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Some things shouldn’t have to be spelled out explicitly. Some things, like realizing the sun is hot and that Tang is the greatest drink in our galaxy, should be known inherently, without anyone having to be told or educated or enlightened. Particularly when you’re in a work environment, this list of things should be so blatantly obvious that no signs should be required, no clues needed, and no hints dispensed like Pez candy. And yet, it’s still amazing when I come across people who are either oblivious or just plain ballsy (read: stupid) enough to say “You know what? Social and/or office etiquette applies to pretty much everyone else except me, because I am full of win.” This is the story of such an encounter.
I don’t talk about work much here (hell, I don’t talk about much of ANYTHING here lately, right?), and the reason for that is pure self-preservation. Talking about work typically leads to no good, but some stories are too rich not to share. Because my team is spread out over 3 (or more) geographical areas, most of our meetings occur via teleconference. If we all have to view a presentation or see a document (or some other thing where everyone needs to be looking at the same thing simultaneously), we use either Netmeeting or an application called WebEx to share our desktops so that we can impress the other meeting participants with our brilliance. In this particular meeting, most of the participants were in my office, with two others on the phone. I volunteered to be the host (the person whose computer we’ll use to view the online portion of the meeting), while one of the people on the phone agreed to be the presenter (the person who shares his desktop so that everyone on the meeting can see what he’s seeing, working on, etc.). So to paint the picture, I had my laptop connected to a big-ass monitor in a conference room, and the Phone Person and I got connected so that he could show us what he was working on. Follow me so far? Good.
Now, the people in this meeting were an interesting combination of personalities. We are all veterans of the job, and pretty knowledgeable, but there are some very strong opinions that often get expressed in less-than-productive ways, depending on the subject of the meeting. These folks are often not afraid to express their feelings verbally, knowing that it’s all for the betterment of our products and our customers’ experience, not because we take things personally. OK, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face. Sometimes it IS personal, especially when people put a lot of themselves into the work they do, only to listen to someone else tear it down. I’m not saying it’s right, only that it’s human nature. This meeting was no different.
As Phone Guy began showing the team what he was working on (from his laptop, while we viewed that on MY laptop – keep up, people), one of the people in my office began peppering him with questions. I know them all fairly well, and I could tell by his tone that Phone Guy was getting a little annoyed at what he perceived as an assault on his work. Did he stay calm and weather the storm? No. Did he totally lose his shit and start yelling like Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino”? Negative. He did something even better.
He sent an instant message to the other phone person, saying “This guy’s really pissing me off!”
While he was still sharing his laptop screen.
Meaning we could see everything… he… wrote.
And his boss was sitting right next to me.
I tried to help him out, people. I tried to minimize his screen from my side, but there was nothing I could do. We all saw that nonsense. His boss (who is also my boss’ boss) told him “Uh, we can still see your screen, Phone Guy. We saw everything you wrote.” Phone Guy then did two things that amazed me even more than the supremely stupid shit he just executed before our very eyes. First, when confronted (by his boss) about what he wrote, instead of stuttering, stammering, or backtracking, he replied “Good! He was pissing me off!” Second, at a time when most people would be profusely apologizing and trying to remember their boss’ favorite food/restaurant/sport to try to prevent a rapid firing, Phone Guy didn’t even so much as apologize or be even a little embarrassed. He kept right on rolling along as though our boss had said “Nice presentation”, completely unaffected by the sound of 6 jaws hitting the floor in our conference room. I just hung my head, completely dumfounded. The one bright spot? The person he wrote to was smart enough NOT to reply, because she knew he was still sharing his desktop to all of us. That meeting was a lot of things, but “boring” wasn’t one of them.