The Bitterness Blog

If There Were Instructions on How to Follow Directions, Would That Help?
April 10, 2009, 6:46 pm
Filed under: Work Bitching

One of the ways that my employer attempts to lull us office drones into a sense of ignorant complacency is by offering us access to a small gym in the building.  When I say small, I mean roughly the size of my bedroom, and filled with 3 treadmills, 3 stair climbers, 1 stationary bike and a workout bench.  It’s not exactly Ballys, but it is more than a lot of other companies offer.  With this privilege comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes liability, so any employee who wants to use the gym must first fill out paperwork absolving our company, as well as the company we lease the building from, of all liability should said employee injure himself while using the exercise equipment.  Someone has to be in charge of distributing, processing and filing that paperwork.  Any guesses as to who that might be?

Lucky me.

Lucky me.

This particular task should be relatively pain-free for me, mainly because the process is designed to involve as little human interaction as possible.  I direct people to the location of the forms, where there is a sign with instructions posted on the wall directly above the containers bearing the two forms.  The forms themselves are pretty self-explanatory.  One form is for our company and the other form is for the building management.  They have some legal jargon on them that no one ever reads and they require a name, phone number, date, office/cube number, building access-card number, and a signature.  Fill them out, put them in the collection basket, and wait for them to be processed.  Seems easy enough, no?

Except for one simple truth about human nature:  9 out of 10 people do not read directions.  When people ask me where the forms are, I even go so far as to say, “They are on the counter in the mail area, there’s a sign with directions on it, make sure you fill out both forms.”  The sign clearly states that there is more than one form and that both forms should be completed, and there is an arrow on the sign pointing to the basket in which the forms should be placed.  And yet, more often than not, the person that I just directed to the forms will walk up to me a minute later, one form in hand, and say, “I filled the form out, here you go!”  This response indicates a failure to recognize two vital steps in the gym waiver process.

1.  There are 2 forms.

2.  The completed forms should be placed in the basket next to the blank forms.  The basket under the sign that says “place completed forms in basket.” With the arrow pointing at it.  The bright pink arrow.

Sometimes I will find just one form in the basket, which means that at least the employee was able to complete 2/3 of the task properly.  Sometimes both forms will be in the basket, but the person will have filled out no information except the signature, or everything but the signature.  It is so rare for an employee to actually complete all the steps on the first try that the last time it happened, I personally thanked the woman for doing it correctly, and I teared up a bit.  One might reason that if so many people seem unable to complete the process smoothly, perhaps there is a design flaw in the system.  However, I have found a strong correlation between the general demeanor and self-sufficiency of employees and their ability to take the gym waivers all the way to home base unassisted.  It turns out that the ones who capably follow the directions on their own are not lazy fuckwads, while the ones who grin dim-wittedly as they shove one semi-completed form in my face just asked me five minutes earlier how to find the conference room that their weekly meeting is held in.

Hold up.  There are how many forms?

Hold up. There are how many forms?