Monday, November 9, 2009

Hey, Maslow, rank this: the hierarchy of daily workplace communications


"Solitary man, that's what I...oh, sorry, is that me ringing?"

I spend most of my day teaching.

Then, I go back to my desk and check my cell phone, landline phone, blog comments, emails, Tweets, RSS feeds, hand-in basket, mail, and Post-It Notes people have stuck to my desk, computer, and ample (and supple) forehead.

Never before has humankind been so liberated and enslaved by so many potential ways to talk and to be talked to; it's more challenging than ever to not only consider all of the potential ways we can choose to communicate with each other, but to determine the hierarchy of importance for each new bell, whistle, vibration, light, ringtone, bleep, beep, and tweet vying for our attention.

All Maslow jokes aside - and, yes, there are tons of Maslow jokes - here's my hierarchy of daily workplace distractions and communications, in order of most to least important:

1. Birthday cake with a card on my desk: it's my birthday?! Ignore all other messages now! I love cake! Pies too! Powdery donuts are also great in a pinch! I'm not picky.

2. Coffee-run offer: you can offer to buy me a coffee and I will take you up on that offer, and talk to you about anything at all, because I love tasty coffee so much, it makes every conversation wonderfully magical, even the ones in which someone is yelling at me.

3. Cell-phone rings: the first thing that pops into my head is, "How did somebody get this number?!" Since I have precious few friends, family, or loved ones and even fewer with whom I trust the sanctity of my cell phone number. Which means I can watch my stories, read my books, and drink my beers in peace and without interruption. Yay!

4. Cell-phone vibrates: that's an email or text message. I get about a million emails a month and five text messages. So, I give those text messages priority, just like you feed the purple cow first in a field of Jerseys. But, I still text in complete sentences and with impeccable grammar, just to differentiate my brand in a crowded landscape of "wht r u up2s."

5. Landline message-light: someone has left me a message on my landline phone, because he or she wishes to keep me chained to my desk via a chord (some would say, "noose") that stretches a foot or so, giving me the freedom to do nothing but talk.

Usually, a landline call is someone looking for somebody more important than me, but hopes that I somehow have more direct access to that person. Example: "Hey, Kenton, it's Gerry Barrett. Have you got Trevor Boris's phone number?"

6. Blog-comment alert: means that my most-loyal reader, CreComm grad and blogger extraordinaire Wade Argo, has read my post, and written something even better in response to it. Watch the comments section below to see what I mean.

7. Post-It Note: on a computer screen, it means: "You must ignore the stuff on the computer screen for now, because I've covered it with this Post-It Note." A powerful but temporary distraction - for a greater impact, they should really make Post-It Notes with Krazy Glue on the back. You know it's crazy, because it's spelled with a "K!"

8. Tweet: means that Ashton Kutcher just had Corn Flakes for breakfast.

9. RSS feed/Google Alert: notifies me instantly when someone Googles my name, so I can wonder, "Who is Googling my name at an Australian prison?"

10. Hand-in basket is full: assignments have come in that will take me the next six days to mark. Question: would you rather write one assignment or mark 30? When it comes to homework, there are truly no winners in the educational system.

11. Face-to-face conversation: means that I'm in trouble for having ignored any or all of the above messages. Nine times out of 10, it's because the person confronting me has spelled "Larsen" with an "o" instead of the much friendlier and hygienic -looking "e" in an email. Somewhere, these emails sit, waiting for a response that will never come. Brings a tear to eye, doesn't it?

11. Facebook friend request: someone who rejected me in high school would like to touch base to rekindle those feelings of insecurity and despair that I've been barely hiding beneath the surface for the last decade. OK, I'll be your friend - just stop punching me in the arm, OK? OK!

1 comment:

  1. Very enjoyable post, Kenton. Thanks as always for the shout out. First comment: you left out the old plain jane email. Where does it fit in?

    Also, here's a question: if someone were to actually mail something to you, where would it fall in the hiearchy? Pretty low?What if the envelope was hand-addressed and had a real stamp so you knew someone took the time to make it personal?

    I received a letter a while back from my own sister (who lives in Ontario). It was weird and at first I thought "What is this foreign looking thing?" but I soon warmed up to the idea. She had written me a short note of encouragement over something I was going through, and it really felt special.

    If I had to rank my own world of communication it would be something like this:

    1) Face-to-face conversation (It's kind of hard to ignore, though wouldn't it be nice to just hit ignore and walk away sometimes).

    2) Voicemail/Text message- I'll listen to a voicemail if I'm curious or don't want the stupid reminder vibe to bug me all day. I'll respond to a text message in a relatively timely fashion depending on its importance.

    3) Cell call- I'm a notorious screener. I might say I missed your call, but I'm lying. I haven't actually "missed" a call in 8 years. I just screened your call. God bless call display!

    4) Email- If you really want to get a hold of me, please don't email me. I don't check my email every 5 minutes and I don't have a smart phone, so if you're life is on the line, you're out of luck.

    5) Anything else.

    My earlier comment also leads me to ask a question of you and your readers. As someone who always has their phone on vibe, I find that I experience "phantom vibe syndrome." Even when I'm not carrying my cell in my hip holster, carrier thingy, I'll still get the vibe feeling once in awhile. It's bizarre. Am I alone on this, or are there others out there who suffering like me?

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