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.

79 replies
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  1. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    Good post, Penelope.

    I am sure we can all think of naff practices from our respective countries or cultures which we hope get flushed pdq! The last time I worked in an office in the UK, I truly hated the ‘tradition’ of taking turns to make tea for all your team. Not only did one have to drink copious lots of tea, it was almost always unusually bad.

    Re v-mail:

    I think the US has only just discovered texting. In Europe we have had that for years, and it has been quite acceptable for a while to use it for short updates or minor changes in meeting time etc. Anything more important, send email from your mobile.

    It is ironic really that all free web-email providers have only relatively recently started rolling out v-mail! Why? Oh why?

    Re reply-all abuse:

    Well as long as there are people who need to use a CYA strategy for their decisions, as long as companies employ such people and as long as companies have a CYA culture, this is not going to go away any time soon. Alas!

    Re soliciting money:

    I agree. I find writing birthday cards or ‘Sorry you are leaving’ cards on par with this activity. If I care enough about either, chances are I would have wished them in person anyway. If I do not, I would not sign the card anyway. Why bother?

    Re office parties:

    Must end. I agree. They are no use to those who do not drink anyway, except to be amused by others getting progressively drunker by the minute.

    May I add employers hosting dinners in Uni campuses here too? A large British I-bank sent their senior women managers to ‘attract’ women MBAs and PhDs at my Uni. We were invited to a formal sit-down dinner. The first ones to be plastered within 15 minutes were the bank’s staff themselves. Fancy asking them any questions! Not just that they exhorted all ‘guests’ to drink because it was ‘free’ and paid for by the bank. Some MBAs stayed, most PhDs just left.

    Thanks.

  2. Bloggrrl
    Bloggrrl says:

    I hope you’re not advocating the demise of workplace cupcakes! ;-)

    A former supervisor of mine used to have those sales “parties” at her home and invite the staff. It was awkward…

  3. monsterstockHANS
    monsterstockHANS says:

    This is one of your better pieces. I mean that it is more accurate. You do well when you focus at these technical and specific levels rather than talk about broad trends. I agree with all of these points.

    I don’t agree with many of your posts and Ryan’s about how the young workers own the workplace. That is going to be very hit and miss depending on the industry and the company. Yes there are many, many baby boomers who could retire and leave a talent shortage but the employment market is an efficient one and will correct with rising wages, flex time and part time opportunities that will serve to keep the boomers working to older ages.

    You likely have direct experience that speaks to the items in today’s post. Stick with the topics you have direct experience with. I suggest that these experiences will be very common with your readers whereas your posts about the overall workforce and trends are not nearly as accurate.

    These five items resonated very strongly. Good post.

  4. Stever
    Stever says:

    … i’m in IT — so office ‘parties’ are just a source of more work that shouldn’t be coming to me anyways..

    Manager: oh steve, i’ve been meaning to ask if you can train my team on Netmeeting — three of them only speak Swahili, so if you could learn that for monday it’d be awesome”

    Steve: “you’ll have to call the help desk”

    > awkward silence Steve is ditched, the queue advances

  5. GoingLikeSixty
    GoingLikeSixty says:

    You facist! Getting rid of candy machines is probably smart, but don’t put down M&M’s!

    #4 is my biggest pet peeve. So I am the office scrooge and don’t buy anything from anybody. They still ask, and I still reply “no thanks.”

    United Way campaigns are the worst. Some companies are so obsessed with participation it is the unspoken rule that employees MUST participate.

    BTW: we have a policy against selling anything for personal gain in the office: Mary Kay, Avon, and the like.

  6. thom singer
    thom singer says:

    this post is great. I especially like where you admit to winning the girl scout cookie sales contest cuz of your parents. when my daughter was a girls scout she wanted me to sell cookies around my office. NOPE, I made come to my office and go door do door and politely ask. She was mad cuz all the other parents just sold the cookies. BUMMER for her, I have a job and it does not involve pushing Thin Mints.

  7. Kathryn
    Kathryn says:

    I actually like voicemail because it’s an easy way of dealing with “chronic callers”–largely my mother. No message? Obviously it wasn’t important enough for me to call back. “Hi, this is X; give me a call”? That can wait a day.
    Voicemail is a great way of filtering out people who call without having anything to say or folks that you aren’t willing to talk to without good reason.

    But I have to agree that if I get a call from a coworker or someone who only calls when it’s important, I generally just call back right away.

    As for email and the dreaded “reply to all” accident: G-mail has a great solution that should be implemented by all email clients everywhere. Responses to old emails are grouped together in the inbox as a “conversation”. Thus, the email chain illustrated in the link to ihateyourjob.com would be compiled into a single inbox item with the number of responses indicated next to the title. This significantly reduces inbox clutter and makes it much, much easier to delete nonsense emails.

  8. JL
    JL says:

    I agree with all of these points. I’d also like to add one: Flagging your unimportant email as High Importance. I’ve recently received emails titled “Employee of the Month,” “Reserved Parking Places,” and “Daylight Savings Time Reminder” all labeled with high importance. Somebody help me….

  9. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    Hear! Hear! This post is right on the money. I especially agree with your take on “forced” charity presentations and requests for sponsorships from co-workers.

    Shefaly’s follow-up comment about “group” birthday and congratulations cards was excellent as well.

    I am a very philanthropic person and I enjoy giving cards & gifts on special occasions – BUT I prefer to do both on my own terms.

    It comes down to authenticity. I want to give (and receive) of my own volition. There’s something distasteful about obligatory generosity.

  10. Greg
    Greg says:

    Love it. You are so dead on about the voice mails. That is why every phone on the planet now has called ID, why waste your time on a voicemail? I could already be talking to you on the phone instead of listening to your boring message.

    Understand the charity point, but I am passionate about the charity that I started and if the time is right I will say my piece. But asking people for money is another thing!

    Candy machines are over rated and soda machines need to be replaced with water coolers. Do people still drink soda? I thought that went out with the Britney Spears CD’s.

    Great afternoon read Penelope!

  11. Bill
    Bill says:

    Normally I enjoy TBC, but this post is largely (not totally) off the mark. You’d have done better to focus on the blatant incompetence and ineptitude of office workers (regardless of age), such as in your reply all example. Obliterating other facets of workplace behavior, even the ones that peeve your pet, has social and cultural implications that you haven’t adequately considered within the context of this post. Better luck next time.

  12. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    Oh, especially for personal stuff, I agree with the voicemail point totally. The thing is, people just reiterate whatever they left in their message anyway when you call them back. So what’s the point? Except I do know one person who assumes everyone listens to voicemail and when I call back after they leave one barely says hello and just expects a response. That drives me batty!

  13. Paula
    Paula says:

    Phasing out v-mail is all very well if you and all your clients and colleagues at other organizations have reliable e-mail at all times. But I’m had so many experiences with faulty filters at the server level, or important contacts with unreliable ISPs, not to mention the ubiquitous “old people,” that I follow up with a phone call and leave a message whenever it seems that my e-mail is being ignored. Your post assumes a level of technological expenditure and expertise that isn’t quite there in many industries.

  14. Paula
    Paula says:

    P. S. Not every phone on the planet has caller ID, and not every businessperson has a Blackberry– welcome to the Real World.

  15. LP
    LP says:

    The first two points, voicemail and reply to all, seem right on-target — these are actually good points about communication in the new, blackberry/iphone addicted workplace. Points 3-5 are surprisingly off for a PT post. These points aren’t about working; they’re about personal decisions at work. Most people can manage these decisions (candy or no candy? buy GS cookies or don’t? hang out with co-workers socially or not?) all by themselves. And the Gen-Y workplace is supposed to be all about flexibility, and acknowledging that different people have different priorities, right? So what’s with the sudden nany-state mentality here? I seriously went back and checked the byline to make sure this wasn’t a random guest post.

  16. Melanie
    Melanie says:

    To go along with the voicemail practice – workphones in general are a waste of time when a quick e-mail will do. That way I don’t have to leave a voicemail (and repeat everything I said in the subsequent conversation) and they can respond with they it’s convenient to them. It really irks me when people don’t send a follow-up e-mail to their VM because I rarely ever check the messages to begin with!

  17. Jim Castro
    Jim Castro says:

    Amen to all 5 points, but with a reservation about voice-mail.
    My office deals with the public a lot. We have to make it possible for outside callers to leave messages. A message the caller records directly is going to be much more accurate than one that passes through a secretary first — and that’s assuming we have an adequate secretarial staff. (We don’t.)
    On the other hand, long, rambling monologues about inconsequentials from a boss or co-worker can drive me to violence. Voice mails should be short and to the point. Oh, and there should be a point.

  18. Irene
    Irene says:

    Enjoyed your post.

    I especially identify with #4. I so hate all those United Way campaigns! Both companies that I worked for since college graduation had them. I can choose the charity that I want to contribute to myself. I actually can’t believe it is even legal. Or is it? :)

  19. Jen
    Jen says:

    You are correct on every single point, and I love your very direct and no-nonsense style. Voice mail should only be used by customers with no other option: email is far superior in many ways, especially because it gives you a “written” record of the original request/complaint and the path of the response. The customer has proof of whatever promises you’ve made, and you have proof of what you DIDN’T promise!

  20. Aaron Erickson
    Aaron Erickson says:

    Re: #3 – health insurance companies should give a discount to places that remove all soda machines and candy bowls from the workplace – if that happened, your would have a better chance of seeing a screening of debbie does dallas at the company HR convention than of a candy bowl anywhere in the company.

    Re: #4 – charity begins at home, and should stay there. Most charities with “beg your coworkers for money” programs are inefficient and overloaded with people who take a salary from the charity. Just say no!

  21. leslie
    leslie says:

    My former company asked all employees to contribute to United Way with a payroll deduction and a few months later the head of United Way was indicted on embezzlement and fraud charges. He was later convicted on 25 counts. http://www.nptimes.com/Mar02/npt2.html

    I am glad I didn’t contribute to them just because my company thought it was a good idea. Oxfam is better with less overhead.

  22. Kristen O
    Kristen O says:

    I object to all of the objections about the candy. I tend towards hypoglycemia, and it helps to not have to lug food everywhere I go just to make sure I’m okay. If you take away the vending machine, you’d have to be trading me for a cafeteria or the ability to leave the office at any moment to make sure I have access to food.

    Fat people are not getting fat because they have access to candy, it’s because they’re eating too much food overall. You could live off of M&Ms if you wanted to calculate a proper amount of calories and take supplements.

  23. nm77
    nm77 says:

    Some good comments, but I disagree with removing voicemail. Too many people I work with engage in “bombardment by email” – novels, full of CYA content… they hide behind email, when they could pick up a phone and ask a question in less than two minutes (even via voicemail).

  24. Chris
    Chris says:

    I have to go against the anti-‘reply-all’ tide here. My current job is at a company that has a VERY distributed workforce. I find that ‘reply-all’ fills in for the accidental coffee machine conversations or spontaneous whiteboard meetings where so many of my technical issues were resolved in the Olden Days. When I lurk on a thread between support and engineering I learn lots about the issues our customers are having and how our engineers propose resolving them.

  25. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    In general, I like your advice. However, comparing a vendor to a crack dealer is really absurd. It is not their fault you do not have the willpower to say no, and it’s not your employer’s either. This is right up there with “It’s McDonald’s fault I’m fat, so I’m going to sue them.” And if one bag of M&Ms makes you feel like crap, you should probably see a doctor. A single bag should not have that significant an effect on you.

  26. Joe P
    Joe P says:

    Re: annoying voicemails

    I think with more people using blackberries, voicemail will be eliminated by people sending quick “call me about this” emails that people will read on their blackberry with minimal effort. It’s much easier than checking VM.

  27. klein
    klein says:

    Geeez! I’m glad you don’t work in my office. It’s a good thing you’re making this solo thing work because you seem like a person who wouldn’t get along well with other.

    Oh, and you REALLY have an issue with being “older” and different generations etc…

  28. Brian Johnson
    Brian Johnson says:

    I know this is a light-hearted piece, but I think the point on charity deserves serious attention, because it has serious implications. EVERYONE directly benefits from a non-profit of one sort or another, even if you don’t think you do, whether it’s the Red Cross, the local symphony, cancer research, or anything in between. The fact is these would not exist without philanthropy. If you search for areas with high quality of living (popular topic on this blog) you’ll invariably find a high density of non-profits. Case in point, the Madison area has more non-profits per capita than any other area in the country.

    Human beings are NOT pre-disposed to being selfless, ie. philanthropic. Our genetic makeup is to take care of ourselves (survival instincts). Helping others is a learned behavior that requires persuasion and role models. It doesn’t take a PhD in sociology and anthropology to look at American Culture and arrive at the conclusion that we are a very selfish society, with a few notable high-profile exceptions (9/11, Katrina, etc).

    Anyone in the non-profit world will tell you that people do not give unless they are asked. The secret is that they will not give unless they are asked repeatedly and in different ways (to a point, of course).

    I think the real issue here isn’t being asked, it’s the guilt that goes along with wanting to say no, or saying no, which is probably a result of low self-esteem of one’s giving habits. If you are a generous person that can honestly look yourself in the mirror and know that you are really doing everything you can, I don’t think that you’ll be annoyed with being asked to give in ANY environment – work or otherwise, as long as the cause is legit. But how many of us are really doing everything we can?

    To the extent that these campaigns get average people to give a little bit more than they otherwise would, or to causes they might not normally support, job well done. Screw the insecurities of co-workers.

    I’m an aethiest, but love the biblical phrase “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” But the concept of how much to give is another topic for another day.

  29. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I’m glad Brian Johnson made this last point.

    Penelope, you are the one who is always telling us that we should bring our whole self to work. To me that might mean asking my colleagues if they would like to sponsor me in the 5K fun run for breast cancer.

    How does this suddenly get equated to ‘compulsory giving’? If a person is pushy enough that they are going around haranguing people and using intimidation and guilt to extract money then they probably have problems with workplace relations that go way beyond charitable fundraising.

    On the other hand, if a person asks colleagues who they are friendly with if they would like to donate, or sends out an email just letting people know that they are fundraising (perhaps with a link to a fundraising web page such as JustGiving), and leaves it at that, then I don’t see a problem.

    I’ve fundraised for a couple of causes in the past few years. I find that, while some people want to direct their charitable donations, others won’t give until they are asked and they’ll give as much on the basis of who’s asking as on the cause itself.

    I’ve also been surprised how effective it can be just having a note in my email signature directing people to a fundraising cause.

    I have no idea what United Way is (it’s presumably an American thing). Is it religious? The fact that it was compulsory to attend the lecture is appalling, I have to say.

    As for vending machines, I have worked at a couple of places where the vending machine stocked both candy and healthy foods like nuts and seeds and dried fruit. I think that’s a good idea. We lived on a main street so if I had a chocolate craving I could always just go to the shop anyway, the vending machine wasn’t really a big factor.

    The worst tradition in the UK is that people have to bring in a cake on their OWN birthday. In Australia we would all chip in (not compulsory, by the way) and buy a cake for someone’s birthday, but here it’s another excuse to batter the birthday boy/girl. Weird.

  30. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    Oh I forgot to say, I know of one now-defunct telco company where the joint-MD used to do all important company communications in a daily company-all voice mail. He was a big believer in tone of voice and of course wanted to play with the capabilities since he worked for a company. Of course, it drove his staff batty but it didn’t stop him doing it. Sometimes they were really long but they were all expected to know what was said and action any relevant points.

  31. d
    d says:

    >I’m not even overweight

    No. But you are in recovery from a self-acknowledged eating disorder. Frankly, your paragraph on the candy machine sounds like you’re still pretty sick in your relationship to eating. This shouldn’t be made the problem of other people, who are entitled to freedom of choice.

    >The only thing a party like this is good for is
    >anonymous hookups with the marketing girl

    Again, you seem to be bringing your own, weird complex to this question.

    Huge parties like this, at least at large corporations, tend to be rather posh and splurge-y. Being able to eat nice food, at a fancy hotel, with limo service, and enjoy an open bar is something most of us don’t get to do on a daily (or even monthly) basis. Why should we adults have to give up something nice just because some people attach weird associations to it?

  32. Craig
    Craig says:

    Let’s just cut to the chase. As we often say in I.T., “This would be a great job if it weren’t for the people.”

  33. Leonard Klaatu
    Leonard Klaatu says:

    I’m especially fond of #2. Recently, I enjoyed laughing when a person hit “reply to all” without realizing that he was insulting a business partner who was in the distribution list. He didn’t know it. I attempted to do some damage control for him, then let him know what he had done. He went into cyber-silence and I’ve still not heard from him. That was 3 weeks ago. Maybe he got fired. Funny.

  34. Don B.
    Don B. says:

    Intriguing article as usual. This old guy still has clients that do not have email and voice mail is the only option. I hate getting voice mails though. Reply to all should never be used and you are right it is almost always an embarrassing mistake. I am overweight but never use the candy machine anyway. Ours is hidden away and would be missed. I do like the drug analogy thought. Soliciting money at work probably bothers some here but many look forward to it and ask about the girl scout cookies before we see the sheet. Do you feel the same about this issue regardless of company size and level of interaction. Our forty person office knows everyone and at least for now there is little strife. The money raising thing seems okay but I see how it could get out of hand. Our biggest party is the summer picnic where families can come and have lobster, clams and steak at the bosses camp on the ocean with a little over one hundred people. Most never miss this event and enjoy a lot. I know all of my coworkers kids and now know some kids of the past kids. We do the training too. We work together closely at a consulting firm. Many projects involve a quarter of the staff on one project. I think that makes it different. But as much as I try to think you have overstated some grievances the more I realize your post makes sense.

  35. Amien
    Amien says:

    Three more pet peeves:

    Automated switchboard message answering a call, asking for a direct-dial extension and otherwise directing you to a “push the button to spell the last name” directory of employees. But said directory doesn’t coordinate with the buttons on your blackberry, leaving you to struggle in push-button hell. And then no one answers the “O” operator extension… and you finally hang up the phone in frustration.

    “Administrative Assistants” for aforementioned six-figure executives, collecting for the monthly office lunch celebrating yet another executive’s birthday, asking for a $25 “donation” for lunch and gift, and then no accounting how these monthly collections are actually spent. At one firm, the collection was easily taken from 30 people, to buy large pizzas and a $50 gift. I think the AA was running this collection as a renumerative side-job. As a middle-manager, I chipped in for several months before I said NO.

    Finally, mandatory attendance at weekday and weekend evening fund-raising dinners for various non-profits, where the company has bought a table and needs to fill said table with people who own suits (as sole criteria) to sit and listen to boring speeches and eat boring food while counting the minutes to leave. Senior executives rarely attend these events unless on the diaz or otherwise honored. Foot soldier middle-managers dragooned into attendance, with spouses or significant others, since our time is the company’s time. Worst events? Special interest political or ethnic group organizations with a singular agenda, demanding set-aside programs and endorsing influence peddling contrary to your own interests.

  36. MS
    MS says:

    1 – Agree. I probably wouldn’t notice if VM was taken away..

    2 – Gotta disagree here. Working with a virtual team, the reply to all keeps the group up to date on the ongoing discussion on a topic. That said, I’ve seen some pretty bad abuses of reply to all. (Picture 200 responses to the same email alternating between “please remove me from this” and “don’t use reply to all”)

    3 – Agree. To make it worse, we have a convenience store in-house. Bad for my waistline and bottom-line.

    4 – Sorta agree. Unfortunately, a lot of people’s social circles are centered on the workplace so they hit their coworkers up for their sponsorships.

    5 – Disagree. This is a chance to make connections with the people you don’t see day-to-day. Just keep the number of drinks under your tolerance level…

  37. Kare Anderson
    Kare Anderson says:

    Soliciting money at work, or me is the hottest of the many hot buttons about which you wrote. I used to host a show for NBC where we were out to “right wrongs” and our house lawyer was worried when I chastised United Way for guilt-tripping employees to contribute to them. Studies showed that, when people had more choices, more people gave and per-person giving went up.

    But the eye-popper was that more viewers responded to that segment than any other. And we covered everything from police brutality to white colalr crime.

    There was (is?) a huge amount of pent-up anger about being asked to contribute to someone else’s favorite charity.. .especially a work colleague who is taking home a much bigger salary.

    Kudos to you for your candor!
    – Kare

  38. Craig
    Craig says:

    I realize this blog is targetted to under 30, recent grads who love to hear this kind of thing, but this is just BAD ADVICE!

    Just because people “like” a certain thing doesn’t make it more effective. A lot of the blog responses talk about how easy it is to Text and send email. Our communication is much more effective when we can TALK to someone. We’re even more effective when talking face-to-face. Here’s my take on the specifics:

    1 – I understand that a VM just saying “Call me” isn’t really needed anymore. But a “Call me, I need to know what the new sales numbers are” would allow the other person a chance to get the needed information instead of playing phone tag without having any idea what the conversation is about.

    2 – It’s much better to communicate too much than too little. People need to consider the receivers. For many e-mail chains, Reply-All is fine. If you want to be taken out of the chain, let the INDIVIDUAL sender know (don’t reply-all yourself)…or just hit delete…it only takes a second.

    3 – Shrug. If M&M’s make you feel like crap, don’t buy them. Our office has a snack machine with both “healthy” and un-healthy snacks. Having a snack machine is nice when working a little late without anything in the desk.

    4 – I’m sure the six figure person who is soliciting for donations DOES write a nice check, but they can add further value by asking others. While I don’t think anyone should be compelled to give money or signficant time, it does have an appropriate place in most offices. Many companies sponsor or match such gifts as well and consider such programs as beneficial to the organization and community.

    5 – The only huge party my organization throws is to raise money for charity. So we’re in violation of both 4 & 5 here! :) Generally, holiday parties, retirement parties, etc. are much smaller (department level). I see your point, and it’s nice to have a balance.

  39. kristi
    kristi says:

    Our office violates all 5!
    Re Voicemail, I personally prefer email and have trained my colleagues to use it first. However, I also know how easy it is to ignore email, and many people at my company do. So, if I really want to get a response, I follow up with a voicemail, or two. The human voice can go a long way towards communicating importance and timeliness, whereas an email can be shuffled to the bottom of the pile and forgotten. At our company, it’s understood that voicemail says “this is important, call me back”.
    Oh and we don’t have caller id lists that show missed calls.

  40. Jane
    Jane says:

    Agree with all, except 4. What’s the matter with you people? If you’re doing the cancer walk, of course you’re going to hit up everyone you know. And if you feel guilty saying “no”, that’s on you, not the person doing the cancer walk.

  41. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    So…you recommend keeping silent about the guy who’s feeling you up from one foot away (http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2006/11/02/dont-report-sexual-harassment-in-most-cases/) but it’s time to take a stand about the M&Ms 20 feet away? and the reply-all button, which distributed groups (i.e., people who aren’t close enough to smell each other’s M&Ms or harass each other) use for broadcasting issue resolutions?

    Huh? Maybe I don’t understand the high-powered world of success well enough. I am over 35, after all, clearly I just don’t get it. I fail to see how being pawed is something to be tolerated and getting a voicemail message or going to a United Way meeting is not.

  42. Lane
    Lane says:

    I have to say that most of these are still quite viable in places.

    Voicemail: I hate it. I really do. I prefer email. But e-mail is discoverable. Voicemail deletes forever. Or does it?

    Reply-All: There are some companies out there that have a culture of inclusiveness and consensus, as well as CYA. Massive email chains are part of that lifestyle, and not likely to go away. Cutting people out of the reply is actually not helpful to the conversation occurring. Believe it or not, there are some companies out there that function this way.

    Charity: This is a tricky one to me. I really detest all the hit ups for donating and giving. Best way I’ve seen it done is a central area where those things can be posted and those who want to give can. But the company-wide initiatives for United Way are grating to some degree – but part of the cultural game you play.

    Goodies: I think it is a concession to those working late. At my old employ, I used to go to the snack machine when I’ve had to skip dinner. But otherwise, it was easy to avoid – nothing in it ever tastes good.

    Parties: Well, there are corporate wide parties that are sponsored – it is part of the culture, again. But they are all very professional in nature. Other parties are smaller and closer-knit.

  43. D Mang
    D Mang says:

    Do you have any compassion towards visual voicemail like on the iPhone, where parties can be identified and audio can be filed?

  44. John Quiggin
    John Quiggin says:

    I don’t go much on big parties, but I *hate* training. Maybe it’s better if you go to a pro in NYC, but I can’t see that becoming the norm any time soon.

  45. dd
    dd says:

    LOL. Funny. I have to say though, what’s wrong with office parties and hooking up with the girl in marketing? I love those. I only hang out with my friends anyway, plus I get to laugh at the bosses getting drunk and making fools of themselves by trying to dance. Hah! Heck, they are great *precisely* because of the girl in marketing.

  46. Bekah
    Bekah says:

    I am 27 years old and I HATE voicemail with a passion. I was laughing so hard at this part of the column because it is all me. Not only do I constantly tell people to just email me, I actually trained my co-workers to not leave me voicemails by responding back extremely slow to a voicemail, and really quick to an email. And I deal with exhibitors and sponsors all day long, which involves a lot of documents (contracts, forms, etc.) so I’ll respond to a voicemail by looking them up in our database and just emailing them back the info. My friends and I never leave voicemails, if there is a missed call on our cell, we just call the person back! Anyways, just wanted to let you know you totally hit the nail on the head with this one.

  47. Mitch
    Mitch says:

    Voicemail is fine. Besides, peons always make fun of their bosses. All they are worried about are when they are going to get laid (as that seems to be one of your main themes I figured I'd go with the flow) or drunk or who knows what. "Dude, I can text in short-hand we are soooo modern errrr" – ..you have not come along way baby.

    Candy-its call self control.

    I hate the United Way Nazis. I was forced once too..I gave a buck and heard noise from above. I didn't care I was a peon anyway – .

    Big parties..seems like that is the way the "young" get some and who could be against that???

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