Friday, September 21, 2007

Passive Aggressive Post-It-Notes

The dynamics of an office environment are much like . . . like . . . well they’re intricate, delicate and ever-changing. I couldn’t think of anything that’s intricate, delicate and ever-changing. I thought about maybe the weather because it’s ever-changing but that’s not delicate or really intricate for that matter. A flower is delicate but not intricate, and doesn’t really change. How about the heart of a woman – no, too “romance novel –esque” Let me mull it over and maybe I’ll come up with something a couple weeks from now.

Anyway, there’s a certain balance that must be kept. A balance between wanting to tell someone they’re a fuckin’ idiot and that the quality of their work sucks, and then knowing that you’ve got to see them and work with them 5 days a week for an undetermined amount of months or years. It complicates things even more when you are actually fond of them on a personal level, yet have qualms about their professional ability. It seems that within my particular department, one of the tools we’ve used to counter this inevitable dichotomy is the Post-It note.

Yes that lovely little piece of sticky backed yellow paper is one of our greatest assets. It allows us to 1. Avoid actual face to face confrontation. 2. Be vaguely insulting. And 3. Place blame/push work onto others. I’ll go through each of these in more detail.

1. Avoid face to face confrontation. Now the bulk of my responsibilities involve reviewing the work of my peers and therefore things can get a little awkward when you need to tell someone that their work is the largest, maggot infested, reeking pile of dung you’ve ever seen. The post-it-note is perfect. A lovely scrawled “This is not correct” or something to that effect, is much better and more professional than anything I could have said in person because I’m not the greatest actress.

2. Be vaguely insulting. People overlook a lightly veiled insult much better when it’s written rather than spoken. Plus sarcasm is so deeply embedded into my usual dulcet tone of voice that it comes through quite easily, so it’s much easier for me to write, “please re-do this entire section, paying close attention to the instructions” and it not be taken as the insult that it really is since I’m implying that they’re too stupid to follow clearly written instructions.

3. Place blame/push work onto others. The other great thing about Post-it-Notes is that they can be lost. Don’t want to do that requested change? Take off the note and throw it away. This way you can claim that you never saw it “it must have fallen off somewhere in transit – I never saw it” and if you’re lucky you’ll be too busy or headed off to a meeting, so that someone else will have to perform the odious task instead. Something was wrong? “oh well I didn’t know it was supposed to be that way – there was a post-it-note on the form that told me to do it this way – I don’t see it now though, it must have fallen off.”

So the post-it-note, I think, is one of the most useful office tools right. It's right up there with E-mail, which of course allows you to look like you're working when you're really just e-mailing everyone for advice about your undiagnosed rash.

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