This Cubiclenama, the last of the year, is dedicated to you, the reader. In this column I would like to share with you the three most bizarre stories of office culture insanity I’ve received via mail/Twitter/chat over 2009.

In order to protect identity and save jobs, I have cloaked names, companies and industries involved. But rest assured these are all real incidents, that happened to real employees, in real companies, due to real actions taken by real idiots.

True story 1: The phantom executive assistant

Feisty management trainee with stars in her eyes joins an Indian conglomerate. Alas, she runs afoul of vile demon in HR who instantly develops distaste for her refusal to kowtow. To add insult to injury he is not even a permanent employee, but a temp. (An HR temp. Think about it. With medical help close at hand.)

Things then reach “Cost-cutting-offsite-in-Taj-Exotica-Goa" levels of irony. Note that this HR temp will only be around for a few weeks before leaving with his expired contract and lakhs in stationery. Yet, he is asked to plan the next three years of job roles for the trainees. Our heroine is summarily banished to a new project manned by all of one senior manager. She will be a trainee first and then be promoted to executive assistant. Fancy!

Things seem to be going well. The project is epic fail, but the boss and trainee love each other platonically. And then the boss decides to quit. Trainee is heart-broken but prepares to be shifted out of the dead project.

HR, with a stunning 1980s Raza Murad-like entrance, intervenes. And when Raza Murad enters, fans know, someone gets screwed.

No, the trainee will not be transferred mid-posting. That will look badly on HR’s performance appraisal, no?

She will stay and will get promoted.

As executive assistant.


In a department with only her.

Currently she comes to work every day. Pining to assist. But there is nobody else around. Incidentally, the project has been declared a failure. But it will be kept open so that she can complete her stint. She has 13 months left. “I have now decided to work on an epic novel about Solitaire," she said over a secure line.

True story 2: Outsource and win

The regulator of a foreign reader’s industry decides that everybody working in a sales capacity must be trained before being licensed. (This licence is to ensure that the public is not sold products by morons or money-grabbing Mugambos.)

The training process involves some classroom sessions and several online training modules. After many screenfulls of training, the salesfolk must pass an exam to get a licence.

Alas, there is only one hitch in the process. The moron/Mugambo cabal are total prima donnas. They scoff at classroom training and spit in the face of online modules. But the reader’s company cannot survive with them. Company simply cannot afford to belabour them with regulatory nonsense.

HR and training managers come up with a brilliant solution. Henceforth salesfolk need only attend classroom sessions. And then the exams.

But what about the online modules?

With strategic genius, clearing the online training sessions are outsourced. Every day, employees at a local BPO log in secretly with salesfolk logins and passwords. And then spend the entire day clicking through training modules.

Regulator, company, salesfolk, BPO…all thrilled to bits. The wheels of economy continue to roll.

True story 3: Sad, Mad, Glad. Mostly Sad

Show me an HR manager in your office who suddenly has a wild idea to make the workplace more exciting, and I will show you a high-voltage power outlet you can insert your fingers into as a pre-emptive measure.

A reader recently told me how her HR people decided to put up three sheets of thermocol on the wall in each cubicle farm. The three sheets were titled Sad, Mad and Glad, respectively. Employees were then given copious amounts of thumbtacks.

Now, they were supposed to stick a thumbtack into a sheet depending on how they felt at the end of the day. Sad, mad or glad. (I know what you’re thinking: “Just let them thumbtack someone in HR once a day instead no?" Zero attrition instantly.)

Every week, HR would then count the number of tacks on each sheet. Then they would analyse this data. And finally send out an email to everybody, comprising 34% purple exclamation marks, with the analysis.

The first weekly email went thus: “It seems that most people are Sad on Mondays and very Glad on Fridays. This is an interesting trend. We hope to study this further… Love, HR!!!!!!!!!!"

Hope you have a fantastic 2010. Be good, work hard, demand a raise, and send plenty of email.

Cubiclenama takes a fortnightly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at