Dear Reader: After today, "Business As Usual" won't be in business. I'm pursuing other interests, and abandoning you to your fate among the slings and arrows, factions and satisfactions of office life.
Over the past three and a half years, I've examined some of the major business issues of our time. The frustrations of the three-hole punch and coffee-machine "coffee." Copier dependency and abuse. Memomanship. The art of waffling on a recommendation. The joy of fear (when you give instead of receive). The budget game. "Perks" (the only clear case of trickle-down economics). Management by procrastination. And many more.
And, while I may have run out of steam, I certainly haven't run out of valid topics. I've kept an ever-growing list of these.
When I just reviewed it, I realized why I had never dealt with some of the obvious contenders:
Communication problems. This is just too stupendous a subject for a short essay. A book would be more appropriate -- a collection of true-life horror stories, or else a supposedly explanatory tome . . . with mostly black pages.
In a better world, every time someone made a decision a sign would light up, saying: "Who does this affect? Anybody else? Tell them!"
Business entertaining. Again, it would have been hard to do justice to the subject in the space at hand -- even to my own limited experiences. These have ranged from the delightful to the ridiculous to the horrifying time that I hosted a retirement party for a client while serving as a branch office manager.
The affair was quite a success, but afterwards I had to step between the flying fists of a man who worked for me and my boss, who had come from New York to the party.
The real villain of the occasion wasn't even there. That was my predecessor, who had practiced the nefarious ploy of using the New Yorker as a scapegoat for decisions that were really his own (such as a paltry raise and lack of promotion).
That tactic alone is worth a whole column.
Stealing. Let's face it, office supplies supply many a home. Pencils, pens, markers, pads, typing paper, folders, paper clips, staples and typewriter ribbons migrate in countless numbers.
Why did I shy away from this subject? Probably because I had already touched some very raw nerves when I wrote about expense accounts, and had been wrongly accused of condemning everyone.
Sales conferences. In this case I was afraid I'd kill a golden goose (which would have been "fowl" play indeed). After all, I'd had the good fortune to attend some outstanding sales conferences -- ones with an excellent mix of information, inspiration and recreation.
Even the best of conferences, however, are somewhat amusing if you observe the antics of the Sex Hunters and the Apple Polishers, and the inevitable but unpredictable emergence of the self-made Fool of the Year.
I'm sorry now that I didn't pursue this.
Great conversation-killers. A comprehensive column on these could have been a real public service, because everyone encounters obnoxiously persistent salespeople and other nuisance types who are hard to silence. But I didn't have a long enough list of good suggestions.
I will pass along two, though. The first is useful regardless of whether you're on the phone or face to face:
"No, but can I interest you in some life insurance? (I'm selling it on the side.)"
In person, I'm partial to another turnoff, especially with an accompaniment of coughing or sniffling:
"I don't want to alarm you, but have you been exposed to the Mongolian flu . . . before now?"
So much for what I haven't done, except for one last thing . . . which is to thank all of the readers who have taken the time to write to me with enthusiastic comments about this column. I've been remiss about responding. (I never did master time management.) But I'm very appreciative.
It's been fun -- and especially so, thanks to you!