For several years I worked for Clear Channel Radio, an awkward behemoth of a transnational broadcasting corporation; just like the awkward behemoth of a corporation you likely work for today. And like your mega-huge company, the local office was full of immensely talented and gifted performers and sellers, managed by a bunch of…people.
Hundreds of cubicles dominated the building, a monochromatic scheme with the dominant hue bearing a remarkable resemblance to a hunk of Parmesan cheese after its been left on the kitchen counter for a day or two.
Our story begins several years ago. I am the Executive Producer of the Don Bleu in the Morning show on Star 101.3. The position required I be in the building at 4am every weekday, preparing for the program which was on the air Monday-Friday at 5:30am. Bleary eyed and barely awake, I would traverse the building every morning at the break of dawn, navigating the ocean of cubes, searching for the caffeine that made it possible for me to remain upright. It was a 50-50 proposition; many days the machine didn’t have any beans in it, or was unplugged. That searing disappointment remains a scar on my psyche to this day.
One day, they downsized the building manager. She had been responsible for things like office supplies and the physical plant, and (most importantly) maintaining the coffee machines. I mentioned to one of the bosses that I was fairly handy with things like machines and tools, and would she mind sharing the key to the 5th floor coffee unit and I would (somewhat selfishly) make sure that it operated properly.
24 hours later, an email was sent out detailing who would now be performing the duties of the former building manager. I remember gasping as I read the last sentence.
“John Scott is now responsible for all of the building’s coffee machines”
This is the day that coffee saved my job.
I decided that rather than complain about this addition to my job responsibilities, or find a reason to not do it, I decided to embrace it.
A clever co-worker designed the logo for this completely fictitious new division of the company. I anointed myself with the phony title of Chief of Coffee Maintenance, and began issuing coffee-related weekly memoranda.
We now present one of those communiques.
I’ve just realized I don’t know where any of you do your work.
I have no idea how to find you. I believe we have a secret Clear Channel Relocation Manager on staff now, because we are a company on the move. One day you’re in this cube, one day you’re not. One morning you’re in this office, the next day you’re in another office.
I’ll see a sign that says WELCOME JOE COOL TO THE FAMILY!
The next week, I go by the same space and I see NICE TO HAVE YOU HERE, DAME EDNA or whoever. Where’s Joe Cool?
Where the heck are ALL of you?
I noticed this morning that Bob swapped parking spaces with Ed. What I don’t get is that both of these gentlemen already had spaces 18 inches from the building entrance. So who moved them? What was the politics behind the move? Or does Artie just mess with us; some bizarre game where we are the parking pawns? Is he down there with Rod laughing and giggling and rubbing his hands together in evil glee?
So KNEW is where KQKE used to be because KQKE is now where KABL used to be but KABL is online now and Clark has an office which is the 15th office he’s had since he’s worked here and so that’s where KABL lives now because that’s that and oh by the way KKSF is where KNEW used to be and Michael has a KNEW studio that used to be KKSF but now it’s for use by Michael unless we use it for someone else that may work at KISQ or Star 101.3 or La Presciosa. So that’s good. Even your beloved Coffee Chief will be moving one of these days; 18 inches down the hall to a space that will obviously better utilize my incredible talents.
If I can get you to sit still for 1 minute, please, I have an announcement to make.
Clear Channel Coffee is not moving. You’ll find fresh, hot, reliable Clear Channel Coffee along with assorted stirrers and condiments exactly where they’ve always been. We’ve been here ever since Brenda asked me to assume the position three years ago, and as I ascend to untold heights in my other job (I will one day be Grand Poobah/ Clear Channel Milky Way sector 7-G) know that I will be your Chief of Coffee Maintenance until the day I’m not.
We feel it’s important that we hold steady and not confuse anyone. After all, Dame Edna may be lost, walking around mumbling to herself, but we know exactly where we are; HERE, for you.
PS. If I catch you opening a sweet-n-low packet and putting it back in the basket, I’m GOING TO SMACK YOU.
These snarky postulates on everyday work life, loosely associated with something about coffee, quickly went viral. I would receive messages from around the country with LOLs and ROFLMAOs and HAHAHA’s.
The Big Bosses knew I was commenting about things that were frustrating, and real. They also knew that acknowledging some of those realities made it seem less of an issue, and allowed us together to realize that sometimes, It Is What It Is. I’ll always appreciate Ed and Kim for their sense of humor and vision.
I’m fairly sure made it through at least 5 layoffs because of these memos, and the camaraderie it created with my co workers and managers. They knew I was, in the end, loyal to a fault; I pray it was perceived as character combined with competency.
Internal communications in a company need not always have the consistency of day old toast. There are so many occasions of stress, deadlines and challenges. Once in a while, the workplace needs to feel something real.