NSFW: Not Safe for Work

 

 

(This is excerpted from our maiden montlhy column, NSFW, in Workspan. Each takes a humorous look at an aspect of HR. Comments, as always, are welcome – within limits, of course).

Years ago — we’re talking the days of MS-DOS and WordPerfect — someone showed me this amazing office trick. I was working on the editorial side for what was then a hot, new media company, and I found myself spending more time hanging with the programmers and IT folks, asking them a lot of annoying tech-related questions as it was all so new, certainly to me.

I was standing over Johan’s left shoulder, mesmerized by whatever new video game he was obsessing over that week . . . when suddenly and with terrifying speed, he hit a combination of keys (Alt+G, if memory serves), whereupon the screen immediately filled with a spreadsheet and pie chart.

“Whatcha got there, Johan?” asked Jim, Johan’s boss, peering over a sheaf of printouts as he sharked past the cubicle.

“Hey, just looking at some numbers,” Johan replied, satisfying Jim’s seemingly casual curiosity.

Johan had hit the “game key” in the nick of time. Most of the video games he played had a game key, each calling up a light variation of the same spreadsheet. (FYI, this scenario predated the 1999 movie “Office Space” by six years.)

It’s funny to think that back then a silly, nonexcessively violent computer game was considered “not safe for work,” when today you need a hazmat suit to wade through the wildly inappropriate, shocking stuff that cascades from all corners of the internet on an hourly basis. Then again, there was a time when showing up to the office sans necktie or sensible shoes was considered not safe for work, so the definition of what’s unacceptable continuously changes (what will make your employees blanch, your boss irate and your colleagues inconsolable in the not-too-distant future is sure to be an order of magnitude more horrific than what we’re seeing now).

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