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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Mind those emoji if you're working at this place

As mentioned a few days ago, I have a bunch of half-formed things bouncing around my head about broken company stuff. Not all of them are going to result in full-length essays with a solid introduction, middle, and ending.

Some of them might actually be roughly "tweet sized", if I did that sort of thing. (I don't.)

I figure it's better to get this out piecemeal rather than trying to wait and see if it'll all somehow gel into a single coherent document that somehow manages to encompass everything.

With that in mind, here's one tiny bit of signal that something may be wrong where you're working: everything the least bit "edgy" generates a disproportionate response. Also, far too many things are seen as being "edgy" in the first place.

What do I mean by that? Here's a scenario for you.

One fine day, someone sends out a mail to a mailing list that goes to the entire company. The company hasn't learned the basics of running mailing lists from the '90s, and so the list itself can be mailed by anyone else inside the company.

Unsurprisingly, a "reply-to all" storm starts. The electronic food fight escalates as other people try to get the first people to knock it off, and more and more just start complaining.

You've seen it all before. It's old news. Even the fact that it's old news to you... is old news, because you wrote about it eight years ago.

Over on your company's local electronic water cooler, whether that's IRC or Slack or whatever else, someone mentions it. "Oh, there's a reply-all storm going on". Maybe a second person acknowledges.

You then post an emoji (assuming Slack) of a dumpster fire. Or, (assuming IRC) you use the words "dumpster fire". The point is, you leave it at that: a quick assessment of a situation not worth getting involved in. You say nothing more, and indeed, nobody else does either. It's just one of those things.

Time passes.

Then, several weeks later, you're chatting with your manager, and they bring it up: "What if one of the people in the reply-all megathread saw the "dumpster fire" mention? How do you think they'd feel?"

It's about that time that you might realize that you are being treated like a child, and everyone else expects that level of treatment, too. Managers are seriously spending time worrying about what kind of random snark and facepalming is being generated by the people who work there.

They honestly don't have anything better to do, and they're taking it out on you. (They're probably taking it out on others, too. If they aren't, and it's just you or a class of "yous", well, that's the sort of thing that calls for another action entirely.)

Incidentally, the most you can do is shrug, because saying something like "they did something dumb without thinking about what would happen and should laugh at themselves for doing something dumb, and maybe feel bad if they can't laugh at themselves" is just going to dig the hole deeper.

Imagine what life is like, thinking that every single comment that's not loaded with ass kissing and adherence to the party line could be the one that gets you a bad review, or eventually gets you canned.

In that environment, how many people are going to tell the truth about things that are broken? How many are going to do the rational-game-theory thing and just nod and say everything is fine?

I now know the answer... and I wish I didn't.