How to Create a Company-Wide Panic

 

I have never been a fan of euphemism. I like clarity, while the entire point of euphemism is to blur and to obscure.

Even as long as thirty years ago, I could tell that human resources departments were becoming the automated euphemism dispensers of American corporate life. They are like corporate Xanax for managing employee anxiety.

Thus it was that sometime during the 1980’s or 1990’s—I don’t want to be too specific—while working for a small software startup, I received a euphemism-laden email from our tiny HR team. They were showing an acute sensitivity to being on the ragged edge of whatever hot and trendy topic had captured the enthusiasm of those occupying the world of personnel management. Not that they actually got the essential functions of HR right, far from it. But they were johnny-on-the-spot for anything the cool kids liked.

The e-mail notified all of us that, going forward, we would no longer be referring to husbands, wives, or spouses in any of our personnel forms. Going forward we could expect to see them using the term “domestic partners”. HR departments all over California were sending similar notifications about that time. Which in hindsight amounted to firing the starting pistol, launching the race that culminated in the Supreme Court Obergefell decision on gay marriage in 2015.

What irked me about the HR memo was its imposition of euphemism, combined with the essential dishonesty involved in not being open about what they were actually doing.

So naturally I decided that the HR department should be well and truly mocked, and in public if at all possible.

A friend and colleague at that company, one who was sympathetic with my innate suspicion of euphemism, joined with me and together we settled on a plan. We would commandeer the CEO’s email account, with which we would send our email blast to the entire company. It would appear to have come from the CEO, but its contents would be so obviously a parody of the recent HR email that everyone would immediately realize that it was phony.

All these many years later, I can’t really remember who hacked the email account and who wrote the email itself — the particulars have been lost in the mists of time. But the email went something very much like this:

Dear [Employee Name Here]:

It is vital for the company to stay on the absolute cutting-edge of anything the cool kids are doing in HR. 

In keeping with that priority, we will no longer be referring to anyone as employees. Henceforth, we will all be referred to as “members”.  

Consistent with the privileges that attend such a valuable "membership", there is now a $20 membership fee due and payable.

Please stop by [CEO admin's name here] desk to pay your membership fee just as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Your HR Team

We assumed, of course, that anyone who received this email, so closely on the heels of the original, objectionable memo from HR would immediately recognize it for the parody that it was. We thought the HR team might hate us, but we weren’t crazy about them either. So that possibility didn’t really have any deterring effect at all.

Well, as things transpired, the email went off like bomb throughout the entire company. People were actually ranting — shouting — in the hallways: “I am NOT going to pay to work here!” Soooo many people were up in arms.

Oopps GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

In the end, we weren’t fired, although it may have been a close-run thing behind closed doors. This was well before the internet or computer hacking was recognized as a thing. In those days, hackers mostly occupied themselves with the public phone system. Anyway, from our perspective we had just been playing an innocent prank. It was a very small company, and we were hard-to-find software engineers at the time. So the execs decided to kinda-sorta look the other way, after slapping us on the wrist. To this day I think the CEO was trying not to laugh out loud about it all.

Dress for the Role You Want — Ivey Ink

When all was said and done, only the VP of Sales actually showed up at the admin’s desk and tried to pay his “membership fee”. There was something gratifying about the predictability of this, since my co-conspirator had long referred to him as “a rock with arms”. Our sales VP had never been, alas, the sharpest knife in the drawer.

This then, has been a complete and mostly faithful account of the HR wars gone by: when pranks were funny, and usually no one went to jail.

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 29 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    As promised.

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Keith Lowery: When all was said and done, only the VP of Sales actually showed up at the admin’s desk and tried to pay his “membership fee”. There was something gratifying about the predictability of this, since my co-conspirator had long referred to him as “a rock with arms”. Our sales VP had never been the sharpest knife in the drawer.

    Are you sure this was not Michigan? I knew this guy. . .

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Keith Lowery: This then, has been a complete and mostly faithful account of the HR wars gone by: when pranks were funny, and usually no one went to jail.

    Yeah, I can just imagine today’s response.

    • #3
  4. Joker Member
    Joker
    @Joker

    Seems like a switch was flipped in the mid 90s. Office dwellers could take a joke before, and everything could be a federal case after.

    • #4
  5. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Joker (View Comment):

    Seems like a switch was flipped in the mid 90s. Office dwellers could take a joke before, and everything could be a federal case after.

    That’s one of the main things I despise about wokeness… it’s so damn humorless. I saw it coming back in college, when a common joke was, “How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” “That’s Not Funny!”

    • #5
  6. Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    Joker (View Comment):

    Seems like a switch was flipped in the mid 90s. Office dwellers could take a joke before, and everything could be a federal case after.

    When did Director of HR become a, at minimum, Master’s or PhD position?

    • #6
  7. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    I have known really excellent HR people, at two different companies.  Turning of the HR function into the Woke Police, as has happened in too many places in recent years, has been very destructive.

    • #7
  8. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    David Foster (View Comment):

    I have known really excellent HR people, at two different companies. Turning of the HR function into the Woke Police, as has happened in too many places in recent years, has been very destructive.

    Maybe it would have helped if they’d left the name at “Personnel.”

    • #8
  9. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    Good job on the email – funny story. I worked for ExxonMobil for 33-1/2 years. I started in 1981 and worked for a smallish subsidiary, Esso Exploration Inc. It wasn’t until we got absorbed by Exxon that the HR stuff got annoying – must have been mid-late 80’s when we got the diversity workshops. I would try as hard as I could to opt out of those when possible. The oilfield became less and less fun over my career – a lot of it due to the HR nonsense. I can’t imagine what it is like now.

    • #9
  10. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    Good job on the email – funny story. I worked for ExxonMobil for 33-1/2 years. I started in 1981 and worked for a smallish subsidiary, Esso Exploration Inc. It wasn’t until we got absorbed by Exxon that the HR stuff got annoying – must have been mid-late 80’s when we got the diversity workshops. I would try as hard as I could to opt out of those when possible. The oilfield became less and less fun over my career – a lot of it due to the HR nonsense. I can’t imagine what it is like now.

    Reminds me of the recent story about 100,000 women workers going on strike in Iceland for a day.  Mostly, nobody seemed to notice, except that there were no complaints to/from HR, and things actually got done.

    • #10
  11. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

    As promised.

    So when will you take the batman suit off, Keith?

    Anyway, thank you for the very needed Monday chuckle. And glad that you and your colleague in crime kept your jobs.

    • #11
  12. Rightfromthestart Coolidge
    Rightfromthestart
    @Rightfromthestart

    Joker (View Comment):

    Seems like a switch was flipped in the mid 90s. Office dwellers could take a joke before, and everything could be a federal case after.

    Isn’t it odd one rarely hears ‘Let’s not make a federal case about it’ anymore? 

    • #12
  13. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    I recall a time when our HR department stopped spelling “employees” like this and mandated spelling it “employes”. I suppose it saved a keystroke. The directive was followed briefly, but after a little while everybody went back to spelling it the way they were used to without any further comment. HR, ya gotta love ’em.

    • #13
  14. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I recall a time when our HR department stopped spelling “employees” like this and mandated spelling it “employes”. I suppose it saved a keystroke. The directive was followed briefly, but after a little while everybody went back to spelling it the way they were used to without any further comment. HR, ya gotta love ’em.

    That was GM’s policy for years, but that was when GM was huge and when they had to store paper records. More than the keystroke, it also saved space in documents. Millions of documents. For them, it added up.

    • #14
  15. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Arahant (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I recall a time when our HR department stopped spelling “employees” like this and mandated spelling it “employes”. I suppose it saved a keystroke. The directive was followed briefly, but after a little while everybody went back to spelling it the way they were used to without any further comment. HR, ya gotta love ’em.

    That was GM’s policy for years, but that was when GM was huge and when they had to store paper records. More than the keystroke, it also saved space in documents. Millions of documents. For them, it added up.

    Gotta wonder then why they didn’t drop the e at the start either.  Sounds the same…

    • #15
  16. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Gotta wonder then why they didn’t drop the e at the start either.  Sounds the same…

    Because nobody is nearly as bright as you are. Had you only been there to suggest it to them.

    Either that, or it is because “employe” is still a correctly-spelled word, even if an uncommon variant. “Mploye” is not.

    • #16
  17. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Arahant (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Gotta wonder then why they didn’t drop the e at the start either. Sounds the same…

    Because nobody is nearly as bright as you are. Had you only been there to suggest it to them.

    Either that, or it is because “employe” is still a correctly-spelled word, even if an uncommon variant. “Mploye” is not.

    Eh, “employe” is “rare and dated.”

    • #17
  18. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Eh, “employe” is “rare and dated.”

    As are we, kevin. As are we.

    • #18
  19. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    David Foster (View Comment):

    I have known really excellent HR people, at two different companies. Turning of the HR function into the Woke Police, as has happened in too many places in recent years, has been very destructive.

    Good HR people are invaluable!  Good ones helped me solve many a sticky issue with regards to people. They helped me advance and guide people with great potential.  And they dealt with the cleanup work after layoffs. On that last one the hard part was still mine.

    • #19
  20. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Arahant (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Eh, “employe” is “rare and dated.”

    As are we, kevin. As are we.

    Quiet, you…

    But seriously, knowing language is important.

    • #20
  21. Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    Arahant (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Gotta wonder then why they didn’t drop the e at the start either. Sounds the same…

    Because nobody is nearly as bright as you are. Had you only been there to suggest it to them.

    Either that, or it is because “employe” is still a correctly-spelled word, even if an uncommon variant. “Mploye” is not.

    That’s my Ghanan valet’s name, Mploye Nkwanta.  Good man.

    • #21
  22. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    kedavis (View Comment):

    David Foster (View Comment):

    I have known really excellent HR people, at two different companies. Turning of the HR function into the Woke Police, as has happened in too many places in recent years, has been very destructive.

    Maybe it would have helped if they’d left the name at “Personnel.”

    When I first encountered the change from “Personnel” to “Human Resources,” I commented that it sounds as though they are meant to be strip-mined.

    • #22
  23. Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    David Foster (View Comment):

    I have known really excellent HR people, at two different companies. Turning of the HR function into the Woke Police, as has happened in too many places in recent years, has been very destructive.

    Maybe it would have helped if they’d left the name at “Personnel.”

    When I first encountered the change from “Personnel” to “Human Resources,” I commented that it sounds as though they are meant to be strip-mined.

    That’s my biggest gripe.  And they took the personhood out of Personnel and inserted Human.  Sounds impersonal and generic to me.  And when the mine is played out, it doesn’t even get a gold watch.

    • #23
  24. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    When  I saw “member” I thought the story was going to go in a different direction, that probably wouldn’t have ended as well.

    • #24
  25. GlennAmurgis Coolidge
    GlennAmurgis
    @GlennAmurgis

    spent most of my working live with small startups that grew – once we got the HR pushing this tripe. I knew it was time to move on. When you are in startup mode, there is no time to do these schemes. 

    • #25
  26. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    David Foster (View Comment):

    I have known really excellent HR people, at two different companies. Turning of the HR function into the Woke Police, as has happened in too many places in recent years, has been very destructive.

    Maybe it would have helped if they’d left the name at “Personnel.”

    When I first encountered the change from “Personnel” to “Human Resources,” I commented that it sounds as though they are meant to be strip-mined.

    Well, I worked at a company that took it a step further and called it “People and Organization.”

    • #26
  27. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    Keith Lowery: In the end, we weren’t fired, although it may have been a close-run thing behind closed doors.

    This is similar to a prank I was part of during my days as a co-op student at an aircraft manufacturing company, at about the same time. A bunch of us got the job for the spring semester incorporating change orders into the full blueprints. Another group of college students were hired for the summer. Some of us wanted to prank the newbies. We wrote a bunch of fake change orders and planned to slip them into the packages of the new guys. Like you, we thought they were obvious fakes such as having A. Gore as the engineer and replacing rivets with duct tape, as one example. (Maybe that’s what happened at Boeing but it made it through and the factory floor shrugged their shoulders and said, “Eh. Okay.”)

    Our first targets of opportunity got up to get water, so in went a fake change order. The mistake we made was not using a fake tracking number and a week was spent figuring out that it was fake. Somehow it was traced it us and our managers called us to the carpet and said that they had to work to keep us on. The kicker was that our first victims happened to be girls but our plan was to prank all the new hires. This was about a year after Tailhook was big in the news, so in addition to almost being fired, we caused all the co-op students to get training on sexual harassment. The joys of the HR department.

    • #27
  28. db25db Inactive
    db25db
    @db25db

    thats awesome!  Here at Starbucks employees are refered to as ‘partners’.   During our last round of layoffs so many people were suprised with the ‘partner separations’ (read, layoffs) because they thought that we were all one big happy family.  One woman asked what Starbucks was doing to ensure equity in layoffs between men and women.  They gave a real response.  Starbucks leaders have only themselves to blame for pushing this type of Balkanized group think constantly on its employees partners.

    We now have some gender nuetral bathrooms.  What that means in practice is the restroom formerly known as mens, now has fully length stalls (7 ft tall), tampons, and a full length mirror near the door.

    Ironically even in Seattle no one is using them and theyre spotless.  I know because i do, as said the number of traditional mens restrooms has been cut in half, but the number of Indian men who work in IT has not.  Curry does horrifying things to the lower intestine.  I prefer to use the restroom that .237% of our workforce would choose to use.  Man Them/they’re spotless.

    Hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday

    • #28
  29. Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    David Foster (View Comment):

    I have known really excellent HR people, at two different companies. Turning of the HR function into the Woke Police, as has happened in too many places in recent years, has been very destructive.

    Maybe it would have helped if they’d left the name at “Personnel.”

    When I first encountered the change from “Personnel” to “Human Resources,” I commented that it sounds as though they are meant to be strip-mined.

    Well, I worked at a company that took it a step further and called it “People and Organization.”

    Yes, HR seems to be on the euphemism treadmill.

    • #29
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.