alacrity in action
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It was a beautiful, crisp, cold winter morning today with temperatures finally dropping below zero so I have really enjoyed my cycle to work. I bet there are others, who, on the other hand, didn’t share my weather enthusiasm as they might have had to give up those precious moments of morning sleep to get up earlier and defrost their cars. It got me thinking about the temperature in our offices.

I think it’s a fair assumption that most of us work in some sort of open-space environments equipped with the usual comforts of temperature control; heating in the winter, air-conditioning in the summer; and the little innocent control dial somewhere in the corner. I have often observed all those interesting, intricate patterns of human behaviour directed at the lonely thermostat.

There will be some, who come in the morning, before most of us even start thinking of getting up, to get a grip on the control and set their favourite value. Others, who come later, will perhaps think: “oh no, it’s too hot in here, again” or the contrary “I have missed my cardigan again”. A brave individual will sneak up and turn the dial up, a few hours later someone else will pretend to ramble around and accidently fiddle with it, turning it down. Perhaps, like in one of the offices I worked in, people will start complaining to the building administrator and the thermostat will get locked in an ugly metal box. Now people will continue their battle over comfortable temperature with a barrage of emails.

All this is mostly being done covertly, quietly, often causing at least mild levels of personal agitation.

It might not be as trivial as it seems. Comfortable working environment is an important factor in how well we can do our jobs. If I can’t concentrate on the new piece of code I’m trying to write because my fingers are numb I’m prone to making more mistakes. There is also another aspect, one I’m more interested in –we seem unable to discuss the problem openly together. Perhaps we assume that, since clearly everyone has slightly different temperature expectations, it’s impossible to reach a consensus. Did we ever try to test that assumption? How would we go about doing it?

Surprisingly, it may turn out, tackling the office temperature issue will make it easier to handle other heated debates.

Or maybe it’s another argument for private offices.

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I bumped into this video on Facebook (via Murray). It’s supposed to be an experiment whereby parents gave their kids a terrible present and watched the reaction.

I’m not sure I would want to give my child a half-eaten sandwich. Still the kid’s reactions do make us laugh.

It also made me think.

Why do we find these kids funny? They just honestly express their disgust at a disappointing gift. Does that happen in real life?


Remember the last time you got a shoddy watch with a company logo for your 5th anniversary on the job? A pen to celebrate gaining a company-wide accreditation? The Christmas bonus so embarrassing you quickly donated it to charity? Maybe a golden star for a project well delivered (that is after you ruined your Christmas, Easter and summer holidays working late)? The stars I remember were glass.

Did you honestly like any of these gifts?

Maybe you’re lucky and the new cuff links with the company logo really are nice.

Or do you have the skills to tactfully yet truthfully, with respect, speak about these terrible presents?

Maybe then we wouldn’t find these kids nearly as funny. Perhaps they can offer us a valuable lesson.