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Smart Advice – June 27, 2009

Corner Office Curmudgeon

“A crusty, irascible, cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas”

Life at work is never easy. We are often confronted with situations we don’t know how to handle. Each month, this retired senior Honolulu executive offers his take on how to handle the challenges and foibles of office life.

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I’m in my 20s and sometimes get pretty bus’ up during happy hour. The next day is pretty much shot because of a hangover. Do I, A: Call in sick; B: Show up to work and hope no one notices the vodka sweating through my pores; or C: Show up to work and brag about how many drinks I had?

Where do you work? If you’re self-employed, take option A.

Option B could work for dive instructors, and C might be okay if you work with a bunch of people who do the same thing. But if you’re serious about your job, whatever it is, and your future, you’d better take option D: Leave while you’re still sober and go home to bed so you can do your job. Too many of the first three and they’re likely to find someone who doesn’t have a drinking problem.

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I love manapua and all, but pork-stuffed flour buns aren’t the healthiest things in the world. Then again, I think those fruit baskets are pretentious. Is there anything else I can
bring to a client’s office that might be more sensible and might actually be eaten? In fact, does it make sense to bring goodies when visiting a client?

Sure, how about a quart of ice cream and two spoons so the two of you can share? The fact is, many companies have rules about accepting — or giving — gifts. Mostly what you need to bring when visiting clients is a profitable reason for them to do business with you — either a product they need or advice that will help them. Don’t mess with trinkets and food they may not like and that won’t benefit their business. I know, you’re going to say it’s local style. In that case, bring a bag or box of individually wrapped cookies.

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My computer’s lame. I’ve asked managers for an upgrade but they won’t invest in technology. What should I do to get a new one?

Plug it into a 220-volt outlet and fry it? Lift it up to shoulder height and drop it? What makes you think you know more than the managers about what kind of computer you need to do your job? The one you have may not be great for surfing the ’Net, but they’re not paying you to do that. If they think it’s sufficient, stay at it and remember — they’re paying you by the hour and not by the megabyte.

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Hawaii is a generous place. We are constantly buying Zippy’s chili tickets, sweetbread or other fundraising items to help our colleagues. These are generally advertised on the office e-mail system. The Boss is thinking about banning all such solicitations. Should she?

Should she? Sure. Left unchecked, in-office solicitations can interfere with business. Will she? Depends on whether she has kids in Little League or soccer. The problem with this sort of thing is that often the unmarried among us get the short end of the stick. In a world that was fair, only the people with kids would get asked and they would only ask each other.

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At lunch, several people ordered a drink. I didn’t and neither did my boss. What’s the protocol? Is it still OK to have a drink at lunch? Is the three-martini lunch out of date?

Smart fella you. When in Rome, etc. Take your cue from your boss. It never hurts to follow his lead, and it’s even better if you know ahead of time how he feels about it. Drinking a lot at lunch is dumb, especially if you have to do real work when you get back to the office. The only time I’d recommend it is when you’re out with a client and she insists on it. And if that happens, only in moderation.

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Have a question for the Curmudgeon? E-mail curmudgeon@hawaiibusiness.com or mail it to Curmudgeon, c/o Hawaii Business, 1000 Bishop St., Suite 405, Honolulu, HI 96813. Don’t be shy, he’s heard and seen it all. Your anonymity will be protected.

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