Stanley Bing

Ask Bing: Avoiding an office sleep-over

Try pitching a paintball outing to your boss instead -- managers love paintball. If that doesn't work, at least be sure to sleep in your business clothing.

Stanley Bing

Hey, Stanley! I am asking your advice on behalf of my friend, who works for a very small professional services firm. Even though it is a tiny company, they are expanding rapidly and have recently undergone about 100% growth in number of employees (bringing them to a total of about ten now).

The owner just announced that they soon will be required to spend a weekend at the home of the one of the new employees (in a neighboring state), and that they will all be sleeping "on the floor". It is evidently a low-budget attempt at team-building, precipitated by a high level of employee unrest due to the negative fallout of adding so many people so quickly. (Actually, I'm being kind - it's a regular soap opera in that office!)

In any event, my friend, and possibly others there, are absolutely opposed to spending an entire weekend with their co-workers against their wills, much less having to sleep in the same room together - on the floor! Do you have any suggestions on how my friend and the co-workers who are also opposed to this crazy scheme can voice their opinions without getting labeled as non-team-players?

You can't. You must put up with the stupidity that management occasionally engages in when they don't know what else to do. I've built sand castles, gone white-water rafting, competed in sack races, and even golfed in the name of team building. In some places, they have people really engaging in life-threatening stuff like hang gliding and rock climbing on real rocks!

One time a few years ago, the chairman decided it would be good for everybody to split into teams and get dropped into Death Valley with nothing but canteens and a compass to get them home. One team got lost and a female manager, out of water and suffering from heat stroke, fainted by the roadside. Her team mates had a meeting and determined that it would be better for the Team if they left her there in the middle of the desert with nothing more than a little of their water and a hat to shield her from the sun. They had no cell phones. So they left her there and after a couple of hours a car went by and picked her up, took her back to the resort.

She got a huge sunburn and a totally disgusting feeling about the people she was being forced to work with that was only partially offset by the special Award for Fortitude she got at the closing night dinner. Six months later, she went to another company.

My guess is that this summer camp arrangement will hurt morale more than it will help. A calm discussion with the senior officer may have some effect. Suggest paint ball! A lot of management jerks like paint ball as a means of working off aggression and building a group of people who loves and hates each other in equal measure.

But in the end, you're going to have to do it. When you go, by the way, make sure to sleep in your business clothing. Nobody says you have to disgrace yourself in addition to being part of this silly exercise. And nobody wants to see you in your pajamas.

I am a computer tech for a government organization. My boss is a very competent network administrator/technology coordinator. Problem is there are three other techs who don't like the decisions he makes and bad-mouth him to anyone who will listen.

They also refused to work in the same office with him (they carved out their own work area in another building). It took an order from the superintendent to force them to start showing up at the Tech Center.

They are now complaining that their allergies are being aggravated by the air in the building (tests have been done and the building got a clean bill of health). I'd like to see these people gone so we could get some people in here that could work with us as a team. Any ideas on how to help the boss torpedo them?

I suggest you let them go enjoy their allergies in another building. But not the original building they wanted. How about a small building next to the garbage dump out in back of the steaming landfill two miles away from headquarters? How about a basement room in the building where they test flammable material on children's clothing? These guys want to be out of the mainstream. Let them.

Who needs them around, anyhow, badmouthing you and the boss? You're loyal. You're true. When the productivity of the department falls, make sure to tell everybody who wants to know that the reason is that you have three pieces of floating deadwood bollixing up the works. Don't be shy about it. You are supporting your boss. Your boss has the support of senior management.

Cut these guys away from the herd and then let the wolves get at them. Don't lose the headcount, though. You want to replace them when they've moved along to the place where lazy, insubordinate jerks go.

I am a manager for an insurance company and have been with the company in various capacities for about 13 years. The culture at my company is very good and the pay and benefits are a little above average for the industry.

Over the past 2-3 years we have been growing fast and to meet demand I have been given many duties usually handled by the staff that I manage. We have been told that to control costs, we are not hiring any new employees. My staff are excellent workers but they are completely maxed out and cannot take on more without risk of them leaving.

Right now, 90% of my job is doing the same work that my staff normally do and 10% doing management work that I want to do and feel my department needs. Training, developing, planning, improving department efficiency, etc - it has all taken a back seat to just doing the work. I see no end to this in sight.

I have brought this up to my boss and she just says that things should get better, but it never does. I guess that so long as I do the work I enable her to continue as is. So what I am trying to decide this: Leave a company with a good culture where I have invested a significant amount of time in search of better career opportunity, OR tough it out in the hope that some day I will be able to be a manager again.

I am starting to gear up for the job search process but hope that you may give me some new insight to consider. Thanks.

Honestly, there are two schools of thought on this subject, and you've laid it out nicely. It depends 100% on your psychological make-up. Are you a risk-taker? Do you like the feeling of not knowing who you'll report to, who will report to you? Do you savor the challenge of starting new things at a very high level? If so, you may want to start thinking about alternatives to your happy if over-worked home.

If, on the other hand, you're like me -- a person who would rather be aggravated, overworked, anxious and stressed-out than flying out there in the wild blue yonder -- you may want to have patience, enjoy your culture and work your butt off in a place you've come to know and love over a period of years. I can't tell you how many full years -- half a decade at one point -- I've been bummed about my company, my work, my boss, etc. And then one day the axis of the earth shifted a little and things got better.

Today I'm annoyed 84.5% of the time, and I wouldn't change my job for anything other than an extended stay on a long, sandy beach. Read your letter to me again. Look how you mention the culture several times. Do you know how rare it is for a person to like their culture? Think about that before you leap. And then, if you still find yourself wondering whether this is all there is to life? Leap. To top of page

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