Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dear Turtle King

Recently a fellow Turtle at Work "VirgoCusp" posted the following comment, asking for my assistance:

"I need the Turtle King's help. Maybe you can enlist other turtles to help to. A Co-worker of mine asked what can be done to stop a "wall hanger". A "wall hanger" being a neighbor in cube town who constantly hangs over your ajoining wall to gab about nonsense and draw attention while you wish to remain anonymous. This combined with "the loud talker" can prove to be a problem for us turtles at work."

This can be a difficult situation for any Turtle. The "wall hanger" or "cube gofer" will peep over their part of the cube to invade your space and annoy you with meaningless drabble. The "wall hanger" can easily be handled by applying proper Turtle strategy. When the wall hanger peeps up and begins to talk you simply continue to stare forward at your screen completely ignoring him or her. Remember that being a Turtle at Work means not going on the offensive. If you try to solve the "wall hanger" by telling him or her to piss off or get lost you draw attention to yourself. If you simply always look "too busy" to talk you serve two purposes. If your boss walks by you look busy while the "wall hanger" looks like a goof off. You thus draw positive attention to yourself as your boss thinks you're a hard work, when really you're not busy at all and the "wall hanger" will get smacked around by your boss and thus leave you alone for fear of getting in trouble.

This approach will work for any of the annoying office personalities. Remember, the key to being a Turtle at Work is to blend in, lay low and deflect attention. If you look busy at all times and simply ignore the annoying people you work with, they'll eventually get theirs from the boss, while you Turtle along. I hope that helps not only Virgocusp, but any other Turtles out there.

If you have any situations that you want advice on simply post a comment or email me at


I wrote a batch file to keep stats on the interruptions by talkative visitors. Using 5 keystrokes whenever someone arrived or left, it generated a time-stamped log file of all my annoying visitors and how long they stayed, which I pasted into a spreadsheet. From this I created charts ranking staff by the time they spent gossiping in my room each week, and stuck it to the wall.

The aim was to highlight the biggest timewasters, and shame them with an accurate tally of how much time they wasted in my room, in the vain hope they would feel guilty and leave me alone. The total of everyone's visits was about an hour per day, so it was a significant problem.

Unfortunately it didn't work - they all missed the point, and my batch file and charts only gave people more to talk about (at my desk, of course). Ignoring them wasn't entirely effective as they would talk instead to the guy sharing my office, and the boss wasn't observant enough to notice I wasn't joining in.

Sound advice Graham!!! The other thing that I recently found in my surfing was a website called

You can type in what you want to say to that annoying person and send it from the site annonymously. Check it out as another means to telling someone that they are annoying without them knowing it's you.

Thanks again Graham for the comment.

Turtle King

I feel your pain...

This is one of those emergency situations for which I have three fairly dependable tactics:

1. Headphones. Oh, I'm sorry because "I don't know know you exist right now..." headphones are usually effective and don't even require that you're listening to anything. This is a high level deterrent and not always easy to do as some companies don't allow the headphone thing. I grasp this concept. I also understand that there will be times when I won't have the foresight or the desire to have them on, so I have a contingency plan called:

2. Phonecall. Oh, I'm sorry, hang on one second (finger waving in the air for effect if you wish - but not necessary) I can't really listen to your blather because "I have to make a phonecall RIGHT NOW..." Does it matter who you call? No. Sometimes I call our own company recording and press directory buttons for a few minutes. Facial expressions are important - you're concentrating and can't be disturbed. This is an important phone call. Have some numbers ready - places and people you can call that seem legit. Preparation is the key to a better decoy. Save up genuine calls for emergencies. Speak to dead air if you must (Oh yes I have!). Leave yourself phony messages at home - whatever works for you. I've done (and still do) them all at one point or another.

But listen, we turtles are deep in the trenches of war and sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. SO, when 1 & 2 fail I still have one last desperate defense:

3. Evacuate! Oh, I'm sorry, I have to deliver this document immediately / I must copy these pages / I need to rush to the restroom / I have a 'meeting' to go to (this one doesn't always work if you're on the same team) ... but "I'll be 'right' back..." That's right I'm OUTTA here! See ya!

Now, these are generally pretty cubicle friendly tactics. Do all three strategies also work in an enclosed office situation where you are completely trapped? Hell no, skip to step three - pull the lever to sound out the emergency evacuation warnings and flash the lights.

Most importantly: Be creative.

This is survival, soldier! Erm ... I mean, Turtle.

I love you my fellow Turtles.
Hail the Turtle King!
May the shell be with you.


Wow. All very solid tactics offered by Shelly. I must admit I have used the phone call tactic even picking up the phone and faking like I was on a call to avoid an irritating person.

Great comment Shelly. Thanks for posting.

Turtle King


What if you can't be a turtle where you work? Now I am a turtle but my poor husband whome is the bread winner can not be a turtle at his office. My husband is a sales manager for a small private company and this year the Christmas present we got from them was a 12k a year decrease in his pay! Not only that but an insulting year end bonus. They do not like turtles at his company. You are rewarded solely on how miserable you can make your sales team if you are a manager, how loud you can yell at them, send them home losing pay for the day, berate them in the open and he is encouraged to be the manager from hell. Now with that being said the only other way to get rewarded is to be the bosses and owners best friends, go out on your family time and get stinking drunk with them and be there lil pet at all times. My poor husband is on the verge of a nervous breakdown it seems.

Now he started for this company 2 years ago when it was only 8 employees. He helped build it into what it is today of a company around 200 employees and doing very very well for the owners. Since he started he has watched people that where not there as long as him or who worked as hard as him get promoted. One rediculous promotion was giving some guy 120k a year for just doing training classes!! Totaly insane!! But this person spent all his weekends drinking with the owners! When my husband asked why he had been passed up for promotion so many times(this was after our great xmas gift of the 12k a year paycut) he was told because the people where more qaulified than him!!

My husband is the only sales manager up there that prior to this job had any management experience. He is also only 1 of 2 managers that has a family!! They dont like family men!! Now this is out of 20 single drinking DUI getting managers that dont even have drivers liscenses!!

One of the oh so more qualified candidates who was also a training manager making that big money over 6 figures was later let go less than half a year after his promotion..why you ask...he had to be sent to rehab because he was offering the sales reps cocain!! But this joker was more qaulified than my husband?? My anti drug husband...the family man that is responsible husband?? My husband who had a way to get to work everyday compared to this joker... one of the many that can't drive at all.... or have a breathalizers strapped to their steering wheel??? But this joker was of course one of the party people that hung out with owners!!

In all my poor husband is not the suck up these people wanted. BUT he works harder than any other manager up there!!! So because someone has to get some real work done they keep him around!! But they don't ever skip insulting his inteligence when they can or skimping his paycheck!! While the party people still get higher pay for doing the same if not less work as my husband. One higher pay party buddy sits around all day talking to customer service girls!! Then when he is ready to work calls out for my husband!! Since he loses track of the actual working people in the office he can never find him....only to find him in the end working with a sales rep on a call!! BUT if the GE walks by...sees my husband sitting doing paper work or on the phone helping a sales rep...oh he is waisting time!! But this other joker is not waisting time by gossiping with customer service girls???

Now just to show how much work my husband does up there. This year they had a GE manager who was one of the party people. Now my husband did this mans work for him! But of course he took all the credit to the owners and the normal GE. He went as far as to pull my husband into a meeting with himself and the normal GE and they took turns berating my husband telling him how he wasnt mean enough to his underlings!! How he had to yell at them!! My husband wouldnt back down and him having manager experience (these two idiots never had any experience before this job or corporate training like my husband) He told them thats not how you manage people! So they shipped him off to another dept building! Now low and behold 2 months after my husband was not there doing the GE's work he ran that building into the ground!! And a few months later he was also not working for the company either!! They did how ever help him get a job as a regular sales rep at a company they have small dealings in but do not own. This more qualified guy than my husband so it seems was just so much more qualified that he had to go from being a GE ruining a sales building to a sales rep at another company!!! But if you havn't guessed he was also a drinking buddy of the owners!! So after that they brought my husband back along with others to help try to bring the building back from the brink of distruction left by the old GE...all the time totting...yep you guessed it...saying they needed to change the management style!!! These are just a few examples of the horrible things my husband has gone thru but there is no where for my husband to go.

With this years paycut they gave as the xmas gift to the normal managers we will be living paycheck to paycheck to pay the mortgage. There are no other jobs we can find at present that will pay him what he is getting now. The only option we are left with is to sell our home (our dream home we worked so hard for) to get a smaller home so he can find another job! So dear fellow turtles I ask what do you do in this situation??


First, I must say WOW! In reading your entire comment I can truly understand the frustration and pressure your husband and family are under.

This situation is something that cannot be solved by the Turtle at Work Philosophy. Ideally the normal situation in which the boss enjoys ass kissers, would dictate your husband becoming an ass kisser to thus "fit in".

Your situation though which involves alchohol, drugs and unethical behavior by your husband's boss and co-workers leaves you little choices. I'm sure you don't want your husband to take the "fit in" approach and become a raging alchoholic or druggy. I do think though that you have several options.

1. Job Search. The end of the year is a horrible time for job searching. Companies are either too busy or rounding out the year to do any type of job posting. In addition people usually don't leave positions (thus opening up jobs) until the new year so they can collect their bonuses. You husband must go hard core job searching as jobs will open up in the new year.

2. Seek legal advice. The job environment you describe is one that by labor practices is unfair. The constant harrassment he endures creates an unsafe work environment. I would seek legal advice to determine your options here. Under normal circumstances the protocal would be to report the issue to HR. If HR does not follow-up and respond to the employee you may have grounds for a lawsuit or at least a filing with the EEOC.

THis situation is soo extreme that your husband cannot employe the Turtle Philosphy. I believe you must seek an attorney that is involved in labor law and go from there. I hope this helps. Please keep me in the loop on this situation.

Turtle King

Turtle King thank you for taking the time to respond. I have looked online at all our states legal laws to see if this company was violating any laws. I found that you can yell, berate, and curse employees in the open. You can do anything in my state of MO aslong as it does not center around the basic sex, religion, race ect. laws. We are an at will work state. The only thing I could find that they violated (and this is a stretch from what I read on a local lawyers website who deals in employee legal issues) was the FMLA laws.

When our youngest was born a year and a half ago my husband used his vacation time to take a week after her birth off. She was born on a Monday so he took that week off until Friday. Now mind you this whole week his boss the GE was calling him telling him he needed to come back sooner if he could! They did not offer him FMLA time. Now my company of course gave me normal FMLA and the FMLA unpaid bonding time for the first year of my childs life. We did not know this was law until I did the digging last week looking at work laws. I knew men at my company had taken FMLA time unpaid. I told my husband and he thought well maybe it was something only big companys did...I found out in my reading any company with over 50 people have to do the FMLA for men and women. Now FMLA alone would not be a real lawsuit since my husband didn't know about it at the time or officialy asked. BUT from my reading I saw that it could be seen as sexual discrimination if a company treated its female workers with these "perks" but not the male workers. They are very discriminating towards family "men".

My husband in one of his meetings with the GE brought it up how the men with familys seemed to be skipped over more but the GE pointed out how the men without familys where putting in 10-12 hour days. The more qualified party friends that are single. They do not pay overtime. My husband does work overtime and often skips his lunch hours to work. So he also has put in 10-12 hour days!! He is from the laws I read exempt from OT time because he is in a supervisory position per my states laws. So basicly the only thing I could find that they have done wrong would be using the FMLA deal to show sexual discrimination. But then again he never officialy asked during the first year of our babys life (this past year 07) to use it with HR. BUT.....
They do not have an HR dept!

Well they do call a customer service manager the HR rep. Yeah you read right customer service manager!! But you don't go to her for complaints or anything like that. She is mainly there to verify employment for the employees when they try to lend on mortgages cars ect. She also helps set up employess for health care stuff. She does not deal with complaints. They do not have anything like that set up. The only HR information they seem to go by is from there team of lawyers for the company. So in a sense no HR.

Now since the whole pay decrease issue they have been being especialy nice to my husband. So they figure if they give him verbal praise in company meetings and in private it makes up for the pay decrease! They have of late been using him as an example to other managers of how a good manager works up there. I told my husband he should say wow if I am doing such a great job and getting more public praise than the drinking buddies...why are they still making more than me for the same job? Of course my husband is to afraid to say that and says that will just make him seem like he is complaining.

He has been trying to kiss up some lately. He took one of the GE's to lunch and paid. But when the main GE asked him last week to give money for a contest for the sales reps my husband said NO. Told him to use the money wheel that is paid by the company instead. He said the main GE looked at him oddly for a second but then turned around and handed back the money he had collected to the normal managers and pulled out the company money wheel. I told my husband hey that was another great time you could have said something like...your asking me for money out of my own pocket to pay other employees after you just cut my pay?? When you have a money wheel filled with cash from the owners to use for this kind of stuff?? But of course my husband would never say anything like that!

So in all after looking at labor laws for my state I was shocked to see that employeers in MO could yell, berate, curse, yank chairs out from employees (yeah if the reps do bad selling at one time they would take thier chairs for the day and make them stand), and also make the employees clean toilets!! Yep thats another punishment they hand down to reps is to make them clean the office and bathrooms! Just imagine the worse office you could work at with bosses yelling at you cursing all day...but they dont break any laws about sex, race, religion ect...then its ok!! From what I read unsafe only applies to unsafe like physical danger type situations. He doesn't work in labor. It's an office. So couldn't find anything there..but then again im not a lawyer.

I have been looking online at job postings. I told him regardless if we get put into a situation from the pay decrease where we have to sell our home this year might aswell take a less paying job someplace else. Just doesn't seem worth it to keep putting up with that treatment if they at a whim can hurt us financialy with out good cause. And if we sell and are in a smaller home with a smaller mortgage payment then he can take a paycut to go someplace else. He can not go into the same field...of course they had him sign a non compete clause!!! Maybe I should contact a lawyer anyway if I can get a free consultation and see if I missed anything.

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