Daily Archives: April 16th, 2010

Dim speakerphones, emails and etiquette

I fight authority, authority always wins

This morning Twitter washed up a tweet at my feet. It caught my eye and provided inspiration for today’s ramblings.

The tweet said, “Have you ever sent an embarrassing email or text? Find out how can you possibly recover from that?!” And it linked to this post: What to Do After Sending an Embarrassing Text or Email.

That blog did make some good points. Like how easy it is to make honest mistakes and send messages where you didn’t really intend. Oops. Now the main theme of the blog, politeness, is no extra-special concern of mine, but I don’t necessarily enjoy going out of my way to make people upset. For example, I’d actually feel bad if any of the douchebags in my life ever found out what I’d written about them here behind their backs and in front of the whole internet. Touching, eh?

We’ve all made mistakes and routed embarrassing stuff to the wrong place, right? I thought of two examples from my life and I thought I’d share them.

The first involves a speakerphone and happened about 10 to 15 years ago when I worked at a big company. One of my duties was producing work plans based on the needs of another department. It took about two to three hours in a hectic and crazy setting to pump out one of these plans. And I had to do at least one of them per day, sometimes more.

This other department was the Alpha Dog and I was the Omega Dog. That meant I had to take their shit. No matter what. They often changed their minds, made last-minute decisions, and pulled some really stupid crap. This department directly serviced our external customers and would often make amazing concessions and bend the rules to land the sale – of course, at my expense.

So I found myself at the end of the work day. It was time to go home. Another eight hours of my life shot to hell in the name of money. And I had just finished the work plan. The phone rang and it was my boss. She proceeded to tell me that this other department wanted to get some last minute changes in. Changes that would necessitate remaking the work plan. We were way beyond their deadline for submitting changes, and accepting them would mean another two to three hours of work. Gratis, on me, of course, since I was a salaried professional.

Little did I know how legendary the words that were about to come out of my mouth would be.

“I’m sorry, but the answer is no,” I told her. “You can tell that department to rot in hell.

Yes. “Rot in hell.” I said it. Those were my exact words and I am not embellishing or exaggerating in any way shape or form. That’s exactly how it all went down. Oh yeah. Sing it for me, Johnny Cash: I was there when it happened so I guess I oughtta know.

It was at this particular moment that two things happened in quick succession. First, I heard a clicking sound, like a phone hastily being picked up from the base unit. Second, my boss informed me I had been on speakerphone during the entire call and that the department head himself was sitting in her office. And he had heard every word.

Booyah! Slam dunk! FTW! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. LOL! ROFL! Dirty Sanchez!

Speaking about politeness, by the way, isn’t there some etiquette for letting people know when they are on the fucking speakerphone? Perhaps even when discussing something somewhat delicate and the person of interest to that conversation is in the very same fucking room?

Somehow I survived that day and lived on to get into even more trouble.

The second incident isn’t quite as exciting as the first. I happened while working as a programmer for a flighty ecommerce outfit. Oh the stories I could tell about that place. Maybe more on that later.

The owner had set up the email system so all bounced email went directly to him. You can see where this is going, right?

So one day I whip out an email to the head programmer where I called the boss’s wife “a little bit dim.” Not the worst insult of all time, but not something I really wanted to say to her face, either. I then made some sort of typo in the email address (not on purpose) and clicked “send.”

About five seconds later, the boss, who sat just a few feet away, looks over at me and says, “Dude, your email just bounced.”

Oh shit. Snap! No you didn’t!

Yep. I just called his wife “dim” and the email went right to him. I did think she was dim, but she was actually nice, too, so I felt bad. A few apologies and then a few weeks of awkwardness and then all returned mostly to normal.

The moral of these stories is don’t say anything about someone that you aren’t willing to say to their face. And if you still do, be really, really sure you can get away with it. 🙂

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