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  D.F.'s Column Archive

March 19, 2007

The Great Corporate Fork Debate


The Complex Committee of Enormity had a very productive meeting, meaning everyone ate lots of potato salad along with the sandwiches from Drake’s Pork Emporium. Oh, and they got through the entire agenda, which is not to say that anything was actually accomplished – but this is a corporate meeting, not an initiative related to productivity.


Don’t confuse the two.


The meeting aftermath, skillfully overseen by the Committee on Meeting Aftermath, swooped in like a culture vulture pecking at Britney’s skull stubble, addressing the matter of the leftover forks.


Blarneystone had warned of this. Not everyone likes potato salad, and there is really no reason you need a fork if you’re eating a sandwich. His pre-meeting spreadsheet had estimated that 59.6 percent of meeting participants would scarf their sandwiches and cookies but leave the potato salad unopened. The result? A solid 65.3 percent.


“If anything, I was conservative in my assessment of the likely situation,” Blarneystone informed his colleagues. “And some accused me of alarmism. Fortunately, I have prepared a resource recovery plan.”


The unopened potato salad had to go to the dumpster. Everyone understood that, if stashed in the fridge, the little cup-sized plastic containers would become overrun with mold in two weeks. Within five weeks – by now shoved to the back of the fridge – each small container would be host to a microjungle teeming with tiny T-Rexes and administered by a mini-Richard Nixon.


That was obvious.


But what of the forks? The Committee on Meeting Aftermath found itself in a quandary. The forks could be re-used, after all, and the Corporation had just made several public announcements about its commitment to Sustainable Green Profiteering. It couldn’t be throwing out perfectly good plastic forks.


“Who will be the keeper of the unused, still perfectly good forks?” asked committee chair Peckinspaugh. The matter was referred to a subcommittee, which issued a 34-page report recommending that the receptionist keep the forks in her third middle drawer. (A spirited case was made for the fifth top drawer, but that’s a story for another day.)


At first, the receptionist was happy to accept her role as keeper of the forks, which is why she greeted the news with a pleasant: “Why the hell do I have to do that?” The Committee on Meeting Aftermath assured the receptionist that they would not proactively advertise the availability of the forks, so as to prevent her time from being taken up by constant fork requests. If you pause Solitaire too many times in a single game, it will freeze up.


Alas, the promise only lasted 43 seconds, as Kiplerglasper, who didn’t understand the meaning of “proactively,” kind of sort of e-mailed the entire company to tell them where they could get forks. After some time passed – two hours and 12 minutes to be specific – the receptionist had had enough, and she sent a 900-word e-mail to the CEO complaining about the constant fork requests.


Executive management convened.


It was a constructive discussion in which the CEO, true to his tradition of deeply caring about all points of view, gave everyone a chance to be heard. It is this kind of inclusive management style that leads to the sort of consensus that was developed that day. And before the day was up, a new policy was announced:


“Forks are a privilege, not a right.”


It was so decreed. The employees, thoroughly chastened, asked for clarification on just how the privilege/right distinction would be determined in specific situations. Let’s say, for example, that one employee needs a plastic fork to perform a self-triple-bypass, while another just wants to eat hummus. Would one take precedence over the other? Who would decide?


Management empowered the Committee on Meeting Aftermath to prepare a report. And the process hummed along with its usual efficiency, even in this moment of challenge, when the Corporation came to the fork in the road. And took it.


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