Susan The Magazine

Articles by Susan Starbird

“Don’t worry” and other things you don’t want to hear at work

Absolutely true tales from the water cooler, excerpted from Susan’s manuscript, On The Job: The Emotional Life of Work

  • “Hello, this is Janet calling from HR to tell you what to do with your subpoena.”
  • “Remember that big explosion that killed eight people, destroyed three dozen houses, and shut down the freeway? The attorneys say their clients relied on the safety manual you wrote.”
  • “When she walks in, you hold her down and I’ll kill her with this serrated breadknife.”
  • “Hello, this is Linda Ballabanian from the Franchise Tax Board and we are coming by at two this afternoon to audit your business. Will someone be in the office?”
  • “Hello, this is Evan Watson from the District Attorney’s office. I’m in your neighborhood and would like to drop by for a chat.”
  • “They got a judgment against us and are trying to collect. But we’re not paying because they didn’t do anything, and we don’t care what the judge said.”
  • “Your contract should include a guarantee that you will continue revising the work until you produce something we all like, because none of your predecessors were able to satisfy our committee.”
  • “We are going to dump this old technology on the market because the new technology is already taking off.”
  • “I see from your expense receipts that you charged ten pencils to our account. Now you know you are not going to use up ten pencils on this job.”
  • “I couldn’t get to the job site because my ex-wife set my truck on fire.”
  • “I don’t care what the customers want. I’m paying the bill, aren’t I?
  • “My group wants you to facilitate a creative brainstorming session, but I won’t pay you unless you get everyone to agree on the outcome I want.”
  • “Water splashing on the electrical console is no concern of yours. Just be sure to tell us if you get a shock.”
  • “A competitor of yours just leased the office next door to us, and they’re such nice people!”
  • “In all the years we’ve worked with you we never realized you also can do the big stuff, so we just hired another firm for the new project. Maybe you can sub for them?”
  • “Our customers want the cheapest price possible and wouldn’t know quality if it bit them in the ass, so we don’t need to bother about that.”
  • “I Googled some of the keywords you use talking with us and found out that what you do is a real thing, not just something you are making up.”
  • “It shouldn’t take you more than a day to do this little remodeling project.”
  • “It’s so out-of-character of you to think you can compete with us.”
  • “Your probationary period is over, and look, we made you a special pooper scooper with your name on it!”
  • “Your posture is really impressive, but people in the department have complained to me that they feel intimidated.”
  • “It’s great that you have all these new ideas. People around here would feel better, though, if you just kept them to yourself. We wouldn’t want people to think there is a problem with our usual procedures, would we. No.”
  • “We really, really, really want to work with you! You are so good! Don’t take this the wrong way, but can you do the job for fifty percent of what you quoted?”
  • “The boss is being a particular asshole today because he is so heartbroken that you’ve quit.”
  • “I know we hired you to analyze where we went wrong. We’re very unhappy with what you found out. While we aren’t saying your report is incorrect, you’re fired.”
  • “I was dismayed by our efficiency expert’s report that the week you people kept detailed logs of what you did every day, productivity declined dramatically. What gives?”
  • “We hired a new boss in your division and gave him your title. But don’t worry, because you’ll still be doing the same work as before.”
  • “If we gave you a raise, we’d have to give everyone else one too, including that deadbeat drug addict back in the warehouse.”
  • “But you’re the only person here with a truck big enough to haul away a dead cow.”
  • “Go ahead, dazzle me.”