Why do businesses keep pretending that hybrid work is amazing?

A little over a month ago, I was asked by a recruiting team to put together a blog post on why their employees loved working in a hybrid workplace. I suggested that we make this feel genuine and include employee voices and was promptly provided with a short list of “friends-of-the-hybrid-workplace”: employees who would give any number of unused body parts to never return to all-remote again.

The piece, however, still isn’t written. None of those hip-hip-hurray-hybrid employees actually felt that way.

Okay, that’s not entirely honest: one worker was willing to contribute but after the recruiting team saw his quotes, he was deemed too hostile to hybrid to include. Oh, and he’s on the HR team, too.

Each time I talk to the recruiting team about this, they tell me the same thing: we just aren’t making the employees understand the purpose of this blog post we’re trying to create. “The employees don’t understand why it’s important,” they tell me. But the problem is that the employees DO understand the post, its goal, and how it will help the company’s recruiting efforts. They just can’t get past the fact that contributing would mean lying, and that they themselves would jump ship for remote in a heartbeat — no raise or promotion required.

Years ago, I worked in ergonomics, a field that says jobs should be designed to fit the worker rather than the other way around. Those keyboard, chairs, and standing desks, that’s their goal — to make jobs feel more natural for the worker. Herman Miller has made billions with this concept. And worker’s backs, arms, brains, and retention rates are far better off because of this.

So why aren’t all businesses willing to take this same approach to where we work, too?

My theory is that the pro-hybrid employer is driven less by the need for face-to-face time and more by saving face amidst long-term lease contracts.”But we still have another 60 months on this bargain lease!” reverberates through my brain. I say this because I’m not willing to believe that after all we’ve been through over the past few years that any business out there isn’t sure that their employees are productive at home or that they’re not capable of collaborating via Zoom. Stats are showing that workers are. If you haven’t read the June 2022 Bloomberg interview with economist Nick Bloom, who indicated just how much more productive workers are at home, you should. It’ll clear everything up for you.

Continually telling workers — and in this case, job candidates, too — that they should love “hybrid” when they’d really rather work remote smacks of the same logic that pushes people to talk louder rather than find a better way to communicate with someone who obviously doesn’t speak the same language. It’s instinctual, yes. But it’s not effective.

The end result is the same, too: the message falls flat. And as the person who keeps yelling the same thing over and over, you look like an jackass for trying.

Can a suspension actually be permanent?

What does it mean when Twitter tells you to take a hike?
ARTICLE: Twitter permanently suspends Marjorie Taylor Greene’s account for spreading COVID-19 misinformation

TLDR: Twitter tells Marjorie Taylor Greene to stop tweeting from her account — and claims that it’s forever.

In its long history of esteemed bans, MGT was told by Twitter to go sit in a corner and stop telling lies about COVID after rattling off a series of 19 COVID lies on New Year’s day 2022 obviously to preserve the integrity of tweets everywhere. While on the surface, this may seem like the ticket to shut Marj up for a bit, it likely won’t be as sad an occurrence as Trump’s full-on ban was for him, since he was as dependent upon the platform as he likely was on his nightly cofeve…

What Marjorie Taylor Greene’s permanent suspension means if you’re a …

50-something year old woman with advanced degrees in the humanities: Your first reaction: “Marjorie Taylor Greene can compose a tweet?” Since she’s barely coherent most of the time, this thought rattles your world. Then you find your Twitter login (for one of the five troll accounts you created after November 2016) and put that thought out of your brain because coherence obviously isn’t essential.

Your second reaction: Will anyone care? You consider shooting off a DM to the uncle, great-aunt, and hillbilly cousin you blocked in 2016, again in 2017, 18, 18, and 20, until it finally stuck, but don’t want to remind them that you’re still alive.

Your third reaction: where’s the logic. It’s the bane of your humanities degree no doubt, but isn’t a “permanent suspension” an oxymoron? The definition of “suspension” is a temporary halt, so how can something temporary be permanent. After all, is a divorce merely a suspension of your marriage? Is repossession just a suspension of your car loan? Is telling your boss to go fuck himself just going to result in HR telling you to take a temporary departure from your job? When we argue Roe v. Wade, can we just call them suspended pregnancies? Because, sure, that all makes sense.

Middle-aged marketer: The numbers show you that normal people don’t actual read anything on Twitter anyway, which is why your demand-gen programs there always tank. Only the press gives a shit about what happens on Twitter now. MGT should just stick to Facebook — lots of whack-ass old people there.

High school student: Huh? When I was suspended for telling my teacher to go fuck himself, I was only out 3 days. Wasn’t worth it. Had I been in class, I would have been exposed to COVID by the mouth-breather next to me and gotten a full 5 days away from school.

Everyone else: Ha..hang…hang on. Watching Tik-Tok.

Update (Jan 9 2022): Surprise! Marjorie Taylor Greene has another Twitter account. According to Newsweek, she began tweeting from it again this week — after she told her followers to leave Twitter. I know … logic.

Two years

I taught for two years. Which is amazing in retrospect, especially since those years included 2020-2021.

It’s at least one if not two years more than I had ever intended.

When I decided to become a teacher — the public school kind — I wasn’t actually sure I’d change careers. When I took the classes, I wasn’t sure I was actually being prepared for classroom work. When I was presented with the student teaching, I wasn’t committed to actually going through with it and was pretty sure I would delay it at the last minute. When the school called me over the summer to ask if I’d take an internship instead of student teaching, I finally had to decide. So I said yes. I wasn’t excited, wasn’t actually sure of what I was doing, but I figured if I didn’t try, I’d never know.

When that first year took a twist in mid-March to shutdown, I was pretty sure I’d spent my last day in a school building. But April was a weird month — one of my cats and my older sister both started dying (so far, fortunately, only the cat has completed the task) — and by the end of it, the thought of figuring out what I’d do next was utterly paralyzing. So when I was offered a role for the following year at a different school, all that went through my mind was “I won’t have to figure out how to make my car payment.” And I said yes.

Once the fog of impending death and COVID shutdowns lifted, however, I realized I was teaching again.

It’s amazing sometimes what we do when our brains don’t have the energy to process actions. Like when I talk to my daughter who regularly falls asleep watching Netflix on a school night because what 17 year old wouldn’t? She responds to whatever I ask but the answers are utter nonsense — a different nonsense than what she would normally spew. Or when the still unvaxxed opt to accept whatever ludicrous bullshit is fed to them even though it defies all logic and contradicts everything they learned about immune systems in middle school, and laughably say they’ve “done their own research,” which makes me wonder “research into what?” which is, too, utter nonsense. Or even when I turn left because Google Maps tells me to although I know fact that it’s faster to go straight at the intersection but I blindly accept that Google knows what’s best for me until I realize I misheard the instructions and am heading the wrong direction down a one way street (true story, BTW). But it’s at these times that we left though wallow in the shadows and let someone else tell us what to do. It’s not right, but it is real.

Just like me and teaching. It wasn’t right. Another place? Maybe. A Pennsylvania yankee in Roscoe Coltrane’s court, metaphorically speaking of course, isn’t setting herself up for success. Another time? If there was a way to accurately predict when a pandemic wouldn’t happen, when people wouldn’t fight personal protection equipment, when elections would become so twisted, or when a woman named “Monkey” wouldn’t spread fear about the prospect of losing honors and AP classes and somehow justify this by saying that black students don’t have the capacity to excel in these classes while the school board did nothing to stop her. Yeah, maybe another time.

But the fact is, it was real.

Writer or editor?

“Writer or editor?” It’s the kind of question that would come up all the time back when I was interviewing for jobs where I’d inevitably be asked to do both and neither at the same time. Usually it was asked by someone in the 30-ish crowd who found themself to be utterly amusing, never realizing that the question was, on a good day, trite. But whatever. I answered with some bullshit response about how you couldn’t be good at either one if you weren’t some of both, and yada yada yada (yes, even more trite).

I didn’t know the real answer until we bought out second house. We looked at everything in between $250,000 and $700,000 in a three town area, and I couldn’t find anything I liked, although the house with blood red faux finish on the walls was worth the effort.

Finally, we decided to build. We found the lot, the builder and were ready to sign … and then:

“I want to look at one more.” That was me in search-month six as we were waiting for a call back from our builder.

He didn’t call back fast enough. Maybe. It could be that I just wasn’t in for the stress of starting with a blank page or empty slate.

We bought that “one more” house instead. It was used. More than 20 years old. Bland. Boring with a weird split-level layout that made this early 1990s house seem like something out of my 1970s childhood. But it was fixable. I could see that. And it turns out that fixable is what I wanted.

Building the perfect beast isn’t for me. I’m more into direecting that beast’s glow up. Design a kitchen? Never. I want YOU to design it for me so I can find all of the reasons I hate it and rip it up and redo leaving just one or two elements in place so you can see that I made it better. I assume this is rooted in some sort of insecurity for me because if you take the first stab at something and I fix it and later I hate what I do, I’ll blame it on limitations, which is all I was hoping for all along.

Just more proof that the real answer is, “I’m an editor.”

Limit me.

Why I left marketing

Author’s note: Best part of this post? I’ve now left teaching and returned to marketing. Different company, better boss, and a view of content marketing that seems to focus on only the few things that I truly enjoyed about marketing. Will it make a difference this time? We’ll see. But, no, I don’t take any of the sentiment stated below back.

When I tell people I left marketing to become a teacher, the most frequent response I get is “why”?

Okay, that’s wishful thinking. I usually get a “Good for you,” or “That will be so rewarding.” At first, I just assumed all of these people thought I couldn’t make a living because I was so bad at marketing. Then I realized that this was just their way of politely saying they didn’t really care.

I get it. I probably wouldn’t care either. But since you actually clicked the link and got to this site, I’m hoping you do (or maybe you’re just here for the trainwreck you think I’ll turn everything into?), so I’ll tell you why.

I left marketing cuz I was a shitty marketer. K, maybe not shitty, but I wasn’t anything more than “Good” or “Average,” regardless of what my paychecks said. Maybe I was decent, but deep down, my heart just wasn’t in it. I was only there for the writing.

I loved publishing, planning magazines and newspapers, and even small-time newsletters, which is what I did before the market dried up in 2009 or 2010 and someone decided I’d be perfect for marketing, which was how I miserably made my career for a decade before becoming a writer. Once most magazines went under, I was left with marketing. More specifically, I was left with “content marketing,” which wasn’t for me.

In marketing, I reallly only liked the meaty assignments, the ones that weren’t really marketing at all but were intended to help a customer or client learn and go deeper with a product or subject. These became marketing campaigns only when a company was desperate. “Where can we move the needle?” I was sure this was what they asked as they dusted off their virtual Rolodex and landed on my number. Except those assignments rarely came through. No great marketer ever hung their hats on making more from the same customers they already had. That wasn’t hot or sexy.

Real marketers — people who were good at their jobs (and there are some amazing marketers out there) — wanted me to do stuff that would directly result in customer growth and revenue. A ton of it. That didn’t really jibe with my interests. So between hating marketing (which may have also been precipitated by me working for a boss who was a lyin’-ass, micromanaging a-hole, and then jointing a super-small startup agency that never really went anywhere in its one-year existence before going under) and not finding anything emotionally satisfying in my work, I left.

Honestly there are people who love writing content and are probably great at it or at least patient enough to check their give a damn at the door, but I wasn’t one of them. I was too emotionally involved to write one more blog post where I pretended to be an old white guy or another infographic that showed the immeasurable value of a cheaply made widget that no one really needed anyway. I left.

I still do a little marketing as a side hustle (which is why I use terms like “side hustle,” no doubt), but unless I really know (and adore) the client, most projects I’m willing to take on need to be focused on educating a customer or prospect. I don’t write SEO copy — I hate it and I charge too much for most businesses to even consider asking. I jumped at a GDPR info piece a few years ago, however, because it gave me a chance to learn something I was unfamiliar with. That’s how I see marketing now: what do I get out of it beyond a check (which is always appreciated but not always enough to stay motivated)? If the payoff is good, I’m in.

Incidentally, I start year two of my teaching career next week. Year one was a shit show. Who knows what this one will be. Sometimes the classroom makes me long for marketing, where I knew what I was doing. But not really.

Alexa, is Dennis Franz still alive?

I asked Alexa tonight if Dennis Franz is still alive. She didn’t say “yes,” or rattle off some birth stats that she “found on the web.” Her response was more direct: “Dennis Franz is still alive.” No justification, no reason, just a confirmation that I was on the right track.

Yes, Alexa has a stock answer for the question, “Is Dennis Franz still alive,” which makes me wonder how many other people are asking the same thing. Does she have one for Telly Savalas, Bob Dole, Tammy Faye Baker? Or is it just Dennis Franz?

Day 57 (I think) — Tuesday

I keep seeing my 8th grade self in the 127 students I taught this year. I’m the one over there that’s not rocking the boat. Without the nerve or need to ask for clarification, who simply knows what I have to do. I’m the suck up, unintentionally, of course, the kind who knows that that I need to get this stuff right the first time or face whatever mockery or belittlement would be dished out otherwise. Oh, or the disappointment my failure would bring too someone somewhere. I’m the one who doesn’t like the attention — definitely not negative attention and surely not positive attention that I lobby for myself. Honestly, I’m only worthwhile by being perfect.

This tendency to overdo, overperfect, and undercelebrate me never actually leaves, and anytime I see it in a student, I want to stop them, tell them to fail, tell them to try something that’s hard. Not math-problem hard. Those weren’t actually hard. I mean put-yourself-out-there-and-risk-fucking-up hard.

But I never do. Even now, I can’t be the change that I really ought to be, the one that makes a difference. By all accounts, I have everything it takes — except courage.

So I stay very tight lipped. I don’t tell anyone anything until I know th answer and have somehow found a way to control the message. That’s how I stay in charge. Always.

This, incidentally, makes me a master at handling stress. Like when my mentor emails to ask if I’ve applied for jobs, which I should have but haven’t. I hear myself telling her, “I’ve had a few more important things on my mind. You know, dying cat, dying sister, this class that I’m teaching that I know I’m fucking up, and the other one I was saddled with, too. O, yeah, and making ends meet on a lousy $19k intern pay. “ I hear myself saying this and know that it’s honest, gritty, transparent, vulnerable, exactly what I should say to be human.

But I don’t say it. In fact, I say nothing. I just ignore her message and keep all of this tamped down hard. Brick hard. Starbucks baristas got nothing on my tamping skills. Healthy. Keep those emotions hidden from view. Nothing ventured, nothing lost, right?

Turn it off, like a mother-fucking light switch.

Day 48 – Sunday

I start hiding the tahini bread from the children after I see my son take a slice that’s well over two inches thick from an 8×4 loaf pan. I would understand if it were a 12×4 loaf pan but this clearly isn’t. And it’s delicious. The tahini bread, which tastes like halva humped a pound cake, is mine. He can have the Cinnamon Toast Crunch (but not the Nutella — that’s also mine).

Looking back at previous posts, I realize my dates for posts are either entirely bullshit or time actually has ceased to move forward and I really did only advance 4 days during the past week. I honestly don’t know which is more true.

More treats to hide.

Day 44 – Monday

We’re low on beer. Dangerously low. All that remains is some shitty low alcohol stuff left over from before last November’s switch to 5% grocery store beer, and the insanely strong stuff that I reserve for weekends-only.

We have wine, but it triggers my allergies, which are already getting bad, and I don’t know why. I blame this one really bad cat — one of the five who lives in our house. She sleeps on my side of the bed all day and is likely intentionally making me sneeze. Anyway, I swear off wine from about April through June to keep my eyes from watering so much and so I can taste something, anything. It sucks. I have good wine that needs me to drink it.

We stocked up on beer, whiskey, and everything else on day 1, one of the last times we left the house for anything other than a run. Actually, I didn’t go. My husband was more than willing to sacrifice himself for booze. He’s a good man.

We had an obscene amount of beer when all of this started. The garage Kelvinator was full. It had beers stored on top of it. Now it’s sad.

Teachers shouldn’t run out of booze. Ever.

I drink about one beer a day. I can’t say how much my spouse drinks. Probably a whole lot more. I’m pretty jealous.

Sometimes the wine on the counter or the grappa — I am one-quarter Italian — calls me early in the morning, before a Zoom meeting. I tell it to shut up. Summer will be here soon enough, but, you know, I won’t heed it’s call then either.

The grappa bottle in question is dressed like Santa Claus. Usually he’s naked, but someone has put his full coat back on him. It’s cold in our house so I understand.

We keep saying we’re going to the liquor store for real beer, but I know we’re both chicken. Is hooch worth the Covid? Utah won’t sell to-go beer and grocery and liquor stores make you walk inside to buy it. Is it worth the risk? Probably. I’m guessing we’ll find out which wins — sanity or health — in the next few days. My money is on sanity.

Day 42 – Saturday

I find out that my sister has cancer. Great. I’m not really processing it.

I look it up after hanging up the phone. Calls are weird. I text whenever possible but there are obviously times for exceptions. I couldn’t find anything on the type of cancer she has. It doesn’t exist. This would be wonderful if she were a pathological liar or a hypochondriac, but she’s not.

I found another cancer with a similar name. She texted the name to me before she called. Did My guess is that in her haste or the doctor’s she wrote her cancer down wrong. Or maybe Apple changed it for her. Long story.

I hope I’m wrong. The cancer that I found with a very similar name is rare, hard to detect until it’s almost too late, and has a low 5-year survival rate.

It all feels very clinical to me now. That could go on for a long time. I didn’t really process my dad’s cancer maybe for a few years after he was gone. It was HIS cancer. This is HER cancer.

Why is cancer possessive?