How Work Is A Lot Like Elementary School

Last year, my company moved to a brand new building.  Green certified.  Flat screen monitors.  Video conferencing.  New furniture.  Everything was beautiful.  Several weeks ago, we received a Facilities e-mail notifying us that the portable control panel units (the fancy tablet that controls the room’s audio-visual and conferencing capabilities) would now be secured to the wall because of damage and expensive repair costs.  Signs posted on the walls of the conference room remind users to put these units back to save the battery and prevent damage.  But as always, there were some people who just didn’t pay attention.

I know this sounds pretty minor, but I am reminded of how work can be similar to an elementary school.  But instead of five-year olds, the class is comprised of 25-, 45-, 65- and 75-year old grown adults.  Here are some examples:

  • Conference room white boards.  I respect that you’re a visual learner.  I understand you’re trying to get your point across by drawing various pictures, words and numbers on the white board.  But when you start breaking out the different colored markers and hieroglyphic symbols that no one understands, I think you might be going a little overboard.  This was the classroom artist who used to doodle pictures of Snoopy and write his name in graffiti on his book covers.  Except now, he’s using a full conference room wall to create art.  Instead of drawing Snoopy, it’s a beautifully drawn flow chart of some obscure process.
“Can I please draw on the white board?”
  • Why is there graffiti in the building?  When you’re five, you don’t know any better.  Or you think its cool to deface property by marking your initials or the initials of your school crush into your desk.  But why is there graffiti on the elevator panel or in the bathroom?  That means someone purposely took out their pen, key or some other sharp object to make their mark.  Aren’t you a little too old to be vandalizing things?And what exactly are you drawing?  Some kind of Accounting Department gang symbol?
  • At the old building, we used to have a TV room next to our cafeteria.  The TV would be on from mid-morning until mid-afternoon – playing soap operas and daytime talk shows.  Not CNN.  Not CNBC.  But Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, the Guiding Light and As the World Turns.  Once during March Madness, I had a few co-workers go down and try to change the channel.  BIG mistake.  They told me the ladies down there quickly shot down that idea while verbally assaulting them.  Remember when the teacher would bring in a new board game for the class?  This is a lot like the same group of kids who would hog the game, not allowing others to play.
  • The single biggest reason I’m convinced that work is like elementary school is the non-hand washer.  I can’t count how many times I’ve been in the bathroom when I hear a stall door open and see the person rush right out of the bathroom – without washing their hands.  I mean, don’t they teach hand washing at about the same time you’re learning your ABC’s?  Are you really that much in a rush to get back to your spreadsheet?  From now on, instead of shaking hands, I think I’ll just give a head nod or dap.

Warning: If you’re eating, stop before proceeding.

  • At our old building on our floor we had one men’s bathroom with two stalls.  The year that we moved, someone who we nicknamed the “Bomber” began to terrorize the floor.  The Bomber would use the big (handicap) stall in the men’s bathroom and spray the toilet bowl and seat with his, uh, doo-doo.  When I say spray, I mean a) Linda Blair/Exorcist projectile-like; and b) The I don’t know how you possibly could clean yourself up after that kind of spray.  The poor maintenance crew.  Every other week, there was yellow tape on the stall door, like a crime had been committed there.  Everyone on the floor knew each other pretty well so we were convinced it was someone from another department.  I was thinking this was kind of like that one kid in class that would do anything for the gross-out factor (you know, like eat glue or bugs).  But then I realized this went way beyond that.  I mean, who would do this at work?  To this day, the “Bomber” still remains an unsolved mystery.

How does work remind you of elementary school?