Ask Bing

Who took the fun out of Fridays?

The Old Weekend

Q: What's up with TGIF? It used to be that Friday was a day given to start the weekend early, casual, martini at lunch, slide out early to your pleasure destination. With communication today (e-mail, text messaging, phones, pagers, etc.) you can be tracked quicker than a criminal. Problems which surfaced on Monday have a way of catching up with you on Friday. Fridays now seem like Mondays and this is not fun.

A: You're right. Your implicit question is whether anything can be done about this, and yes, I believe there can. It is a crucial test of your ability to manage upward. Bosses, just like employees and cocker spaniels, require training. In fact, just about everybody does. The issue of what is Your Time vs. Company Time goes to the heart of the boss's ability to see you as an individual person other than Himself, a creature with needs and feelings that are Not His. Or Hers. The problem is non-gender-specific.

Like any training program, the fight to free the weekend cannot be done in one fell swoop. If you simply have a few drinks at lunch on Friday and disappear at 3 p.m., you're likely to get into trouble.

The same can be said, by the way, about the end of the day, which is often very ill-defined at this point, and also about the evenings, which in truly diseased corporations are also subject to invasion by the electronic droids that run our lives. To get the job done, you're going to have to commit some very clear pressure over a protracted period of time, pushing your boundary backward toward the requirements that are demanded of you, being unavailable at hours that are unassailably yours in any sane organization.

The e-mail that is sent on Friday at 4 p.m. demanding a complete report should be answered, "Sure thing. Talk to you Monday morning." The demand to entertain a conference call on Saturday should be acceded to only if a powerful senior manager is the demented party scheduling the talk.

You get the picture. Challenge by challenge. Instance by instance. You must interject sanity into the decayed superstructure, always in defense not of laziness or inattentiveness - but of humanity. In the long run, others will see the light of hope in the sky and join you in your quest. If you live, your life will be much more tolerable. And if you don't, you may wake up in a much better place. Good luck.

Q: Mr. Bing, I just read on AOL this evening that "Fish Tank Cleaner" was mentioned on your list of BS jobs. My husband owns an Aquatics store in Leesburg,Va and I must tell you that cleaning tanks is a major part of his in home service, as well as his in-store necessity and maintenance. I gather you were ignorant to the negative effects as well as deadly results to a fish if algae is left to build in a tank.

Fish die because of a lack of routine tank maintenance, ie: keeping pH at an acceptable level and a healthy O2 level. Fish don't die as a result of a tank cleaning as I believe you suggested. I don't know how, why or where you got your information, but if I may politely suggest you do your homework before you take it upon yourself to knock another's hard earned vocation. I'm sure you wouldn't be thrilled had YOUR job been mentioned... now would you? Please, educate yourself... it's empowering. Thank You.

A: Thanks for your letter. I have two points to make. First, you are working under the erroneous assumption that a bullshit job is a bad thing. If you purchased my book, "100 Bullshit Jobs and How To Get Them," you would see that there are a host of well-paying, important (to their owners) and prestigious jobs that qualify under the umbrella. Many of them I have held in the past and still occupy, by the way. The fact is, every job has a quotient of bullshit, the amount of which may be quantified by employing an equation found in the first portion of my book, "100 Bullshit Jobs and How To Get Them," which I may have mentioned before.

The second observation I would like to make is more personal, and possibly necessary given the volume and tone of the back-and-forth that, it pleases me to say, is going on on a daily basis on this site. All of your thoughts excite and intrigue me, I assure you. My observation, however, is this: Some of you may on occasion misapprehend me. At times I employ irony, which means saying one thing while meaning the exact opposite. Like, if somebody you are working with says something very stupid, you can say, "Wow! That's really smart!" instead, "Gee, Joe, you're a moron." It's a different approach to social commentary. Try it some time. It's fun, and it works.

Finally, I occasionally say things just to get a laugh. Get over it.

Q: About two years ago, the office lead decided to "rotate" the lead responsibilites to me. Since then, it has been a struggle to get him, as well as others, to respect the responsibilites he foisted on me. A day or two ago, we had a meeting where, when one person said she didn't know I was the office lead (I guess she was not paying attention), made a big production about me being lead and that she implied that there was no way she would respect the me having those responsibilities. (I have worked with her before.) The question I have is: How does one work with people who do not want to be in charge, but will be d***ned if they will let anyone else be in charge?

A: You have a serious problem shared by many in middle management. You have responsibility without power. You have to get some power to make all the responsibility worthwhile. Go to your boss. Tell him that you have a person who will not let you lead because you don't have the right or ability to discipline or fire her. I bet he tells you to go ahead and do what you need to do.

If he doesn't, respectfully tell him or her that you've enjoyed having the responsibility for a while but since you have no power to go along with it, it's time for somebody else to have it. I'm guessing that this will also do the trick - I bet you're the only one who can really do the job right now. Responsibility gravitates to the persons best fitted for it. You will be presenting the boss with a problem that he can only solve by either making another problem for himself (giving responsibility to somebody not right for it) or giving you what you want (power).

In any event, don't take crap from some jerk who flouts your authority or you very soon won't have any.

9 Comments Add Comment

Mr. Bing,

Thanks for the practical advice and the humor. I have been a long time reader of your column and love it. There are many of us who are striving to make it to the top, so it's nice to hear from someone who has already made it.

Ken B.

I don't know about other employeers but here Friday is another work day..Work does not stop for 2 hour martini lunches and fast getaways to the Hamptons trying to beat traffic.Maybe upper management does but the employees that work hard making them look good stay till the end of the day..

Right on Bing! On both counts. I remember having to explain to a VP why I didn't answer email on my Blackberry one Fall Sunday morning at 0830. Frankly its a bit hard to "text" fly fishing waist deep in a Trout river in the California Sierra where there isn't any cell coverage. That VP took a lot of extra training on my part. But it was worth to long effort. As for the second question, there is no power without respect. Power is given and not shared and it is not given by those who don't respect you.

Ok, the being asked to come in for work or a meeting on Saturday thing. There are some unwritten rules all staff must abide by, first rule of course is there will be ample delicious food catered in as extra compensation for taking up what is actually your time. Really even if there's some senior vice president who asks you to do a Saturday meeting, unless you have a company charge account and can order in pizza or subs, you should really be telling them you're just not important enough to meet with him, unless of course he/she has already explained what the agenda for the day is and that lunch will be provided.
Another unwritten rule is, regular business attire that you would normally be expected to wear during the week, is not required, wear a tasteful sweat suite or your most comfortable jeans (but not the one's with a lot of holes), if its the middle of July or August, shorts and a T-shirt should be allowed. Then finally comming in on Saturday means schedules are informal, you can show up late with impunity as long as its not several hours late, and if you do show up late, feel free to have less than impecible hair care, if you are male, don't shave, brushing your teeth however is required, the morning breath thing is a negative regardless of what day it is. If the Sr. VP shows up in suite and tie with great after shave on, you are required to let him/her know they need to let go a little and relax, its the week end.
In the event no lunch is provided or that which is provided is sub-par, make certain someone, if not yourself, takes the opportunity to explain these unwritten rules to the boss asking for your time, before the Saturday work session is over.

You are on the money, and with style. I like the direct and crisp way you make your points ... err, which are very accurate (in my opinion).
I managed for 25+ years, and the crap that came in toward the end - I am retired now - under the banner of "team leadership, etc." did nothing but confuse. The ideals were great ... the implementation sucked. Nothing like creating an environment where power lies at the very top (and only at the top) and leaves middle managers to sort out the resulting "kiss ass" politics and press for results.

I fully agree that my time is exactly that, MINE. If I come in on Saturday or Sunday or stay a little late on any work day then I am doing a professional courtesy. While I don't expect some kind of compensation or acknowledgment for it, I do expect my managers to understand that I am under no obligation to do it or do it again.

Bing, that broad needs a job, never mind her...

Good advice...

We are not in France. You want to work 35 hours, go live there. Friday is a work week.!!