the gong, the missing reply-all button, and other weird things companies thought would boost productivity

Last month I asked about weird and misguided things your company has done in the name of boosting productivity. Here are 12 of my favorite stories you shared.

1. The gong

“I had a boss (one of THREE CEOs at a tiny company) do a lot of reading on what other CEOs/companies were doing and decide that he should implement it without giving much thought to:
1) was it good in the first place?
2) does it make any sense for that thing to be implemented where we worked?
3) what bad knock-on effects could that cause?

We had a one-room completely open-office plan and all of us were on phones all day. It was already hard to hear candidates/clients with everyone talking all the time, but CEO had read that a sales company somewhere had a gong in the office and they banged it whenever they made a sale, which caused excitement and made people work harder I guess. He then purchased a gong and decided every time we recruited someone/got a recruitment deal, we had to come over and bang the gong, so all day long:

‘Hi is this Jane Sm-‘ *GONG*
‘Sorry. Is this Jane Smith? I came across your resum—’ *GONG*
‘Sorry. I came across your resume and thought you’d be a great fit for a position we have opening in finan–’ *GONG*

and so on. It didn’t last long but was awful while it did!”

2. The missing reply-all button

“After a reply-allpocalypse, they removed the reply-all button altogether from Outlook.

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. Much to my disappointment because I love a good reply-allpocalypse.”

3. The color changes

“I once spent a full three 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).”

4. The group song

“My supervisor decided to boost morale (and therefore productivity) by having a ‘group song.’ He excitedly told us we were going to sing this song at each meeting and he planned to hire a professional choreographer to create dance moves for it. He wanted the song to be selected by employees, so he put out a call for nominations. I don’t think he got much of a response because he repeated his demand for nominations multiple times. Finally, weeks later, we got an email with four song options we could vote on. If I recall correctly, they were ‘Livin’ on a Prayer,’ ‘Country Roads,’ ‘Get Lucky,’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’ Journey won and we were then forced to end every meeting by singing along to the song. He was clearly expecting us to act like we were doing karaoke at a bar, but instead everyone looked at the floor and mumbled along with the words awkwardly. I worked there for six more months and had to go through that awkward experience at EVERY meeting until I left. I’m just glad I got out before the choreographer came and staff were forced to dance along with the music as well.”

5. The mandatory lunch

“The financial organization I worked for back in the late 00s painted all the windowless break rooms red and burnt orange on the advice of some behavior 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 a 30-minute drive, I don’t know why we couldn’t just have padded chairs and normal walls.”

6. The aggressive sales

“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.”

7. The garbage cans

“We had a large garbage can and different recycle/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.”

8. The video monitoring

“For three days in high school 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.”

9. The meeting ban

“Our company has gone after all meetings after an employee survey has like 60% of people thought we had too many meetings. No one asked which meetings, or where they were located, just ALL meetings.

As a hybrid workforce, we often spend five minutes with some ‘water cooler’ talk. But that’s no longer allowed. We have to have very specific time limits on each agenda item, and meetings can be no longer than 45 minutes, with a preference for 25 minutes.

Well, literally NO one in leadership follows that. Directors and above regularly schedule meetings with no agenda, they go over, and generally waste time.

I believe the core issue with meetings is lack of prep, and a lot of meetings aren’t necessary. But instead we have these inane rules where people are getting yelled at (like they are asking for proof that a catch-all meeting I sometimes have with a coworker I work very closely with has an agenda) for not following directions, when it’s not being modeled by leadership.

But we have really long presentations about not burning out at work, and how to take care of yourself in the after hours, and achieving a work life balance.

it’s frustrating, and they think the new rules will help with productivity. But it’s just made us have multiple 45 minutes meetings in a week, most of which could be fixed with a well worded email and a 30 minute meeting.”

10. The initiatives

“My workplace keeps announcing these ‘initiatives’ to supposedly inspire us to be more productive. They come from various department heads who are people I’ve never met or seen. The dumbest was the ‘dance your pants off’ initiative that featured emails from these department heads that I’ve seen or met with badly photo-shopped pictures of their heads put on the bodies of clip art ballerinas. (There were matching posters in the office.) We were going to ‘dance, dance, dance our way into closing more cases’ and processing more transactions and letters. I really don’t know how it turned out. The current one is the ‘chipping away at our mountain of inventory’ initiative in which we are going to use our ‘picks’ to chip away at and mine things to get ‘gems’ and eliminate the mountains. Every week we get an email that says we’ve added more gems to something. They really don’t inspire me and they really don’t even make sense.”

11. The talking ban

“After law school, I worked as a clerk at an incredibly toxic family law firm. The managing partner brought in his wife as our ‘office manager/HR/supervisor’ who decided that walking one foot to your neighbor’s cubicle or asking them a question out loud ‘led to too much socializing,’ which was clearly affecting our productivity. Enter the IM only rule – quite literally, no one was supposed to talk unless it was an emergency and all communications between staff had to be via IM only. We were reminded that management could review IMs at all times and to keep conversations ‘brief and only about work-related matters’ (that was a direct quote). Funnily enough, though, that manager wasn’t that computer savvy and didn’t know how to monitor the IMs, so everyone had became even more unproductive, just over IMs. The managing partner had no idea why everyone was so quiet until he tried to ask a paralegal a question and she would only answer him over IMs. Man, that place was crazy. We also had cameras in the office, but you could only monitor them over a computer, which was located in my office(?) At least once a week, the manager would come into my office and pretend to ‘adjust the server’ while she watched what everyone was doing.”

12. The malicious compliance

“I had a boss who 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.”

{ 389 comments… read them below }

  1. Juicebox Hero*

    Squee! My story (the “ACN”) made it! This is the only good thing that ever came from that stupid gimmick :P

    1. Elle*

      I’m absolutely infuriated and baffled about “ACN now”.

      Why don’t managers at jobs like that ever seek input from the employees on the floor? WHY?

      1. anonagaintoday*

        Usually because their district or regional managers are breathing down their necks, threatening their jobs, so they lose all sense of reality, and badger employees to harass customers. It’s the dumbest model with no real success, but I think a lot of those managers just lose their minds in fear and because of pressure coming from above them.

        That is a funny story…. I thought the “you have to get 3 no’s!” “game” was ridiculous, but this one is extra bad!

        1. münchner kindl*

          I think there’s also some self-selection going on:

          spineless managers/ corporations who appease customers over the employees attract more entitled jerks than companies who are firm – while driving away normal customers who can’t stand the noise the entitled jerks are making (especially in restaurants – let one family run rampant, a dozen other people will not return)

          companies who force employees to badger customers drive away all customers who want to shop in silence, but keep those customers who want to be fawned over by the peons.

          Reminds me of how Allison talks about gimmicks or gumptions: 1 case out of 100, it will work – but then you’re stuck working for a bad manager who values flash over substance.
          So stores who badger customers get stuck with unreasonable customers.

      2. Juicebox Hero*

        I worked there for 10 years and the #1 rule of survival was “avoid management at all costs” because all they cared about was keeping customers quiet. About the only time they bothered to show up on the floor was to deliver a world of hurt to some poor register drone who wouldn’t give some loudmouth whatever they wanted. 14 years in a good job later and I still have nightmares about the place.

      3. Melanie Cavill*

        There are a gross amount of retail initiatives that come from MBAs who, you can guarantee, never did a day of retail work in their life. For example: I once worked at a store where you had to record how many times you were able to solicit for a charitable donation each day. This factored directly into performance evaluations… nnnnot that we ever made above minimum wage at any given time. For a while after that job, I said yes to every charitable donation that was requested of me at check out because I had Been There; then I learned most retail franchises use that as tax write-offs.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          From what I’ve read, they can’t actually write off the outside solicitations, but they can add that to the number that they put in their advertising about how ‘they’ helped raise money.

        2. Alliesaurus*

          I worked at a store with the same sort of charity “initiative.” Plus, there were usually 5-10 impulse buys on a shelf by the register that we had to push as well, pre-sales, and (for a short time until they quit offering it) also a credit card application. *facepalm* There was SO MUCH to push on each customer, we had to record what we successfully sold, and it directly affected our reviews – no raises, just if we got to keep our hours or lost hours and got a writeup. And hey, even if you asked everyone but sold none, your hours got cut and given to a more successful employee.

          A couple of times, I got written up for not asking customers when a manager was around, but I was willing to take the hit over aggressively trying to upsell to, say, a little old lady who I’d helped on the floor because she needed help shopping for a gift but was on a super tight budget with her SS income. I refused to use guilt-tripping tactics and figured I’d rather be job-hunting with a clean conscience.

          I really did like that store (why I applied to work there), but I HATED the way it was run and was so glad to finally quit.

          1. Melanie Cavill*

            I had a similar situation. I got reprimanded by my manager for not pushing loyalty cards and charitable donations… to an older Deaf couple that a) I was already struggling to communicate with; and b) no one else in the store could be bothered to even acknowledge. Ugh, my six year dormant rage for that job is resurfacing!

        3. MissElizaTudor*

          You might be relieved to find out that companies can’t use your donations at the cash register as a write off. It was your income, so you can deduct it, but the company can’t.

          They could use it for good PR, like “we helped donate $XXX to charity,” but they can’t actually use it as a tax write-off.

          1. MissElizaTudor*

            Oops, other people got there first. That’s what I get for not checking if I’d refreshed!

      4. Chirpy*

        Because corporate thinks that because they get paid more, their ideas are better.

        (I’m still pissed about all the times we did employee satisfaction surveys. #1 thing to change is always better pay, corporate always tells us we shouldn’t need money to feel appreciated. No, I’d really feel a lot more appreciated if I could pay my rent and have some money left over once in a while….)

      5. xl*

        > Why don’t managers at jobs like that ever seek input from the employees on the floor? WHY?

        If it’s anything like the places I’ve worked at, it’s because they feel it’s not the job of people on the floor to come up with ideas; rather, their job is to implement the ideas from the people from above whose actual job it is to implement things and look at the spreadsheets over it all.

        Granted, I’ve been in government work most of my career, but I’ve spent most of my career working under people who have never spent a day of their life doing my actual job. It’s about a 5-year cycle of someone with a shiny new MBA coming in as a new regional manager and forcing a new change that everyone who works in the trenches knows won’t work for a variety of real-world reasons that don’t exist in textbooks. It’s the new procedure for about a year until the powers that be are finally convinced it doesn’t work and we go back to the old way.

        After about 5 years the person will be promoted to be replaced by the newest recent graduate, at which point sweeping changes come again and those of us doing the job look at each other and roll our eyes.

        1. Mongrel*

          It’s also because the people in management view the workers on the floor as unintelligent, replaceable cogs. An self-fulfilling attitude brought about by treating them as incapable of independent thought with expectations that minimum wage is able to purchase loyalty.

    2. caro*

      the image of everyone rushing to a customer when the announcement is made (and the customers catching on and running away) is like something out of The Office…hilarious

      1. Starfleet HVAC Engineering*

        There was a MADTv skit a long time ago spoofing Walmart (I think), where all the zombie-like employees immediately converged on a new customer saying “WELCOME NEW CUSTOMER” over and over again. That’s what I’m imagining.

    3. EC*

      I will never understand the thought process behind having employees hound customers who are trying to shop. I would leave stores where the staff wouldn’t let me browse the tops in peace. At our local mall Express was the worst for that. You couldn’t walk two steps without someone hassling you. I get that its not the floor workers’ fault, I’m sure they didn’t like it either.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        The thought process is straightforward: stupid, but straightforward. We have all been in stores looking for some item, with nary an employee to be found to help. The actual solution is for the store to have enough employees on the floor that a customer can easily find one. This has the additional benefits of keeping the shelves better stocked and generally tidier, as this is what those employees are doing when not helping customers. Sadly, it turns out that those employees also expect to be paid for their work. Hence the alternate idea of ordering the few employees the store is willing to pay to spend their time pestering customers, who will therefore never complain about not being able to find an employee.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          I heard this 2nd or 3rd hand, but at a children’s (and adults who are still childlike) store with a mascot that’s a famous mouse, there’s literally someone whose job is to stand near the front and “pretend” to be folding shirts or tidying shelves and speak to each customer that enters. Like, they literally have one stack of 4-5 shirts that they will fold and then unfold them all and refold them in the same location just to give the appearance that they are “engaged in work, but also approachable”.

          1. DontTellMyBoss*

            That’s called a greeter and boutique stores i managed were supposed to zone someone there as well. They can only work the first like… two fixtures deep and they are not just there to say hi they’re a theft deterrent because you can’t enter the store without being noticed/acknowledged.

          2. Jeebs*

            The one at our local mouse-store doesn’t pretend to fold anything, just barks aggressive greetings at everyone coming in and stares pointedly at everyone leaving. I assumed it was an anti-shoplifting measure.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        The toy store I worked, we were always supposed to approach customers. Since the manager quit and the owner never bothered to show up, I did one low-key “Are you looking for anything in particular?” and then left them alone.

        When a customer did want help finding a present for a child, I would introduce the musical instruments section with “How much do you hate the child’s parents? Because we have drums, whistles and tambourines.”

        1. Cat and dog fosterer*

          Funny, I once bought a toy for the child of someone I didn’t like for exactly this reason. A mutual friend asked a group of us if anyone wanted to contribute to his gift giving and it was strange because the guy with the young child was annoying and never gave gifts to any of us. Then he mentioned that the money would go toward loud musical instruments and suddenly I found $10…

        2. Might Be Spam*

          For toddlers: Popcorn push toy and Bubble Lawnmower are very annoying.
          I still have the siren toy with 3 different siren sounds and loudspeaker that my dad gave my son. I’m saving it to put on my walker or wheel chair when I get old, to get even with my kids.

      3. Everdene*

        It took us months to buy a sofa because my partner flat refused to stay in a store once 3 staff members had approached and pushed when he indicated we were just looking. MONTHS!

        (Ended up in a department store where we could browse in peace then order when ready)

      1. Chirpy*

        I mean, my store uses this to discourage (probable) shoplifters. They tend to dump their items and leave when half a dozen people ask if they need help.

        1. ceiswyn*

          True, but so do people who just want a hassle-free shopping experience.

          After being approached by three different people in a small Skechers store (it was maybe 5m by 5m) when I was tired and busy and over-peopled already, I wrote a letter of complaint and have never been back.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        The plural is key. One staff member coming by with a “Do you need help? No? Let me know, I’ll be over there” is good, even if I really don’t need help (Makes up for the times when I haven’t been able to flag down a person looking right at me because she was talking to a coworker).

        Five converging on me would be scary and off-putting.

    4. EmmaPoet*

      Little me would have loved this and turned it into a game of hide and seek. My poor mother spent a LOT of time tracking me down in department stores where I liked to hide inside the racks of clothes. Staff coming? Time to hide!

      1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        When my daughter was about 2 years old she thought it was hilarious to hide in clothes racks and not answer when we called. We had a Very Serious Talk about how she was never ever to do that. She understood better when she had her first and had to keep her in the cart at all times because my grand was a runner.

    5. Rev Bayes*

      The most annoying thing about it of course is there’s already a ‘now’ in the acronym so they didn’t need to say “ACN now”, that’s up there with the personal identity PIN number.

        1. Melanie Cavill*

          I give people a pass on the last one due to being in a different language. RSVP as an acronym has kind of taken on a different meaning from “reply if you can/repondez s’il vous plait”.

    6. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      Oh lord I felt this story. I used to work for a certain now-defunct retail electronics chain whose last name rhymes with “shitty” and they had their own version of the ACN that went a step further and required you to hand the customer a Low Price Guarantee card. God help you if your manager spotted a customer in your department that wasn’t carrying that stupid blue card.

      1. Em*

        Huh. I didn’t shop there much, but generally if someone hands me something like that I just shove it my purse until I can throw it away. Because, you know, I don’t really feel like having my hands full and especially not with random items I didn’t want/ask for.

        I am sorry if I inadvertently caused the suffering of any employees by not carrying something handed to me – but the people who enacted this policy should be sorrier, because seriously WHY?

        1. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

          In retrospect, I should have run screaming from that place when I asked the manager “what if they don’t want the card” and he looked at me like I’d grown an extra limb.

          “Just give it to them!”

          “Ok but they said no?”

          “So you just… give them the LPG.”

          “But they don’t want it.”

          “[‘Now loading’ wheel spinning face]”

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I only have one useable hand. I’m not going to be carrying someone’s brochure around, period. Pocket, pack, or on a shelf.

    7. Lost in Nonprofitland*

      I’m so glad you shared this!

      I received this sort of treatment once on the customer end, and it was so comically bizarre for me. It was a retail clothing store that had a LOT more employees out on the floor than usual. I literally got stopped by four employees before I made it 15 feet into the store asking “How are you today, ma’am?” “Can I help you find anything today?” and “Just to let you know, all full-priced sweaters are 15% off today only!”

      I finally snapped at the fourth employee (who saw me walk past the other three) and said “I know about your special, you are literally the fourth person to tell me this [as I am pointing out the three other people I have just passed] and I’m not even past the second table of clothing! Why is everyone bothering me?!” Turns out this employee was one of the trainers, and he explained that all of the employees were new hires being trained for the holiday season rush, and they had been told to use that script on every single customer to show their friendliness.

      I almost started laughing. I told him I understood, but I was *this close* to walking out of the store and shopping elsewhere, because the interruptions were preventing me from shopping. He did say he’d ask that everyone tone it down a little. To his credit, he apologized and, I believe, radioed everyone there to stop bothering me. Not sure if they toned it down overall though.

      I’ve also been on the other end of that–worked briefly at a similar corporate clothing retailer. The corporate line was to ask customers every ten minutes if they needed anything and remind them of the current sale. Most managers were fairly lax on this–you did have to approach each customer as soon as you saw them to give them the spiel, but we were allowed to use our best judgment in reading what the customers wanted (some really do want the assistance and constant check-ins, and others do not).

      But then there was Brenda, who thought that if you weren’t checking in on customers every few minutes, you weren’t doing your job. She’d nag all of us underlings to bother customers–especially at slow times when there might be a 1:1 ratio of customers to employees. I definitely pissed off at least one customer on each shift I worked with Brenda because she’d be nagging me to constantly ask customers if they needed help. But heaven forbid Brenda herself approach a customer. She usually found some corner to fold clothes in so she could better micromanage all of us, then radio to us every few minutes regarding bothering the same customers over and over again.

    8. Vio*

      That was one of the things I always hated about working retail. Management wanted us to greet every single customer and ask them if they needed any help. One of my co-workers loved doing it but the rest of us realised how stupid it was. Most of the customers were clearly annoyed at being asked, many assumed we were suspecting them of shoplifting and the rest thought it was patronising. So we just limited ourselves to asking people who actually did either look like they needed help or were acting suspiciously. Mr Aggressively Helpful did manage to get a written complaint from a customer eventually, but management just told him to “friendidly (sic) smile”

    9. Natebrarian*

      I can completely see employees just swarming around some poor schmuck who had just come in for an emergency pair of socks or something…

    10. Aiani*

      Your story reminded, right after the first iPhone was announced, my brother and I were at a local mall and decidedto drop into the Apple store to take a look. Every person working in the store asked us if we needed help. We’re both pretty shy so after the 5th person asked us we noped right out. It felt rude but that was just too much

    11. Princesa*

      I laughed SO HARD at this one. Thank you for sharing. I can just imagine the horror of being a customer and having employees swarm me after an overhead announcement. I would never shop there again.

    12. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Your story was also helpful in that now I understand why I feel like I am being stalked when I go into certain stores!

      In some ways, I preferred thinking they were just paranoid and thought I looked like someone who would shoplift!

    1. Antilles*

      I’ve read of a few companies that use a gong to celebrate sizable achievements.

      Of course, the key word is “sizable achievements”. It’s not making a small monthly sale or passing a typical milestone; we’re talking things like “my last sale was enormous, might be the biggest sale we make all year!” or “Consumer Reports just ranked us as the #1 company in our field!” or etc – so it’d get rung like once a quarter or less and it would be legitimately An Event when you heard it ding.

      1. Lizzianna*

        One of the other branch offices of my org has a “gong of accomplishment.” It’s a fun, goofy thing that people hit every few days. The individual employees get to decide whether an accomplishment warrants a gong ring.

        Sometimes it’s major, sometimes it’s just checking off a minor but annoying thing that’s been hanging over your head for weeks. It’s all in good fun, and honestly, not any more distracting than the doorbell or front desk phone ringing.

        But I can see how it would be annoying if imposed from above by an already out-of-touch manager.

        I feel like that’s the thing about a lot of these – context is so important, and you’ve got to know your office well enough to know if something like this would be well-received.

      2. Miette*

        Agreed. I’ve worked places where you only got to ring the “Big Sale Bell” if you booked something over a certain value, like $1MM

    2. Meganly*

      I worked at a company that had a bell you were supposed to ring after you finished a data sheet at the end of the quarter (crunch time), and then everyone else was supposed to clap or use their noisemaker to celebrate. It was awful and so distracting; usually a few data sheets would get completed every day, and on the last few days of the quarter (when you REALLY needed to concentrate), it felt like it was going off constantly. I refused to ring the bell after the first time (it was too loud and I hated the attention), and I guess it caught on, because the bell disappeared after I’d been there a year or two because people stopped using it.

      1. Meganly*

        I forgot to mention, the noisemakers were supplied by management. I was given a kazoo and one of those spinny ratchet noisemakers on my first day.

      2. Dona Florinda*

        Oh, we used to have a bell as well! It was mostly for milestones and very important achievements, but my department shared an open office space with three other departments, and every now and then someone would ring the bell without checking with the other teams.

        One night when I was working late by myself, I decided I had enough of said bell and hid it… it’s been about a year and no one found it yet. Oh, well.

    3. Language Lover*

      Selling Sunset on Netflix has a gong in their real estate office that they bang every time they make a sale. But I’m guessing they don’t have constant sales and people work outside of the office a lot in real estate.

      I’m sure it exists in other industries. I doubt the O group invented it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the popular reality series gave people “ideas.”

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        I would not classify Selling Sunset as the most functional of office environments.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        Yes, I was wondering if that is where that guy got it.

        There it makes a little sense, because we’re talking maybe once a day? You get the feeling that it’s only for big deal sales or first sales, so it probably doesn’t cause too many issues.

    4. just another queer reader*

      There was a gong at a car dealership I was at once. When a customer bought a car they’d ring the gong. I wonder how the employees felt about it.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        For something that rare, it might not be bad. (would that have been a Saturn dealership, because I thought they had something similar)

        On my local public radio station, during fundraising, they will ring a bell when a new “Idea Leader “comes on board. (folks who can give a specific, high amount) Not too often, so it’s a nice touch.

        1. pagooey*

          Years ago, a local radio station figured out a promotion gimmick where they’d identify a common phrase or cliche, and ring a little front-desk bell whenever a guest they were interviewing used the phrase. During an election run-up, they chose “the stakes couldn’t be higher.” They rang that bell so many times, stifling giggles, that they were able to partner with Omaha Steaks and reward listeners with meat giveaways!

          1. Splendid Colors*

            If KQED (SF area NPR affiliate) had done that for candidates mentioning “homelessness” they could’ve funded the whole next year of programming.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        The customer rang the gong? Some will think this is awesome! Others will resolve to buy their next car from somewhere else. I wonder how this balanced out?

        1. Vio*

          It would certainly put me off buying something. If the sale warrants such attention then that would make me suspicious that I’d been ripped off. Also I’d just be embarrassed on their behalf.

      3. Certaintroublemaker*

        The Toyota dealership I go to for service plays a snippet of Kool & the Gang’s “Celebrate” every time they make a sale. Luckily it’s a big building, so not too loud over on the service side…

    5. vampire physicist*

      I worked for a company that did something like this (a snippet of a song played over the PA system) but it was for new major contracts only. It was rare to happen more than once a month if that, though, and it wasn’t very loud, so it was fine.

      1. DogTrainer*

        I worked in a hospital, and we had a 10-second song snippet play whenever a baby was born. I don’t like children at all, but my heart melted every time that song went off, sometimes multiple times per day, for 6 years thinking of how happy I hoped the new parents were. <3

        1. Ripley*

          I work in a cancer treatment centre, and the patients can ring a bell near the entrance when they reach a milestone, like finishing chemo or radiation treatments, or being discharged from our care. It rings a couple of times a week and never fails to make me smile.

          1. Elise*

            My coworker’s hospital does this and he loved it, really helped him get through a multiphase treatment. He sent us a video of himself ringing the gong to celebrate the end of chemo!

        2. Her name was Joanne*

          The hospital I worked at did that too— Brahms Lullaby. Always choked me up a bit. It was a little community hospital, so it maybe happened once or twice a day tops.

          1. Jay (no, the other one)*

            I HATED THAT. I worked in two hospitals that did it during the time when I thought I wasn’t going to be able to have a child. It was not pleasant to be reminded multiple times a day of my deepest distress because the marketing department thought it was a good idea.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          The hospital my mom worked at gave parents a choice between:
          – Brahms Lullaby
          – Ode to Joy by Beethoven
          – Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
          – No music

          I thought the choice was a nice touch.

          And Junior Orchestra is currently dealing with braces (they aren’t enjoying the experience), when they get them off the Dr has a giant bubble fountain that the patient gets to set off in celebration. Junior Orchestra can’t wait for their turn – but it’s probably at least another 18 months (if not more) in the future.

    6. Iceberg*

      So I’m name changing for this one as it would totally be recognizable if anyone I knew saw this.

      I managed a workplace and one of the supervisors had a great idea for a morale boost in the form of a happy bell. You know the drill. Something good happens you ring the bell. It was more or less harmless so I didn’t say anything and let her get on with it.

      One day I happened to look closer than normal at the bell. It was apparently a replica ship bell… can you guess which ship? Yes readers, our happy bell was a replica Titanic ship bell.

      I think I finally threw it away after the supervisor retired and it had fallen down one day.

    7. Kevin Sours*

      It’s a thing on some sales floors which don’t tend to attract introverts and where noisy is the default evironment (the decision to buy my first MP3 player got made the first day of a job where I was shown to my desk and the nameplate next to me said “sales” — he wasn’t even in yet).

      But even then it’s usually places where closing a sale is a big deal (either big ticket items or landing contracts with high dollar values).

    8. yala*

      I know when the Friends of the Library have their twice-yearly booksale, they have a bell they ring loudly if anyone makes a donation. I HATE it, and I’m only there long enough to see if there’s anything worth buying. Any sort of random loud noises are just…horrible. Why.

    9. workswitholdstuff*

      In my call centre days, we had different teams all on the same floor, taking call for different companies or our parent companies extended warranties.
      Most of the time, that was fine, different teams didn’t really bother each other.

      Until the sales team for extended warranties that was sharing the floor with my team decided to ring a doorbell everytime they made a sale.

      Our team on the other hand? We were taking calls from reps of a well-known beauty brand known for door-to-door and a famous catchphrase that went along with it.

      Those callers thought we were making fun of them…. Our managers thankfully were able to persuade the sales team to stop with the doorbell before we pissed off too many callers….

        1. Jeebs*

          If you’ve ever watched the movie Edward Scissorhands, a character is a rep for the company and uses the catchphrase.

    10. lilsheba*

      When I worked in a call center for a bank …which was a sales job…whenever someone made a sale they would yell and ring bells and crap, which was very loud and very distracting and I hated ever second of it. That place was already loud and that just made it worse. That was a hell hole to work in if you have any kind of sensory issues.

    11. Curious*

      I understand that every time a bell rings, an angel gets their wings. Of course, that incentive program was established by a Higher Authority.

    12. Yods*

      I used to work for a company where someone would walk around the whole office blowing a vuvuzela whenever we made a sale.
      Difference is that this happens only a couple of times a year since one project typically means a year of work for entire divisions.

    13. TheLinguistManager*

      At one of my early jobs, I was one of about 5 software developers sharing an open office with about 50 sales people. The sales team had a gong, which they rang every time they made a sale.

      We were in the big bugfix run-up to a major new release and every time the gong rang, I lost my concentration and had to mentally pick up the pieces and start my bug investigation from scratch. I asked if they’d consider pausing the gong for the next month, or somehow using it less, and I was told that celebrating our successes was important and just to deal with it.

      So I introduced the Bug Fix Triangle. Any time someone on my team fixed a bug – and we had about 150 to go through – we rang the triangle. I was, of course, immediately asked to put it away, but, well, celebrating our successes is important and we have to keep morale up in the run-up to the new release.

      After about a week and a half we negotiated a cease-fire with the sales team and never heard a gong (or a triangle) again.

    14. Frank Bookman*

      My first job out of college was a sales role for an app’s paid advertising program. I am a bookish introvert and I have no idea what I was thinking, but I struggled through 6 months.

      The open floor office had something like 20 distinct sales teams of 10 people each. Any time someone made a sale, their team song would be piped in mega loud and the whole group would go up (usually they would “dance” up) and ring a gong. The entire sales floor would be expected to clap and cheer.

      I still can’t hear Hotline Bling without shuddering.

    15. MizzMaryMack*

      It was used to great effect in the novel “Charitable Getting” by Sam Starbuck:

      The gong was a point of contention in the office.

      Sparks had picked up the idea somewhere, probably from the Zen Management seminar he and Erin had been to earlier in the year. He’d spent hours looking at gongs online with Cee, debating gong size, reading about gong philosophy. Apparently it created a sense of community within the office; none of the gong websites mentioned that the sense of community came from a unified sense of loathing.

      Nobody had thought Sparks would really buy one, but someone had slipped him a Craigslist ad selling a gong made from the radiator of a classic car. That was clearly too much for him to resist. (Ian had no regrets.)

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      That’s one situation where I could pull off malicious compliance. My singing voice is dreadful and so I would belt it out like a pudgy blonde female Steve Perry.

      1. ferrina*

        Ooh, I love this idea!

        I’m a pretty good singer (read: best at karaoke among friend group), but there are so many ways to ruin this. Riff on it with some ridiculous trills. Choose a different genre every meeting, but don’t tell the boss. Tell the boss you need him to beat box- the whole song, stopping the song if he stops(beat boxing is fun until you realize you need to do it for more than 30 seconds). Riff on the end- and refuse to let it stop. Turn it into a rap take. Belt it so loud neighboring offices complain.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I gotta know if they ever did implement a dance routine after OP left. That one is ridiculous.

      1. Jessie Spano*

        This one’s mine! The choreographer was scheduled to come in March of 2020, so as you can imagine, that didn’t happen.

    3. Felis alwayshungryis*

      I like that Livin’ On a Prayer was one of the options. If there’s any band that’s about sticking it to The Man it’s Bon Jovi.

      1. Jessica*

        Yeah? I should have listened to them more in the 80s. I know one of my coworkers in a related unit is a big fan, so if I had to do Bon Jovi karaoke at a work meeting, I’d try to recruit her to come guest star in a duet.

      2. NerdyKris*

        Yeah, “let’s sing a song about being paid poverty level wages and barely making it by” is some “Let’s play Fortunate Son at a campaign rally” level of not listening to the lyrics.

      1. bassclefchick*

        I had a job where management decided to do the “pick a team song” thing. Our group started with Take this job and shove it in our team meeting about it. By the time we got to Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare, our supervisor got the point.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I’m sorry, I now have Alice Cooper’s Muppet Show appearance running in my head. He opened with “Welcome to My Nightmare.” He closed with “School’s Out” (and yes they did blow up a building – lots of Harry Karry in that episode).

          He’s singing – and all the creepiest muppets are in the background as the dancers.

          (And yes – it’s totally kid safe, Cooper’s live shows are not for everyone, but he’s also very aware of his audience and able to ratchet it down for younger eyes.)

          1. JustaTech*

            I have hummed “16 Tons” at large corporate events and had management completely miss my point.

            (I’ve also had to explain the concept of the “company store” to coworkers, so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised.)

    4. Hats Are Great*

      I would have started with the group song situation at a level of “inappropriately enthusiastic” and rapidly progressed to “creating alternate lyrics” and “wearing costumes.” Like, give me something that stupid to do, and YOU BET YOUR BOOTS I am going to do it waaaaaaaaaaaay too much and at a level where it’s hard to tell if I’m being ironic or sincere but everyone’s going to be uncomfortable regardless.

    5. Religious woman in secular society*

      The group song is illegal. I have a religious belief that prohibits me from singing in mixed company.

      1. That'sNotMyName*

        While I have theological issues with that practice within my own religious group, I would support anything that would stop a group song at work. I am a trained singer and can hit all of those notes but I’m not a beer or two in at a karaoke night, so I refuse to do so at work.

        Because I’m all about super dramatic music and malicious compliance, I’d vote and campaign for Verdi’s ‘Dies Irae’ (Day of Wrath). Imagine a full symphony orchestra and chorale dialing it up to 11 and staying there for an entire song about the Roman Catholic take on the Day of Judgment at the end of the world. It’s a fun piece to sing.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Bahaha, that is an excellent suggestion for malicious compliance (and agree — it’s one of the most fun pieces I’ve ever sung)!

    6. Kit*

      For anyone stuck in this scenario in future – or otherwise strong-armed into karaoke – you should check to see if they have the Champs, because Tequila is for you! You say the title three times, no singing required, and in fact a completely deadpan affect will help your performance.

      Although I can imagine coworkers actually getting into that experience, because who doesn’t love being encouraged to shout about booze by management?

      1. JustaTech*

        The best thing about Journey is you’ll find out exactly how many people in your group do long-distance racing, as it is required music at the start of any marathon/half marathon/triathlon. After one or two races it becomes muscle memory to sing along, badly, at the top of your lungs.

    7. Phony Genius*

      How did “Get Lucky” get on the list? That’s not exactly work-appropriate. (Not that the others are.)

      1. Pansy*

        lol, I noticed that. While my vote is for Bon Jovi bc I love some hair band hard rock, Get Lucky is my 2nd choice for the inappropriateness.

      2. Pippa K*

        “Forced singing of songs is not fun
        Got too much work to get done
        Updating my cv a ton
        I’m on LinkedIn to get lucky…”

        1. Svennerson*

          Like the boss who peed in a cup
          Or a douchey tech-bro start up
          This office is enraging
          My brain is disengaging

          This project’s ’bout to run out of it’s time
          But music won’t stop, and focus is offline

          Forced singing of songs is not fun
          Got too much work to get done
          Updating my CV a ton
          I’m on LinkedIn to get lucky
          Please have some recruiter come
          Before my feelings go numb
          Each day, each verse gets more dumb
          I’m on LinkedIn to get lucky

    8. The OTHER other*

      I would totally have tried to stuff the ballot box with wildly inappropriate song suggestions, as with the public vote for the name of an icebreaking nautical research vessel that wound up with the name “Boaty McBoatface”.

      Just spitballing:

      “Now I wanna sniff some glue”–The Ramones
      “We’re not gonna take it”–Twisted Sister
      “Take this job and shove it”–David Coe
      “We are the robots”–Kraftwerk
      “Cocaine blues”–Johnny Cash
      “F*** the police”–NWA (or any gangsta rap, really)

      And of course, “I hate my job”, by the Butthole Surfers.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        “Sixteen Tons,” by Merle Travis, recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford, Johnny Cash, and a lot of other people.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Someone at my school got Ray Stevens “One Eyed, One Horned, Flying Purple People Eater” nominated for senior class song in protest.

        (It actually received votes too.)

    9. Indigo a la mode*

      Seriously. I happen to love karaoke, and I’m not saying my team hasn’t sung one-line walk-on songs using our teammates’ name, but a halfhearted chorus of “Don’t Stop Believin'” at the end of every meeting would be absolutely unbearable.

    10. YouWithTheGlasses*

      Maybe the manager was former military? We ended all of our squadron/base wide events like promotion ceremonies and commanders calls with the service’s song. Sadly, there was no dance.

  2. Kevin Sours*

    This alone as a signal that we going to be treated a shower of chiropteran excrement: “one of THREE CEOs at a tiny company”

    1. I used to like my job*

      Most of the misery I’ve experienced in my office-job life has been from bosses who didn’t have nearly enough to do, who spent all their unproductive time hunting up information on what other companies were doing, and trying to implement it. Since these bosses had NO IDEA what their staff did (but were certain that it wasn’t done well and needed improvement!), every. single. idea is varying depths of excrement.

      My current #1 woe is a baby CFO who has just found out that Servers are Expensive. He’s been trying for weeks to get either his internal IT (me) or his external IT to fess up and tell him that we don’t actually need a server, we can just use Sharepoint.

      We both keep telling him (a) we need a server, and (b) the quote for the server that’s got him all keyed up is absolutely standard and not an unusually high price.

      1. Meganly*

        Also SharePoint usually needs a server, right?? I ran the SP server at my first job (not because I had the skills, but because no one else wanted to).

        1. Loredena*

          At least one unless you actually are using O365 (or hosted). No matter what, there’s a server somewhere!

      2. That'sNotMyName*

        It’s even better when the execs don’t actually have free time to spend looking at what other companies do, but spend their time on it anyway.

      3. Loredena*

        And if you are small enough to go single server it’s a steal! I never recommended smaller than a three server/3 tier configuration and really preferred 5

  3. Pansy*

    I propose combining Strategy 1 with Strategy 4 for a work place where the entire floor bursts out with T. Rexx, complete with air guitar, every time the gong sounds.

      1. Flash Packet*

        I (my parents) used to have T. Rex’s “The Slider” 8-track tape. I think I was in my late 20’s when I finally learned that the band’s name was T. Rex and the album was “The Slider”. For all those years I had thought the band was “T. Rex the Slider”.

    1. Storm in a teapot*

      Or maybe 1 and 6 – mixing up the gongs with when to ACN and if you get a sale you do a group song

  4. MysteriousMise*

    The boss at 2 is my hero. Reply All is the work of the devil, and should be fired into a volcano in the sea.

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      I used to work at a company on team of about 20-30 in 2 two offices. Whenever someone made a sales goal or received really good feedback from a client the director or Managing Director would send out a Congrats email about them to the team.

      Which was fine, but several people would reply-all with their congrats as well. It felt like they wanted credit from the director for congratulating their team member.

      1. Jessica*

        I agree with this so much! Likewise, if the mass announcement is that somebody had a baby or a death in the family or won a Nobel Prize or resigned in cod or WHATEVER, just express your feelings about it to the person directly. Replying all to these always feels either careless or performative or both.

      2. knitcrazybooknut*

        This is EXACTLY the kind of “demonstrative team spirit” that my old department had. We support people! By sending emails! With lots of exclamation points!

        When I saw the first occurrence, I was like, whoa, what the hell is this? Every time someone had a birthday or achieved something, it was at least twelve people replying all and basically being rewarded in brownie points for doing so. Yikes.

      3. Roland*

        Every time someone is hired or promoted or sends out a big project announcement in my org, people feel the need to reply-all just to say “congrats”. I am big on inbox-0 so it means I’m stuck being distracted by unreads all day long, or mute the thread and completely lose the original announcement which maybe I cared about.

      4. DiplomaJill*

        I was also annoyed until I realized that there’s a tool for this called “ignore conversation” — life-changing. It just eliminated the thread and every response after. Now I gleefully perform, hit ignore conversation, and move on with my day. No one knows!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            PSA Not safe in all offices. We have people who will reply all to completely unrelated emails just to get the mailing list…and NOT change the subject line .. for a totally new time-critical project.

    2. KatEnigma*

      I can understand the temptation.

      But then I tried to figure out how I would communicate with my team without reply all… It would be possible, but would be a massive pain in the neck.

      1. Antilles*

        It’s actually pretty convenient for day-to-day stuff – the first person to make the email to your project team lists everyone then everybody else can just reply-all to the thread so everybody stays informed. So totally preventing reply-all would be a bit of a pain.

        But I absolutely love the “are you sure you want to reply-all?” confirmation check for groups larger than 8.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          YES Jesus wept. “You are sending this to more than 8 people, is that necessary?”

          also its grandpappy, “You are sending this to 50 people, please re-think your life decisions.”

          1. Warrior Princess Xena*

            I can think of a few edge cases where that would be important but only a very few!

        2. Jackalope*

          Yes, this. Ideally, announcements like new babies or family deaths would be sent BCC and then you could still use your reply all for conversations within your unit/dept/etc. So much easier than having to remember all of the people that should be on the email, especially if it’s more than a handful of people.

    3. Ari*

      We’ve had two reply all chaos situations. Both in the middle of the night for most employees. Both a situation where a person accidentally tagged an entire (massive) distribution list instead of the one person they meant to tag. Hundreds of emails ensued as people kept 1) asking to removed from the list, 2) asked why they were on the list, and/or 3) told everyone else to stop replying all. I had to turn my phone off both times, but the next day I read through many of the replies because I couldn’t stop looking at how increasingly enraged some people were becoming. Some of them to the point of cursing! Truly epic.
      People desperately need to understand that Reply All is rarely necessary.

      1. Svennerson*

        It seems like so many of the problems occur when someone is annoyed they got reply all’d…and decide to deal with it by reply all’ing. There’s a real cascade effect that happens.

      2. Random Bystander*

        That has happened at my work place, too–it’s not so much that they’re using a “reply all” but that they are replying where the “to” includes a distribution list (instead of replying simply to whomever the originator is). We just had one in the past week–for the software that we use, there are a couple of DLs in which once a quarter an email is sent “these are the updates that have been made”. I mean, seriously, we’re talking about a total of twelve emails (in four separate groups of three) of emails that might not apply to your particular job. Well, this last time, instead of doing what I always do (just delete my copy of the irrelevant emails–all three DLs go to all employees, we had a few people reply to the DL “please remove me from this list” or some such variant. I had to use the restroom, and by the time I returned, less than 5 minutes later, my email box had blown up with all the “please remove me” “quit replying all” and a couple of people who helpfully replied “when you send to a DL, you are sending to everyone on the DL; if you want to ignore an email thread, this is how [screenshot]” and “to report an issue with the list, here is how to enter a ticket [screenshot]”.

        Of course the last time this happened, it was a VP who finally sent a “knock it off” email. At the time, I had almost wished to have the nerve to send out a flow chart that I found about when to use reply, reply all, cc, and bcc. It was a huge pdf (probably would take two vertical pages to print the document), and the way it was written was hilarious (but probably would have not been hilarious to aforementioned VP).

        Why they don’t set up the DL so that not everyone can send to the DL and that these info-only emails are not reply restricted seems like an IT failure to me.

        1. TrixM*

          It IS a failure. It’s easy to restrict who can send to the list at the back end, assuming it’s Exchange, and where I work, we do it by default (various levels, such as all members can send, only nominated people can send, open slather (rare)). It should definitely be done for annouce-only lists.

          If you can look at the group details, you may be able to see the group owner. If it’s not an exec team boss, I’d send them a message suggesting the group senders be restricted. If it is a big boss, maybe contact their EA or next-in-line. If it’s people you’ve never heard of, then put in an IT support ticket explaining the reply-all spam, that the list is only used for announcements, and could the senders please be restricted.

          It’s generally better to get the group owners to make the request, which is why I suggest that route first, but a support ticket is fine to get the ball rolling if that’s the only way available to you.

          From the back end, I’ve worked in many places where the groups are not locked down by default (it does take some effort to set up and automate initially), but we were perfectly happy to do so on request (in fact, preferred it, to prevent those reply-all storms). But more than once, we learned that staff – even on our help desk – were completely unaware it was an option. Even in a place where the request form for new groups had an option for “restrict sending to members/these individuals only”. Often if someone sufficiently high-up learns about the feature, a load of others will follow suit.

      3. LittleMarshmallow*

        I don’t understand why people feel the need to be like “take me off of this list” at all, but especially not as a reply all! If it’s a one-off email that doesn’t apply to you just hit the delete button and move on with your life.

        Like everyone knows about reply-allocolypse, but yet it still happens! Humans are so weird.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I saw one at my current job shortly after I started that went for seven days. There were your normal screechy “remove me’s” but this one group decided to have fun with it – and turned it into a “reply all with your favorite baking recipe” thread.

          It was actually a little sad when IT finally shut it down, so many brownie recipes – and IT deleted the thread when they shut it down.

        2. Yoyoyo*

          I think we tend to overestimate the average person’s tech abilities. The people replying “take me off this list,” in my experience, have been the ones who I am not convinced understand how email works. It’s kind of like people who comment on social media ads saying “get this off my page.”

    4. EC*

      For some unfathomable reason our email system changed the default from reply to reply all. The first few weeks were awful, and months later it still multiplies the amount of junk emails we get.

    5. morethantired*

      I once worked at a company where I had to get special permission to use the “All employees” email list, and the IT guy giving me access relayed the entire story of the reason it was restricted — someone had emailed the entire company when quitting in spectacular fashion, with a long email listing all the reasons they were quitting, punctuated with some choice language. But the best part of the story was that people kept replying-all to the email by mistake to tell the quitting guy “good for you”!!!!

    6. amoeba*

      Eh, I think “reply all”, used as it should be, is really useful (and I’d be extremely annoyed if they took it away!) Actually, most of our project discussions etc. involve multiple people, so the email chains generally do, as well – all of whom are involved/interested in the conversation.

      But I’m mostly talking about groups of, like, 3-6 people, not whole mailing lists, obviously. (Guess we’re very lucky here – cannot remember a single “reply all” incident in my two years at this company, at most one stray email that then everybody ignored and went back to their business!)

  5. I should really pick a name*

    Someone at my company briefly tried bringing in a gong (don’t think it was sanctioned by upper management).

    In addition to being annoying because of the noise, it was annoying because it was effectively saying that the sales team’s achievement’s were somehow special and needed to be announced to everyone, but not everyone else’s achievements.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I was on a team of 15 or so, and our manager (who was a good manager and mostly reasonable) decided to get a clock for our section of the rather large floor. So far, so good. Each hour had a different bird pictured, and on that hour, the clock played a tinny recording of that bird’s call. And she had it put up over someone else’s cube. She didn’t even sit nearby. Awhile later I was chatting with the colleague who sat under the clock and wondered aloud why I hadn’t heard it for awhile…. It was the battery, doncha know. It just stopped working, somehow. Replacing the battery didn’t seem to help, what a pity. Turns out the recording used its own battery. Further turns out that when you put a battery in backwards, it looks just fine and still doesn’t work….

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        We have that clock in our house and I really like it, but would not inflict it on a group of office workers. Office = minimizing uncontrollable noise as much as possible.

      2. One Potato Two Potato Three Potato Four*

        My parents have that clock, too, in their house. It’s kind of cool but not in a work setting.

    2. Jane*

      I found references to a bell in old documents during a process review earlier this year and it sent a chill down my spine

    3. flanculp*

      My last company had both a gong (for the sales team) AND a bell (for the business development team). Due to the company not have a very high sales/leads volume, it would usually be rung at most once a week, maybe a couple times a month.

      It wasn’t too distracting, but as a member of a different team, it always felt weird that the sales teams’ accomplishments were touted so visibly, and this was in addition to long, self-congratulatory posts on slack about the deal and other visibility in meetings. Other teams do good work too!

    1. Hlao-roo*

      There was! Search for “ask the readers: reply-all horror stories” from February 21, 2019. I’ll link in a follow-up comment.

      1. yetelmen*

        First, your encyclopedic knowledge of all posts is something I admire greatly. I’ve been meaning to tell you.

        Second, this thread is worth if for no other reason than the Ask A Manager: The Musical derailment. When will this make its debut?? Please tell me it’s in production.

        1. Rob aka Mediancat*

          Featuring the songs “Duck Club (Quack Quack),” “Hanukkah Balls,” “Born on February 29th” and “Presumption Junction (Where’s Your Gumption).”

    2. Petty Parliament*

      Here’s a contemporary one: I work in a government branch and once someone used reply-all on the list that had the ENTIRE staff of our country’s government (including the elected officials).

      It was about organizing a team brunch. Someone was complaining that the orange juice at a specific restaurant had too much pulp.

      No one did any work that afternoon. It was glorious.

      1. Phryne*

        I am amazed that it is possible for this to still happen… Surely is not that hard to prevent with some simple ICT settings?
        I work in a college and neither teachers nor students can just send mail to thousands of recipients. I think the standard is about 100-150 for staff, more than that and the server will block it. You can get this limit adjusted if needed, but it would still be impossible for recipients to reply all. And 95% op people simply do not need the ability to mail everyone in an organisation.

        We still get the ‘accidentally used the mailing list for all admin staff instead of this one specific admin office’, of course, but they involve much smaller numbers and anyway, I’ve not seen anyone reply-all to those in years…

      2. Always check you have the right address*

        Not my story but my former boss’. They were a group of friends organising a bachelor party for one of them, and were having a (very long) reply-all email thread going with lots of fun ideas (though not exactly SFW). One of the friends was working at the national ministry for whatever (but one of the big ones), and as the friends found out after settling the final details of the party, somewhere along the way they had managed to switch out his email address for the one used by anyone who wants to contact said ministry and doesn’t know which specific person they need to talk to (so a very closely monitored inbox). Friend was not impressed and my boss was not sure he had ever forgiven them.

    3. Mitchell Hundred*

      I’m at the tail end of one right now at work. There’s no funny story, but I have (as always) had to restrain myself from listening to the devil on my shoulder telling me to wade into it by asking what everyone thinks of the new ‘Game of Thrones’ spin-off.

    4. Flash Packet*

      In late 2019, someone at the global, Fortune 1 company I worked at sent an email to everyone in the company. The cascade of Reply-Alls overwhelmed our email servers, locking everything up, and ended up causing us to pay an ungodly amount of “overage / emergency use” charges to our pay-for-what-you-use cloud service provider. The extra amount was at least in the hundreds of thousands of US dollars.

      And, yes, every single one of the replies was some version of: “Was this meant for me?” “Why am I receiving this?” “Please remove me from this list.” and “STOP REPLYING-ALL!!”

    5. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I find they are divided into two categories.

      1) someone replies all with something sensitive, personal, embarrassing, or rude.
      2) IT does not have the servers configured properly and the system melts down.

      Bonus points for #2 in those cases where the autoresponders are not configured correctly and the system REALLY melts down

    6. Loredena*

      Not precisely the same but. It was 87 major computer company with home grown email system. I received an email that built a cute ascii Christmas card, but didn’t recognize the sender. Which is because when opened it read through your entire contact list and emailed itself to everyone. Worldwide. In the end IT had to bring down the servers and delete it from all mailboxes. (It was deceptively simple code. I’m sure the originator felt very clever sending it to all his contacts this way )

    7. Olestra*

      Oohhh I have one. I used to work at a consumer goods giant. Someone once accidentally sent an email to a listserv containing everyone in R&D in the entire company, about 80,000 people. Of course we got about 50 of the regular “remove me from this list”, “stop replying all” emails, etc. Then people started sending memes. Then a few hours in someone replied all to say something along the lines of “statistically about 200 of the people on this email chain have a birthday today. Happy birthday!” Then people started replying to say it was their birthday and thanking that person and sharing how they were celebrating. Finally IT locked the listerv or something so the fun was over. As someone who normally finds a reply all apocalypse hilarious, the fact that this one took a wholesome turned made it next level for me.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I posted this up above, but shortly after starting there was a reply allpocaplyse at my current job that ran for seven days. The initial email was obviously a “hit wrong distribution list” mistake – and cue the “remove me from this thread”, “don’t reply all”, “you can just click ignore this conversation” comments – of course with everyone hitting Reply All.
        About half way through day one somebody decided to turn it into a massive cross office team build exercise. They hit reply all and said something to the effect of let’s get to know all our colleagues better – give us your name, office, and favorite baked good. That went for a day or so, and then somebody else took it and said – give us your favorite baking recipe.
        When IT finally shut it down (again it went for seven days) it was slightly sad because they also removed the thread from the email client – all those recipes disappeared.

  6. Essess*

    I firmly believe that proper use of ‘reply-all’ should be part of performance reviews. If you contribute to a reply-all-ageddon by doing a “remove me” or “stop replying to all” while replying to all, you should have to attend an email-usage class.

    1. Jessica*

      Essess, if you are an IT professional, could you please come take over the IT wing of my workplace?

      1. Essess*

        Not only am I in IT, but my company is also a major IT consulting firm and so I get so angry when one of these reply-a-geddons happens on our internal email, sometimes continuing for multiple days. They are supposed to KNOW BETTER!

    2. spcepickle*

      I really want our mandatory IT phishing class to start with a phishing email. If you know enough to not click the email – sweet you pass the class! If you do click it – bam it take you to the phishing class and you have to click through the hour long stupid power point.

      1. MarsJenkar*

        We sort of do. There is the required refresher course we take every year, but the same company that provides the training also sends out its own phishing test emails. If you click on the link, you have to do remedial training. Repeat offenders can get further disciplinary actions taken against them.

        I will say, the phishing tests the company uses are pretty good… some are unconvincing, but others are trickier. I did get caught by one of them, sad to say, but I haven’t made that mistake since.

        1. DataSci*

          Our phishing tests are always really, really obvious. Or maybe they just don’t vary them enough – I will never ever deal with accounts or invoices, so anything mentioning them is an obvious phish. I have however reported real emails from upper management as phishing more than once – the worst offender was “We know you’ve all been working hard this year and want to reward you, click here to send us your information for a holiday gift”. Yeah, right. Except it was legit, third-party target for the link and all.

        2. Essess*

          Same here… I was so mad at the one that caught me. My company started a brand new performance review website and you were t use it to request performance feedback from other employees. I used it for the first time to submit a feedback request. The next day, I get an email that says, “your feedback request is attached”. Since it was a new system, I didn’t know how the feedback would be returned and since I HAD solicited a feedback request the previous day, I clicked on the attachment. Which ended up being a phishing test and I had to go through the blasted phishing training. I am still sore about it and that was 10 years ago.

      2. Meganly*

        My company sends out regular fake phishing emails and if you click the link, you are automatically signed up to take the phishing/social engineering training regardless of how many times you’ve taken it before. If you correctly report the emails as phishing, you get a nice little automatic message.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          */ Rant on, scroll if you like /*

          I freaking hate this. I have enough ish to do without flailing about trying to turn in the fake phishies in in the desired time (at which point we get fake-fish-bombed to the point of no productivity) in order to pass. That’s the kicker. You fail if you click, or you fail if you don’t turn them in. They don’t always get past my inbox rules either.

          Those who’d actually click on the stupid messages aren’t using their email on the regular anyways here.

          1. Elenna*

            Oh, that’s not how ours work. AFAIK, there’s no penalty for not looking at/reporting the fake-phishing emails. If you do report them you just get a little “congrats, you spotted the phishing” message, and if you click on links inside them you get directed to a “you fell for the phishing” website, and if you click on the links too many times you have to do training. But nothing happens if you just ignore the email.

            I think my company’s set up is a good way to do it (and like MarsJenkar’s, some of the phishing emails are surprisingly tricky).

            1. MarsJenkar*

              Yep, ours has a similar reporting system. I suspect we may have the same company for net security training.

            2. Kyrielle*

              Ours is similar except we don’t get the “good job” email. I amuse myself by opening the headers to see if it’s a phishing test or real phishing/spam, then report it anyway. For a while I had a rule to filter all the phishing tests to a folder, but I removed the folder by mistake and was too lazy to put it all back in place, and it didn’t really save me much time since real spam is more common than fake phishing for us.

            3. JustaTech*

              We’ve never been encouraged to report the phishing emails, though apparently some people do, because when we were all sent an Amazon card in lieu of a holiday party in 2020 IT and HR had to send out a follow up email explaining that no, this was a real email from work with a real Amazon card.

              Scuttlebutt says that the people most likely to click on the phishing emails are the C-suite, and at least one time it ended up with us getting ransom-ware’d and unable to access about half the servers for a month.

        2. Student*

          Ours does the phishing email test, but they send them out from a legit internal IT email account sometimes (likely by accident?), which makes it really hard to trust that IT email account about anything.

      3. Lyudie*

        My company recognizes people who report the phishing test within a minute, as though that actually means anything.

      4. LikesToSwear*

        I have been at employers that did that. It was fabulous, because I usually passed by catching the phishing email and reporting it.

      5. Friendly Internet Stranger*

        I get so much weird spam from the “executive director” and I always secretly think they’re from IT. I forward them to our spam address and assign myself an A+!

        1. Nightengale*

          I have reported more legitimate e-mails as potential phishing than the actual phishing tests. Like an e-mail supposedly from the head of the hospital sending me to an external site to take a survey? Hit everything on the “how to spot phishing attempt” checklist except seemingly from a legit e-mail address.

          Of course also our spam catcher catches a lot of important e-mails and lets a lot of spam through.. . .

      6. Flash Packet*

        I want the punishment to be disabling someone’s ability to click on a link in an email. Like, even if it’s an invoice from an actual supplier that you need to process, you have to email your manager for permission to click the link. Every single time. For at least a month.

      7. Other Alice*

        My company also has phishing tests, but an outlook bug meant that reporting the email as phishing got you enrolled in the course. This led to obviously scammy emails no longer being reported. Not a success.

    3. MarsJenkar*

      Obviously, you cue up Weird Al’s “Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me”. And encourage people to sing along. /s

    4. An SEO*

      Could we include “performative reply alls” in that? When the head honcho says “join me in thanking…” you don’t need to reply to that thread so the head honcho sees you also said “congratulations.” You could just do it privately.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yes! There are like 3-4 people in my department who do those performative “congrats!” reply alls, having never noticed that the rest of us don’t do them.
        It’s even sillier now because we have Bonusly, where they could send congrats that everyone can see *and* points towards a gift card.

    5. Friendly Internet Stranger*

      Agree. Equally annoying is when someone (ahem, I am looking at a fellow board member) NEVER uses reply all, causing confusion for all!

    6. Zee*

      I had to do so many god-awful cybersecurity training courses telling me not to click on sketchy links, and stuff like “don’t complain about your employer by name on social media,” and yet nowhere was there “this is basic email etiquette” training.

  7. J*

    The ACN story made me cry laughing. The mental image of being a customer there! Imagine: you’ve just gone down to the shop and you’re quietly browsing the wares. You’re the only one there. Over the tannoy you hear ‘PERFORM ACN NOW.’ Like clockwork, five employees turn, make direct eye contact, and begin the approach. I’d be terrified!

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        You’re pretty close to the reality. Because when the ACN order came you HAD to stop whatever you were doing (unpacking merchandise, fixing displays) and zero in on a customer. Naturally this broke your concentration and it was annoying, resulting in a lot of Unhappy Faces bearing down on you. Not really the warm and fuzzy customer service experience that management expected it to be.

    1. mlem*

      “Why is everyone heading for me? What do they want? What does ACN mean? I’m the only customer … A-customer-N … acquire-customer-N … you know what, I don’t need to figure out WHAT of part-of-me-starting-with-N they want to acquire, I’m out of here!”

    2. Lana Kane*

      The mental image I get is from when I decided, after hurricane Irma, to go feed the ducks in a nearby lake. I start throwing out breadcrumbs and I see a duck army making eye contact and walking towards me. Did I run away? Yes.

  8. CL*

    I just remembered one! In my office 20+ years ago, the receptionist would print out the company stock price each morning and post it in the break room as a motivator. IT then decided to put a new filter on our internet searching that actually blocked quite a bit of our actual work. We had to submit a Helpdesk ticket each time a site we needed was blocked and the receptionist posted the “you’ve been blocked” message instead of the stock price. IT reversed the filter after 3 weeks.

    1. Storm in a teapot*

      Hah our IT did this with words they deemed unacceptable. One of those words was sexual. However in one of the largest sexual health units were multiple people have that word in their job title? Incredibly dumb. Senior physician emails being constantly blocked

      1. Observer*

        Whoever did that filter should be fired. Even in the early days of filtering that was completely stupid! You never, ever block on words that are in your company / unit’s title.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Had a similar situation where my coworker had to get a form about IT security filled out by a contractor. Found out the contractor’s response was blocked by the firewall for sexually explicit language. What was sexually explicit in a form about IT security?

        Why the answer to a question about what types of information is blocked by the contractor’s servers — “our servers block sexually explicit language.”

        The IT person laughed so loud when releasing the email to my coworker that I could hear it from my coworker’s headset a cubicle away.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        When I managed paralegals, one of them came running into my office one day because they got the “inappropriate content blocked” message while trying to access the website of a state court located in Middlesex County. They thought I got a report of any attempts to access inappropriate content at work and didn’t want me thinking that they were lookin at adult websites at work. It did take entirely too long for IT to unblock the “offending” court’s website, though. THAT was fun to explain to the requesting attorney.

        1. Skytext*

          OMG! And then what happened if they needed to access Sussex or Essex county courts? How about Passaic? (It’s got “ass” in it). And OMG what about [Cum]berland County? Lolol!

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      Our IT decided they wanted to force us to use Edge (most everyone uses chrome). So they sneakily applied settings where you were no longer logged into chrome automatically for among other things.

      One division who provides patient care were unable to complete legally mandated reports to a central state system that required use of….you guessed it…chrome. Within 5 minutes of the email outlining the problem and that IT was “looking into it”, I checked to see if regular use of Chrome was restored. Sure was.

      I don’t know what it is with IT doing things without finding out if its going to break anything users have to do, but it does appear to be common.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        My experience with that has been “there’s Microsoft tunnel vision happening”. It literally doesn’t cross their minds that some departments use software (and probably hardware, honestly) that is not Microsoft. Like utterly mind boggling to the point that I’ve been asked “are you sure Microsoft doesn’t make a software that handles that?”. Nope. Nope it doesn’t.

        Pretty thankful that current IT group, for all the phishing test heck they put us through, understands that we cannot upgrade to whatever Microsoft’s OS being pushed is, because several of our non-Microsoft products don’t work with it yet.

    3. EC*

      We had that issue a while ago. The university IT made a bunch of changes to our system that ended up blocking access to a lot of scientific journals, which we need. It also somehow blocked a lot of external emails.

    4. I am Emily's failing memory*

      My employer has implemented net nanny software in a way I actually think is really good – nothing is actually hard blocked, but if you try to visit a site that matches the no-no filter you get taken to a interstitial page that says, “You’re attempting to access a page that is flagged as $_category. Click below to confirm and proceed to the site. This action will be logged.” So if the software has improperly flagged something that you have a legitimate reason to access, you can go ahead and click through without the delay that would be involved with having to request a whitelisting/exemption.

      No report is sent to IT if you bail out at that point, because it might have been a mistake (like one of those domains that’s a misspelling of a legitimate website and full of bees) or maybe you just thought better of whether you needed to visit that site after seeing the warning (high-bandwidth streaming platforms were flagged, only if you were on site at the office, because it’s fine if you need to watch a video for work reasons but we didn’t have enough bandwidth for everyone on site to be watching Netflix on their break or in a second monitor).

      But if you were actually trying to access something you shouldn’t, clicking through would notify IT so they could take the appropriate disciplinary action.

      1. Cheshire Cat*

        I saw a similar message just last week. The server I was trying to reach was “Uncategorized”, which meant I got the warning message but was allowed to click through.

        The kicker? It was an internal server. That multiple people use daily. It was fixed the next day.

    5. Trawna*

      Ha. IT did this at a former job — an architectural firm that worked internationally. Blocked words included erect. Also erection, a common non-English as a first language error for erecting. We nearly missed a big contract opportunity.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I figure that there’s a reason those of us in Arch/Eng/Construction are about 12 years old, humor wise. There are a LOT of words that a net nanny would have fun with ;)

        1. pinkhardhat*

          In my first day of my first “real” job at a construction company, I was sitting in on a meeting about a bridge project, and it seemed like every other word was [steel] erection! I had a hard time not sniggering.

          Also in that meeting they kept asking, “well, who are you going to call?”. And I really wanted to burst out with Ghostbusters! I probably would say that now, but probably good I held it in on the first day.

    6. Environmental Compliance*

      My current company blocks “recycling”. I literally cannot get on any county website to check the local recycling center. It’s “activism”.

      This has driven me absolutely freaking bonkers for 2.7 years and IT “can’t fix it” because a third party controls our firewall.

      My entire job is environmental compliance including waste management. I *need* to review recycling strategies.

      And yes, I’m looking for a new job.

    7. workswitholdstuff*

      I was trying to look up information on the online database of the Imperial War Museum (irrc I was trying to cross reference a medal or something.).

      Our council filters blocked the whole site – because of ‘references to war and arms on the website’.

      That did get an exasperated email to IT with ‘please let me look another museum’s website…’

    8. JustaTech*

      Ah, my company did the opposite thing to boost productivity.
      When I started out our stock price was proudly displayed on our internal homepage (because our stock price was good). Then someone noticed that on days when the market was doing badly, or on the very few days we were allowed to sell our stock, a lot of people would spend a lot of time refreshing the internal homepage to keep an eye on the current stock price.

      Then things started going badly and our stock price was no longer something to be excited about. Or at least not excited in a good way. So they took the stock ticker off the internal home page (because by then there wasn’t anything to do to stop the drop in the value of the stock).

  9. Storm in a teapot*

    Omg letter 2 – reminds me of the ultimate reply allpocalypse from when I worked in the UK national health service. Someone managed to accidentally reply all to the entire mailing list. Hundreds of thousands of people. The entire email system collapsed. It made national news. I remember having to get patient reports faxed to me as I couldn’t get them emailed!
    It was nuts.

  10. Color Theory*

    The red and orange break rooms sounds like a weird argument I saw somewhere online about painting the floor of a children’s hospital with red streaks. The argument was split between “color theory says red is good!” and “yeah but in practice it looks like blood…”

    1. whingedrinking*

      I vaguely remember seeing a picture on some listicle of bad design decisions: the door to a women’s washroom, which someone had decided to decorate with Pollock-esque spatters of red paint.

    2. beep beep*

      One of my favorite running jokes on Tumblr. Also what I said when my mom planned to get red curtains for her bedroom windows. In my defense they are the color of blood even if it is a pretty red.

    3. Zephy*

      Ah yes, that’s a legendary Tumblr post.

      There is a relationship between the color palette of a space and how long people tend to linger there: warmer tones (reds and yellows) tend to be associated with briefer stays in a place, the opposite being true for cooler tones (blues and greens). Causation is hard to prove in either direction, but I’m betting management saw something about how many fast-food places use a lot of red in their palettes to encourage customers to leave more quickly, then extended that to “paint a whole room red and take out all the furniture to make it maximally unpleasant to be there, so as to minimize lollygagging.”

      1. Other Duties as Assigned*

        Ugh-color changes.
        Years ago, I worked for the auto center of a large department store chain. The auto facility was actually second-hand; it was a former car dealership separate from the main store. We used the shop (of course) and the showroom was our sales floor. In the basement was a shower/locker room for the mechanics and a long table with benches they could use for their lunch break. The whole basement was beige: walls, ceiling, table, lockers, etc. An industrial designer from corporate inspected and felt the beige was too restful, and the mechanics might linger there as a result. The next week, painters came in and painted everything in red and white. It was like being in a Dairy Queen.

    4. just another queer reader*

      hahaha I thought this was just a meme, I never realized there was a serious proposal behind it

    5. LB*

      There’s an excellent Ace Attorney parody video on YouTube that reenacts this argument (and the Bodybuilding How-Long-is-a-Week one, and “All Odd Numbers have an E”… they’re surprisingly addictive videos!)

  11. Weaponized Pumpkin*

    I had a #11 workplace, without the monitoring. Because we were always visible (open plan) we had carefully kept our in-person chats super short, but once we shifted to IM we became invisible and chatted way more! What would have been 1 minute in person became 15 via messaging. Beware of unintended consequences.

  12. CharlieBrown*

    For #4, all I can say is if you have never heard Postmodern Jukebox’s version of “Don’t Stop Believing” head on over to YouTube and look it up. It’s amazing!

  13. Dave the Dog*

    I worked at a company once who removed the reply-all button after a reply allpocalypse, took about 12 days before someone discovered that even though the button was gone, IT didn’t disable the hotkey *facepalm*

    Went on for YEARS to the point that I can’t shake the habit of replying to an email without using ALT+L, even after a more sensible IT team put the button back.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I was going to ask why on earth there was a hotkey and then remembered that Office has hotkeys for almost everything, which is both a blessing and a curse sometimes.

      At least I’d imagine that anyone who knows enough to either find the hotkey or google its existence is less likely to trigger replyallpocalypse

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I bet that was the logic – the folks who are tech savvy enough to know the keyboard commands are also smart enough to use reply all judiciously.

  14. HR Rufflepuff*

    I once had a boss that bought a BOAT SAFETY HORN to blow when someone made a sale. I was the office manager so I eventually just hid it from him and “found” a big cow bell, which also pleased him, but to a lesser degree. RIP my hearing.

  15. Goldie*

    Some days I think I’m insane working for the federal government. Then I read things like #4 and am eternally grateful that this is something I will never, ever have to worry about as long as I’m being paid by taxpayer dollars.

  16. JJJJ*

    This wasn’t a company thing, just a boss thing.

    I had a boss who insisted that I (at the end of each Friday) send them an email with a document that outlined my planned tasks/projects for the following week, along with how much time I’d spend on each and what percentage of the week that amount of time was. I had to put all of it onto my calendar and ensure that all time was accounted for. Then I had to submit a midweek update on my progress and an end-of-week report on what was done/not done, things added to the list during the week, the amounts of time spent on everything/percentages of the week, and also calculate how (in)accurate my initial time estimates had been. I was spending a good 2+ hours a week on all this planning/recording/reporting.

    That boss left shortly after I got a new grandboss (who my boss reported to) and the grandboss (who is now my direct boss) immediately canned the whole thing.

    1. Busywork*

      I was a secretary for a satellite office that sent technicians to repair telex machines — even then, they were nearly nonexistent. And every week, I had to send a report to HQ estimating our overtime hours, by day, for the next week. It was not something that could be predicted, and there were not a lot of OT hours, anyway. And I was brand new, so how could I possibly know anything? I would simply use the estimated hours from the week before and apply them to different days than the previous week. It was not time consuming, but it made me realize that my job was just not terribly important.

    2. DramaQ*

      I had a boss who decided to try something similar. She got annoyed when I put “writing productivity sheet” on every single day of the week. That didn’t count it should only take “10-20 minutes” a day. Yeah 10-20 minutes I am not doing something else and since you are making me do it so I am including it in my daily updates AND “what I plan on doing next week”.

      1. Julia*

        I has a boss who insisted on me writing out what every day I did in 15 minute blocks. He thought I was allotting my time between two departments in an unequal way. I pointed out I needed to put in time spent working on this and he enthusiastically agreed. It showed him I was doing the assignment.

        He ended up laying me off in part because I wouldn’t tell him why I needed a disability accommodation that he thought was me trying to scam my way into a better office space.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Ah yes, the Business Corollary to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: You cannot know both the status of a project and have it progress. The more you determine status, the less progress is made on a project.

    4. JustaTech*

      My boss and I do a very small part of this: ie, every Friday I send him a bulleted list that’s “what I did this week” and “what I’m planning to do next week”.

      But it’s just a bulleted list, no times given, and no mid-week checkup!

      And most of the reason I still do it is because it’s useful to me.

  17. Plebeian Aristocracy*

    Did anyone else get Dolores Umbridge vibes from #11? I’m not the biggest Harry Potter fan, so I might be misremembering, but there do seem to be parallels.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Nope – I got the same Umbridge vibes.

      Actually remember reading a top ten villain ranking from the series shortly after the last movie came out that went:
      1. Whomping Willow
      2. Voldemort
      3. Bellatrix Lestrange
      4. Delores Umbridge
      (I don’t remember the rest of the list.)

  18. Sunny days are better*

    #11 sounds worse than the company where you weren’t allowed to say anything funny! At least there you could talk to people, as long as you were SERIOUS AT ALL TIMES.

  19. NorthBayTeky*

    I’m sorry, “Reply All” is not an IT problem, it’s a user problem. It’s an IT problem when you’re not able to send/receive. It’s not an IT problem if people abuse lists created in their email server. You are likely a part of some list somewhere, if your email administrator is worth her salt.

    I agree with Essess, “Reply All” is one of the performance review items. If you can’t operate Outlook (or similar email client) do you really belong in an office environment?

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      But it’s easier to nip from the IT side than the user side because they’re on unit, and there are hundreds of users – it’s a company policy that is enforced by IT system configuration. Our IT has set it up so that only certain people can send email to large lists. The only people who can reply-all spam the entire company distro list are the c-level people, and since this was implemented, there’s not been a single instance of company-wide reply-all back-and-forth. If you try, it bounces back and tells you you’re not authorized to send to that list.

    2. hellohello*

      If someone can take down your internal networks by sending one email, then it’s both an IT issue and a security issue

    3. Kevin Sours*

      This is no more a user problem flight of stairs without a handrail is a user problem. I mean if you can’t climb up to to the balcony without falling off an open stairway do you really belong up there?

      I’ve yet to see a mailing list with a 1000 people on it that everybody *needed* to be able to send to. And if you do it’s not that hard to set up moderation. A reply-allpocalypse is fundamentally a business/IT failure. Every Single Time.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      The people who can send to large mail lists/groups should be restricted to a limited set of responsible individuals.

      Removing the reply all button is not the solution. (I’m reading the solution as removing the reply all button itself for all emails (the knee-jerk, wrong-headed solution) versus removing the ability for most people to reply all to large mail groups.)

      1. Kevin Sours*

        Sure. That’s about the worst solution short of uninstalling the email client from all work machines. It’s still not fundamentally a user problem.

  20. Just another anon*

    #6 reminds me of a retail store I worked at about 10 years ago. We had to walk up to each person that came in the door, introduce ourselves, and shake their hand. Initially, we were supposed to ask the customer’s name as well, but they must have gotten negative feedback because eventually they stopped requiring that. These weren’t high end sales, we weren’t pushing luxury cars, it was supplement store at a run-down mall. It was just so awkward and uncomfortable. Plus, I was in my early 20s at the time, so the amount of times men took this as an opening to say things like, “You want my number, too?” was so irritating. If I was shopping there, I would have bolted immediately, but if the customer stuck around, then we had to ask them what they were looking for and WHY they wanted it. The goal for asking this question was to upsell, but keep in mind, it was a supplement store: “Oh, you’re getting fiber and laxatives? What do you use that for?” Seriously? It was awful.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      The asking why is classic management-think. They imagine replies that can lead to upselling. They don’t continue the train of thought to replies that are awkward, or how off putting many customers will find the whole thing.

    2. Flowers*

      oh my god that sounds awful. And I think it would work the other way around as well, as a female customer I’d be annoyed AF if a male employee was asking me so many invasive questions. I get it now though a lot of the time it’s coming from top down – it’s why I really hate “customer service scripts but it’s not the rep’s fault.

    3. Currently Bill*

      In my retail days, we generally took the approach of, “Don’t touch the customer. You don’t know where they’ve been.”

      All that hand shaking…yeesh

  21. NeedRain47*

    the former CEO here was a big fan of “The secrets to masterful meetings” by M. Wilkinson and I recommend it. There’s lots in it, some will be familiar, but simply the fact that we were highly encouraged to start on time and to always have an agenda makes things more tolerable IMO.

  22. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    Malicious compliance always wins in my book: bang that gong, IM Everything, swarm the customers until they leave, email your movements every 5 minutes!

    …but can you imagine if workers just didn’t on most of these?

  23. Wilbur*

    #11. That paralegal absolutely knew what they were doing. And someone should’ve asked to be cross trained on “adjusting the server”. You know, just in case it needed to be done while they were on vacation.

    1. LCH*

      i have questions! once the paralegal answered and IMed the managing partner, “we’re only allowed to communicate via IM and can’t talk unless it is an emergency” were they like, ok, that seems reasonable?

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Well, they said it came to a head when the partner asked the question, so I was hoping that the partner shut down the Umbrage Impersonator right then and there.

  24. Seashell*

    The Don’t Stop Believing story is hysterical. Too bad they couldn’t have choreographed it to be the last episode of The Sopranos.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      I loathe and hate Journey with every bit of my being. Eventually I’d have heard that horribly hackneyed sentence “Some will win, some will lose, some were born to sing the blues” one time too many and I’d have gone totally postal!

  25. That'sNotMyName*

    The one about meetings is so badly applied. I’ve seen it done really well and people got more done and didn’t loathe meetings. It went so well that they closed the office entirely on the day after Thanksgiving for that year and then decided to make it permanent. There was been some sliding into bad habits around meetings, especially when everyone was WFH, but in general, it was an overall positive shift in how they do things.

  26. NotAnotherManager!*

    I always want to know what managers have time to do #12. I get enough emails without getting one every time someone goes to the bathroom. Generally, I care where you are (1) if you are a no-call-no show (because I worry something has happened to you); (2) if you’re not hitting your deliverables; and (3) if it takes you hours to respond to emails (which may be fine in other places, but we’re high availability with different expectations that are clearly stated in interview/orientation/feedback sessions).

    I’m just adding these up – (coffee breaks + trips to the restroom + snacks/lunch) X (# of employees) = nope, let’s just not.

    1. Jackie Straw from Wichita*

      I’m not the OP, but I saw a spike in that kind of “accountability” *eyeroll* when non-remote organizations were forced to go remote in a matter of days/weeks. It was an attempt to control *waves hands about* something when everything else was out of their control.

      I had one boss do it until she was let go in November 2020. In her words, she “wants to know what you’re all working on so I have the list handy when Big Boss asks” and “because [she is] accountable for our work.” I was so glad when we got a new boss who didn’t ask us for alerts when we’d stepped away or a list of what we did all day on Wednesday.

    2. Lana Kane*

      They don’t read the emails as they come in. They move them to folders a) and then look at them when they want to find a reason to get on your case, or b) use them as a CYA when their own manager asks what their staff does all day.

    3. run mad; don't faint*

      I have a friend whose manager worked in a different office and kept a very close eye on their reports in other places this way. They were also tracking their reports’ computer activity, so if you left your desk without reporting it first, you got an earful.

      Eventually too many branch managers were complaining that they were losing or about to lose experienced, good employees in this particular department because of the insane amount of oversight from the long distance boss. Long distance boss was very well thought of by the higher ups, so they reluctantly investigated. Turns out all they were doing was micromanaging their remote employees. They handed all their assignments to their reports and spent their days watching, watching, watching… Long distance boss was fired.

  27. reply-all-pocalypse*

    I witnessed a reply-all-pocalypse a few years ago. The company was launching a women’s group, and announced it by adding all 1,000 employees who were marked as “woman” in the HR system to a mailing list and inviting everyone on the mailing list to an event at company headquarters.

    A regional sales rep replied to ask if “females in the field” such as herself should book travel to attend. Someone else said that the phrase “females in the field” made her feel like a cow. And then came the avalanche of “please remove me, too many emails” and the “stop replying all!!” messages.

    It went on for hours before IT managed to shut it down.

    Nowadays, the only reply-all issues are when a promotion is announced to the entire department. People still haven’t figured that one out.

    1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Many years ago at a workplace everyone in the national and international offices had access to the reply-all button. Someone posted an ad for a car they were trying to sell. Dozens of “why do I want to buy a car from the UK when I work in Brazil” queries later, the function was restricted to director level and above.

    2. Jane*

      Someone once sent an email to a list of all grad students at my university. It sparked off a reply-all meltdown that went on for a week, among the least tactful people in the world.

  28. Flowers*

    sooo many yikes to all of these. The IM only one sounds like a nightmare for me but maybe a dream place for someone else.

    I missed the original post but I really wanted to share this –

    During my first tax season at my last job people would celebrate a team members birthday with a card and cupcake and the immeidate team members singing “happy birthday.” IIRC it was self funded by the team members. From what I recall, everyone seemed to enjoy it and it was a welcome 10-minute break from the work.

    Well, sometime in mid-February the CEO emailed the managers stating there are to be no more birthday celebrations as the 10 minutes for each person’s b-day adds up and kill our productivity. Sometime later, there was a rumor floating around that he banned birthdays after someone had a celebration right in front of his office and didn’t offer him any cake.

  29. NerdyKris*

    “the ‘dance your pants off’ initiative”

    Sure, but when I say it HR makes me retake the harassment training.

  30. cubby*

    i used to work at a print shop that had just newly been put in the same building as the sales team/administrative and the warehouse — they were in three separate buildings before. the administration wanted to grow our team spirit so they kept coming up with events and initiatives but they were all, well… a little tone-deaf towards the blue collar side of things.

    the absolute worst was when they decided to do a nascar-themed event. the sales people would all be the celebrated successful race-car drivers… and the print shop and warehouse would be ‘nascar fans’ — really obviously meant that we should all dress up like redneck stereotypes.

    offense was taken, loudly, and the next day we were told we should be the pit crews instead.

  31. Jen (any pronouns are okay)*

    Not sure if it’s still okay to share this here – missed the original post. But here’s my worst motivational story:

    1)Management/boss keeps telling everyone (for a once a year event) that there are so few people, they really need more to get it done, we should ask everyone we know if they want to participate (they hired external people for the event as they had too little staff). And if we didn’t manage to find enough people, we’d have to work more than expected, so we better go find someone. (We were already understaffed at normal times.)

    2)They had many ideas on how to rise our results: get everyone ice cream (because ice cream is nice, but in the middle of a very cold winter day and obligation to stay outside while eating it?), remove the paper forms and replace them with a digital one on a tablet (because tech, in reality it was buggy, and the tablet wasn’t working well either), have company-branded pens, bags, etc (but you’d better not be caught using them for anything not 100% related to work, also why do I need pens if I don’t have paper?)… Little did they care that the reason for being understaffed and not recruiting people we knew was “you don’t pay us (or you need months to get it done), everyone is looking to quit, and we are NOT getting our friends into this”. As in, manager literally said “it’s not my fault you’re not getting paid, and payment office has so much work I’m not going to delay stuff by asking them about it”.

    The thing they did successfully was figuring out how to get people to stay at a pointless (due to lacking material) training: university students who don’t earn that much won’t refuse free food, and nor will people who are just starting the first job after university (I know that’s not 100% true but the food kept everyone there, so…).

    (And if this is off-topic, say so and I’ll delete it.)

    1. Susan Ivanova*

      A friend of mine’s team had just been talent-acquired by a company that would, shortly thereafter, make the news for taking tech-bro bad behavior to new levels. They were having a recruiting event and strongly encouraged everyone to bring any female engineers who might possibly be looking so it wouldn’t look like a total tech-bro fest. His pitch to me was “I know you aren’t looking, and if you were you don’t want to be looking here, but do you want to come so you can mock them?”

      Among the more clueless things: the oft-repeated catchphrase “we want our app to be as reliable as running water”. Flint Michigan was still popping up on the news.

      Since I’m still mocking them years later, it was a success from that perspective. Oh, and it did look like a total tech-bro fest.

  32. Tired Teacup Maker*

    OP of #9, are you a coworker of mine?

    We have this exact same problem where I work.

    Another story from my workplace that would fit the “misguided attempts to boost productivity” from my upper management: One of them held a nearly department-wide meeting basically berating us for having any negative feelings about the department at all and talking about them amongst ourselves, and that any “negativity” (issues) should be told to upper management directly so they can solve it, rather than for us to just “get each other all worked up about things that could easily be fixed.”

    Normally I’d agree with this sentiment–problems can’t get fixed by management if they don’t know about it, and complaining about it to a coworker doesn’t really accomplish much.

    The issue is that all of the problems the teacup makers have are all caused by upper management. For starters, they have no idea or an overly generalized idea of how each person works on the teapot (ex. “oh that person just paints the teapot” when in actuality they plan all the teapot designs from start to finish, order the paint and materials, and add all the finishing touches to really make the teapot design pop) and they never bother to learn because clearly they already know. All attempts to try to remedy this are shrugged off.

    They also throw the teacup makers under the bus the minute they think something has gone wrong in order to look good with their boss, even when (shocker!) it hasn’t and they had just misunderstood what their boss was trying to convey in the first place.

    (Grandboss is a great person, but going to them with issues about upper management usually fall on deaf ears, as grandboss is assuming we are just trying to spread negativity, due to what upper management has been telling them, and should figure out how to fix it between ourselves.)

    Needless to say, that meeting went over like a lead balloon and only lead to people “spreading more negativity” through personal devices.

  33. Space Lasers*

    I worked at a large non-profit that had grown a huge amount over the years and the CEO was a person who had started with the nonprofit decades ago when it was super small. This person was an incredible micromanager and had some odd ideas about professionalism and productivity, but when the nonprofit opened its big flagship office its design theme could best be described as “like an Apple store.” All the walls were white, the office walls were glass, and NONE OF THE OFFICES HAD DOORS – just glass panel then a gap then another glass panel. When HR pointed out that *they* needed doors, they were begrudgingly given doors, but the offices still were all glass so good luck to anyone who needed to have a private conversation. Also this aesthetic mandate extended to the color of the push pins we were allowed to have (only clear) and any desk plants (none that might dangle down, please). There were no directional signs anywhere in the office (like “Offices 5201 – 5301 –>”) and name plates had to be *inside the cubes* because they would be visually cluttered. So people generally spent a lot of time wandering around vaguely lost, hearing every single person’s conversations. Years later, alums of this nonprofit still talk about it

  34. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    No.4 This was a golden opportunity to sing Baby Shark complete with the dance moves.

  35. Eater of Cupcakes*

    That “group song” thing, where nobody showed much enthusiasm as they sang, reminds me of the fact that while it’s one thing to expect employees to feign enthusiasm, you should never ever make any plans that hinge on them being genuinely enthusiastic about any sort of work task that they only do because they’re paid to.

    Or in other words: If somebody says they’re “passionate about [boring office thing]” during a work interview, that means they’re willing to play ball and say what they’re expected to. But it’s a recipe for disaster to assume that that statement means they really are passionate about a boring office thing.

  36. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

    Here’s a bad pun in response to #2.

    What do you do when someone asks you what’s the animal that’s like a llama?
    You Reply Alpaca!

    Thank you! I’ll be here all week! Don’t forget to tip your server
    [runs away]

  37. Zee*

    I just don’t understand how it’s 2022 and people STILL don’t understand the difference between reply and reply-all, and when each should be used. It’s just… not that complicated. At all. And yet people CONSTANTLY mess it up. Apparently it needs to be added to day 1 of every new employee’s onboarding.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Huh, it’s been 15 years since I’ve seen a significant malfunction of the reply-all function. Do I just work with especially smart people?

      1. Ellie*

        I work with extremely smart people and we had one 3 months ago.

        I’ve even been the cause one myself. I meant to email my team, and outlook auto-filled to the entire department. I pulled it back, but the replies had already started.

    2. londonedit*

      Right?! Thankfully we haven’t had a seriously apocalyptic one, but every time reception send out an all-staff email about free flu jabs or whatever you’ll always get at least one person who decides to tell the whole company that they’d like to book in for 3.30 on Wednesday. But earlier this year a colleague of mine accidentally sent a supplier invoice to the distribution list for our London office, rather than just to Accounts – it was quite obvious that it was meant to go to Accounts and therefore anyone else could just assume it was a mistake and delete it, but we still had multiple reply-alls saying ‘I am confused as to why I have been sent this email’ and ‘Please remove me from this list, I don’t deal with invoices’ and ‘I’m sorry but I can’t help with this query; maybe try emailing Accounts?’ Number one, it was quite clear it had just been sent to the wrong list, rather than my colleague expecting a reply from anyone on that list, and number two even if you did want to reply and say ‘Hey, Jane, think you sent this to the wrong list’ (as if she didn’t realise two seconds after sending the email!) you still don’t reply-all!

  38. Tech writer by day*

    #4 I hope the general response to the singing requirement was, Don’t stop. Be leaving!

  39. ZucchiniBikini*

    These are all great, but the one I relate to most is #12. I had a boss back in the day that was like this. We were office based at that stage, except for one WFH day apiece which weirdly she didn’t monitor at all. On the 4 office days, we were supposed to email her when we were stepping away from our desks with an estimated time of return unless it was for a scheduled meeting (she had access to our calendars, so she graciously allowed that we didn’t need to email her when we were “heading to Building M for 11am meeting with Jeff and Fred re the teapot scheduling” or whatever). She got a LOT of “going to kitchen to make tea, back in 5”, “going to move car to new spot, back in 10”, “going to coffee shop to buy lunch, back in about 30” emails, but the guy who really tipped her over the edge was the one who would email detailed descriptions of his bathroom plans (“going to bathroom, not sure how long, I had a fantastic curry last night but it’s making itself felt now” and so on).

  40. Mimmy*

    These are all great but #1 had me CRACKING UP!! OMG, I can’t even imagine the caller on the other end hearing that!!!

  41. Dee Dee*

    These are all glorious in their own way but my hero is #12. Always be careful what you ask for because you just might get it!

  42. Berkeleyfarm*

    Email admin here who has been on the sysadmin side of a number of reply-all storms. I can assure you for every “take me off this list/stop sending mail” message sent, two or three people called the helpdesk spitting fire. They have actual mail to send out/were waiting for and they want IT to push a button and make it stop. Many would also like IT to “punish” the senders or the people who reply. Or they are screaming at IT because they think it’s IT’s fault that people don’t know how to use their computers.

    So if the bigboss said GET THAT DAMN BUTTON OFF I would do it. Mind you restricting who can send to big lists is the “Takes a few minutes and yields many benefits” way to do it.

    I have had people get around that by individually selecting people from the address list. That is something you often don’t find about until the hard way because while in my email program you can limit # of recipients, it’s trickier to configure. You either have to do it globally (which might screw with the rare legit sender) or try to guess who might do it.

    The “are you sure?” reminder won’t be super effective because a lot of people don’t read warnings on the computer.

    My stories:

    With the mailing list restrictions in place, we still had two non-virus related incidents at my old job (10000 user address list) – both people shift-selected all the individuals to send out 1) a retirement notice (which was a largeish PDF file so really clogged us) and 2) a hoax mail. “Send it to everyone in your address book” We had a lot of “amateur” help on those, and a few attempted humorists looking for a new audience, A severe message from upper management ended up going out and the amateurs zipped it, allowing the system to recover.

    An HR person almost crashed our whole system hard by attaching every.single.entry in the Halloween contest to a series of messages (because they ran up against our generous limit) and sending these large photo messages to everyone in a company with employee # in four figures. Then walked away from their phone for over an hour. They claimed that they were “working with IT” to get the photos on the internal site – no they had not contacted us any way for help to do the thing they had done in previous years. They lost their all hands privileges which we heard plenty of whining about but the boss backed us. FORTUNATELY there were no reply-alls as it went out the “proper” way to a restricted distribution list.

    I am wryly amused when it’s someone else’s replyallcolypse to worry about but I do pour one out for the sysadmins.

    1. Lissajous*

      We had a delightful email clog one time, by marketing. Who needs reply all to block the internet tubes when you’ve got an email list of every client? And then every vendor?

      We had *just* moved office and been explicitly told not to do any heavy internet use because we only had limited bandwidth, the full capacity wasn’t up and running yet. No videos, no large emails to lots of people, etc.
      Repeatedly. In person and in email.
      So our marketing person sent out an email with “here’s our new location!” including photos and updated PDF brochures, to every client.
      Eventually I called IT to see what had happened to our internet and server access, they saw the email sitting in the outgoings, and paused it until something like midnight.
      Marketing did the same thing the next morning to every vendor.
      IT worked their magic again, and management went to have a chat to marketing about how her announcement emails did not have priority over the rest of us being able to do billable work.

  43. Isabel Archer*

    Oh LW #8, you’re my hero. As a high-schooler, no less! I hope you’ve maintained that level of badassery in your adult employment.

    1. zolk*

      Thanks! I would say my badassery levels have fluctuated, but at that time I didn’t _need_ the job, it would’ve been comic book store money.

  44. Forgot the name I used before*

    The Sales Mgr at my Old Company had one of those toy monkeys that clapped cymbals together. When someone made a sale, they had to flip the switch and slap the monkey’s head. He also had a collection of old LP albums, and when someone outsold an old goal, they literally broke a record. The pieces were hung on the wall with the name of the staff, the date, and the record broken.

  45. Anonymosity*

    Re #4, Journey was my favorite band in high school, and I’m a classically trained singer. I would have belted out “Don’t Stop Believing” at the top of my lungs every single time. Taking a hit for the team by being that person, but hey, malicious compliance is my jam.

  46. LB*

    These take me back to my days at a struggling manufacturing business. I was in the sales division, though not a sales person. The sales director did tons of management training and everything he learned seemed to involve “motivation” for employees cooked up by somebody who’d never actually spoken to an employee or recalled being one.

    He totally would’ve done the gong thing. At one point he wanted to put a leaderboard up like the sales people were racecar drivers. Fortunately he forgot about it before anyone could order one.

    Shortly before I left, I was in a few meetings to discuss improving the failures to meet client deadlines. Turnover was high because salaries were lower than industry average and it lead to many quality issues, most teams were short staffed. Good suggestions were made (bonuses to the teams for meeting targets, give raises to high performers, better recruiting). But Director instead made marketing come up with a “motivational slogan and logo”. They had it put on t-shirts and desk plaques. They hung posters with cheesy motivational slogans around the office.

    I’d already planned to put in my notice so I bluntly suggested we take the budget from the “motivational logo” BS and dump it into a bonus reward for the highest performing team instead. Director didn’t appreciate that comment but everyone below him seemed to.

    Shockingly(!) the “motivational logo”, t-shirts, and posters did not improve performance.

  47. HearTwoFour*

    The mental image of employees wandering the streets of an industrial park for an hour cracks me up!

  48. Hungry Magpie*

    When I was in graduate school, the faculty administration wanted to show donors that their contributions were appreciated (Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, so a large potential donor pool). This was totally fine, but the execution was…not. Their bright idea was to have all the staff and students wear giant yellow “price tags” around our necks for a day to remind us that donations paid for our glamorous life as lab rats. Needless to say, us grad students (who made about 3 cents an hour) rebelled as a group and refused to wear them; our admin staff weren’t so lucky and had to run around all day with their tags fluttering around in front of them and getting in the way when they tried to do actual work. For some reason, the campaign wasn’t repeated the following year…

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