First, I’m happy to announce that you now have the ability to collapse replies to any comment thread, not just top-level comments. Hopefully that will help make long comment threads easier to navigate. Now, onward…
Last week, I asked for stories about weirdly dramatic reactions that you’ve seen people have to changes at work. The comment section was full of fantastic stories, and here are 15 of my favorites.
1. “A couple years ago, I led revamping one of our workflows. The process was old, more than 40 years (!), and our administration was adamant that we had to modernize it. In truth, it was something that wouldn’t affect many people, and most other offices had made the change 20 years ago, but people were mad about the very idea that we would change it. I held a series of meetings with stakeholders, specifically to ascertain what their needs were. Getting this information was like pulling teeth. According to them, their needs were ‘Doing this the way we’ve always done it and never changing!!!’ My personal favorite was one person who arrived at the meeting with a prepared written statement about why the old workflow was necessary, and titled it ‘Hills to Die On.’ Why they thought that would make admin change their minds, I will never understand.”
2. “We just standardized our email signatures yesterday. People flipped out. ‘Why can’t I have this picture of my dog in my signature?’ ‘But I’ve always used pink cursive font — it’s cuter.’ ‘You’re crushing our individuality.’ Another department manager had employees who threatened to quit. I really didn’t think that having a standard email signature was that big of a deal. This is literally the only company that I’ve worked for that didn’t have one (until now).”
3. “At my last company, they used to get cookies once a month from a well-known bakery in my city. People used to stampede down the halls when it was cookie time and grab handfuls or platefuls instead of taking one. Eventually it got to the point that if you got to the cookie location 10 or 15 minutes after they were put down, there were none left. An email was sent out reminding people to take only one cookie so their coworkers could also have some, and that they were welcome to take additional cookies at the end of the day only if there were any leftover.
There was such a protest. Some people were SO INSULTED that they couldn’t take more than one cookie (and honestly, I can understand maybe taking two, but these repeat offenders were talking between 6 – 12 each – legit strutting away with plates piled high). They complained so much about being denied more than one cookie that cookie day ended up stopping permanently. It was honestly bizarre. Grown adults throwing tantrums over being denied more than one cookie (and they were big cookies, too).”
4. “When I worked at in the office of a warehouse, we would get a freezer full of ice cream bars in the summer. It actually had to be addressed that workers MUST STOP taking entire boxes home with them. One coworker took such offense to this that he would made it his mission to eat as much ice cream as possible while on site. I watched him eat seven of them during a thirty minute lunch break. He would proudly boast about how he’d make himself sick on free food just to make sure he got his ‘fair share.'”
5. “In a former department and building (at current employer), there was a little tower window at the top of the building with a light in it. In response to a change so inconsequential I can’t even remember what it was, an overly-dramatic coworker flipped on the light – during the day (gasp!) – in a vengeful attempt to increase employer’s electric bill. This doesn’t seem too over the top until you factor in her giving me a wide eyed, dramatic look before turning on her heel and marching back to her office after the deed was done.”
6. “My former employer moved us into a new, bigger office because we outgrew the one we were in. One person did not like where her cube was located, so she built herself a weird little hovel out of boxes and sheets in a more desirable location (I guess?). I think it got shut down pretty quickly, but it was funny that it happened at all!”
7. “Our break room has a giant whiteboard calendar in it. Last year the company sent us a new one and asked us to start using it at the first of this year. Not really sure why … the other was perfectly usable and there was no differing info on it, but hey, whatever! The new calendar is slightly smaller than the previous one – as in the previous calendar was 36×48 inches and the new one is 32×44 inches.
The woman who updates this calendar was FURIOUS about this change. Oh the campaign this woman has waged to get the old calendar back – she sends emails, complains to every single employee at least once a day, has started tours of our branch in the break room (she points to the board and announces ‘this is the piece of crap calendar they expect us to use’), and holds that fury in her heart. Recently a few big wigs in the company were visiting and she started her tour as usual and then she paused as if expecting them to agree with her. They didn’t, she sighed heavily and moved on with her tour. Before they left she made sure to send them back to the home office with a list outlining why the new calendar sucks. You know they just crumpled that crap up into a ball the second they got into the car.”
8. “My organization opted to implement the new minimum pay for exempt staff even though it did not become law. This amounted to a 15-20% raise for an entire group of employees (all with the same title and responsibilities). The maximum raise anyone receives from their annual review is 5% so this was a significant bump compared to what they would have otherwise received. People were furious! Because this meant they all were being paid the same amount regardless of length of employment. Three people quit over this.”
9. “A staff member in a different department threatened to throw his laptop out of the window if we replaced it (it was 3 years old and due for an upgrade) with the new standard model, which he didn’t like because it weighed a few ounces more.”
10. “At my previous position as the web specialist (and occasional IT deputy for their overworked IT employee) in a university math department, I saw a fun one. There was a specific mathematic software used by more than one department in the university, so the university maintained a server license for it that you could request access to for an install on your office or lab computers if it was needed. Most of the older professors in that department were pretty used to just getting what they wanted whenever I think, and one of them came to me asking to have this software installed on his computer.
Well, in order to keep track of the licenses being used across campus, university-wide IT had a form that needed to be completed and signed specifying the ID number of the user, their office, and so forth and included a clause about maintaining the software properly (don’t bootleg it and take it home, break it, so on and so forth, pretty standard TOS and consisting of just two sentences).
This professor, upon receiving this form, while he did not shout came unglued. He took it to his lawyer (or he said he did) then came back to me and proceeded to launch into a diatribe about how his lawyer told him not to sign it, why couldn’t he just get this software on his computer, he needed it! He shouldn’t have to sign a form for this. It wasn’t his job to do anything laid out by the two sentences on this form, he wasn’t going to sign it and he didn’t know why I had to put so many roadblocks in front of him. I should just do whatever he asked/said he needed to teach and get out of his way. In lots more words than that. I think I listened to him for 15 minutes before I just took the form back from him and walked off.
To this day I do not know if he ever got that software installed on his computer. I never did.”
11. “When I started an office IT job, one of my first assignments was to clean up and update everyone’s computers. The first time I worked with this one coworker’s computer, it was a complete mess. He had some kind of add on for IE that added a little animated Olaf (from the movie Frozen) that would dance around and occasionally have animated snowflakes fall down the screen. Needless to say, it slowed his computer to a crawl, and he was always complaining about how slow his computer was. So, among general scans and cleanup, I removed the add on.
He was LIVID. Went to my boss, to HR, to the head boss, because his animated dancing snowman that messed up his computer was gone. Phrases like ‘she has no right’ and ‘how dare she’ were thrown around. He made a big show of downloading some other hideous animated nav bar add on instead, and kept trying to flaunt it whenever I was nearby.”
12. “I worked for a government department that did lots of project work. We got a new CEO who, after settling in, discovered that he had no visibility of most of the projects, only what limited information was prepared and sent up the line when he enquired about anything specific. After digging around some more he learned that even the shorter, simpler projects frequently ran over time and/or budget, and that in many cases it couldn’t be determined whether it ran over time because there was never even a target delivery date!
So he decided that we would have a project management framework. Projects costing over $50k (in taxpayers’ money, remember) needed to have a plan written up, and provide regular status updates. Neither the plan nor the updates had to be huge documents that take a lot of time to prepare (an update could be one paragraph per fortnight), but they had to exist. There was a central repository where they could be seen by relevant managers and stakeholders, so there shouldn’t be any more suprises about work landing on your lap or suddenly being 18 months late.
The number of staff who lost their shit about having to write down the basic elements of what they were doing … people complained that the CEO was personally insulting their professionalism, and they should just be trusted to do things without any documentation. Some flat-out refused to comply. Some falsified information in their status reports. Some went to elaborate efforts to put a few token documents in the repository but create a locked-down, secret stash of ‘real’ project updates for their eyes only. One person quit and claimed it was because they were driven out by the unreasonable requirement of project plans. Someone else filed a harrassment claim over having their work (but not their name) included in a list of projects that were past their deadline.”
13. “We had this disgusting faux floral arrangement in the lobby. It was given to us by a local flower shop when we moved into the building – in 2002. It was 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide and in a 2 foot tall faux cement planter. It sat on the desk behind reception and had 15 years of dust on it. We went through 2 remodels and a full rebrand, and this thing stayed. My boss hated this thing – every time he walked through the lobby, he commented on how gross it was. ‘What will guests think?’ ‘It looks like my grandmothers house in here!’ ‘That think NEEDS to get out of the lobby!’
Finally, I decided to prank him by moving the monstrosity into his office – I put it smack in the middle of his conference table with a note that said ‘I finally got it out of the lobby!’ He proceeded to prank another coworker, who did another, until it ended up in a storage closet, where it’s been for the past 2 years.
This past winter, we did an office-wide clean-up project. We were encouraged to purge purge purge – and I found those gross, dusty, gigantic flowers tucked in a back storage room, and I knew they had to go. But I figured, hey – they’re pretty big, right? And we’re a nonprofit, so maybe I could get some money for them. So I put them on Craigslist – make a donation to ____ and you get these flowers! No bites. I reposted for 4 weeks. Nothing.
Finally, to make it fun, I posted on our intraweb – ‘I’m going to host an auction with proceeds going to the employee fun fund, and whoever wins gets to throw this thing into the dumpster!’ I thought people would think it was fun. Instead, I was met with blind rage. THOSE FLOWERS ARE AN INSTITUTION! Didn’t I know they had been here for 15 years? How dare I suggest throwing out a piece of our history! Never mind that they had been out of the lobby for 2 years and no one had noticed – oh no, this was anarchy. Why hadn’t I checked hospitals and churches? Why hadn’t I brought them to a homeless shelter? Why hadn’t I tried to clean them and make them into boutonnieres for the staff to wear at the gala? It was hilarious. I suggested to some of these people that perhaps they find a home for the flowers, but no no, this was MY job. And I wasn’t doing it right. Yet every day they sat in the hallway, people stopped into my office to ask, ‘why are the flowers still here?’ ‘why haven’t you found a home for the flowers?’
I will never tell anyone what happened to those flowers, but I eventually refused to speak with anyone about them anymore. They disappeared from the hallway, and I posted on our intraweb ‘the flowers have found a home’ and did not reply to any follow-up comments.”
14. I had a couple coworkers pitch a huge fit when my employer updated the dress code. What did they change?
Not even kidding. This was at a call center and the dress code was VERY relaxed, but we had people literally coming to work in their PJs or similar nightclothes. The best part was some of the worst offenders went on to harangue management over it, since ‘it was never a problem before’ and ‘we’re not face to face with customers so why does it matter.’ People would show up in defiance in PJs and argue when they were told to go home and change, and the suggestion box got spammed with ‘let us wear PJs’ for weeks. It was honestly shocking to me – the dress code was already so casual that I personally would routinely wear shorts and a plain tee any given day when the weather was warm and was never written up, but pajamas? Seriously. Eventually they stopped wearing PJs Monday through Friday, but would still come in on the weekends like they rolled out of bed and drove to work.
It took several months, and a lot of write-ups, before it finally stopped completely. Granted, this was one of the more ridiculous responses to a change, but there were some similarly loud protests when they outlawed spaghetti tanks, booty shorts, and flip flops. Not even kidding.”
15. “Upon being told that it was now mandatory to wear your badge on a lanyard (no, not a clip, not on your belt, it had to be a lanyard), one woman completely lost it. She stood up (this was a meeting) and ranted about how lanyards were UGLY and they RUINED her outfits and WHY OH WHY was this a rule because EVERYONE hated it (no, the rest of us were fine) and so on. She compared it to ‘papers, please’ and how this was the slippery slope that would lead to robot workers and oh there was so much more but I can’t remember it all.
Over the next few weeks she tried wearing her lanyard inside her blouse (no, the point is that the badge is visible) and claiming she just forgot until she got written up… and SHE QUIT. Well, took early retirement, but still.”