Friday, April 18, 2014

Coffee, Anyone?

Have you ever had a week where the most unhappy person on the planet decided to focus all their efforts on you? Yeah, me too. It is amazing to me at how some people are not happy unless they are unhappy. What is worse is when they are not satisfied with making themselves unhappy and proceed to dampen everyone's spirits in a five-mile radius. They love to share, don't they?

After dealing with a couple of these people this week, I was in need of a laugh. Little did I know the laugh would come walking into my office, disguised as a completely serious person describing what, to them, was a completely serious subject. Go on, you ask? Why, certainly.

We had an auditor on site this week. Not an unusual occurrence, certainly, and the auditor sat contentedly at his desk about 20 feet outside my office. One of my co-workers stepped into my office and said in a very low voice, "This auditor asked if the coffee in the break room was just for employees or if he could have a cup." I looked at my co-worker a bit dumbfounded as he continued, "I wasn't sure of our coffee policy, so I thought you might want to talk to him." Wait, what?

I peered at my co-worker, confused. Since he was speaking in such a low voice, I could not tell if he was saying "coffee" or "copier" and I asked him to repeat. He did, and I was just as dumbfounded at what I heard. To clarify, I said, "Are you saying 'coffee'? Like c-o-f-f-e-e ?" (spelling it out loud, to be sure). He confirmed, he spoke of a coffee policy.* Um, yeah.

He left my office to go to a meeting and I was left shaking my head in utter confusion. Is coffee now regulated that we cannot share the odd cup in hospitality? I looked around for the ghost of Rod Serling and the camera crew from the Twilight Zone, because, though I work in an industry which has a policy for nearly every event and activity, even we never saw the need for a coffee policy. Or did I miss something?

Soon, I burst out laughing. He was serious. He thought we had a policy on the availability of coffee to employees and visitors. Our company hands out cookies and popcorn in the lobby, believe me, the coffee is not rationed out so sparingly that a written policy is required. This was too good to pass up, so I took about four minutes to pen an official coffee policy, and after sharing the back story, presented it to management, who, thankfully, has a wickedly sharp sense of humor. Except for a minor change from the actual name of my employer to simply "the company", it read:

Coffee Policy

The management of the company provides brewed beverages to staff members as a workplace benefit, and in order to keep the benefit cost-free to the employee, has adopted a policy to ensure it remains cost effective and non-obstructive to the workflow.

The company will provide equipment for brewing activities, primarily in the form of an electric coffee maker to be stationed in the break room of each facility. Supplies for said activity will also be supplied at no charge to the employee, provided misuse is not detected and Brazilian coffee import prices remain stable. Supplies include water, ground coffee, filters, and cups. Condiments such as sugar, artificial sweetener, and creamer will be supplied on a limited basis and in accordance with allotted amount in the annual budget.

Employees are encouraged to brew coffee on an as needed basis, but each location may opt to assign the task to a designated individual (hereafter identified as “Coffee Maven”) who can be trusted with the duty in accordance with a predefined brewing schedule approved by management. Locations selecting the Coffee Maven option should conduct an annual election for the position the first Tuesday of each November. Coffee Mavens will be restricted to term limits of no more than three years, or three consecutive successful elections. Upon election, new Coffee Mavens shall receive no less than three hours of training on the new duty. Terms vacated by employees unable to fulfill their duties as Coffee Mavens will be filled by a new Coffee Maven appointed by management for the duration of the original term or until a special election can be held.

Supplies for brewed beverages should be housed in a cabinet or storage room no more than 15 feet from the brewing equipment. Scientific research has shown supplies housed further than the 15-foot perimeter can cause widespread panic among employees, especially those in the midst of caffeine withdrawals. For the safety of all employees, the company will respect the 15-foot rule. Coffee Mavens will be supplied with measuring tape to ensure adherence to this requirement.

Overuse of supplies reflects negatively on employees’ ability to respect the budget for brewing supplies and will be addressed accordingly. Minor infractions will be addressed promptly, while incidents considered by management to be major in nature may result in reprimand or termination. Employees should realize company facilities offer no expectation of privacy and employee offices, desks, and cabinets may be searched at any time by management if hoarding of supplies is suspected. 

On occasion brewed beverages may be offered to visitors of the company, primarily identified as customers, auditors, vendors, and the like, and are considered exceptions to policy. Such offerings should be approved by a supervisor and supported by written explanation for such distribution of company property, indicating whether the distribution is for purposes of hospitality or placation. Such exceptions to policy shall be limited to two cups of brewed beverage per visitor per day. Visitors exceeding these limitations shall be escorted from the building.

Cleaning after brewing activities will be addressed in the separate Dishwasher Policy.

Several of us got a good laugh out of this, so good, that we decided to share the joy. Since the paragraph regarding Coffee Mavens referred to training, we forwarded the new policy to our training officer. She had had a rough week, and we wanted to cheer her up. An hour later, I received a voice mail message from the training officer, who said in a shaky voice, "Please, tell me this is not real." I responded quickly with a salutation of roaring laughter as she answered my phone call. She really needed the laugh.

From there, this little gem made the rounds as a joke, and we were shocked at how many people actually thought it was real. Really? C'mon, it mentions Brazilian coffee prices! Bless their hearts . . . 

And that was my week. Tucked among three meetings, five audits, vendor consultation, about a thousand pieces of paper, we found time to laugh. And it was a good, hearty, bent-over-nearly-in-tears kind of laughter. All in all, a good week.

*I do realize that it may have been a rough week for this guy, too, so I mean no harm. It could have just been an off day.

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