Thursday, November 3, 2011

Workplace Guidelines for People who are Me

I’m not sure why it is so difficult being me. How do seemingly simple tasks get tangled and become obscure? To figure this out, I have decided to break down an uncomplicated task that inexplicably went awry. You are coming with me to work, ready? The job for today is to add new course names to each course in this eLearning catalog. Here is the list of courses and the new course names on an Excel spreadsheet. Looks like all we need to do open each file, change the course number, republish the course, and mark completion on the spreadsheet. Simple enough. Let’s get started.

How to be Me:
  1. Open Spreadsheet.
  2. Open the first file.
  3. Suddenly remember that the intern who was testing the courses last summer found a glitch that was never addressed.
  4. Decide to take matters into your own hands.

Looking up the documentation, you see that the intern was getting unexpectedly ejected from the end of course exam. Opening one of the files, you notice that the hit area for the Cancel button is a larger size than the actual button. Clicking next to the button could cause users to inadvertently eject themselves from the scored exam. Test this for yourself to find that you are indeed unexpectedly tossed from the scored exam.

Decide that as long as the courses are being updated anyway, that this is an issue that clearly must be addressed. Add issue to the spreadsheet. Looking at the documentation, you notice another issue. The page number text field is a little too small for double digits when viewed in certain browsers. Decide to fix this issue as well and add to spreadsheet. You can also make a new spreadsheet if you feel the first is getting too crowded.

Browsing through the courses, you notice that some have the Cancel Button issue fixed while others do not. Now you need to document which courses actually need the additional updates. Feel free to start another spreadsheet for this.

Start fixing the courses, but for some reason, don’t start at the beginning of the list. You won’t remember why you started in the middle or one-third of the way through, just that it seemed like the logical thing to do at the time.  You should also consider getting so involved in making the additional changes that you forget to change the course numbers. Changing the course numbers may have been the entire aim of this project, but now it hardly seems important.  Realize, suddenly, that all spreadsheets are now completely non-informative of actual progress.

Once you have the state of the courses in complete disorder, a co-worker will ask you where you are on the project. He will also probably want a copy of the spreadsheet so he can ‘help’. Of course, he will know nothing about the Cancel Button or text field changes, or the additional 3 to 5 spreadsheets and their new fields, so any help at this point is going to be anti-help. This will be way too hard to explain. Despite the fact that he seems to think he has asked a relatively straight-forward question, look at him blankly.

He will persist. You might as well just tell him you have no idea where he should start on the spreadsheets, or even which spreadsheet as there are now three of them. He will now give you a familiar look of condescension to which you are immune.

Showing Progress

Of course, you will need some way to report progress that is specialized for this unorthodox method of completing a project. Allow me to provide with some guidelines:

Your boss, at some point, will want to know how your team is progressing on a given project. When reporting progress, always go with a percentage.  I usually go with 85%. Sometimes, my boss will look at me funny and insist, “That is exactly what you said when I asked for a progress report on the other thing.” At this point, I try to look both surprised and enlightened, before changing the number to 82% or sometimes 86%.

If at any point in this process, people become agitated with me, I usually explain that they only have to put up with this for less that 8 hours a day, while I have to live with my brain all the time. They seem sympathetic.

How to NOT be Me:

Just change the damn course numbers.


  1. Brains are horrible things. If you give them an inch they'll bite your hand off by the wrist. Also, they tend to focus on irrelevant and/or horrible/disgusting things yoy'd rather forget and will remind you of them at the most inconvenient moment possible.

    I hate my brain. I wonder if it's now possible to replace it with a positronic robot brain?

  2. And this is another reason why I have to quit my job at the fabric store: while helping customer find a rotary cutter, I notice the pinking shears are hung in the wrong place, but to put the pinking shears in the right place, I have to move the breast cancer awareness pin cushions, but to do that I have to make a place for the pin cushions because the lazy ass assistant manager didn't follow the planogram correctly, and now I have to go to the stockroom and find some hooks. . . It's so hard being the only person who does anything right, isn't it?

  3. Do they have positronic robot brains available now? I'm going to go check the iTunes store. Maybe I can download one into my phone.

  4. Boy, sounds like how I clean my house and why no single room ever looks like a did a single thing. Sigh. I can relate all too well!

  5. I dunno if they're available yet. They SHOULD be, though. It's 2011 after all, and according to Asimov we should all have or own personal nuclear power pants by now.

  6. That's plants not pants. Damn you auto correct!

  7. I want nuclear power pants.

  8. Yes! I want nuclear power pants too!

  9. I can't decide if it depresses or elates me that I related to every single step you described - because I've done the same damn thing. Many times.

    And to think that was me today just telling somebody to learn to just let stuff go....yeah, I only ACT like a free-spirit; but the reality is this - if it ain't perfect than, by God, it's MY job to make it so.

  10. Lisa, I can help! I know exactly what happened (and obviously, you do as well, because this was your solution: Just change the damn course numbers.) :) But just in case it bears repeating, always skip step 4. Decide to take matters into your own hands. :) :)

  11. I have tried to comment on this several times, but I keep getting side tracked by all the things I need to look up on THE Google. And then I return here and "Oh! A cookie would be nice...!" back here 10 minutes lat...

    Wait, Lisa...I'm about 85% done with this...

  12. See, I always blamed it on my Y chromosome. Guess that excuse just went out the window.

    I think that stupidity is one of the worst side effects of brilliance. Sucks, doesn't it? You're brilliant enough to know that you should not try to take matters into your own hands but that same brilliance leaves you with the unfortunate stupid side effect that leads you to completely ignore your brilliance. Meanwhile, if you were stupid, you'd not take matters into your own hands (which would be the brilliant thing to do) and take your own advice about it, which is actually pretty smart.

    I'm stupefyingly brilliant, but that's way better than being brilliantly stupid. I think.

  13. That's how tidying up my house for a little party went on Saturday. Took me 12 hours.

  14. But the people who know how NOT to be you are boring. :-)

  15. Your story sounds like a spiffy-work-related-If You Give A Mouse A Cookie-Story. Sigh...computers are awesome...but sometimes they hate us.