1. Voice mail
It will come as news to most people over thirty that most people under thirty do not leave voice mail messages. Think about it: Voice mail takes a long time to retrieve and it’s almost never earth-shattering, so it’s not worth the time it requires. Microsoft is such a big believer in this that all voice mails you leave at the company go straight to email. And you can do the same if you use eVoice.
Young people treat their list of missed calls as a page system. And they call the person back. No extra step for listening to the message.
Except at work, where the old people leave messages. My twenty-three year old brother used to be an analyst at a big investment bank, and he and his friends were so annoyed with the managing directors’ obsessive use of voicemail that they used to make fun of it. For example, they would call someone and leave a message to say they were going to the bathroom. (My brother guest blogged about this here.)
2. The reply-to-all button
This button should be hidden in all email software. You should have to click through five menus to find the option because that’s how many times you should reconsider before you reply to all. This was a great button to have in 1993 when even the busiest people only got fifty emails a day. Back then reply to all was a way to have an inclusive conversation.
Now reply to all is only a way to annoy people and make yourself look foolish.
And here’s a love note to all of you who think you are being really efficient by hitting reply to all: When there are more than four people in the send field, I don’t read the email because I know that if there’s any action item in that email, someone else will do it.
3. The workplace candy machine
I’m not saying that work should be paternalistic, but I am saying that your employer should not be a crack dealer. And when I have sat within twenty yards of a candy machine, I felt like I had a drug dealer on my block. It is very, very difficult for me to have a hard problem at work and not let my mind wander to chocolate. And I’m not even overweight. So I can imagine it is much harder for people who are already not controlling their eating.
So I wonder, who feels good about the candy machine? The vendor, probably. But everyone else feels like crap after they eat a bag of m&m’s, and if you don’t feel like crap your body has acclimated to crap and the first culprit you should consider is the workplace vending machine. Instead, companies should have healthy micro market vending options which are becoming very popular in or near the workplace.
4. Soliciting money at work
What is up with people asking for sponsorships at work? If you want to do the breast cancer fun run, fine, but that doesn’t mean it’s my favorite charity. Why do we need to solicit at work for our charities? Why is that socially acceptable? I don’t get it. I don’t need my co-workers to choose my charities. They can choose their own.
Also, what is up with six-figure paycheck types asking me to sponsor them? Hello? Write yourself a check.
I think my bitterness over workplace check-writing comes from a few things. First, I was involved in a United Way campaign in the Fortune 500 where I was actually forced to go to a meeting in the middle of the workday about why it’s important to give to United Way. To me this felt like mixing church and state. I go to work to earn money, not to be told what to spend it on.
Second, I was the number-one girl scout in Illinois for cookie sales two years in a row. You know how I did it? My mom sold the cookies at her office. So I know the genesis of all those parents passing around a coffer for their kids stuff: Guilt. Instead of making your co-workers cough up bucks for your kids’ escapades, try this: Being personally involved. Then you won’t feel so compelled to make up for it with money.
5. The 800-person office party
The only thing a party like this is good for is anonymous hookups with the marketing girl you see in the hallway on Thursdays. Otherwise, there is no point in a party this big. Its way more fun to go out with people you really do work with after work.
It used to be that a big office party was a way to know your company cares. Now you know your company cares if they siphon money off to training programs. And you know what? Good training is so much fun, it’s like a party anyway.