Wednesday, August 29, 2007


So a part of my job involves attending the weekly staff meeting at our office. It sucks, because its the one day a week I have to get up early. (I tend to schedule all my appointments later in the day because I usually find myself working until 8 pm, so I like to put off starting my day as late as possible.) But they tell us that the staff meetings are really important, even if they don't seem all that important once we're there.

Occasionally we might get a helpful tip on how to deal with certain clients, or an extra tidbit of information about a new resource, but usually it consists of a supervisor lecturing us on professionalism or the importance of getting our paperwork in on time. The lectures on professionalism always bother me because while lecturing us on professional conduct, they always interject that we've built up a pretty damn good reputation for professionalism when dealing with people on the job, which kind of renders the professionalism lecture moot.

Today we started getting the standard professionalism schpiel, but then they had the head of HR come up and start talking about harassment and discrimination... UH OH.

Knowing that when we are blowing off steam in the office my coworkers and I are some of the most politically incorrect people who make some of the most horrendously inappropriate comments, I prepared myself for the worst.
[It should be noted that when making inappropriate statements, it is NEVER in front of the client we are speaking about, the comments are not racially charged or anything of that nature. (i.e. - "That bitch is CRAZY!" or "Hey, what are you doing? Looking at the sex offender registry? Oh, so I see you're trying to find someone new to date!") But we are very well known for cracking jokes about otherwise VERY SERIOUS topics, such as child molestation, child abuse, people's mental health status, drug use, etc. which to someone not in a social service job, would be incredibly wrong, but for us, it's just blowing off steam, because we see some fucked up stuff in this business, and we have to find a way to deal... But I digress.] It was one of those lectures where I (and upon later discussion, many other coworkers) felt that the lecture was rather pointed... And we all thought it was pointed at a few of us in particular. This feeling extended so far as to make the boss' son uncomfortable... and I'm not making any judgments on nepotism in the office, but I'm pretty sure that he's pretty much bulletproof, and even he felt that embarrassing heat of feeling that generalized statements were about him.

It turns out that they were giving us the lecture without informing the statements.

It's a common trend around my office for people to just kind of "disappear." One day they work there, and then another day, POOF! They are gone. There is VERY SELDOM any mention of the person no longer working there, no mention if they were fired, quit, or left on good terms to pursue some other goal. It is more than a little disconcerting. And since the staff meeting is really the only time that the whole staff is assembled en masse, this is the only time for us to really notice when people turn up missing, and with a staff so large, it's common for people to occasionally miss a meeting here and there, so most of the time it's not really noticed until a little while later.

After the meeting a few of us were sitting in one of the back rooms in the office where we tend to congregate, my phone rang. It was one of the coworkers who I regularly joke with...

"Hey, was that meeting more than a little pointed?"
"Umm, with some of the things I said around the office last week, I was just bracing for them to run down a list of names which was sure to include mine, and then just fire a group of us in front of everyone."
"That wouldn't be a short list... We all say stuff we shouldn't. If they were to fire us for things that would have us in court for harassment charges in the corporate world, because we make an off the cuff remark in the office, they would not have much of a staff... and that staff would be really boring!"
"No, I think it was about the things that [redacted] said last week."
"OH SHIT! I didn't even think about that!"
"Wait! He made the 'retarded kid' comment like two or three weeks ago!"
"No, I'm talking about the role-playing exercise LAST WEEK."
"OHHHHH. ...Wait, did you see him in the meeting this morning?"
"No, that's why I was calling you... I wanted to see if you knew anything."
"Hang on... There's an easy way to find out!"
"Oh well, I'll just ca..."
"No... I said hang on a sec... OH WOW. Yeah his name isn't on a mailbox anymore. He must've pissed somebody off."
"His name is gone? ALREADY? WOW."
"Yeah, he's been removed from the mailboxes... YOWZA, that was fast!"

So now the running joke for we inappropriate folk tends to be that whenever we are addressed directly by anyone in the office, no matter what they are saying, we say something to the effect of, "Stop right there! You're making me feel uncomfortable and that's harassment! You're fired!"
"Hey can I borrow your pen for a second?"
"That's harassment and I don't have to take it!"

Personally, I operate under the premise that I am at least moderately offensive to most of the people I encounter on a daily basis. It's just kind of a given for me. As such I've gotten pretty good at knowing who tolerates my brand of humor and who doesn't. I have a gift for feeling people out in a hurry. And I operate on my less offensive level in any questionable or mixed company. Some people just lack that talent I suppose.

But given that the weekly topic of discussion at the meeting was pretty pointed at inappropriate humor, etc. I, along with most of my coworkers, continue operating under conditions of self-imposed censorship. At least until next week's meeting puts a buffer in place.

I hate having to censor myself.


Dan: "Some kid I was doing juvenile mentoring with was being obnoxious... So I just judo chopped him in the face and then yelled at him long enough to destroy his self esteem. I don't know if the case worker will be too thrilled about it, but I felt better!"

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