Cubicle Cultures

The downside of working a project on a holiday: Spending all day with colleagues who are really tired and having to work the holiday.

Illustration by Vidya Vasudevan,

Earlier today I wrote about being in the office at 0200 for an implementation. We were done at 0400 and now on the same day (12/31/17), I’m in with my team to implement updates to our tax system for IRS compliance. When I arrived ~0800 nothing had been done because of some unavailable data. My project leads were livid in a way that I don’t see often. A file or more was thought to have not been generated for a 1099 (tax lingo) run which is a bit unusual. Folks thought that a process had failed and started waking people up outside of the call. A developer got on the line and was able to find what was missing. Turned out that nothing was missing. The transfer process to get the file to the correct landing zone had not been set up properly; the file was sitting in limbo with nowhere to go. Basically, two teams didn’t coordinate their efforts and the step got missed. The transfer should have been planned and tested throughout the year and it wasn’t. I wasn’t the only one irritated by it, 29 people were on the call and 29 collective groans were audible. We’ll have to answer for that and it will be a lessons learned. Hopefully I’ll just be a fly on the wall during that meeting because it has the potential of being ugly and humiliating.

~0935 the issue was resolved and the next set of jobs were kicked off.

Blame comes in all shapes and forms except for accountability. (Credit:

What isn’t unusual is the finger pointing. First the file wasn’t there…”it’s so-and-so’s fault!”. Then it was thought that the file was there and the transfer process failed to move it from one spot to another…”it’s the other so-and-so’s fault!”. Then it was “Who moved my cheese?!”…and so on. It took a little bit for folks to take accountability but this scenario should not have happened. At least everyone’s voice stayed calm but I’ve no doubt the rumblings off line will happen with others…it’ll turn into an avalanche of rumor and speculation making everyone involved look bad. It all really comes down to planning. When the plan fails everything is affected including the attitudes of really tired people having to work on the day before New Year’s.

Maybe not this dramatic but we’ve all been there. (Credit:

All of this eventually gets to upper management (uppers) who will then have their own take on it because they’ve probably been told one thing instead of what really happened. In years past with this and other projects that have any hiccups, the uppers seem to take it as a major catastrophe when it’s not. A major catastrophe would have been if we had to back everything out and start over…not the case at all here. It ends up as a skidmark on just us since we run it all year long. Very little recognition from the uppers happens when things go smooth (there probably won’t be a congratulatory email from the uppers when I come in tomorrow but I’m still holding out hope). Even when an issue arises that gets solved with great teamwork, focus rests on the hiccup which is really disrespectful to all the hard work everyone does. It also feels that the uppers will try to manipulate the situation to where they’re the ones to take credit for the success of the implementation. I’m being too harsh here but keeping it real at the same time. Our middle management will show some love, they always do.

At the sound of the tone it will be 1012.

I don’t enjoy conference calls. Too much of “Sorry I was on mute” statements…it’s not difficult to keep your line open so we don’t have to ask if you’re there. This is a big enough effort that people should be alert and not reminded. Coughing, sneezing, hacking, sniffling, are all good reasons to be on mute…it’s the small things that matter most. During our call, when a few people chime in the Lou Gehrig farewell speech echo takes over. It also reminds me of horror movie sound effects from the Friday the 13th movies. I’m weird that way.

Greatest. Office. Video. Ever. (Credit: YouTube)

Time marched on.

It’s 1144 and the project is moving along at a good clip for now. Hearing people with celebratory tones in their voices when jobs complete and validated makes me smile. Even though much of what I’ve written above is a bit dark, this is actually a well coordinated effort. We do testing all year and I have two guys that do most of the coordination and paperwork. They write the implementation plans, gather the necessary resources, and put forth a hell of an effort. I’m proud of my entire team…always. There’s a total of 10 of us doing a herculean effort all year. VERY rarely do things go wrong but are quickly resolved when they do. In my opinion we are one of the few teams that are quick to take full accountability for our foibles which makes us unique.

Just for perspective, we’re on page 28 of 37 of the implementation plan and it’s 1146, lunch time normally but no one left the call; it’s all falling together nicely at this point. Back office jobs are running smoothly and dependencies on data are working as designed. We’re estimating being out of here in a couple of hours. Even with the hour of downtime from earlier, it may only take ~6 hours to be done. No too shabby in my book. It took the same amount of time last year. Monetary balancing is rolling and we’re getting successful validations left and right. Progress emails are more frequent with each completed stage.

1237 and some of the folks on the call are free to go home! A few of us lucky ones have to stay behind for a quick backup job to finish and then we’re tagged and released back to the wild. Other jobs will run during the upcoming week because some batch processing and data that’s only available during that time. All in all, the team is proud of what they accomplished as they should be. We all got a full afternoon back to prepare for any festivities tonight or rest (which is my plan but we have family in town to entertain).

Carbonated water may cause stomach noises. (Credit: Google search)

The point of all this is to show how well, even in the event of hiccups, a large team can come together with a common goal of success. I’ve been drinking seltzer water all day and going to home to try and cure my own hiccups.

Thanks for reading all of this and I appreciate you stopping by. If you enjoyed this piece please click the applause hands below and comment if you wish. I’d love to hear your experiences no matter what they may be. Also, I have two books available on Amazon that I advocate you to buy, Manku and Manku Too. For more about me and what I do, here’s my website.