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Art by Lyndsay Henn

Creative Briefs #1: Bleak Outlook

Written By William Reagan | Dec 20, 2017

Haley Nason cursed at her monitor. Normally, such an outburst would have gone unnoticed – the whole department was afflicted with some level of Corporate Tourette’s – but when Haley immediately began foraging through her top drawer, colleagues at adjacent desks quietly adjusted their chairs to get a better vantage point. The impromptu treasure hunt was like a seismic monitor warning of an impending eruption at Haley’s desk, and as she pawed through the contents of the drawer, her neighbors exchanged expectant glances. This could be good.

Haley fished out her Measure Your Success tradeshow tchotchke, extended the flimsy metal measuring tape, and held it up to her screen. “Half a goddam inch!” She let the tape slither back into its case and threw it into the drawer. “That’s the difference between doing it right and doing it stupid. One centimeter.”

Lois pushed her chair back so she could see Haley’s monitor, hoping to see what half-inch infraction had occurred, but all she saw was an open email. “Let me guess…someone hit Send instead of Delete?”

“There’re seven people on this thread,” Haley said, shaking her head in disbelief, “we’re a dozen emails in, and Wade replied just to me. I mean, how can a person climb the company ladder without the rudimentary skills to participate in an email conversation? How is this deficiency not an obstacle to promotion?”

Everyone in the department assumed these were rhetorical questions, or at least hoped so. When the ensuing silence began to feel awkward, Lois asked, “Did he mean it as a sidebar conversation?”

“Considering one paragraph starts with Sue and another starts with Frank, I doubt it.” Haley turned toward Lois. “Here’s the best part – this is the second time he’s done it in this thread. The first time, I added everyone back in and pointed out that I had added everyone back in, and advised them all to scroll down to read Wade’s response. I hoped that passive-aggressive call-out might turn on a light in that dim part of his brain that can’t figure out the world’s most ubiquitous software program. But apparently, that bulb is burned out.”

Paul’s voice rose from behind his monitor. “Screw it, pretend you didn’t notice, just reply to him. When the campaign goes off the rails, you’ll have documentation that he was the one who drove the car over the cliff.”

Haley reflexively wanted to call Paul on the mixed metaphor, but the copywriter part of her brain knew to be quiet when the amygdala was leading the meeting. “I don’t want the campaign to crash. I have other projects. I just want everyone to act like professionals and step up so we can get this simple shit done.”

Lois laughed. “You’re setting the bar kinda high, Hale-Bopp.”

Paul rolled his chair left so he could see Haley. “Can you just tell him that he pushed the wrong button? Maybe he’ll appreciate knowing.” Paul was a brand manager who saw every problem as an opportunity. “I mean, if subtlety didn’t work, maybe directness will.”

“I would like to see Shakespeare in a modern Marketing department.” She adopted a Masterpiece Theatre tone. “Thou hast left us wanting in the simple task, of hitting the wretched button as asked.”

Haley paused for a few moments to take a deep breath. “I don’t think telling a VP he’s an idiot is good career advice, Paul.”

“Well, I wouldn’t phrase it quite like that. Maybe just ask if he intended the message to go to the whole thread.”

“Of course he did. He used other people’s names in the email – just not in the To field. No matter how I say it, it’s going to look like I’m calling him out.”

Lois shrugged. “A rose by any other name and all that other Shakespeare stuff.”

Haley turned toward her monitor. “I would like to see Shakespeare in a modern Marketing department.” She adopted a Masterpiece Theatre tone. “Thou hast left us wanting in the simple task, of hitting the wretched button as asked.”

“Imagine if he did,” Paul replied. “The hair? That beard? Put him in a hoodie and he’d be a black belt hipster. Instead of sonnets, he’d write lyrics for some Decemberists-style indie band.”

“But what am I supposed to do? Wade screws up, and no matter how I fix it, I’m going to look like the bad guy.”

Lois pulled her chair toward the InDesign project on her screen. “Don’t worry about it. Everyone else on the thread will know who screwed up.”

“Except Waaaaaade,” Paul added with a laugh as he rolled behind his monitor again. “Hey, on a related note, can I have your stapler when you’re fired?”

Haley held her middle finger high above her head so Paul could see it, then grabbed her mouse and clicked Reply. “Thou hast scaled the org chart to impressive heights,” she mumbled as she began adding the other five names back to the email, “but fercrissakes, learn to Outlook right.”

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