Every Office Has One(sie)

, , , , , , , | Working | June 19, 2018

Several years ago, my company was looking to hire an intern, and we received an impassioned application from a young woman in her early 20s. She didn’t have much experience, but she seemed driven, smart, and dedicated, and we felt like we could take a chance on her. All of us kind of empathized with being that young person, trying to get a foot in the door and get noticed. The job involved a lot of basic “intern-y” stuff like paperwork and emails and data entry, but also involved attending meetings and check-up calls with our clients, contractors, and so forth, more to take notes or answer basic questions and take information than anything huge or stressful. It was basically a lot of the sort of work that we were desperate for an intern to handle so we could focus more on our bigger projects and our main duties. Since we knew it was a significant amount of work, even if it was mostly made up of a lot of little things, it was paying more than minimum wage.

When we called her in for her interview, she seemed different from her application. She was very quiet, a little awkward, and stumbled through speaking, though we chalked it up to nerves. Because it was only a four-month internship with option for us to hire permanently or “renew” the agreement, it didn’t seem like much of a risk to us, and we decided to hire her. The first few weeks went… okay. She seemed so outgoing in her application and emails when we’d followed up with her, but around the office she was quiet as a mouse and seemed to be trying to actively avoid people, even after extensive training. She did her work quickly and effectively, but any time she had to do something that involved working with her coworkers, or clients, face-to-face, she found some way to get out of it.

Because that sort of thing was in her job description, which she assured us she could do before we hired her, that just wasn’t acceptable. I tried to speak with her privately about it, and she told me she was just not used to dealing with people professionally, and swore she’d get better and try harder. I was not unsympathetic; I might have been ten years or so older than her, but I knew what it was like to be the awkward, anxious gal… Heck, I still am, and get a lot of social anxiety; I’m just better able to hide it and work with it. But as her first month dragged into her second and we didn’t see an improvement, that sympathy turned into frustration; my coworkers and I were left holding the bag for a lot of the duties she was specifically brought on to handle that involve dealing with people in person or over the phone, all because she was uncomfortable or nervous. It got to the point where she was not doing half of what her job required, something that annoyed my boss more and more when he was paying her significantly above minimum wage for an internship, making him feel like she was coasting. We’re a small, tight-knit company and he’s an extremely generous boss, but all of that depends on all of us handling our responsibilities so we can rely on one another.

I pulled her into my office and told her, frankly, that if she couldn’t get around this and we couldn’t find a reasonable solution that didn’t involve her hiding every time she was expected to talk to someone, or coming up with excuses, it was not going to work out and she was going to be let go. She got teary, and then defensive, saying she’d been trying but it was hard, and she just needed us to be a little patient and understanding. At this point, she’d been “trying” for almost two months, and we hadn’t seen even a little progress since the beginning. I told her as gently but firmly as I was able that at the end of the day, this was still a job and we were still a business, and if she literally could not do the job she was specifically hired to do, we’d have to part ways.

The very next day, she was supposed to be sitting in on a meeting with one of our contractors and a coworker, both to take down information to update our system with later, and to get some experience on how these things went so in the future — if she got her act together and was hired on– she could handle them herself, and gain insight and experience into the industry itself. As it was, she’d mostly just gained insight and experience into being your standard office gofer.

Because I was wrapped up in my own work I didn’t get to see this happen, but my coworker came storming back after, angry and embarrassed, because our intern, this adult helping to represent us as a company in a business setting, showed up to this professional meeting in. A. Unicorn. Onesie. I absolutely refused to believe he wasn’t joking until I heard from everyone else. The contractor — who was more confused and made awkward than anything else, and thankfully as understanding as she could be about it — attested to it, including how the intern dragged her chair away from the table and sat in the corner with her head down, taking notes and not speaking, as did everybody else in the office who had seen it. Apparently, she just stood up shortly after she sat down, grabbed her things, and left.

I tried getting a hold of her multiple times, but she ignored all attempts to contact her, even though you could see her on social media out partying with her friends and chatting online. She even went so far as to delete every single reference she had ever posted to working for or with us. Because she still seemed to be active and happy, we just decided to drop it. We never saw her again, but it still remains the single most bizarre experience of my career, maybe even my adult life. All we could guess is that she just got overwhelmed and maybe wore it as some sort of comfort thing, then got embarrassed and fled. I’m still not 100% sure whether it was some elaborate troll, but I honestly can’t figure out what the point would be. I looked her up again recently; she seems happy and healthy, and is working for another company in a completely different industry, so it seems like everything worked out for her. The whole incident was just so strange I wanted to reach out to her and ask her what the hell happened, but ultimately I decided she was probably far more embarrassed by the ordeal than I was impacted by it and let it lie. She seems to be doing very well for herself, and at the end of the day, that’s worth more than my curiosity.

Common Decency Has Logged Out

, , , , , , | Working | June 14, 2018

(Our small company hires a new tech guy who is kind of a jerk. He really likes to lean hard into the “everyone but people who work in IT are helpless and have stupid problems” stereotype and takes it beyond harmless teasing, even when the issue you have is legitimate and out of your control. He also tends to be very arrogant and condescending. One day I’m trying to update something in our database and keep getting an error. It’s something I’ve done a million times before, as outlined by the steps left behind from our previous tech guy who moved away, and the system isn’t giving me any information that I can use to troubleshoot besides the error. I call up our tech guy and give him the error I’m seeing, plus the steps to reproduce it, and everything I’ve tried.)

Tech: “Huh, that shouldn’t be possible. You probably aren’t logged in.”

Me: “I am definitely logged in. I couldn’t see the dashboard if I wasn’t.”

Tech: “You need to be putting these things in the assets folder.” *drags the word “assets” out long, as if speaking to a dog*

Me: “I just told you, I did. You can see them in there for yourself. I know the error it gives me when it can’t find them, and that’s not the code it threw. Did you try to replicate it?”

Tech: “We’ll do that later if necessary. For now, let’s just make sure everything you’re doing is on the up and up.”

(Frustrated, I walk him through everything that’s happening, again. He just keeps reiterating that I must have done something wrong, and I keep asking him to try and see if he gets the same error. When he loops back around to saying I must not be logged in, AGAIN, I hang up and go down to his office, make him move aside, and show him, right in front of him, what I’m doing and the error I’m getting. I have to tell him to pay attention multiple times because he keeps sighing in a put-upon way and fiddling with his phone.)

Me: “Okay. You just saw me do everything correctly, right in front of you, and I still got the error. What is happening?”

Tech: “I told you, you… Oh. Well, why aren’t you doing [completely different process than the one I’ve been following for years]?”

Me: *baffled* “Why would I? That’s not the way the system works.”

Tech: “It is now. I made some updates yesterday, so you need to do things that way from now on. I told you about this, hon.”

Me: “You absolutely did not, and please don’t call me ‘hon.'”

(While he initially insisted he did, when he pulled up his email to prove it, what he’d actually done was save the message as a draft instead of sending it. He never apologized for the confusion or his attitude. I found out from another coworker that he’d gone to complain to our boss about my “bad attitude.” My boss just laughed and said, “I’ve never heard her so much as raise her voice; what did you do?” Keep in mind I still HADN’T actually raised my voice to him at all. He quit a couple weeks later, saying he was looking for a company a little less “high maintenance,” right after he’d been reprimanded for coming in more than an hour late three days in a row. Can’t say we miss him, and the new guy we hired is absolutely fantastic.)

Snakes That Can Snap-Shot

, , , , | Right | June 13, 2018

(I work at a store in the electronics department. In our store, some of the products are displayed in display counters arranged in a near complete oval shape, with a walk space in the center where workers can talk to customers about the product, and a register near the entrance. A customer leans over the part of the counter that displays the digital cameras.)

Customer: “Excuse me, miss. Can you help me?”

Me: *turns around to face the customer* “Yes, sir. What can I do for you?”

Customer: “Can you point me to where y’all sell the digital cameras?”

(I look down at the cameras that we are both standing over, look back at customer, and then point down.)

Customer: *looks down* “Oh.”

Me: “If it were a snake, it would have bitten you.”

Customer: “It sure would have.”

(After making the sale, the customer thanked me for embarrassing him as gently as I did, but told me I shouldn’t have been so gentle because it was funny and would have taught him to pay attention to his surroundings.)

Not Feline Your Sense Of Humor

, , , , , , | Working | June 12, 2018

(My husband and I have a guy in the house repairing our air conditioner. We also have a cat who is deaf, has little vision, and is probably a little senile at over 20 years old. According to the vet he’s arthritic — treated with daily meds — but happy. He spends his days toddling around the house after us and purring in sunbeams. As the repairman is finishing up, after I’ve paid and he’s talking about what to keep an eye out for, the cat wanders by the room. After observing how slowly he moves, the repairman asks me if he’s sick.)

Me: “Nah, just really old and arthritic.”

Repairman: “Oh, you know, my dad had a home remedy for that.”

Me: “Oh, yeah?”

Repairman: “Yeah.”

(He laughed and made a gun out of his hand and pointed it at my cat, making a shooting sound. He did not seem to get why I didn’t find that funny and told him to get the f*** out of my house.)

Distraction Inaction

, , , , , , | Learning | June 7, 2018

(I’m in high school. It’s the week before finals. My school has a program where you can exempt certain exams if your grades are high enough, and you haven’t missed too much school. I am able to exempt one final, and I choose math. My teacher is doing a finals review for the class.)

Teacher: “Now, if you’re exempting my final, I don’t care what you do during this time, as long as you’re quiet.”

(I’m very happy with this unexpected free period. I pull out a book and start reading. Ten minutes later…)

Teacher: “[My Name]!”

Me: “Yes?”

Teacher: “Put that book away!”

Me: “But you said—”

Teacher: “You are being very disrespectful! I’m teaching, and you’re ignoring me!”

Me: “But I’m exempting your final.”

Teacher: “YOU ARE BEING A DISTRACTION!”

(I look around at the rest of the class. No one is paying attention to him. They’re whispering, passing papers back and forth, laughing, drawing, and texting. I am not one to argue with teachers, but in this case…)

Me: “I’m being a distraction? Have you seen the rest of your class right now?”

Teacher: “PUT IT AWAY!”

Me: “Okay.”

(By this time, the class has gone silent. I make a big show of taking out my very large chemistry textbook and exam review.)

Teacher: “Not another peep out of you, now.”

(One of my friends snickers.)

Teacher: “I WILL PUT ALL OF YOU IN DETENTION!”

(Thankfully, the bell rings. As I’m gathering my stuff, my teacher consults his class list, and raises an eyebrow. He gestures me over.)

Teacher: “So, uh… I see that you’re exempting my final, and therefore, did not need to actually pay attention.”

Me: “I just told you that!”

Teacher: “I… was wrong to yell at you. See, you’re the only one in this period with a grade high enough to exempt. I’m sorry, and I hope you have a good summer.”

(Points for apologizing, but still…)

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