I had been socialized not to be rude and say I didn’t like something someone gave me. So there was this nightmare (both for me and the employees, I’m certain), of them approaching me over and over again with different clothing options I didn’t like and would never wear, while I had to find some sort of “polite” reason to turn them down, meanwhile keeping me from browsing and finding clothing I actually liked. Every time they tried to move on, my dad would ask them another question or try to get their help on something else…. And of course they couldn’t just ignore him because even though the clothing was for me, he was the one paying for it.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        My tactic was to nerd snipe them. I’d ask my dad if he knew what the difference between velour and velveteen was, or something like that, and go off and do my own shopping while they were talking. It did mean that they usually sold my dad on one or two items that I would never wear, but it meant that the nightmare wasn’t happening every five minutes and I could get things I did like.

    12. I should be working*

      This sounds like it could be a skit on Are You Being Served. I’m loving the visual playing in my head right now.

    13. Tracy Flick*

      Why bother with the intercom? Why not just have a shift supervisor emit an unearthly screech like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

    14. The Prettiest Curse*

      While I was living in the US, I always felt bad for store employees who had to do this, because I know they’re usually being forced by company policy. I much prefer the UK culture of “we will totally ignore you unless you specifically ask for help, and will probably continue ignoring you even then.”

      And I always feel terrible for any customer service employee who is forced into relentless upbeat niceness. So glad that I didn’t have to do that in my one retail job.

      1. Storm in a teapot*

        Yes I totally agree. Also bring a Londoner I absolutely hate having conversations when I’m shopping. No I haven’t seen Love Island (seriously do I look the type to watch that rubbish?), no I don’t want to get some lip balm or socks or whatever else is by the till.
        Also the taking my email to bombard me with marketing spam as well as my receipt. So annoying

    15. KTinDC*

      Ugh, my worst nightmare.

      I’ve been in a store recently – can’t for the life of me remember which one right now – that had two different colors of shopping baskets. You would pick up one color if you wanted to shop without being approached, and the other if you wanted a salesperson to approach you. I thought that was brilliant.

    16. You Better Run*

      I literally panicked and ran out of a Dillard’s without buying anything last year because of a pushy employee.

      I was already stressing out because I had pretty much been last-second forced to take a job I knew to be toxic, and I had to start *the next day.* I needed new work clothes, so instead of spending my final hours of freedom trying to calm my anxiety disorder, I was walking around a crowded mall near Christmas desperately looking for clothing.

      The employee approached me, asked the usual “what kind of clothes are you looking for?” questions. And then proceeded to ignore all of my, “It’s a casual office in a manufacturing facility, so stuff that’s nice enough to greet visitors, but not too fancy and can be washed” and instead brought me the most expensive clothes she could find, all of which were dry-clean only fabrics. They were hideously ugly as well, since she also ignored my tastes. She would not listen to any feedback I had and kept telling me to “just try it!”

      I took the stack to the dressing room, hoping she’d leave and I could sneak out. No dice. I actually thought she might try to follow me inside for a moment. She literally stood outside the door asking me questions the whole time. I spent a few minutes pretending to change, then opened the door and told her nothing fit, so sorry, my body’s weird like that (it really is, actually, I’m weird sizes all over, which is one reason I hate shopping), but thanks for your help!

      She WOULD NOT LEAVE. She insisted we weren’t done and she would find something else. I was already panicking too much to just tell her I didn’t want to keep going, but I also don’t think it would have made a difference. This woman was determined that she was going to Make A Big Sale. So I pointed all the way across the store, asked if they had that random dress in size whatever and some good leggings and jewelry that would match it, knowing it would keep her busy. As soon as I saw her back walking away, I darted out of the dressing room, dumped all that clothing on a random chair in my panic, grabbed my partner by the hand (he was also stunned by her pushiness), and literally ran to the nearest exit, dragging him along.

      I have never done something like that before, and I’m still amazed at how thoroughly I broke and just had to run in sheer terror of this pushy employee. There was literally no thought in my head except “RUN DANGER RUN RUN RUN” until I was outside of the store, around the corner, and on a completely different floor. I honestly wonder what went through her head when she returned with her next stack of clothes and I was nowhere to be found. I wonder how many other people fled from her like rats scrambling from the barn cat.

      Anyways, I went to the much more casual Old Navy a few blocks away, where I found everything I needed. Bonus is that Old Navy is one of the few stores that carries clothing which actually fits my very short, underweight, yet very wide hips and shoulders body. (Now that I typed that, I remember pushy woman making rude remarks about my figure when I told her the clothes didn’t fit. She said “curvy” in a way that suggested she was all but holding her nose.)

      (Yes, my name is a Kidd Video reference, for my fellow 80s kids. :D)

      1. You Better Run*

        Should I have typed “80s kidds?” Maybe. ;) But honestly, just reliving the experience to type it up is making my anxiety spike all over again!

        1. Nessun*

          My sympathies for such a truly horrid experience, but from one 80s kidd to another, A+ reference/name!!

    17. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      what most customers want is to see a person is available that they can approach with a questions or request for assistance, but not to have to speak with or acknowledge that person beyond maybe a polite smile until they decide they need that person’s assistance!

  15. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    We had a large garbage can and different recyclce/compost bins in the kitchen/coffee area. To decrease the amount of time people spent walking to the kitchen to dispose of their trash, garbage cans and recycle compost bins were placed in every hallway usually near the elevators. As soon as you stepped out your nose was hit with the smell of garbage because they weren’t emptied out every day. Carpets were stained from leaking cups and containers because people didn’t always rinse them out because it meant a trip to the kitchen…but we were so much more productive.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      A former place that I worked at changed cleaners. So instead of the cleaners picking up the garbage from each desk (cube farm), we were responsible for emptying our garbage cans. They had 2 centrally located garbage areas Both were in the middle of the main path. Garbage was overflowing by the end of the week. We had at least 300 people on this floor with only 2 places to throw your garbage away. You would actually trip on the giant bags of trash. How this wasn’t a fire hazard is beyond me. Apparently this saved the company money? also there were never any replacement garbage bags. So you had to use your same liner. Which is fine if you have just paper products but not if its actual garbage (gross banana peels anyone?)

  16. Risha*

    My story isn’t as weird as it is infuriating. The manager at my last job (so dysfunctional I could write an entire book about it) kept threatening us with our jobs when we didn’t meet our productivity minimum. We weren’t able to meet minimum because we were very short staffed, the manager was too precious to jump in and help us, we kept getting unwanted tasks from other depts dumped on us, and it was our busiest time of the year.

    So she kept telling us that corporate is mad at us for missing our turn around times, we better increase productivity because in times like these, we’re lucky to have a job. There are 20 people applying for EACH of our positions and we can be replaced tomorrow if we don’t pick up productivity. Well, I (and 3 others) decided to give those 80 people applying for our jobs a chance and we quit for a better company.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Well, if there were so many applicants ready for your jobs, there were plenty available to address the short staffing issue! Honestly, I was laid off from a job once and my immediate response was pure relief. That was the moment I realized that fear of not having a job is really not enough of a reason to stay!

  17. Hills to Die on*

    Worked for a company that was headquartered in a small southern town, in a literal swamp. Y’all, these people would *vanish* every year as soon as it was time for budgets to be approved so that they could all go duck hunting. NO contact. We would wait for that to wrap up in time for Christmas and New Year’s, hoping to find out if we still had jobs for the next year.
    Anyhoo, they would encourage people to move to the small southern swamp by telling us we were less likely to get laid off that way, and JUST LOOK at this amazing new headquarters building we have! Took away the pensions of people that had worked there forever just before they built it. The rest of us in another city holed up in our giant warehouse / office place that smelled like dirty rubber because it used to be a tire factory.
    I have since moved on and I don’t miss that place.

    1. Bibliothecarial*

      They took away the pensions?!!?! I’m sympathetic to the duck hunting but taking away pensions like that is pure evil.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        It really was! I was not there soon enough to get one, and benefitted from the change of the PTO accrual (and subsequent payout when people retired) to ‘Unlimited’ PTO. People had been racking up PTO for years and had MONTHS of PTO saved up. Poof! Gone. and of course it was not truly unlimited anyway. I had a spouse with significant health issues so it helped me but I felt so bad for them.

  18. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    For a while, the gourmet grocery I worked at got really into noting final cash drawer discrepancies. And would announce it during closing — “Anna was the winner today, only 3 cents off!”

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      My org does a similar thing, where the team lead and/or supervisors will randomly post the call counts or mention who is highest in task XYZ currently, as a sort of, “Jane is currently blowing you all out of the water!” to try and encourage people to make it a competition and thus do more, I guess? I’m not really competitive though so maybe I’d feel differently if I was, but I don’t like it at all.

    2. Happy meal with extra happy*

      At my first job, as a cashier, I once somehow was extremely off, like $80 or something. Not sure if I was scammed or just messed up, but I was so fortunate my work was relatively chill about it. I was on a close watch list for like two weeks but once I was past that, it was never brought up again.

      I also had another job where they would do random audits, and you had to pull out your pockets, turn down your socks if they were pulled up, so extreme. I once had a customer say I never gave her her change back, so they wound up counting my drawer, and I was exact to the penny.

  19. Reality Check*

    Not so much to boost productivity but to maintain it (from employer’s point of view). During the spring of 2020 when everyone was told to work from home, they split us into 2 groups of 12 as there were just 24 of us in the office. Group A worked from home during the morning half of the day while Group B worked at the office. At lunchtime everyone switched. Because they believe remote workers nap all day. I’m sure they think productivity was down 50% to this day…

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Given my commute, I’d have noped the heck out of there. Or would definitely NOT commuted on my lunch hour.

    2. londonedit*

      That’s just bizarre. Even in a Covid lockdown they had 12 people working in an office together for half the day?!

    3. Fives*

      Even daily would have been better! Our group was divided in two and each group worked at home for one week while the other was in office (spread out).

    4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      That is definitely absurd. And one benefit of remote work for the worker is to save money commuting (also good for the environment), so making everyone come in every day for less time is ridiculous.

      Also, this arrangement would likely force me to break my focus in the middle of something, and I’m ADHD and that kind of thing would definitely affect my productivity in a negative way.

  20. NewJobNewGal*

    I worked for a family business that required everyone to send an out of office email with the details of where they would be. There were dozens of emails a day of “Going to pick up Mr. Boss’s dry cleaning” and “Going to the dermatologist” and “Picking up sick child from school.”
    The kicker was when I heard “The Family” complaining about all the emails. They were they ones that demanded it so they knew where everyone was all the time!

    1. Risha*

      LOL. I had a boss similar to that–she needed to know via email every. single. time. we stepped away from our computers (we were all fully remote). So I decided to comply 100% with her request.

      I told her when I’m using the restroom, that I had to put cream in my coffee, that I’m going to put on a sweater bcuz I’m cold, I’m about to open my living room blinds, you get the point. Others did that too and after like 2 weeks, she said we no longer have to notify her unless it’s going to be over 15 minutes.

        1. CleverUsernameGoesHere*

          If you’re on reddit check out /r/maliciouscompliance

          There are a lot of good ones on there

    2. irene adler*

      Ha! ha! on the complainers!
      Never had to deal with this particular mind-set myself. Why do this to employees? Do people really think this practice will catch slackers? No one’s gonna say: “I’m taking a nap now.” or “I’m relaxing with a video for a few hours.”

      1. ferrina*

        Can you imagine if people really were this honest? We could finally get an answer from yesterday’s letter about the boss who disappears!

  21. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    In the middle of a manufacturing product launch. All the (salaried) engineers were working 60+ hours a week to make it happen, but at their own discretion.

    The company announced suddenly that Saturdays from 8-12 were mandatory hours for all salaried employees for the next 4 months and that those hours were going to be used for “special projects”. No exceptions. So the engineer that had been coming back to work after her kids were in bed and working until midnight daily had to miss her son’s entire soccer season on Saturday mornings. And we were all getting these extra “special projects” on top of what we were doing.

    Other departments were coming in with nothing to do and when they asked why they were told engineers requested it and so they resented us.

    It turns out this was all some misguided notion that we would “feel supported” if everyone was there and the “special projects” was supposed to be ways that other departments could help us.

    The entire time it was mandated every single engineer started working the required 44 hours a week and not a penny more.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Yep, this nonsense means it is time to stop going above and beyond. Where do employers get these crazy ideas? In what world would this help anything?

  22. RIP Pillow Fort*

    Our switch from all paper to all electronic has been interesting.

    Multi-page documents outlining how to save a document and upload it to a file tree. Pages of how to review a document as a PDF and email it to other people. Just so much documentation and back and forth about how to say things that are really basic computer skills. Also being really rigid about this is the only way to do this process.

    Don’t get me wrong, switching to all electronic was fully necessary and is productive! But the process to get there has been so abstract for me because I am mid-career and I’m pretty digital native.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I had a manager of a grocery store make me write processes and procedures for every last job in the store. In extreme detail. How to clean the sitting area and reset the tables and chairs was 5 pages long.
      They got new management who decided not to go forward with that project, especially since the process binder I put that crap in was basically just another piece of clutter.

      1. Dinwar*

        I had the opposite experience with this. A manager told me to write out in detail what I did for various processes. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the justification for this was that we were revising our SOPs and he was in part using this to argue “This is what we actually do, and here’s the data showing it was good.” Another intent for this exercise was to provide sufficient detail that I could pass these things off to newbies–ie, training me in how to delegate and train people. At least twice we were able to find errors in the process that could be corrected and make the process better. And part of it was to convince me that I was taking on too much–took me a week to complete the exercise, and the sheer number of SOPs I wrote caused my bosses to become concerned.

        I think it all depends on the job. If used properly this is a powerful technique for training people and letting people see the trees for the forest, as it were. If used improperly it’s busy-work that makes no sense and doesn’t improve anything.

        1. ferrina*

          Agree. Sometimes these things are useful!

          It’s also important to know when you need a checklist vs an overview vs a full detailed document. Almost nothing requires a binder.

    2. Miss Fisher*

      It was a mess when my company first did this. They hired temps (including me, this is how I came to be at this job) to appropriately organize files by removing staples, taping tears, and naming the documents etc. Well there were about 40 temps with 2 hours of training. To this day, many documents still can’t be found easily because they were mislabeled. Everyone hates searching for anything in that system.

    3. 12345*

      I worked at a job that switched to digital without this type of documentation…. there were a LOT of people who struggled. I did not need the cheat sheets but I think these are really smart!

    1. Ann Ominous*

      Haha those are the best. One reply-allpocalypse I was a recipient of made it onto Twitter and that was even more fun.

      1. Ann*

        You wouldn’t, sometimes you really need to be able to have an email chain with 5 people on it without having to type everyone’s name every time. We didn’t have Slack or Teams at that point.

    2. Miss Fisher*

      Gotta love coming in the next morning with one of these to 500 emails telling the person to remove them or not to reply all. It can be a mess.

      1. Ann*

        Basically someone pretty junior at a subcontractor sent an email to a list that had the entire company (thousands of people) on it and people were able to reply to that list with all the usuals: why am I on this? This wasn’t meant for me. Please remove me. Stop replying all. The volume was so enormous that it shut down our network.

        The CEO was really mad and he had IT literally remove the button for reply all. Even though obviously this was an IT problem— that list shouldn’t have existed unrestricted and they should have been able to shut down the list/replies right away!

        People freaked out about the loss of reply all and then they started a task force for employees to come up with new ideas to prevent another reply-allpocalypse. :) All normal stuff like restricted access to large lists and I think there was also a warning/confirmation if you were replying all to a group larger than 8. And most importantly, IT implemented controls on their end.

        It hasn’t happened again. Must to my disappointment because I love a good reply-allpocalypse. :)

        1. River Song*

          We just had a reply all apocalypse at my org! Thousands of people receiving 200+ responses because even when just hitting the reply button sent to an address that turned out to be a list with no limits. I’m on parental leave and watched my phone go off 80+ times between 9-11pm. It has been hilarious. Then someone sent out a separate test email to the address to confirm it was, in fact, going to the entire staff. It was!

        2. Lance*

          This is why most large-scale comms at my org are on BCC. Reply-all just gets the original sender, and nobody gets any of that nonsense.

    3. Magenta Sky*

      It’s even more fun when the reply-all is actually an email virus that goes through your inbox looking for addresses to send itself to, and the corporate office of your franchise doesn’t know how to use mailing lists, so they put thousands of address in the To: box. I had to write a special filtering rule to block the 400+ copies of the virus coming in every hour.

      (They’ve learned since then.)

        1. Magenta Sky*

          I’m not allowed to go to the twice a year conventions they sponsor, because my bosses are afraid I’ll talk to their IT people, and express my opinion of them.

    4. Xaraja*

      At my office they just have limitations on who can send email to the big distributions. So I can’t send email – or send a reply all – to all sales teams or all employees etc. Reply all is really really useful to keep a few people in the loop on an ongoing email chain and it’s one of my pet peeves when people won’t do it when it’s necessary.

        1. Jaz*

          Paraphrased as this was a few years ago.
          “Hello mate, management want to know your leave plans over Christmas.”
          “Hi mate, I might take 1 week, maybe 2. Oh, f*** it! I’ll take a month. Cheers!”
          Reply All. Gone within a week.

  23. Lab Tech*

    Used to work in an old factory that had glass ceilings, we used massive 60 feet long plastic extruders. In summer it got to about 36 – 40 degrees Celsius. Everyone protested, so management came in with a huge cardboard box full of those little plastic fans powered by a single AA battery and handed them out – one per person. So everyone would be able to work just as before.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      ok, and you are also installing a super effective ac unit and doing something about the glass ceilings too right? cause this little fan ain’t gonna cut it!

  24. zolk*

    For three days in highschool I worked at a greeting card shop. I never saw the owner, and was trained by someone who had only worked there a few weeks. This was pre-cell phones, and I worked hard all three days. On the fourth day, the owner called and said she had watched all the tapes and wanted to go minute by minute with me over everything I had done wrong. I quit on the spot.

      1. WellRed*

        There is. They spend all eternity watching tapes of the white walls after a company goes in and de-decorates in the name of productivity. The kicker: they are being watched on camera.

          1. My Cabbages!*

            And eeeeeevery once in a while something really interesting will happen…but only when they look away for a moment.

    1. BlueWolf*

      My partner worked at a restaurant for about 3 days. He had asked about grooming standards ahead of time and they told him his long hair and facial hair were fine (obviously long hair tied back). On his 3rd day, they told him the owner had been watching the tapes and said that he needed to shave and cut his hair. My partner went on his lunch break and then called the restaurant and told them he wasn’t coming back. Seems like a petty thing to quit over, but it also was not the original restaurant they told him he would be working at (part of a restaurant group with multiple restaurants in our city), and the location was absolutely horrible to commute to. Everyone there also had a really negative attitude, so he just decided it wasn’t worth it.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        It actually doesn’t sound petty to me at all! I am not changing my hair for any job, period.

  25. grapefruit*

    Just constant reorgs–within departments, between departments, reporting structures, company divisions, you name it. “To boost collaboration/efficiency/integration” or some similar corporate-speak. Then, when we’d finally settled into a structure that seemed like it was working well–guess what? Time for another reorg! It became a running joke. Of course, a number of these reorgs also conveniently gave cover for various layoffs. So I guess in that sense it did boost productivity, because all the remaining employees had more work to do as a result.

    1. mli25*

      I worked for a company like that. It seems like there was a re-org every 3-6 months. I also had 5 supervisors in less than 2 years, so that wasn’t 100% due to the re-orgs

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      That’s my experience working in corporate America. And the people calling the shots were always people who knew next to little about what we did or how we did it, and they were always shocked when a decision they made meant there was no one left who knew how to do X essential function or there was no way to do Y essential function because the new system made it literally impossible. It was so exhausting and annoying and definitely made you feel like an arbitrary cog in a wheel since, even if your boss and grandboss and great grandboss all thought you were a superstar in your job, a reorg would happen, they would all get laid off or moved around, and suddenly you are working for someone who does not know you or understand how your job works and is annoyed that you aren’t doing things as they envisioned since they do not understand the work at all! Ok, rant done!

  26. Kacihall*

    The owner of my company sent out an email as we went home for the initial quarantine. He made sure to tell us that it was all just an inconvenience, and to make sure we kept up with our work he wanted us to be constantly drinking water because then any virus would go immediately to our stomach and the stomach acid would kill it so we wouldn’t get sick and fall behind.

    I’m really not sure why I’m still here working for these people.

    1. Poison I.V. drip*

      That doesn’t actually work because the water just neutralizes the acid and the virus floats around on a little inflatable chaise lounge drinking a Mai Tai. I mean, that’s dumb, but if your boss can make up nonsense, so can I.

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I drink water constantly and I admit that I haven’t had COVID yet (knock on wood), but I get bronchitis and other viral diseases a lot. Clearly I have defective water or stomach acid!

  27. Anonononon*

    The company has an internal sort of social media, where we can caption photo templates and upvote/downvote posts, used widely to comment on current events at the company. There used to be a link to someone’s profile from their directory page, until the link (not the social media site) was removed at some VP’s behest, ostensibly to improve focus. The code change removing the link is visible to everyone, of course, and now sports hundreds of comments from people complaining about it being removed…..

    1. Boring Nickname Rachel*

      I hate that I have so many friends at this company that I know what you are referring to. If I never hear about Meme Gen again it will still be too soon!

  28. KHB*

    Nothing to add myself, but I’m reminded of that “Stuck in mud, can’t proceed” cartoon, where the “obvious solution” is to get more horses to help pull the cart out of the mud, and the “corporate solution” is to get more riders to whip the one horse they have.

  29. CreepyPaper*

    I worked somewhere when I was in my early 20’s that changed the dress code from ‘casual’ to ‘business formal’ because apparently t-shirts and jeans were affecting our productivity.

    They also brought in a ‘productivity tracker’ where we had to log everything we did to the minute. Including bathroom breaks. At the end of each week our manager sat us down and went through the tracker with us and made suggestions on how we could improve our productivity.

    I got told to spend less time in the bathroom. At the time (2002-ish) I was newly diagnosed with Crohns Disease and was trying to navigate my way through that. And back then, nobody gave a hoot about accommodations for an illness like that. I was fired three weeks later for ‘insubordination’ because I didn’t shorten my bathroom breaks.

    God. I was earning £9000 a year at that job. What a trash place that was to work.

    1. Lacey*

      That reminds me of my first office job. They sold water & water treatment products, so they decided we should all, always have a big glass of water on our desks to drink.

      And then got very annoyed at the number of restroom breaks people were taking.

        1. Mim*

          It’s like when I worked in retail and got chewed out for taking a bathroom break too soon after my lunch break. Um, yeah. I finally have a chance to sit down and have food and liquids. The natural consequence is that I’m going to have to pee at some point after that. Sorry for… having a physical body?

      1. snarkfox*

        I worked for a chiropractor for one summer pre-college. It was one of those anti-vax, “if you go to the chiropractor regularly you won’t ever get cancer or have mental health problems” kinds of places.

        Apparently they also liked to preach to their customers that soda is evil and will kill you or whatever, so they made their front desk employees start hiding their soda. They had to put it in an opaque container so the customers didn’t know it was soda.

        I was lauded as the epitome of health because I always carried a water bottle with me. I…just like water.

        1. Elenna*

          That’s just waiting for someone to get a translucent water bottle and fill it with Sprite or some other clear soda.

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I’d have walked into that meeting and said – I know exactly what is harming my productivity. It’s the time I waste entering everything into this stupid tracker!

      Well, maybe not in my 20s, but by mid 30s, definitely!

  30. Hi-ho Steverino*

    Ad agency, late 80s. It’s an ad agency so 9 to 5 means waltzing in at 9:30 and quite possibly working until 9:30. New boss announces that anyone who comes in one minute past 9 will be sent home; twice or three times (I forget) you’ll be fired.

    So for a week everyone comes in at 9 but all we can talk about is this crazy policy. One side effect is everyone quickly figures out that if you’re going to be a minute late, just go home and call in sick and then you’ll be out for the day but this way you won’t be penalized for it.

    Get to Friday and Boss says he’s made his point and calls it a great success that team-builded us all (or some such nonsense). In fact it had nothing to do with our real problems, which were considerable, except making it clear not to look in Boss’s direction for anything like solutions. By the time I left, about 10 months later, we’d probably lost 75 out of 150 staffers.

  31. Dust Bunny*

    My financial advisor’s office is pretty clearly one of those offices where you’re only allowed like one semi-personal item of decor and honestly it’s depressing as heck.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      My office basically looks like a fairy cave at this point and really sterile offices make me nervous.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Mine looks . . . lived-in? I don’t have a ton of personal stuff but I do have some artwork and some minor personal things, some eclectic furniture, and some work-related clutter. Not a lot of clutter, and it rotates as I finish projects, but it’s not spotless.

      2. Fives*

        I’m hybrid now but I was in office for most of the pandemic until this fall. You better believe I had pictures, figures, etc up to try to make being in everyday better.

    2. HE Admin*

      This reminds me of the episode of Better Off Ted where all the cubicle workers are randomly assigned one of four décor schemes (cats, space, classic cars, Green Bay Packers) in lieu of personalizing their own space.

  32. NotRealAnonforThis*

    Might count? Might be retention more than productivity? Definitely did not fall into “read the room” though.

    Retail management job – corporate had declared that they were closing our location (not shocking given local economy when compared with others nationwide at the time).

    All of us (including me, early 20’s assistant store manager, and manager, who was not greatly older than myself) were offered a WHOLE DOLLAR AN HOUR more if we stayed the entire duration of the store closure. Lets do some quick math – $40 per week max, pre-tax, for the eight week closure cycle. Only the manager and assistant manager were eligible for 40 hours, everyone else topped out at 32 per corporate closure procedures. In an environment where everyone’s suddenly a little skittish about the economy and nobody is willing to postpone a job hunt or accepting an offer for eight weeks. This went about as well as you’re thinking it did.

    1. NotRealAnonforThis*

      Oh, and the ::whomp whomp sad trombone:: of it?

      The extra money was a lump sum BONUS check separate from standard paychecks mailed to the home address after the store closed. If you did not work the entire 8 weeks you did not receive this bonus.

      At least in my state, anything tagged as a bonus has close to 45% taken out for taxes as a starting point.

      1. A fascinated reader*

        Interesting how different countries do this. In the UK a lump sum of up to £30,000 paid as part of your termination arrangements is tax free, not taxed at an extra rate.
        [nb going by memory so this isn’t tax advice!]

      2. A Mouse*

        There might be a common misconception about taxes here. The money taken out of the bonus is *withholding*, which is not the same as *taxation*. When you do your taxes, it all evens out. If you end up getting a refund, then you “just” didn’t have access to that money for a few months.

  33. Ann Ominous*

    “ Decided it was necessary to have an entire team read documents, send emails, make comments to a working file, and basically all other things as one entire unit. So for hours at a time, all 10 of us would be looking at a screen while one person reads the content outloud. Boss did this in response to improper communications going out by team members.”

    OMG this is my nightmare.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      This was mine. It was truly awful. One such task was ensuring the current bus routes were being driven as described in our scheduling software so for 8 SOLID HOURS, all of us sat there while one person read the route description and the other followed along in a map and said, “yep, uh huh, right”.

    2. Agile Phalanges*

      Same. It’s bad enough when my boss keeps me in his office while he plays with formulas in a spreadsheet or composes an e-mail, but having to do that as an entire team? All the time? No.

      1. WellRed*

        Omg. We have a useless weekly meeting over teams. It drives me crazy when someone decides they need to pull up a file or something at all, let alone relevant to ONLY ONE PERSON. That’s what slack, emails and everything else is for.

    3. Sanity Lost*

      Not going to lie, I would be sound asleep about 20 minutes in. One of the reasons I don’t really watch tv or listen to audio books is they zonk me out. MAYBEEEEEE if I had a crochet project, I could possibly stay awake, but after about an hour, I would be examining my eyelids for light leaks.

      1. Rebecca1*

        Falling asleep when bored or watching TV is a symptom of several medical problems. If you don’t already have a known reason why it happens to you, you may want to get that checked out.

    4. JustaTech*

      Oh, you were also in my meeting yesterday where they spent 45 minutes trying to get the Gantt chart to update correctly?
      (Populating the Gantt chart as a group activity made sense. 10 minutes trying to get it to update made sense. The next 35 minutes? At least I wasn’t in person so I could be dong other stuff.)

  34. Kyle*

    At my last job, they had little garbage and recycling cans at each desk, which was nice – you could just throw away snack wrappers, grab and go lunch boxes, etc. right at your desk rather than leaving a bunch of garbage on your desk or stopping what you’re working on to hike to a community garbage cans.

    Corresponding with an office move, the workplace team announced the end of the individual cans in the name of “collaboration,” of all things. As though the next winning idea would be spawned by a couple engineers meeting over a garbage can or something.

    Certainly had nothing to do with reducing the amount of time they’d have to pay the cleaning staff, I’m _sure_.

    1. Kyle*

      Oh, and I forgot to mention – since this was announced with the move, there were lots of folks secreting away their garbage cans, boxing them up for the movers to take, etc.

      As a result, there were tons of illicit garbage cans snuck in that went un-emptied for weeks at a time.

      1. JustaTech*

        “Collaboration”? That’s just weird.
        I knew someone who had to empty her own trash and recycle, but that was in the name of security, as in you couldn’t hire janitorial staff with a high enough security clearance to empty her position’s trash cans, so she had to do it herself.

        Ah government jobs, so glamorous!

  35. Gone but not forgotten*

    My manager decided there wasn’t enough communication between departments after a random employee he questioned didn’t know what was going on in the other building (what was going on in the other building did not effect this employees work), so he made all supervisors write a weekly report and send it to all other supervisors Friday morning, and then have an hour and a half meeting every Friday afternoon. He repeatedly told us this wasn’t for him, but was for the supervisors in other departments, but he was the only one who spoke during the meetings and when supervisors tried to ask each other questions about something relevant they got shot down for making the meeting too long.

    So it was really efficient, obviously.

    (Happily for me I got out, but I do feel bad for the other supervisors I left behind…)

      1. JustaTech*

        We used to have our group meeting on Fridays right after lunch (so we could plan for the upcoming week).
        Around this time things weren’t great for the company as a whole, so our many-levels-up boss decided he would give us what he could, which was random Friday afternoons off.

        I think maybe twice we agreed (as a group) to have our meeting anyway (because we actually needed to make some decisions before Monday), but in general, woo! Friday afternoon off!

  36. Eric*

    At one place I worked, they started combining all the birthday ‘celebrations’ into a single one every month. Yeah, just like on The Office, and really pretty soon after that episode aired. It was like someone took that dumb idea from the show, and decided “Hey, that sounds good, let’s try it here!”

    Can’t say I quite understand why management decided to get their ideas from Michael Scott.

    1. bday*

      wait, why is this a dumb idea? i’ve been in offices that did this. seems to make sense to me on the surface.

      1. Johnny Karate*

        It’s not a dumb idea if it’s The Way It Is. But the initial change over from some other way of doing it can get…interesting.

      1. still anon*

        We used to have ‘mandatory’ group celebrations. It was such a pain. No, I didn’t want to drive a bunch of coworkers to a restaurant to make small talk and eat food I didn’t want & couldn’t afford, but opting out was seen as hostile. So glad when that manager left and we just ‘forgot’ to renew the tradition.

    2. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

      There would be a revolt here. HR floated this idea exactly once and it was shot down hard. We want our cake, damn it.

    3. osmoglossum*

      i don’t understand why you think it’s a dumb idea? we did this at a law firm where i worked.

      1. JustaTech*

        Less efficient, more cake. More efficient, less cake. So I guess it depends on the quality of the cake.

        My department did this briefly, partly because a few people refused to say their exact birth date and HR (reasonably) wouldn’t tell. But that was the first time we’d done birthdays, and it didn’t even last the year around (missed mine).

    4. Ashley*

      My office would do this some months, but not others. It depended if they ‘liked’ who had a birthday that month.
      My favorite was my birthday month there were only two of us a day apart from each other; they had the cake and party while I was in a meeting because that was the best time for everyone else.

    5. KRM*

      My old job did this, and it’s a great idea! Having one celebration every month is much better than having several (or one, or none!) through the month. It becomes a nice “once a month” social event that involves food (the old job did cake or breakfast depending on the voting of the birthday people that month) bought by the company. Makes total sense, especially if you have a lot of employees.

    6. Esmeralda*

      Once a month birthday celebration is actually a very good idea. No one gets forgotten. No one feels slighted for getting cupcakes instead of cake (or vice versa).

      One 10 – 15 minute celebration instead of multiples? Yes please.

      And some people despise celebrating their birthday at work. Being one of several people being recognized at the same time vs. YOU ARE THE EXTRA SPECIAL SWELL BIRTHDAY GIRL YAY YOU LET’S ALL SIIIINNNGG. Blargh.

      1. JustaTech*

        My former coworker and I share a birthday (which weirded out our boss for some reason) but it was never a *thing* because she always took her birthday off and was glad to pass any remaining birthday-ness off to me to avoid anyone trying to celebrate at her.

    7. BurnerVonBraun*

      Removed internet access from the only computer in a systems control room that had to be staffed at all times by law, without telling anyone working in the room. Apparently, people who literally couldn’t do anything but sit around and wait for something to go wrong were expected to stare at a wall for 8 hours or something… morale was already bad, but the day that happened several people looked like their dog just died

      1. Gumby*

        Wait, I could sit in a room for a whole day and no one could even email me? Do they outlaw books? Because I have always said someone paying me to read would be my dream job.

        1. starsaphire*

          This is how at least one major SF/F writer got started writing – babysitting a mainframe, with nothing to do but wait for something to go wrong, and their supervisor would not allow them to read anything (books, newspapers, nothing) while on shift. But they were allowed to have paper and writing implements…

    8. Here for the Insurance*

      We had the once-a-month birthday thing at an law office I worked in once, nobody seemed to mind.

      What they did mind was how birthday cards were handled. Cards were sent around for whoever was having a birthday that month. Whoever wanted to sign could sign. Fine, no problem. Then at the cake party, the boss would read them aloud – whatever message came printed on the card and whatever people had written. It was so presumptuous and uncomfortable. And absolute torture in the months with several birthdays, just droning on and on and on.

    9. Another ADDer*

      We did that for the kids when I worked in an after school program, years before The Office ever aired.

      The reasoning was that celebrating individual birthdays would be too unequal. Not every kid would be there on their birthday (they could attend program anywhere from two to five days a week, and of course some birthdays would always fall on weekends or holidays or during vacation), and not every day’s activities left room for much of a celebration. Having collective birthday parties meant we could set aside a day for it.

      We did two months at a time, too. That way the summer vacation birthdays got celebrated in the surrounding months.

  37. Eliza*

    At my last job we were eligible for a “monthly bonus” where the metrics were completely opaque, so there was no way to know how to move the needle. It was CONSTANTLY used as a carrot. “You need to work hard so we can get our bonuses.” It drove me absolutely bananas and made me super resentful of the company, although I’m sure it worked for others. The worst part was that when we actually did get bonuses, it was a pot that was given to each department and the department head would dole them out as they saw fit. My boss always told me “I’m giving you the biggest bonus” but all I could see was how the system could be used to discriminate against people. We were also told NOT to talk about our bonuses with others in the company, probably because then people would realize how department heads were using it to play favorites. Also, the rationale for who was eligible for bonuses and who wasn’t eligible was totally irrational and the departments who were not eligible (rightfully) resented those who were. Just a total nightmare.

    1. WellRed*

      Your boss lied but you can’t talk about it so you’ll never know for sure who got the biggest bonus.

    2. Meep*

      OMG. My Boss did this with my first raise I received after 3.5 years of working under her and no raise (any time I asked to discuss it, she acted like I was a monster wanting the company to fail). It was a measly $6k raise for putting up with her crap when it should’ve been $12k (she put the other half into her own raise). She had the nerve to tell me that “her boss” (the one who told her to give me and another coworker the $12k raise – and was SHOCKED! when we finally talked and it was discovered) had “wanted to give me less” but she went ahead and gave me “what I deserved”. She then complained to anyone else that I wasn’t “appreciative enough.”

      Sorry I have no appreciation for someone who abuses me and steals from me.

    3. Artemesia*

      I knew someone at a major research institute who took the annual merit pay pool and awarded it all to themselves ‘because I do all the important work’ — this went on for several years until a manager from another site asked one of the employees how they liked the great annual bonuses this year and learned that no one ever got annual merit pay. I had turned down a job at this shop — sooooo grateful for my spidey sense.

  38. CatCat*

    This question made me think of the latest episode of “Andor.” Prisoners assemble items at work stations. The prisoners at the worst performing work station get zapped with a painful charge. Those at the best performing work station get flavor added to their prison food. Incentives!!

    I’m excited to see the whole system break down (I hope!)

    1. Llellayena*

      I’m waiting for a glimpse into a workstation on the other side of the prison where the job is to quickly DIS-assemble the exact same equipment…

    2. Jane*

      I was just saying last night how much I love the hellish workplaces of Andor. Those staff meetings crackling with the worst politics, the hexagonal cube farm as far as the eye can see…

    3. Beth*

      Ah, stack rankings! The terrible management approach that inspired all Microsoft’s best employees to go work for other companies. IIRC, the CEO who came up with the idea later admitted it was the worst thing he’d ever done, but by that time, it was too late.

  39. Sharkie*

    Oh god! I have a good one!

    I worked as a patient advocate in the mental health division of a health insurance company at the HEIGHT of Covid. We had a lot of metrics we had to measure to if we were a good employee- the time we took to take notes in-between calls , how long the caller was put on hold for, stuff like that. Well one contest management decided to run was who can have the lowest time in-between calls and the lowest talk time (measured in seconds and half seconds of course). The prize- an extra 15 minutes of free time off the phones. We all crushed it cause the amount of calls we had to take every day was insane and 15 minutes truly felt like a real break!

    The problem? We had to send an email out after every call to the caller with a link to summery of the call and resources. For some reason the user was not allowed to save the preferred email address that they wanted to receive emails to in their profile , so we had to ask it on every call, and manually enter it to our email system (no spell check). It was considered a HIPAA violation if the email got bounced back or if the email address didnt exist, or if there was an extra space after the .com . The amount of HIPAA violations the department had because of this rush to have the lowest down time and the fact that none of our systems had no spell check was insane. A few people actually got fired because if it cause they violated HIPAA too many times back to back.

    Instead of using this to reflect on the policies, they cracked down because “you should not be f***ing up like this”

    A bunch of people left after this

    1. WellRed*

      Is this actually a HIPAA violation? And nothing like firing a bunch of mental health related people during Covid.

      1. snarkfox*

        Yeah not OP but I’m confused here. It would be a HIPAA violation to send an email to the wrong person, so if, in your haste, you sent an email to the wrong person, it would be a HIPAA violation… but you wouldn’t get a bounce-back because it still goes to someone. Not the someone you wanted it to go to, and you just revealed personal health information to a stranger, but not a bounce-back.

        But sending an email to an address that doesn’t exist wouldn’t be a HIPAA violation, just a mistake. So it makes me think they were using that metric to measure mistakes and assuming that, if you’re accidentally sending an email to an address that doesn’t exist, you might also make the mistake of sending an email to the wrong person?

        But also, the amount of people who give you the wrong email address is high! People forget or mix up numbers or, heck, don’t actually want to give their real email address!

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          I think they are counting it as a HIPPA violation because if the address did exist then it would have gone to the wrong person.

          What I want to know is why are they sending confidential info through email? Shouldn’t it just be an email with a link to an online portal that they sign in to? If you sent the email to someone who doesnt have the password stuff its not hippa violation, because there is no info.

        2. Sharkie*

          I was told to keep it fair if the email did not end up in the correct inbox, the company saw it as a hipaa violation risk since a 3rd party can figure out who they get their insurance from. It was a horrible job

        3. KoiFeeder*

          There is a clinic in another state that keeps sending information to my email instead of another person’s for that last reason. And every time I call them to say, “nope, not [person name], I’m KoiFeeder, you probably didn’t mean to send this one to me.”

  40. WillowSunstar*

    We have to keep track in Excel to the minute of what we do. If we have more than the allowed amount of downtime, which is half an hour every day, we get a talking to. Doesn’t matter if it was technically our fault nothing was there to do or not. We are expected to beg for work if there is nothing there to do, but only management can give us work to do.

    1. bicality*

      The list of things I would rather do than work somewhere that required time study/time tracking is infinite.

    2. ferrina*

      That is RIDICULOUS. It’s also a giant waste of admin time (I’ve done this before- I was easily eating 30+ minutes per day tracking my time).

      One cheat is to start recording “Professional Development”. Reading AAM? Professional development. Listening to a podcast that is work or industry related? Who cares if you’re staring out the window, it’s professional development! (Brene Brown is my favorite- I listen to her while doing other work). Chatting with someone outside your department about something working on? Cross-team collaboration AND professional development!

      1. WillowSunstar*

        I generally only read AAM on my breaks or after work. It’s lunch now. :)

        I do put filling out the time sheet under reports since it is technically a report.

    3. No Horse No Mustache*

      I had to do that one time, malicious complianced it to death in a day: The trick is to also make entries for each time you have to make an entry until it recurses and all you’re doing is making entries into the sheet.

  41. FormerHigherEd*

    A former workplace of mine is hosting a 2.5 hour seminar on women’s health and productivity.

    “1. Workplace Productivity for Women – Learn the latest techniques and approaches to help you weed through the distractions and diversions to reach a higher level of productivity at work.

    2. Fostering Social Positivity – Learn and engage others in an innovative webinar and discussion on how to increase social positivity in our community through an understanding of how women interact socially.”

    They’re a women’s college that leans quite liberally towards support and inclusivity of trans and nonbinary students, staff and faculty, so the whole “how to be productive as a woman” is just baffling (and gross, women are not a monolith.) Sadly the emphasis on toxic positivity is pretty par for the course.

    1. Web Crawler*

      I mean, my productivity methods have changed a lot since I changed genders. I used to use my feminine wiles to get work done, but now I crush the work in my manly hands.

    2. bicality*

      Workplace productivity for women is what….ignoring assignments to take notes and clean the kitchen?

      1. ferrina*

        Don’t forget not organizing celebrations or outings! Oh, and the big one of not letting men take credit for your work- that’s improved my productivity. I worked one place where that was the norm- the man had the “idea” (which may well have been a woman’s idea first- I was in a meeting where a man said the same thing literally 5 minutes after I did, and he was praised for being clever and original), then he “oversaw” the woman who would be managing the project, then she would have to do everything. She was also responsible for doing a ton of emotional labor around the man feeling in charge- if the man got upset, he could go to the big boss who would scold the woman for being unkind (amazingly, no men ever got scolded for this. Including the man who admitted to sexual assault). At the end the man would be praised for how clever he was in getting the woman to do everything, and the woman would get no praise because she was just “doing her job”.

        Then they were surprised when there was a mass exodus of women. And also surprised that after they left, nothing got done.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Ewww. Was this, like, in this century? I mean, this was pretty much SOP in the last century, especially in the earlier decades.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      Unless the sole focus of the webinar is how to say No to tasks people try to assign to you just because you are a woman, then nope.

  42. Juicebox Hero*

    Another story from the same store:

    They ran an alleged morale booster with some kind of program about fish. I forget the details. But they decided to run a contest. The idea was that they’d take little foam rubber fish cutouts and write buzzwords on them and hide them throughout the store. If you collected however many fish and turned them into HR you’d get some sort of junky dollar-store prize.

    This store also had a marking team, who would start very early. It was their job to unpack clothing shipments, put on UPC tags if needed, put them on hangers, and then on rolling racks and deliver them to the departments before the store opened at 10 which meant they started way early, 6 or 7 am.

    Since they had free run of the whole store before the sales staff showed up, they found almost all the fish, turned them in, and won all the prizes before anyone else got the chance to even look.

    Morale was not boosted.

  43. Lora*

    What, other than making everyone come back to work on site? Even though productivity overall actually increased when people worked from home?

    I still don’t understand why managing remotely isn’t viewed as just a new skill that managers need to have, similar to “it’s the 1970s and women are working all the Man Jobs now, get used to it,” “it’s the 1980s and we don’t use typewriters anymore,” “it’s the 1990s and everyone needs to use their email appropriately,” etc. Workplaces have had drastic changes in the past due to society and most of us adapted pretty well, those who didn’t are seen as real dinosaurs who missed the Clue Bus.

  44. Lcsa99*

    Not really a productivity move but as a “cost” saving move my old company removed our garbage cans. No, we didn’t become paperless, and with the nature of the work we really couldn’t. We just weren’t allowed to throw out anything anymore and had to go to one small can at the front of the office if we absolutely had to throw something out.

    We did anyway, of course. We just all either collected the pile of paper and garbage we had accumulated every day to throw it all out at once, or got ourselves small shopping bags we kept under our desks to use as a garbage can (if you bought yourself a real garbage can it would disappear the next day). It didn’t save the company anything, just annoyed everyone.

    1. WillowSunstar*

      That did that to us but it was to replace everything with recycling bins. We are supposed to try and avoid actually having landfill garbage to throw away on site.

    2. squidsss*

      We still have garbage cans, but they’re only emptied once per month. Any food garbage gets taken to the one in the washrooms (which is emptied daily.)

  45. RatInAHat*

    In the weird, but benign, category: my employer just planted a bunch of sunflowers everywhere as a reminder to “connect with ourselves.” I haven’t the faintest idea what this means.

    1. WillowSunstar*

      I like sunflowers. They remind me of Van Gogh and my favorite Dr. Who episode with Matt Smith. Also, Starry Night.

    2. Beth*

      It wouldn’t be benign for me — I’m allergic to sunflowers. It would turn the workspace into a toxic airspace.

    3. Wolf*

      During the height of Covid, the German minister of health visited a hospital and gifted a lavender plant to the nurses. You know, because lavender helps you relax.
      Ever since, lavender is a running gag for tone-deaf gifts.

  46. Zap R.*

    I worked at a Canadian kitchen supply chain store about 10 years ago. Our location was in downtown Toronto. One weekend, our head office decided to have all of the locations compete to see who could sell the most knives. On Monday, we were admonished by head office for finishing dead last. Our manager tried to explain that the G20 protests that weekend had turned into one of the worst riots in Canadian history and that we all literally had to hide in the back for our own safety while rioters smashed windows and looted stores up and down the block. Head office did not consider that a valid excuse.

      1. Zap R.*

        Exactly! In the interest of national security, it was probably very good that I didn’t sell anyone a Henckels meat cleaver that day!

    1. BubbleTea*

      There is certainly an argument for the fact that a riot is probably an excellent time to sell knives, but presumably that’s not quite the image corporate was going for.

    2. Smaller potatoes*

      Not to mention what the press would have reported about the company that pushed a rush on knife sales during a literal riot!

  47. AMWMT*

    Removed garbage cans from personal desk spaces. Instead, there will now be “communal garbage spaces” where people can gather to encourage “spontaneous collaboration.”

    1. RatInAHat*

      Ooooooh, we had that one a few years back. I actually do now make trash-can small-talk? And it’s probably easier on the cleaners. Shrug?

      1. WellRed*

        Toopng as evidenced by post further up where they removed communal trash areas to cut down on unproductive disposal time.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Ooh, also: If you want to make people answer questions more conservatively, you can put smelly garbage in the room. This is an actual thing. So by putting the collaboration next to the garbage, you are subtly influencing that to be “Change is bad. We need to go back to the good old days.”