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‘Horrible Bosses’ stars Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day talk workplace ethics

Bateman, Day and Sudeikis in “Horrible Bosses.” (John P. Johnson)

At first, talking to the stars of the movie “Horrible Bosses” — Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day — via conference call sounded like a fine idea. In theory.

Then I got the three guys on the phone, all of whom spoke to me on a recent Saturday from the same hotel suite during their New York press tour. Let’s just say things started to go awry.

As I put it in a Style story I wrote abut the film, it played out like pretty much every conference call in the history of offices: “At least one person can’t hear, the intended tone behind some comments fails to convey and nothing of consequence gets accomplished.”

Our conversation about the film — in which they play a trio of beleaguered employees who decide to bump off their respective horrendous supervisors (played by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell) — began like this.

Chaney: Did any of your characters have workplaces with human resources departments? Because it seems like they would have been a good place to consult.

Bateman: That would come from three bright characters. These guys are not that smart and so, um —

Recording of a woman’s voice interrupts: HAS JOINED THE CONFERENCE

Bateman: — make it a, uh —

Recording of a woman’s voice interrupts again: HAS JOINED THE CONFERENCE

Bateman: Hello?

Chaney: Yeah, this woman is announcing that we’ve all joined the conference.

Bateman: Can you still hear us?

Chaney: I can hear you just fine.

Sudeikis: I can’t hear anything.

Bateman, to Chaney: It’s tough to hear you.

Chaney, borderline shouting: IS THIS BETTER?

Day: That’s much better.

Eventually I switched gears and decided to test their workplace ethics by asking them to rate, on a scale from 1 to 10, how reprehensible they consider certain office conduct. Here’s how that went.

Chaney: Using a co-worker’s coffee mug without asking first. How bad is that?

Bateman: Now is 10 your worst, or is one your worst?

Chaney: One is not that bad, 10 is your worst.

Bateman: All right. Repeat the question, please.

Day: It was using a co-worker’s coffee mug.

Chaney: Yeah, like picking up a coffee mug off of someone else’s desk and just using it.

Day: I’m going to say that’s one or a two. I mean, that could be an honest mistake.

Bateman: Well, hang on. Is the person’s herpes active or is it dormant?

Chaney: Uh, it’s dormant.

Bateman: I give it a five.

Day: That’s right down the middle for Bateman.

Chaney: Jason Sudeikis?

Sudeikis: I drink tea.

Day: He can’t relate.

Chaney: Second one: taking credit for work that a colleague actually did.

Bateman: Taking credit for work that a colleague did...

Day: That’s pretty bad.

Bateman: That’s top 10 for me.

Day: Yeah, that’s up there for me, too. Sudeikis is nodding. And he’s chewing.

Chaney: Oh, okay. Chewing is an 8, I guess. Next one: sending a false e-mail from a co-worker’s account — going into their e-mail and sending a message as if you were them.

Day, getting harassed by Aniston. (John P. Johnson/AP)

Day: I mean, these seem like pretty despicable things to do. Do you do this stuff?

Chaney: No, I’m just working on the script for “Horrible Bosses 2,” so a lot of this is coming from that.

Bateman: I’d give that one a 1 or a 2. The e-mail I’m imagining has got some adorable emoticons on it and uh--

Day: It depends on the e-mail, I guess.

Bateman: — it’s a shout-out.

Colin Farrell, giving Sudeikis the business. (John P. Johnson/AP)

Chaney: This one is pretty benign: calling in sick when you’re not sick but just want to go to a baseball game?

Bateman: That’s a Ferris Offense.

Chaney: Yeah, it is a Ferris Offense. That’s the official name.

Bateman: I throw the Ferris Bueller flag on that.

Day: It really depends on what your job is. Like, if you’re supposed to deliver someone’s baby, that’s up there.

Chaney: Is Sudeikis nodding again?

Sudeikis: What’s that?

Chaney: I just asked if Jason was nodding again.

Sudeikis: Nodding off.

Chaney: I’m sorry.

Sudeikis: It’s been a long day. Sorry.

Chaney: I’ll just do a couple more of these. I don’t want to put Jason Sudeikis to sleep.

Sudeikis: Don’t start worrying about me, now.

Bateman vs. Spacey. (John P. Johnson/AP)

Chaney: Dating somebody who used to date your boss: How bad is that?

Day: Dating somebody who used to date your boss...

Bateman: I’d give that a zero.

Day: That’s not a problem.

Chaney: Okay. And this last one is more directed at Jason Bateman — being a manager who karaokes inappropriately with his own niece during a company holiday party.

Bateman: You know, that was the one [“Arrested Development”] episode I directed.

Chaney: Was it?

Bateman: Yep. “Afternoon Delight.”

Chaney: So I guess you don’t think it’s that bad.

Bateman: If you’re speaking about the episode, I would say no. It was tip-top.

Chaney: It was. Absolutely.

Bateman: The offense? Listen, as long as all hands are above the table, continue singing.

When she isn’t at a movie theater or writing about movies, Jen Chaney is ... um ... probably at home, watching a movie.

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