Very. Important. Bag. Carrier

While the day to day running of “The Firm” was at best comical and at worst suicidal making, special events always managed to bring out the worst in the team.

Managing to get through the day when it was a normal one was hard enough for most of us but the added pressure of a visitor or even worse – an away day – filled our hearts with dread.

One such away day was approaching fast for me, one other minion and a director and the dread was building fast.

We had been hand picked to go on the trip as the two least likely members of staff to kick up a fuss at having to spend an entire day alone with the director.

Middle management was of course far too busy to leave her desk and made a point of tap tapping away even faster than usual to make sure that she could never be considered when the subject came up.

The date was set, the purpose of the mission given and the requirements listed dished out to us in advance.

Sturdy shoes – check

A drink of water – check

Some money for snacks – check

Sun cream to protect our foreign dainty skin – check

The itinerary read like a list from a school trip for a bunch of five year olds but what we hadn’t been told was that this check list was aimed at making sure the director was kept happy and comfortable during his trip out and had little to nothing to do with us at all.

The other hapless minion arrived at the destination and wobbled out of the directors car – the journey having been an experience in itself and one that would never be repeated.  All those digs at tourist drivers and crazed Portuguese motorists were misplaced because the director was a one man death wish when in a vehicle and nobody else came close.

I drove myself.

Upon arrival it became clear that the first minion was to be used as the general translator for the day.  The director himself could speak bar Portuguese (large beer pal) and it wasn’t making any headway at this event so minion 1 was now no longer a trained professional and was simply an expensive and over qualified translator.

I could only wonder what my role would be…it soon became apparent.

My role was to carry the directors bag.

“Take this for a minute sweetie,” he asked in his usual creepy way.

Except it wasn’t a minute and he never once indicated that he had any intention of picking it up again and carrying his huge rucksack himself.

It was pushing 40ºC, there was no shade, I had to carry my own supplies and now I was carrying his – ten steps behind him a lá colonial times.

I was ten steps behind because he was now free to run about and shake hands as minion 1 translated and made the introductions while I lugged the bags and worked up a sweat.

“Do you fancy a spot of lunch – on me?” He asked after a couple of hours.

“Well, that would be nice,” I said, thankful of the rest and a chance to adjust my backpack straps which were in no way complimenting  my professional outfit.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a €10 note which was then waved towards me.

“Go and get me two hot dogs, two cans of coke and then whatever you and her want.”

Thanks.

The queue was enormous and when I finally reached the front I ordered his food and drinks to find there wasn’t even enough money to cover his bill – nevermind food or drink for us.

After scratching around my own bag to pay for his lunch I returned to him where he was trying to schmooze some potential clients, thrust the hotdogs into his chubby little hands and the cokes too then walked off to find my own food.

He was then left trying to stop onions and those weird little crisps they put in every fairground meal in Portugal, from running down his fat face while still trying to impress the now disgusted non-potential clients.

Oh the glamour of working for “The Firm”.

When we returned to the ofice the next day the director was already holding court and recounting the tales of clients won and business completed thanks to his charm and wit.

All I could do was chuckle at the recurring image of this fat little man with ketchup running down his face.

 

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Filed under 2012, algarve, directors, humor, life, office politics

No Smoke Without Fire

Smoking – what a thoroughly horrid habit.

In Portugal the Europe  wide no smoking ban came in and sort of left without really doing what it set out to do in the first place.  This has meant that there are still many bars, clubs and a good few restaurants where you can light up without a second glance being given.

Strong coffee, sweet pastries and thick plumes of smoke are synonymous with Portugal and this old school approach is why many expats, tired of over political correctness and pretending to live a healthy life, come to Portugal to live.

At “The Firm” the directors were hardened smokers, being from the old school themselves, they were still under the impression that smoking didn’t kill (probably because they were unable to read the warnings on the packets of cigarettes).

Until very recently, smoking was permitted within the main office itself but when health and safety laws came in the smoking was moved outside and into the street.

This was a blessing for the smokers who were able to escape at regular intervals to see what was going on in the real world, it was also a blessing for the non smokers who could now work without having to wave their way through the smoke to their desks.

But what is a rule for everyone was not a rule for the directors who would continue to smoke in their own little office and think that if the door was shut then it didn’t matter- they had not worked out that when they opened the door all the smoke would then come out…

It was a 50/50 split in the office of those that did and those that didn’t smoke and all was generally well as nobody took the p*ss and would generally have one cigarette break in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Everything was harmonious until the director who smoked behind closed doors stopped smoking and there is nothing worse than a nicotine deprived megalomania.

First came the self riotous bit, then came the withdrawal, then came the prolonged illness (worse than anyone had ever had in the whole world) and then came the crackdown.

Over a week the director – who had clearly nothing better to do with his very precious time -would time members of staff as they had their cigarette break and it was revealed at the end of the week that the smokers were wasting up to 15 minutes a day of company time smoking.

It was not taken into consideration that the majority of these smokers never took a lunch break, worked extra hours for free or were actually entitled to leave their desks a couple of times each day by law.

The company was to be a no smoking company from then on.

Now smokers were not allowed to be near the office building when partaking of their ritual but they had to run to a spot away from the office and return in record time to avoid being placed on the naughty step.

There had been many occasions when a well timed cigarette had actually saved the company, with members of staff able to calm themselves for a few minutes before doing something silly – like saying what they really thought, or other times when a suggestion of a cigarette had removed the director from a situation which could have made “The Firm” look even more stupid than it usually did.

Luckily for everyone the director with the money and therefore the final say, continued with his 60 a day habit so the overall ruling was made that smoking was still cool at “The Firm”.

Now all that was left for the minions to do was to time their breaks so that they could blow smoke in the face of the director with the smoking stop watch.

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Bring on the lawyers

What happens when you are unable to bully a member of staff into leaving your company?  Well at “The Firm” the answer always lay firmly in the hands of the lawyers.

I have never known a small business that required the assistance of the lawyers as much as “The Firm”.  Lawyers have a terrible reputation but even they are powerless when it came to the will of “The Firm”.

When there was no other way forward then lawyers were needed to act as extra leverage -at what ever financial or business cost.

In the case of the minion that would not resign, middle management turned once again to the directors for a new way to rid her of this problem.

It was decided between those in charge that if they could legally prove that the minion was trouble to everyone then they could fire him, leaving middle management free to be be able to brew up her back story without the minion interfering with this.

While the minion was off on holiday the lawyers, translators and witnesses were brought into the office, masses of briefcases filled the conference room as first there was a meeting with the directors and then each member of staff was called in to give a character report on said minion.

As with all things at “The Firm” it was deemed that us low level workers did not need to know before the interview what the interview would be about – this left us all walking into the room bewildered and walking out even more so.

Questions as to how motivated we thought the minion was, if he was a good worker, if he was a valid member of the team etc were fired off at us without warning.

Luckily, the one thing that “The Firm” were very good at was hiring very qualified people to work – it was only once you were through the door that the truth behind the frosted glass ever showed.  With us all being moderately intelligent we were all quick to see the situation and to say nothing incriminating – even if we wanted to.

It turns out that middle management had expected us all to unleash a tirade of abuse towards the minion and in the end it was only middle management who actually had anything bad to say at all.

Cue plenty of stomping around, huffing, puffing and irate phone calls to family members as once again she was proved to be an idiot.

The lawyers concluded that the minion could not be sacked purely on the basis that middle management just didn’t like him.  The bill was sent, bonuses were cut because of it and the minion remained.

When the minion returned to work he was taken to one side by middle management where it was explained that he had come “dangerously close” to loosing his job (not sure about this).  The minion of course reverted back to type and simply shrugged his shoulders and returned to his computer to play for a bit on YouTube.

Fast forward several years and the incident had never been forgotten by the minion, no matter how hard middle management tried to slip and slide to avoid it ever being brought up in casual conversation.

The meddling, the lawyers and the interviews were always one of the first tales to be recounted to new members of staff as a tale of warning.

I think if you look in the office politics dictionary for “smiling cyanide” there is a little picture of middle management.

You have been warned.

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Minion v’s Management

Removing staff from the work place in Portugal is a tricky matter but “The Firm” of course knew better than the labour laws and would use their own special techniques to get rid of any staff members they felt were nolonger part of the grand plan.

It is illegal to simply sack someone because you don’t like them anymore or because you would rather get in a friend of a friends daughter to do the same job for free.

If you want to sack someone you have to go through the whole written warning process and official paperwork, that is unless one of your workforce does something terrible, which in the case of “The Firm” could be anything from disagreeing with a director, to not saying good morning in a chirpy enough voice to middle management.

When it came to the hiring and the firing it was basically down to middle management (although when ever the brown stuff hit the fan middle management would be adamant in denying all responsibility).

Middle management would plant the seeds in the minds of the directors and then would consistently undermine the member of staff that she wanted to be rid of until action was taken.

There was one particular minion that middle management really disliked, no, middle management really hated.

Over the years the two of them had progressed through the firm and middle management had become the queen bee in charge of all.  The only thing standing between her and total office domination was this one minion.

This minion knew the truth, he had been there at the start when the under qualified member of staff had slept her way through the office and squirmed her way into her lofty position.

This wouldn’t usually be a problem but middle management had created a whole new back story to her rise to power for new members of staff to hear and this pesky minion would systematically undermine her by telling everyone the truth.

The problem was that the minion never did anything to warrant being sacked.

He would always come through the door with 10 seconds to spare, would complete the minimum amount of work needed to meet targets and would nod when he needed to.

But his refusal to resign and move on was the bane of middle managements career and she would stop at nothing to be rid of him.

Luckily for the remaining members of staff (who found this whole dance between the two of them one of the highlights of the working day) the minion would not be put off and was suitably stubborn enough to never give up his one man war against middle management.

But he was fighting a difficult battle as ny possible opportunity that came along and showed the minion to be the horrible person he was would be used by middle management with her usual style.

A passing comment from one of the staff about his efforts would then be taken as a formal complaint which would then be passed on to the directors for action to be taken.

One of the best ones came when the minion was once again off work with “I hate work sickness”.  We all knew the drill and would usually laugh about it but on this occasion middle management probed staff about their feelings on this.

“Well, it is a bit annoying I guess,” was the general response.

“Hmmm” pondered middle management.

When the hated minion returned he was taken for a private meeting with middle management but it wasn’t until weeks later that we found out what had happened.

It transpired that middle management had been conducting official interviews with us about the attitude of the minion, despite her forgetting to tell us this.

From our opinions she had then taken it upon herself to inform the minion that he was HATED by all his co-workers and that he was letting us all down – perhaps he should leave.

We all knew that middle management hated the minion and that she also has a penchant for telling enormous lies but this one was beyond the usual and only demonstrated her irrational desire to remove the minion from her life totally.

Needless to say, the plan did not work, mainly because she had not taken into account the fact that we would talk amongst ourselves and find out the truth and the minion was informed that he was not public enemy number one, far from it – he was a bit of an office hero!

The last time I looked the minion was still sat in the corner of the office, his mission each day to make middle managements life a little more difficult and to avoid being sacked.

Minion: 1

Management: 0

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Lies, Damn Lies, and Middle Management

Working for “The Firm” was hard enough for any minion.  Ridiculous rules, strange office politics and an overwhelming feeling that every aspect of your life was constantly being monitored made each day more than tiresome.

Luckily there were other minions to laugh at the ludicrous situation we all found ourselves in, unluckily we had middle management who were on a personal mission to make each day that little bit more difficult.

At “The Firm” a position of authority was not awarded on the basis of things like merit, qualifications or experience.  Instead directors were directors because they either bought the title or pulled in family favours and middle management was not much different.

Having a job simply because you are the weakest member of staff and therefore the easiest for the directors to manipulate was a precarious position to be in and middle management, despite their stupidity, had managed to realise this.

The only way to combat the fact that middle management couldn’t actually do their job and that the rest of us could do it with our eyes closed, was to pull the rank card at every opportunity.

On more than one occasion she would turn bright red when challenged by one of us minions and shout “You will respect me!”

Demanding respect doesn’t usually work, that old chestnut of having to earn it though did not apply to her of course.

Yet demands would be made and we would snigger as she flapped up and down telling a room of people how important she was and how we should all show her respect.

When this didn’t work other measures had to be taken to make sure that we all followed her lead and more importantly, did all of her work to make sure that she looked competent.

After one period of members of staff generally ignoring what she told us to do (she could do her own work herself it was commonly decided) a director was then brought in for us to behave.

At any meeting she chaired one director would be brought in to shout at any member of staff who would not comply with all of her orders.  It turned out that she had gone crying (literally) to the directors about this lack of respect problem and that the answer would be to have a director present at all meetings to make sure we all listened and if we didn’t we would be given an official warning.

I would like to make it clear that we did always listen to the suggestions she made and the only opposition we would put  up was when were asked to do things that were, well, stupid really.  Unfortunately middle management had a lot of stupid ideas that we all knew were unworkable, so opposition was regular.

But even the intervention of the directors to hold her hand and call us to order would not always work and this is when her favourite tactic would come in.  If at first you don’t succeed – then lie.

I’m not talking little white lies that we ll tell, I’m talking about huge whoppers that had been cooked up to make us look borderline certifiable as we would protest our innocence.

“Who is responsible for this mistake?” The directors would ask

“Not me,” replies middle management, “I think it was a problem in another department.  I wish they could be more professional.”

This was an outright lie and we would be left open mouthed at the sheer audacity of it all.

Why didn’t we fight back, why did we let her get away with it?

Well, firstly we wanted to take the whole higher moral ground and not sink to these school yard levels and secondly, when we did protest she would only dig her feet in and make us look even more incompetent.

None of us knew which director she was giving lip service to (?)  to always be given the benefit of the doubt while I always suspected that she knew some hideous secret about “The Firm” that kept the directors agreeing with her but needless to say, this practice of the worst form of management skills resulted in one of the fastest turn overs of staff known within the  entire Algarve.

Not one of us cited middle management as the reason for leaving but all of us that left “The Firm” did so knowing that if we ever saw her crossing the road we would probably speed up.

 

 

 

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Big Brother is Watching You – Part II

On the dark day when we were all told that we were going to have our wages cut but work load increased we were all reassured that we wouldn’t be made homeless because we could make up the loss in earnings by finding other additional work.

This was a very kind offer from “The Firm”, to be given permission to earn money for any work we did outside of the company and many of us went away thinking that at least we would be able to try and earn a bit of cash to keep us all afloat.

What we weren’t informed of by “The Firm” was that although they had told us that we were allowed to do extra work they wanted to know about it and would like to think about if it was suitable extra work or not.

This became evident as some of us went on our merry way to look for a spot of part time work to pay the bills.

People do not live in the Algarve generally to make their millions, most people work stupidly long hours with no holidays, breaks, benefits or even days off during the summer for very little money.  Bearing this in mind you have to realise that any extra work that us minions may do would never amount to very much extra money.

One member of the team took up a bar job a couple of nights a week.  This was considered to be suitable be “The Firm”  and they would only sigh a little when she would come in to work tired after working until 2am to then be in work again for 8am.

It was suitable because this minion was young and it was seen as “a bit of fun” for her.  On speaking to said minion I am not sure if she too would have described it in this way but she was safe because it was suitable extra work.

There were other forms of work that were not deemed to be suitable.

Many of us at “The Firm” had specialist jobs and were looking for extra work in these fields and when the door was held open for us by the directors this was sa chance to go and see what was out there without fear of being dismissed for simply thinking we might want to work elsewhere.

One of the minions managed to land some part time work doing the same as they did within the company which was initially greeted with applaud by the directors to then only be slated as being disloyal to the company.

When the directors were reminded that they were the ones who told us to go and get work they response was typical to “The Firm”

“We said you could get work, but not that sort of work.”

It was then detailed the type of jobs qualified, experienced professionals were allowed to do outside of “The Firm”.  The jobs on the list were as follows:

1. Waiter

2. Barman

3. Cleaner

4. Baby sitter

No other jobs could be taken by staff in case it jeopardised the company in anyway.  I am not sure how having the majority of the full time staff working as waiters and bar staff was going to give a good impression of the company though…

The best out of hours work was taken up by the minion that was already permanently on the naughty step with the directors.  This minion had been dabbling in online gambling for several months but was upping the stakes and taking part in events in casinos.

The minion was once asked to do work for “The Firm” out of hours at a weekend (without pay or time off may I add) and he refused on the grounds that he would be busy.

“Doing what?” Demanded the director.

“I have a competition at the weekend that I will be taking part in.”

“No you don’t”.

“Well, erm, yes I do actually.”

“But I didn’t know that you did that.”

“Oh, I am sorry I didn’t realise I had to tell the company.”

“Well it would be courteous for you to let us know.  We do take an interest in our staff,” said the director.

When the director had gone and said minion was at the loo, middle management sauntered over to the rest of us.

“Did any of you know about this casino thing?”

We all nodded and kept staring at our computer screens.

“Well in future you need to let me know about this sort of activity so I can check if it is alright with the directors.”

I could only think of one response to that, I think it falls into the category of “sex and travel”.

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Filed under 2012, algarve, atmosphere, directors, humor, insults, office, office politics, portugal, redundancy

Official secrets act?

I would like to make it clear that although the directors and management at “The Firm” believed that the company was probably the most important in the Algarve and possibly Europe, the rest of the world were not of the same opinion.

Regardless of how important the company believed they were they continued to rule over employees and even clients with a dictatorial big stick.

“The Firm” were constantly convinced that everyone was trying to cheat them, do them over and generally trying to undermine their company.  This probably was due to the fact that this is what they were trying to do to everyone else and had very little bearing on reality – which was that nobody really cared enough to try and bring them down (they were doing a good enough job themselves).

Part of the policy of “The Firm” included an extremely convoluted official secrecy act.

This very long winded document was produced one day and emailed to us all for us to then come in to the directors office and sign that we were in agreement with it.

You may be forgiven for thinking that “The Firm” was in some way linked to government, the police of perhaps NASA but I can assure you they were just a regular small business in the Algarve run by over important directors.

We all read the secrecy act and were immediately struck by the seriousness of it all.  We were informed that failure to sign the document would result in us no longer being able to work for the company but we were allowed to ask questions if we had any.

I had many questions – not least about the legality of such a document.

We were told that secrets within the company fell into different categories of seriousness with high level secrets being ones told to us by the directors and not being able to be told even to colleagues.

Lines in the document such as “pillow talk about the company will not be accepted” raised a few giggles while others such as “no person employed by the company may take up a position with a rival company for at least 12 months after leaving” filled us with astonishment.

The majority of us (we us minions that is) were qualified to do very specific jobs that could only be used within the industry we were already in and according to “The Firm” everyone was a rival to them.

Middle management had nothing to worry about here being as they were qualified to do nothing and could get a job as a receptionist anywhere if they wanted.

When I questioned the director about the document I was told to not over think the document  - even when I pressed about the not being able to work for anyone else for a year after leaving.

“Why do you have to make this more complicated than it is?” I was told.

“Well would it be alright if I showed it to a lawyer friend of mine.  I don’t want to find myself in breach of contract at any point.”

“This is a secret document and it cannot be shown to anyone”

“So is it legally binding?”

“Erm….just sign it.”

I spoke to a lawyer who pointed out that being forced to sign a document in order to keep a job really wasn’t the done thing while the fact that it wasn’t witnessed by anyone, was only in English, hadn’t been notorised and was a huge load of bull sh*t made it irrelevant.

Needless to say, members of the team did leave/were made redundant and all went on to work for rival companies and nothing ever happened from this -perhaps due to the factthat the company had run out of money and could not afford to get the lawyers involved anymore.

What “The Firm” failed to realise was that nobody cared about what they were up to and rival companies only liked to hear about plans so they could have a quick laugh over a coffee – and they usually found out directly from the horses mouth anyway.

There are no secrets in the Algarve anyway and “The Firm” was, and never will be important enough for anyone to worry about (apart from by the directors of course).

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Facebook and The Firm

Facebook and work are two elements that should never usually be mixed.

Who can resist just looking at one more status update or playing one more round on those highly addictive games?

At “The Firm” where the ins and outs of Facebook were still largely unknown to the directors until very recently, we were allowed to access Facebook on our computers with the understanding that nobody would take the p*ss and spend all day coming up with witty statuses.

Every now and then we would actually need to use Facebook to get contacts of clients and generally it was accepted that Facebook was not the biggest enemy in the office – the biggest enemy being the general level of apathy of course.

There was one occasion when a minion was reprimanded for spending most of the day on Facebook – the error of the minion being that they were friends on Facebook with a member of middle management who could not wait to detail all the time spent on Facebook during the working day and then send this off to the directors.

The minion was on the naughty step for at least a week and got round any problems in the future by un-friending said member of middle management.  This meant the minion could continue to play on Facebook all day but now there was no proof.

“The Firm” managed to make the use of Facebook another form of repression of us simple workers.

This social networking site that was created to link people together became a tool of horridness as soon as one of the directors realised that the whole world was on Facebook.

It wasn’t long before friend requests were being sent to us from the directors and requests for us to “like” the company pages were coming in.

Of course we all ignored these requests – learning from the previous minion who had been caught out by being friendly in the past.  But ignoring was not an option.

An email was sent through to all the workers at “The Firm” asking us all politely but firmly, to “like” the company pages and to then suggest these pages to our friends.

“You do not have to like our page but you must realise that if we have more Facebook fans then it is better for the company as a whole”

No pressure then.

It was the classic -”we are doing this for your own good, to save your jobs and to keep the money coming in for your wages”.

Still none of us liked the pages and we certainly did not suggest the pages to friends (most of us tried to pretend we didn’t work at “The Firm” in the first place and this would be a sure fired way to let people know where we were going each day).

There was one person however who had made friends with some of the directors, this minion had not really understood the premise of Facebook and that friends could look at everything you did on Facebook.

One day a director came in screaming and shouting.

“Where the f*ck is Minion A?”

“Erm, I think she is at her computer already.”

Director storms off, walks up to minion A and begins a tirade along the lines of “you f*cking stupid woman, how f*cking irresponsible, how could you do this to us”

We all sat in silence, stunned as to what minion A could have possibly done to deserve such a shouting at.

The director came back through to let us know and to warn us all not to make the same mistake in the future.

It turns out that Minion A had written on her status something along the lines of: 22 weeks, craving chocolate.  This was one of those status updates that occurred each year to raise awareness about breast cancer that thousands of women each year do to basically confuse men and raise awareness about brest cancer.

Being a charitable gesture Minion A had stupidly thought that this would be acceptable and she also thought that being as she did this outside of work that it had nothing to do with “The Firm”.

How wrong she was.

“What a f*cking stupid thing to do,” shouts the director at us.

“Did any of you know about this?”

Silence (as usual)

“Well may I suggest that the next time any of you think about writing something stupid on your Facebook status that you first think about what we may think about this.  I have been worried all weekend thinking we would have to find some maternity cover thanks to this stupid thing on Facebook.”

We had been warned and it was now very clear that Facebook and “The Firm” did not mix – even when you were miles away from the office and living that thing some people refer to as a personal life.

At “The Firm” we did not fear Big Brother because we knew that he could never be as controlling or all seeing as the directors at “The Firm”.

 

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A question of tea

I’m sure every office in the world has issues with tea and the making of it and you can be sure that “The Firm” had its own special problems in this area.

Office politics are never greater than when it comes to the making of tea.

When I first started at “The Firm” I was proudly shown the tea making area of the office, a space at the back of the office that constantly smelt of sh*t thanks to the never ending drainage problems and it being located right next to the offending toilets.

In the little kitchen where the paint was falling off the walls and the damp problem made the it difficult to breathe, there were some mugs for coffee and FREE tea bags and coffee for employees.

Also in this area was a fridge that was never cleaned and contained what could only be described as science projects that used to be yoghurt I think.  On top of the fridge there was a microwave that involved taking your life into your own hands as it sparked and spluttered each time you inserted food inside – perhaps it was allergic to the office too.

I foolishly on my first day went and made myself a cup of coffee and stupidly used the first mug I laid hands on – one with one of those business blue sky thinking phrases on it, the ones you saw on the walls of offices in the 1980′s  - “Within every problem lies opportunity”.

When I sat back down I was given a shooting look from middle management but it wasn’t until later that a minion informed me that this was one of the directors mugs.  It didn’t matter that the director had several mugs or that the director in question was, as usual, not even in the office, nobody was allowed to use it.  Maybe they were worried that I may be overly influenced by the uplifting message and would make a break for it as I realised my opportunity was clearly outside the confines of “The Firm”.

When the mug etiquette had been established it was then down to the other finer details of tea and coffee making in the office.

It worked like this (I only wish someone had told me  about these unwritten rules before I broke them all and ended up in the naughty book).

1. Minions make their own coffee and tea and if anything runs out it is your fault and you probably used everything to annoy the directors.

2. Certain minions also had to make beverages for the directors.  This would involve the directors ringing from their offices 10 metres away and putting in an order.  If the drink was not dispatched within 5 minutes then trouble was on the horizon.  There were no excuses – like say, doing some work – tea and coffee for them always came first.

3. Minions could make coffee for other minions but no two minions could make a drink at the same time  - this was to stop any interaction between employees that could not be monitored by middle management at all time.

4. Middle management always had priority over the hot water supply and would not let anyone make them a drink or make one for anyone else (no loss there then).

5. Any guests to the office would be offered a drink but ONE only and a minion should make this even if they are busy.

Everything generally ran smoothly with the tea and coffee until the directors needed a drink and there was no minion to make it.  This would result in huffing, puffing and caffeine withdrawal as I never once saw a director make their own drink in all the years I was there.

Problems also occurred when supplies ran out.  Irate shouts would be heard as a director was told there wa no sugar left and a minion would be dispatched immediately to source some of the sweet stuff before a director imploded.

Finally, the biggest issue of the coffee and tea making had to be the cleaning up afterwards.

Since we were all responsible for cleaning and had no one to do it for us we all had to wash our own cups and spoons.  Us minions managed to do this successfully but the very busy directors and middle management never had time to clean up after themselves and so these cups would be left cultivating mould until the big chief director would come into the office and scream at us.

“What is the fu*king mess in the kitchen?”

Silence – as we all knew it was their mess but could never actually say this for fear of being sacked on the spot.

“If the kitchen is not kept clean then coffee and tea privileges will be taken away”

We secretly hoped for the tea and coffee to be removed being as we all brought in our own (the bargain basement coffee granules were impossible to force down – even when you really needed caffeine).  If the tea bags were to go the only people who would suffer would be the directors and we were all up for a bit of that!

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In Sickness and in Health

In the topsy turvy world of “The Firm” some people were allowed to be off work through illness as often as they liked while others were not.

There were three very clear camps within the office when it came to taking days off for sickness:

1. I am a director or a member of the family and can come and go with random illness as I please and without explanation.

2. I am scared of losing my job and therefore will come to work with my arm hanging by the tendons to avoid a sick day.

3. I hate my job but they have not found a way of sacking me yet so I will be off whenever I like.

As the situation at “The Firm” slowly slid towards the edge of the cliff the number of sick days being taken by the directors increased which was a happy misfortune for them as it meant that they were out of the office for more time and were unable to field any awkward questions that may come their way.

Directors and family members did not need doctors notes to ensure they were paid for their days off and their illnesses were always far more severe then anyone elses – hence the need to be off for weeks at a time.

I was considering contacting the medical council at one point because I am sure they are medical miracles being able to withstand such severe illness without hospitalisation.

Luckily for everyone the illnesses of the directors were always cleared up in time for important free lunches – phew.

When a director was ill all of us minions had to make sure that we enquired as to the health of the directors at least once each day. This showed our commitment to “The Firm” and was noted duly by middle management who would call and simper down the phone to our ailing directors while they were feeling under the weather.

On the odd occasion when a director had to come into the office while ill it was important that we all knew the huge sacrifice being made.

We would have to listen to over exaggerated coughing, limping, sneezing and sniffing as the directors would tell us how “Fuc*ing sh*t” they felt every ten minutes or so.  They had to keep on repeating themselves because nobody else in the office had ever been ill before and would surely not understand the difficulties they were facing.

It was better when they were at home.

Then we had the members of the team who had the “sick of work” illness.

These days of illness usually occurred on a Friday or Monday (depending on weekend plans) and would start at the beginning of the week with some coughs and splutters giving notice of impending illness, building into a full blown evil germ disease by Thursday.

We all knew it was utter bull but didn’t really care either way.  Middle management cared but could do nothing about it because the build up was so good it would be hard to disprove and the amount of time taken off work would never reach the limit needed by a doctor to sign off.

Middle management would huff and puff when the call would come in, then pretend to be sympathetic on the phone before immediately calling a meeting with the directors to try and plot another new way to get rid of said member of staff.

And then there were the rest of us poor souls.

In we would come, drugged up on pain killers, running to the loo every ten minutes due to sickness bugs, limping in with a broken rib or coming in tired after a night at the hospital with a child.

While the rest of our “team” were allowed to play sickness bingo we were all threatened with more than the naughty step if we ever dared not to come in to work due to illness.

Sympathy ran as far as “Are you going to get that tooth ache sorted out or what?”

“I need to go during work hours”

“Take more pain killers then”

The best one came when one member of staff with children was called by the school to let her know that her child had chicken pox and needed to be taken home and kept off school for the week.

When the empty chair was noted by one of the directors it was asked what was going on

“She has to fetch her child who is ill”

“Does she not have a f*cking husband to do that”

Cards and flowers for the directors, insults and threats for the minions – classic moves from “The Firm”

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Filed under directors, doctors, humor, illness, insults, life, office, sick days, Uncategorized