50 shades of a dysfunctional workplace

Shade 1: Your employee handbook was created 10 years ago by a long-gone receptionist who couldn’t spell well.
Shade 2: Most employees are unsure where the bulk of the company’s revenue comes from. Or worse, they don’t care.
Shade 3: Mandatory meetings are optional, depending on who you are.
Shade 4: A group lunch lasts 2 hours, 45 minutes and two or more employees don’t even come back to work at all.
Shade 5: The boss rewards all underperformers with less work.
Shade 6: The underperformers’ work gets shifted to hard workers.
Shade 7: You’re losing hard workers at an uncanny rate. You don’t know why.
Shade 8: The company’s mission statement is professionally painted on the conference room wall, but not one employee could recite it without looking at it.
Shade 9: The few who do look at it are not really sure what it means.
Shade 10: Your “catch a co-worker going above and beyond” program fizzles in a week.
Shade 11: The boss goes on a two-week vacation and the staff learns about it through the grapevine.
Shade 12: Attendance becomes optional because of Shade 11.
Shade 13: There’s an unwritten rule that says certain male employees are not to mentor young female interns.
Shade 14: Your Halloween party has a “sexiest costume” category.
Shade 15: George in accounting won it.
Shade 16: Employees seemed to be taking copious notes on their smartphones during a PowerPoint presentation, but few could give you any details about it later.
Shade 17: Somebody really is eating the broken halves of doughnuts.
Shade 18: An all-staff email that says “Pizza in the breakroom” means it’s cold and left over from another department’s long meeting.
Shade 19: There’s a mad dash to the breakroom.
Shade 20: No one knows where the key is to the lock on the suggestion box.
Shade 21: “We have a suggestion box?”
Shade 22: Your office swear jar has a sign above it that says “F-bombs $1, all other curses 50 cents.” It doesn’t reduce the crusty language, but it keeps the Keurig machine supplied.
Shade 23: Your “Employee of the Month” award goes to Jack, for his ability to shake the hung-up Cheetos bags out of the breakroom vending machine.
Shade 24: When employees hit age 50, they get treated to a birthday bash with a sheet cake that says “Over the Hill” in shiny blue icing. A Spencer’s gag gift tops it off.
Shade 25: For the employees the boss likes, their annual goals are calibrated down to their skill levels.
Shade 26: For the employees the boss doesn’t like, the goals are calibrated beyond their skill levels.
Shade 27: The front desk is out of expense account forms and mileage sheets.
Shade 28: But not so when it comes to duck sauce and soy packets.
Shade 29: A one-hour meeting produces nothing but the need for another one-hour meeting next week.
Shade 30: The boss either hears a legitimate complaint or a whine, depending not on what was said, but who said it.
Shade 31: Customers and clients are seen as nuisances (see Shade 2).
Shade 32: No one has defined flex time, so everything is a free-for-all in comings and goings.
Shade 33: Employees’ laughs and jokes are at the boss’s expense, behind her back of course.
Shade 34: Romance and infidelity are rife, and there’s a code of honor among employees; they all know what to tell a person who phones in asking about his or her significant other.
Shade 35: Employees all chip in for a pile of Lotto tickets, and the boss is in, too.
Shade 36: The boss sees someone with a different opinion as having a bad attitude.
Shade 37: He’s right about the bad attitude, but the different opinion has nothing to do with it.
Shade 38: Workers shun the products or services they produce. “I can’t see why anyone would buy this stuff.”
Shade 39: Collaboration is almost nonexistent. Employees are quiet, introverted and sullen. Time for a morale-boosting game.
Shade 40: Morale-boosting games produce groans. Scrap them.
Shade 41: Weird things in the breakroom fridge, and employees put their names on them, as if someone is going to take Mike B.’s half-eaten tub of week-old chili by mistake … or on purpose.
Shade 42: Workers lobby for a dress-down Friday, when they never really dressed up much Monday through Thursday.
Shade 43: Power outage longer than 40 minutes? We’re out of here. For the rest of the day.
Shade 44: Boss starts telecommuting on Fridays. Soon, Mondays too.
Shade 45: Every employee believes the place can’t function without them.
Shade 46: The boss sometimes wonders how the place is functioning with them.
Shade 47: The required federal and state labor law posters are covered up with a softball sign-up sheet, a Girl Scout Cookie form, a “free kittens to a good home” notice and an unclaimed winter mitten.
Shade 48: Employees are acutely aware of the time their co-workers arrive in the morning, take lunch and return, and leave at the end of the day.
Shade 49: They’re also aware of how long it takes a teleworker to respond to an email (more than 20 minutes? Then you must be goofing off).
Shade 50: When the boss says the new hire is a good fit, it’s code for, “He’s just as weird as you people.”


Cal Butera is the editor of Business Management Daily’s Office Manager Today, Manager’s Legal Bulletin, Managing People at Work and Communication Briefings newsletters. He has been with Business Management Daily since 2007 and worked 22 years for midsize daily newspapers as sports writer, news reporter, layout and design editor, copy editor and city editor.