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15 Sure-Fire Ways to Make Dealing With You a Real Chore
(work edition)

by Alan Benson, who is, himself, a chore to deal with

One of the primary focuses of workplace reform has been empowerment. Everywhere you look, employees are throwing off the shackles of irrelevance and contributing their own ill-advised voices to the din of suggestions flying around every corporate board. Employees have learned that they matter, that they are more than just cogs in the wheel, that they are finally taken seriously.

Which is all fine and good, I suppose. But what about those of us who don't WANT to be taken seriously? What about those of us who just clock in, coast, and leave each day? What about those of us who are only doing this until our stupid sketch comedy group takes off? What about those of us — and there are a lot of us out there — who are just working for the weekend, who are just needing a new romance? Who are inexplicably making references to a 20-something-year-old song because, dammit all, Outkast just doesn't focus on the working schlub enough?

There is hope. After months of experimentation in the advanced research facility known as "my job," I have discovered the antidote to empowerment. With one simple step, you can guarantee yourself a worklife devoid of all thought. It's so simple, I almost feel bad that I'll be charging you $80 to read about it. (Note, by reading the previous sentence, you have indicated your agreement with the Van Gogh-Goghs, text licensing agreement and any payments arising therefrom.) Money orders only, please.

While I wait for the buckage to start rolling in, I'll share with you the secret of avoiding empowerment. Basically, the workers of today are victims of a multi-year screwjob. Ever since the dawn of the modern workplace #151; when that first eight-year-old miner clambered out of the pits around Newcastle, wiped the coal dust from his face, and said "hey, I don't think my boss appreciates my input" — employees have griped about wanting to be taken seriously. And damn it all, here we are 100 years later with bosses looking searchingly into our eyes while discussing new market initiatives.

After putting up with this crapola for one project requirement meeting too many, I decided to take action. For the past two months, I have been experimenting with how to avoid being asked to participate in "molding the future of the company." And, after several failed trials (the less said about trial number 413, a.k.a. Project "can I touch you there?" the better), I have found the secret.

If you want to live an unmolested work life, if you want to never be invited to team-building sessions or "brain dumps," if you dream of being the person who makes everyone wonder what it is you actually DO, the answer is simple: Make every interaction with you a chore.

Easy, huh? Not quite. If I could borrow a phrase from the box for that game Othello, being a chore takes a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master. But I won't — those guys sue at the drop of a hat. (Especially, as I learned last summer, when the hat is 20 feet wide, made of rebar, and positioned directly over the front door of a certain game manufacturer's office.)

All haberdashery aside, becoming the kind of person who is a chore to deal with is a fine line to walk. Too far on one side, and you're spending every Wednesday morning talking about Ma and Pa with the company therapist (a.k.a. the best-educated HR functionary). Too far on the other, and you're taking notes at an offsite. You want to hit that ideal note that sings "this guy's a little weird, but he does his job," not "I imagine this guy tortures puppies" or "what a charming eccentric!"

So, in the interest of sharing the wealth of laziness with my underachieving brethren and sistren, I give you 15 ways to make dealing with you a real chore for your coworkers:

  1. During meetings, insist that they take roll call. Very smugly and pointedly say "present!"
  2. Always contest the minutes.
  3. If anyone ever disagrees with you, cry. All day.
  4. Any time you have to tell someone something, flinch dramatically when they start to answer.
  5. Four words: "Talk to the hand." No, seriously, talk to your hand! Even better, have your hand play the part of a coworker who has just made a suggestion, and mock it furiously.
  6. During meetings, try to talk more than 85 percent of the time.
  7. Whenever a new subject comes up, say "wait a minute, what's this again?" and insist that they explain the entire backstory.
  8. During meetings, dictate the minutes using voice recognition software. Make lots of obvious mistakes.
  9. Never use anyone's real name, just a one-line description of them. For example, here's a perfectly acceptable conversation: "Hey, it's fat guy!" "Hi woman who's sleeping with her assistant! The gal who looks vaguely like Ed Asner and I were going to grab lunch."
  10. Insist that the company use code names for every project, then constantly forget or confuse the code names you create.
  11. During meetings, pop any of the following: Your gum, your joints, your tongue, someone on the head.
  12. Whenever someone mentions a new project, ask them how it relates to the company's core mission. When they explain, look bored.
  13. Always bring handouts and build at least an hour of "reading time" into each meeting.
  14. Complain about "data softness" and suggest that everyone put all their reports in spreadsheet form. When they do, let them know that spreadsheets are hard to read.
  15. Whenever someone is calling in via speakerphone, ask the caller if he or she "got all that" after every person speaks. If the person on the phone pauses even a microsecond before answering, launch into a rambling and mostly incorrect synopsis.

  16. Follow these rules, and before you know it, you'll be passed over for meetings, focus groups, and team sessions. Oh, and promotions, but with any gain comes a little pain, right?

© copyright 2001 The Van Gogh-Goghs