We've all done it.
That panicked moment when someone steps into your office when you're in the midst of trolling the postings on Monster, flipping through the Valentine's Day e-greeting cards (hoping someone sends you one), ordering a duvet cover on BlueFly, playing Tetris, or reading blogs (which is actually OK, plus oh-so-much-easier-to-disguise as real work).
Chuck Westbrook, of I Hate Your Job, has actually come up with a new coinage to describe the contortion that most of us go into when caught in workplace flagrante.
...known as the move to go from Goofing Off To Frustrated And Tired, this classic defense mechanism describes the appropriate reaction when caught off-task on your computer. It is typically a spastic attempt to close or minimize a browser executed simultaneously with sitting up in your chair, turning toward the intruder, and adjusting the items on your desk. When done correctly, the G.O.T.F.A.T. creates the illusion that you have been caught in a moment of stressed frustration with your computer, posture, and desk condition all at once. Usually it is followed by a hasty, tired-sounding, “Hey, what’s up?”
The first time I performed a G.O.T.F.A.T. - well before I even knew there was a name for it - was during the Clinton Administration. It occurred when the Monica Lewinsky affair was just starting to burst onto the scene, and I was curious to see whether the White House web site had any reference to it.
Forgetting for a moment that the White House is a "gov" not a "com", I typed in the url whitehouse.com.
I have no idea if they're still around but whitehouse.com was a sex site.
I frantically began performing what was actually a modified G.O.T.F.A.T. in which I rapidly attempted to close the offending window and pop ups. There was no need to extend the maneuver, as it was a Sunday and there was no one else at work. (Okay, I guess since I was grazing the Internet for news on L'Affaire Monique, I wasn't exactly at work in terms of actually "doing" work, either. But, let's face it, the definition of exactly what work is depends on what the meaning of the word is is. Or work. Or something.)
In any case, as I clicked on X's and pummeled the backspace key, I was worrying about whether someone checking the traffic reports would find that I'd been cruising an X-rated site, which was a little problem we'd been having with a couple of employees.
My next G.O.T.F.A.T. experience was on a workday, and did involve people walking by my office, which was on a well-trafficked corridor, during a high traffic period.
Genuity, where I was then working, made a regular appearance on a site called "f'd company". You had to pay a subscription to get the really juicy stuff, but they could always be relied on for some information teasers and tidbits. I checked in every couple of days just to see how 'f'd' f'd company thought we were.
Well, instead of typing in 'f'd company', I mindlessly typed in a variation on a theme.
Let the porn begin!
I felt like I was playing PacMan. I just couldn't move fast enough to close all those pop-ups(and eye-popping pop-ups they were) that started cascading onto my screen. I finally turned the screen off and unplugged the PC entirely.
Talk about a yuck fest! (Yuck!)
Meanwhile, I knew up close and personal that the company - however f'd it may have been - was monitoring use of the corporate network to go onto unsavory sites. I knew this because someone in my group had been nabbed for engaging in a long running salacious e-mail exchange with a fellow employee. The reason that the company was monitoring the e-mails of this fellow employee was because he had been found spending most of his working hours on sex sites.
Boy, was I thrilled when I was asked to read through the e-mail exchange (after a few passages, I got the drift), and put the person in my group on warning.
Back to G.O.T.F.A.T., I do have a question for Chuck, and that is: what's the acronym or term for the blunder of not realizing you've been caught trolling the online netherworld or playing games on the company time?
At one point in my career, I reported to a woman who was continually calling her team members into her office.
Mostly, she was on the phone with her mother or one of her sisters, but she'd wave us in, gesture that we were to sit, then continue her conversation, a scintillating combo of things domestic ("I got those new curtains up") and familial ("Nicholas said we should name the new baby Poopyhead. Isn't that precious?')
One of my boss' habits was that she was always playing Tetris during a phone call.
And while the phone call may have ended with her hanging up ("Call you later, Mom."), the Tetris games didn't. They continued throughout our meetings.
She would, however, pretend that she was checking on something important, reading her e-mails, demonstrating the parallel processing skills that had catapulted her to the lofty position of managing us. Her brow would furrow, and if one of us was making a point during a particularly tense moment in Tetris (when the game was speeding up), she would say, "Give me a minute. I just want to finish this one thing.")
Since we were staring at the back of her computer, I really don't think she realized that we knew what she was up to.
But not only was her screen - and the Tetris game - reflected in the window behind her, it was reflected in her big oversized glasses. And, of course, even if we had been blind, the tell-tale Tetris clicking certainly sounded more like someone playing a game than answering e-mails or doing strategic analysis.
In any event, I didn't end up reporting to her for very long, and her Mom-calling and Tetris-playing eventually caught up with her and she was laid off.
Still, I'm wondering what the name for not being savvy enough to do the G.O.T.F.A.T. maneuver is.
Chuck, can you help me out here?
Is it FATHEAD? Would that work?