Category Archives: Etiquette

Etiquette

Oh, Zojirushi 62 oz Coffee Carafe, You Make Me Very Angry

I guess my beef isn’t specifically with this coffee carafe, but I do take issue with the design of the carafe that makes my unfortunate circumstances that much more likely.

The problem with this carafe is that it’s hard to get coffee out of it once the first few ounces of coffee are gone. You have tilt the coffee pot on its side, and that’s where my trouble started.

There I was, trying to get coffee out of a one-third to one-half full coffee pot.

There (some indeterminate amount of time before) someone else was, barely screwing the lid on the carafe.

Back to the present, there I was, getting doused with coffee from a very well insulated pot as the lid came off.

If you see this carafe in your office, be very careful pouring your coffee, or even better… RUN AWAY.

I Hope Our Business Doesn’t Rely on You Supporting the Customer

On technical forums, this attitude often exposes itself:

Someone else might have an easy answer, yet what leaps out at me, when I read this, is that we have no code. Nor do we have a way to ensure you are, indeed, sending the correct auth data to the Web Server. As you might imagine, this makes it difficult to help you debug.

Can you write and run a simple “test case”, just enough code to test out the NTLM auth bits? If that breaks, feel free to edit your post with the code, removing the actual login and password info, of course.

How’s that sound?

—-Asim, known to some as Woodrow.

Thanks for the help…  Honestly, it took this person a lot of effort to say, in a sarcastic/belittling tone, “We need more information (or we need a, b, and c) to help you.”

Maybe these two people know each other, and therefore, the jab is of a friendly nature. However, 5 years later, the reply is still available for all to see.

I really hope that no one’s business depends on this person interacting with the customer. Maybe this person’s usual tone in dealing with support is better, but if practice makes perfect, this person will quickly become skilled in dragging down your business relationships.

We get it: You’re a genius, and no one has the skills you do. Wouldn’t life be a little more tolerable for you if you’d teach people to be a little more competent instead of scaring them away from learning with your attitude.

 

If Not Talking on the Phone While Using the Restroom Impacts Your Performance

…you need either considerably more or considerably less fiber in your diet.

I can only imagine the horror of the person on the other end of the line as you’re working through a problem and an automatic power flusher goes off.

Worse yet, imagine this being a conference call that someone has on speakerphone. Half of the office will experience the joy of every restroom sound.

I may just have to intentionally set off the power flusher a few times while I’m the stall next time.

Work Gathering Rules

Cakes
Image by gothick_matt via Flickr

Different types of work gatherings have different rules.

  • Retirement/Departure/Birthday Lunch – Don’t be the last person to show up or the first person to leave. If you’re the one being honored, be sure to order from the reasonably-priced part of the menu.
  • Retirement Gathering at Work – Arrive early enough to be inside the room.  Sign the card memento. Laugh at the slide show. Say innocuous good luck greeting to soon-to-be retired. Eat cake.
  • Anniversary Gathering at Work – Arrive late enough to be stuck outside the room, unless you’ve worked with the person in the past. Gravitate to others in the room that you know. Get cake, but eat it while “engaging” fellow attendees, then leave while the honored guest is busy.
  • Baby Shower at Work – If you’re reading this, you must not be invited. Try to avoid stumbling into the middle of the baby shower that is inevitably going to be in a common space. Don’t touch any goodies that aren’t put out for scraps.
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Offensive Email

No, not offensive email that will get you in trouble with HR, just with the recipients of your emails who already have enough bloat in their inboxes.

This email is all wrong. Don't send it.

What’s the problem?

  1. I think we covered the part about motivational sayings in email signatures previously
  2. The information block in your email signature is excessive. Internally, we know what company you work for. Externally, the title/department information probably won’t mean much.
  3. You’re sending an email for a one word reply. I know acknowledgment is necessary, but coupled with everything else, it’s excessive.
  4. Your one word reply is the same as your valediction or complimentary close:  “Thanks. Thanks,” sounds like “Pizza! Pizza!
  5. You have an image that’s larger than the rest of your excessive signature block and message body combined–and it’s taking up way more space in email [if you’re using Outlook] than it did on the computer you copied it from.

Inbox Trolling

A fun game to play when you have a completely unmanageable inbox is to start replying to long email threads that you were included on but never participated in. It helps if the administrators of your mail system allow messages to stick around for about 3 months–usually long enough to potentially impact a decision, but way too late to do so without tremendous cost.

The key is to remain inconspicuous about your trolling. You must raise legitimate concerns, but not be too adamant about decisions being changed. The best policy is to plant little nagging doubts in everyone’s minds, then walk away.

Start with the oldest threads first, resurrecting them in mid-discussion, then sit back and watch the discussion re-ignite.

Repeat in sequence with newer threads in your inbox once the entertainment value of the current thread dies away.

Just Because You’re the Customer Doesn’t Make You the Dictator

Customer service is important.

The customer is always right.

Always make the customer happy.

Guess what, though? The difference between a customer and a dictator is that while the optimal number of dictators is 1, there generally needs to be more than one customer.  If you are the only customer and provide full funding/payroll/benefits for the person who is serving you, that makes you an employer.

Since there need to be multiple customers, that means there is a certain amount of prioritization involved. If there are other customers to be served, and no amount of attention is going to please you, you will be pushed to the lowest priority.

 

Email Violating Personalities

 

Yes, Email is Still the Way to #fail in a Deep, Meaningful Way

However, there are some ways to fail in smaller ways on a daily basis:

  • General etiquette violators
    • bcc: everyone – There are times when bcc: is desirable, e.g., when sending out a broadcast email to a large group to limit the damage of those who are too quick with “Reply to All” button. In this case, however, a person is conducting a business transaction of some sort and not revealing who else is “in the know”. Results in a lot of, “I don’t know if you’ve seen this or not,” email forwards.
    • Thread trimmer – selectively deletes one or two people periodically from a large email chain, confusing every participant on the list.
    • Reply to All abuser – distinguished from the casual Reply to All user by the use of the button in replying to department-wide email distributions.
    • Subtle Humor User – keeps you guessing on whether the person is joking.
    • !???!! – really is enthusiastic and/or concerned.
    • Priorities are out-of-whack – uses high (or even stranger low) priority markers to try to get attention for what is generally little more than an FYI email.
    • Receipt requestor – Good grief, do you really need a read receipt from the 100 people you emailed about the pot luck on Friday?
  • Appearance violators
    • Pastels and Cute Fonts User – Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
    • Script kitty – uses a nearly illegible cursive font for a default font.
    • Noisy Backgrounder – uses a background that obscures the ability to read the text on top.
    • Reverse video – loves light on dark appearance settings, which completely wreck havoc with anyone else’s replies.
  • Signature violators
    • The signature that never ends – Really, if you need to be contacted so badly that you leave your mother-in-law’s home phone, you probably should have a company cell phone.
    • Motivation spreader – Puts motivational sayings in the signature.
    • Massive signature image – Uses an embedded image in the signature that often dwarfs the email body itself.
  • Attachment violators
    • Media mailer – Those who try to attach mp3s and videos and somehow manage to fly under the “attachment size limit” radar. Unaware that audio and video actually take up a lot of storage space.
    • Sender of abnormally large documents – Someone who manages to send “office” documents that somehow violate the normal proportions and end up hitting the attachment size limit after about 10 pages.
    • Image embedder – Someone who doesn’t realize that Outlook converts embedded images to the most inefficient format possible. May use PowerPoint as an email formatting tool.

The iPhone Method of Better Meetings

I’m not a huge fan of people checking their email during meetings, but I have to admit to doing it or worse. However, there are two sides to the smartphone inattention problem during meetings: people’s OCD or lack of etiquette and the lack of value or engagement of the meeting presentation.

I propose two solutions:

For small/serial meetings, the smartphone should never be responded to inside the meeting room. Ask those who use their phone in the meeting room to leave the meeting for 5 minutes on the first offense and expel the person from the meeting on the second offense. The lack of engagement of the distracted person wastes everyone’s time, including that of the person who is absorbed in the phone. This also serves to remove non-contributors from meetings and gets the attention of those who actually need to contribute.

For larger meetings, the minute more than 1/3rd of the audience pulls out their smartphones, that should be a two minute warning to end the presentation. If that many people aren’t paying attention, what’s the point of continuing the presentation to that audience? Either the audience is a bad fit or the presentation is.

Email is Still the Way to #Fail in a Deep, Meaningful Way

Twitter is for Explosive Fails

I have to admit, if you’re going to fail spectacularly, email is no longer the best option.

At this point in time, Twitter is the best option:

The upside of failing on Twitter is that everyone following Twitter news seems to have such a short attention span, that…  oh look a cute kitten.

Email is for Deep, Meaningful Fails

Still, if you want to fail on a deep, personal level, email is still the way to go. Email allows you the space to make you think that your sarcasm or bad humor is getting across, unlike Twitter, which limits you to 140 characters.

More importantly, unlike phone conversations and face-to-face meetings [assuming no external recording devices are used], email always leaves a somewhat permanent record of your poor judgment.

Some tips on making your email failure a meaningful experience:

  • When someone sends an email asking for confirmation before proceeding, be sure to respond in a font 4 times the size of all prior correspondence.
  • …ALL CAPS helps as well.
  • Be sure to add sarcasm to your response, but be careful not to indicate sarcasm in any way.  Your readers should be able to recognize the sarcasm unless they are complete idiots, in which case, they deserve to take the response the wrong way.
  • Be sure to use non-neutral and high contrast foreground [lime green]/background[fire engine red] colors in your response, in order to simulate a migraine in the person reading your response.
  • Be sure to reply to all whenever you’re angry.  This increases the likelihood that someone will respond quickly.
  • Whatever you do, don’t hesitate to use email when you’re emotional. Talking on the phone or in person can only show weakness.  In email, everyone’s a WARRIOR.