Sunday, July 02, 2006

Separating the personal and the professional at work

Tom gave me some excellent fuel for an angry blog talking about an experience with a cow-orker having inappropriately loud personal conversations at work. Loud as in screaming. Repeatedly. From Tom's Pigeon Weather blog:

Man's Voice: No Anita, no. That's not allowed.
Me: ?
Voice: No, Anita, we didn't agree to that
Me: !
Voice: No, Anita, no, you can't just do that. No. It's not allowed. We didn't agree to that. You can't just. No.
Me #$%%@
Voice: Anita, listen. No. You can't. No. You cannot. You're not listening.
Me: grrrrrrr
Voice: Anita? Anita? Do you hear me? No. No Anita, no.
Me: ...

There's nothing quite like the inappropriate workplace conversation that you can't escape. I worked with one guy who took this further by listening to all his voice mail on speaker phone. Really loud. He played his messages so loud the sound penetrated basically the entire floor. And he had so many fucking messages! It was as if the prick deliberately avoided answering his phone so he could play all those fucking messages at all of us later.

This guy was a Dilbert cartoon come to life. No amount of polite requests would make him stop. His response was "get over it" which, to a degree, is fair enough but when you throw down a challenge like that, you have to be ready for blowback. Some revenge was in order. What is the best way to make sure someone stops playing all their messages for everyone to hear?

Make sure they get a message they don't want anyone to know about.

He played his messages at 9.15 every morning, regular as clockwork. All of us in the surrounding cubicles made sure we were there on revenge day (normally we went out of our way to be somewhere else when he was playing his fucking messages). The previous night, I had made the following call to his number:

"Hello Mr Smith (his name was really Smith so it looks like I'm using a pseudonym but I'm not), this is Dr Watkins from the sexual health clinic. Your test results are back and I'm afraid those spots on your penis are just going to clear up. It appears you have five different sexually transmitted diseases. I'm afraid those prostitutes you had unprotected sex with who assured you they were "clean" may not have been totally honest with you. If we don't treat you immediately your penis will fall off by the end of the week."

Juvenile to be sure but it got results. The first thing we discovered was that he didn't pay much attention to his messages because it took him up to "five different sexually transmitted diseases" to react at all. Then he panicked and fumbled at the phone. He knocked the receiver off but the message kept playing. He didn't hit the disconnect button until "totally honest". So nobody got to hear my witty penis falling off joke but it was a pretty good result.

Everybody was "prairie dogging", popping up over the cubicle walls as the call progressed. The laughter followed him as he ran out the office door. None of us ever mentioned it directly to him but he never played voice mail on speaker phone again.


pigeon weather said...

brilliant. wish you had a video of that!

Mr Angry said...

Nice segue Tom. As I mentioned before, I'm thinking of doing a dramatic re-enactment of this for a future vlog.

Oh and I just noticed the counter for this blog finally clicked past 2000. Woohoo!