I even bore myself.
Don’t even start reading my previous post about saving the court unless you have a full pot of strong coffee by your side, and don’t blame me if you fall asleep anyway and bump your head on your keyboard. I always start out with good intentions — I think I have an important topic to discuss, and I want to be pithy and punchy and quick and easy. You know: impactful, so as to actually have some effect on the reader. Alas, I don’t have that gift, and I end up meandering around the subject, bringing in side issues and going off on tangents. By the time I’m done I have to drag my thesis kicking and screaming back to center stage and make up some conclusion — which now seems artificial and forced and unsupported by all the stuff I’ve gotten into.
But there is one writerly thing I’ve figured out here at my crummy job in the past few months: how to sign an email to your fellow employees.
As I’ve reported here numerous times, I work for HugeCorp, a giant, heartless, marginally criminal organization. I wish I could be more specific, but they are probably logging my keystrokes, so I have to be vague. Someday I’ll start a new blog, anonymously, and really expose the doings of this company. But I digress, as always.
Because operational orders in a company this size (Fortune 100, you know) usually come from people you don’t know who work in some other state and don’t, in fact, know what you are doing or what they are talking about, you have to sort of make up your own work plan. This involves a certain amount of grudging cooperation between you and the other drones at your workplace. HugeCorp hires from the outside to fill the high-paying jobs, so nobody really cares at all about the good of the company, or doing things efficiently, or in any way trying to help anybody else with their daily drudgery, because it’s all about the paycheck and then going out to par-tay on Friday night.
Every now and then I think of some perfectly easy thing that one of my colleagues can do, some way they can file a report or make a journal entry or some damn thing that will cost them nothing in effort or time but might save me hours of spinning my wheels trying to get the same thing done two days later, after all the original data has been forgotten or filed away. To this end I have to sidle up to the colleague in question, open a “friendly” conversation, get down on the floor and roll onto my back, showing my belly in a display of submission, and make the gentlest possible suggestion that they might want to try doing this certain task this way instead of that way.
It’s just coincidence, of course, but most of the time my suggestions turn out to be for the good of the company. I couldn’t care less about that, but three months later, when no one has complied with my request and they are denying to the controller that I ever even mentioned it, I really wish I had made my request in an email instead in the humiliating groveling way described above. That way I could prove that I was a good employee with only the good of the company at heart, and get somebody else in trouble, to boot. Win-win, I say.
So now I email, and here’s (finally!) the insight I set out to tell you about.
Email can be impersonal, and folks can easily get an attitude about your email telling them how to do their job. Not that I am doing that, but that’s how it’s interpreted by my one-track nose-to-the-grindstone worker bee drone colleagues. I was getting nowhere at first with my emails. Sure, I was generating the evidence I’d need down the road when it was time to get people in trouble, but I wasn’t getting anything done right now, because, you know, that ‘tude thing.
Then I started signing my emails with an exclamation point! All of a sudden my garden of happy cooperation is flowering! I have no more affection for these people or enthusiasm for my crummy job than I ever did, but when I add that exclamation point, everything just warms up! People want to help me!
Dear Obnoxious Fellow Worker,
I know you’re so self-absorbed that you barely even know I work here with you, but I was wondering if for once in your life you could think of someone else and let me know right away when HugeCorp sends you a new Field Bulletin, so I can begin my compliance effort.
You see how that works? No matter what tone I take, that friendly little “Thanks!” at the end makes everything all right. I admit, this example is a little extreme, but for the average email that I send around here, I find that if I just say “Thanks!” at the end nobody comes storming into my office to tell me that they just don’t have enough goddamned time to add one more task to their daily routine, no matter how much it would improve the workflow, or (more likely) just passive/aggressively ignores my email.
So I get action, and I get the documentation I’ll need in the personnel investigation when I’m accused of not being a team player. As I said, win-win!