I’m not too great at being an office drone, even if I’ve been doing it for nearly seven years now. Something about working for some CEO whose office is the entire top floor of some giant building that is over an hour and a half away from where I work on a normal basis…well, it still just seems odd to me. And that’s coming from a guy who worked for a year under a supervisor and entire team that I still haven’t met.
So, perhaps its with this somewhat cynical eye toward how a corporation works that causes me to be amused when they talk about their Corporate Culture. I’m well aware that corporate culture is just another one of those buzzwords to try to make employees feel more connected to their workplace by defining a set standard of protocols and decorum with which these same employees are expected to follow. I get it. I also know that when you’re dealing with an international corporation, very few cultural ideals will truly be able to become completely homogenized throughout.
But you’ll find that there is a corporate culture…a set of items that pervade corporations to truly create a culture of corporate life…things I don’t believe would have ever come into existence if it weren’t for corporations.
For instance…pay attention to how folks will respond to an inappropriately routed e-mail…If an inappropriately routed e-mail is routed ‘correctly’, it can cause a spamstorm of amazing reactions. People who are not knowledgeable enough about such things (you know, like looking at whom the e-mail was actually addressed to) will immediately respond with comments about how they are the wrong person and this should be routed to another person…sometimes offering up the information for another person within the company with a same/similar name…and oddly enough, generally providing a fair amount of background on the person as well.
After those folks, you’ll get the people who start responding with requests to be removed from the offending distribution list, as, of course, these people believe that removing themselves from this list will get them off the already 100 e-mail strong list of e-mails…not to mention the fact that anyone who might be reviewing these e-mails for such requests would have already lost this e-mail in the enormous pile of new e-mails that have been sent in the last 5 minutes.
Once you start getting these, you see the next section…my personal favorite section of these responders…the angry ones. Okay, so maybe they’re not actually angry per se, but they really want this whole thing to stop, so of course, their number one method of getting it to stop is to tell everyone how to stop the string. Of course, the number one way to stop an e-mail string like this is for everyone to stop sending e-mails to the e-mail string. Amusingly enough, this third phase of the epically inappropriately routed e-mail string is the one that lasts the longest, which is, quite simply, hundreds/thousands of people using the Reply to All button to tell everyone not to use the Reply to All button (as commented on by Morpheus above).
This is when you can expect to see the real fun. Folks are now clever enough to make it a game, seeing what they can do to incite further e-mails, as well as sending along clever little things like the image above, or, another personal favorite, simply an image of M.C. Hammer. Things start taking a rather odd turn once you get to this point where you have a collection of all these 4 phases still going together as though no one has noticed any of the other e-mails (except, of course, for the trolls that appear in phase four). Okay, so, no, they’ve obviously noticed them, but they haven’t read a single one of them, as their responses are completely useless.
Of course, that’s not accounting for the fifth group of people, who don’t actually have their own phase, because they begin to appear from the start. They’re a rather small group, but they’re the ones who actually want to help you. From responding helpfully to the person who initiated the epic e-mail string, to telling others how to relieve the stress of getting so many e-mails, these folks actually spend a fair amount of time trying to assist in fixing the situation as a whole, although their efforts are generally unheard by the populace at large.
There is a sixth group of people, of course. The ones who get the e-mails, get either annoyed or mildly amused by them, and then delete them.
And finally, there’s the seventh group, what I assume to be the smallest portion…the ones like me, who have to read through every single one of the 600+ e-mails to make sure they don’t miss out on any of the action. Sure, we might skim, and of course we’re just looking to see if anyone has a major fit over the whole thing, but we’re curious, and willing to waste a little time on the clock to see it through to the end.
This, my friends, is the true corporate culture. Take a couple of your data analysts to compile the actual numbers from an epic e-mail string and you’ll find that the first four groups are probably fairly equal in size, the fifth and seventh groups are relatively small, and the sixth are probably the largest of them all. Get a few shrinks in there and you could see what makes each of these groups tick.
But in the end, you’ll see that this is precisely what the culture of a corporation is. Because, ultimately, a culture is just the definition of how a societal group reacts to a situation…and e-mail is really the only way corporate goons like myself have as a communal outlet. And how do we react? By wasting a heckuva lot of time on something that was truly an unintentional button press.
Our culture isn’t that we are filled with integrity with all of our decision making…it’s that we are a group of people whose lives revolve around our e-mail, and, for many of us, trying to keep from getting more e-mail…plain and simple.
Go Corporate America!
Have fun out there!