Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Spitting Distance

I've seen some pretty lousy work behavior over the years - tantrums, rages, snottiness, threats, cruelties petty and large - but by and large, in my experience, people have tended to conduct themselves pretty well when it comes to physical assaults in the high-tech workplace.

Sure, there was the passive-agressive young woman who got caught by her boss on an aggressive day. When he asked her whether anything was bothering her, she answered, "Why do ask?" Then she flexed her fingers, got up on her tippy-toes, and slowly carved 10 top-to-bottom claw marks in his door. Perfect execution - she didn't even break a nail. The claw marks were so deep she must have sharpened her talons for the occasion.

Then there was the guy who got ticked off that we'd gone ahead and made a hire that he had some doubts about. He punched a deep hole in the wall, nearly breaking his hand in the process. We had to move a poster to cover up the hole before the new employee started. We didn't want him asking any questions about what had happened.

Another time, my team was finishing up a planning session with a customer who had recommended another company's system over ours. He was overruled, and was none-too-happy about having to suck it up and work for his second (or maybe we we his third) choice. When a junior person on my team who was the project manager took out her yellow pad and sweetly said, "Let's summarize the next steps," we were all more than a bit shocked when our less-than-satisfied customer grabbed the pad, tore off the top sheet, and hurled it at Susan.

Still, petty squabbling, politicking, backbiting, snide comments, treachery, intrigue, and out and out meanness aside, my work place has been largely free of physical violence.

Of course, I would expect to have had a different experience if, say, I'd work in the National Football League rather than in high tech. But even among those rough and tumble guys, there's a Code of Conduct, and apparently the number one item in is a 'no spitting' rule.

At least that's what I understand to be the case now that the Cowboys' bad boy, Terrell Owens, has spit in the face of the Falcon's DeAngelo Hall. According to Hall, "That's the No. 1 thing in the National Football League. You don't spit in another grown man's face."

With all truly terrible things that can happen to you during a football game, both the clean and "legal" hits, and all of those penalities for illegal dirty plays - headbutting, late hits, neck tackles, piling on - I wouldn't think that spitting would be that big a deal.

As it turns out, a follow up article on this not only announced that TO has been fined $35K for his offense, which given his salary really isn't worth spit, but also listed a number of other times when NFL players have been fined for spitting at an opponent.

Every workgroup has a code of conduct whether it's written down somewhere or not. I've just not been aware of any with an explicit or implicit guideline on spitting in an other grown man's face.

(There was, however, that time when I worked at Wang Labs when, on the staircase, I found a major lugie that someone had hawked up...)


mary@maryschmidt.com said...

Here's another one for you:

I was once in a meeting with a director of product management. The entire group was squeezed into his office, basically trapping him behind his desk. As the discussion moved along and he started hearing things he didn't like he started screaming, ending with literally climbing over his desk and running out of the building.

This from a supposedly grown man.

As for the spitting - while reprensible and childish - at least the NFL players have the courage to do it to another's face. The downside of blogging is that there are so many people out there who will virtually spit on each other.

Shannon Munford said...

I think the NBA, NFL and of course the National Hockey Leuge would benefit from a embeded anger management program for all its current and incoming employees. I hope it does not take someone to get killed before action is taken.

Shannon Munford
Daybreak Counseling Service