When I look out the window or go downtown and see all the Christmas decorations, it reminds me of some of the office Christmas parties that I attended and one in particular that I will never forget.
Now I am not a paranoid person, I am not the type that thinks everyone is out to get me. I do not have conspiracy theories for everything either. But I believe that the last Christmas office party that I attended at my former employment was rigged.
Let me give you some background first. During my first year of employment there, we were all invited to take a confidential anonymous survey of how we thought that company was doing and how the leadership of the company rated. Then it was discovered that these surveys were really not anonymous. On the back and at the very bottom was a very small number. We looked at other department's surveys and they all had different numbers. So they may not be able to tell who took the survey, they would at least know what department it was coming from. And when your company had about twenty employees it would be very easy to figure out who was who. Especially when it was hand written. My department, along with a few others, typed our surveys on separate pieces of paper. Smalls (our HR representative) really tried his hardest to make it look innocent. But who would believe him when the evidence was so blatant. There were many other incidents (and future columns!) like this that made everyone in that company a little paranoid.
So at the Christmas party in 2006 it was revealed that our CEO was going to give away his BMW Roadster to one of his employees. Why? We all knew it was because he had no success in selling it. So why not give it away and write it off as a business expense? But still, it was a great prize for a lucky fellow employee.
So what is the catch? There wasn't initially a catch. At the next Christmas party he would draw a name and they would be a winner. Employees were given ping pong balls. If we were Employee of the Month we were given a ball. At the Christmas parties, awards were given to employees and so next year they would get a couple of balls. And we were also given balls based on our performance reviews which we had twice a year. All of the balls would be placed in a barrel and into a random drawing.
During the next year, my company basically said nothing about the contest. There were not any reminders or any other opportunities to win more balls. I thought that was a mistake, they really should have pimped that more. By hardly saying hardly anything, it became suspicious. But in the end, EVERYONE there knew who was going to win it anyway.
So anyway, we really only had our performance reviews and that was part of the catch. Performance reviews at this place were from the Bizarro World. My very first review was good but the longer I was employed there, the worse they got. Part of my review was how good I knew our product. I was in Sales, so naturally I was the one with the most knowledge. My first review was great, I got high marks but every review my scores got lowered. So somehow I was losing knowledge. Somehow I was becoming more dumb. When I asked about it I was told that the CEO didn't like giving high marks. He gave out low marks to make the employee more motivated to score higher. So basically if I worked my butt off, I was told to work harder with little or no appreciation. I could devote a column to these all on their own! If you don't believe me, I can post all my performance reviews, I still have them. So that is one reason a lot of people would be screwed out of the contest. High marks got you (if I can remember) about 4 balls. I had the most balls in our departments (Sales and Marketing) because we were the evil corner of the building. But I only had 6 of them in it. I think I had more balls than everyone in the Sales and Marketing Departments combined. And yes, that is what she said.
One of the rules is that you had to be there to win. Which was sad, morale at this place was really low and I think them making this rule was more to get people to come because they were afraid attendance would be low. Maybe it is because we all knew who was going to win beforehand?
The party was nice, the food (catered by the Copper Mill) was fantastic and the company at my table was awesome. The White Elephant gift exchange was as always very funny. I got a cool Homer Simpson key chain that had some of Homer's quotes. I gave away a jar of my Pickled Bums. And then they awarded the usual year-end awards and I was thinking maybe they were taking a big step here. Maybe they had changed. The people that won those awards fully deserved those awards.
Finally the big moment came. They announced the winner of the BMW Giveaway. And all my hopes were crashed the moment he pulled out the winning number. He pulled out #14 and we all looked at the big board. Chris laughed as he "spotted" the name and sure enough. The person we all thought that would win, that we all called last year, won.
And he was not present either. He was living in San Diego. So they called him on his cell phone and it seemed like the winner was not surprised either. He responded with an unconvincing “you’re kidding”. And no one else said anything. Some people nervously laughed, others shook their heads.
So why do I think it was rigged? A couple of reasons. The first being we were right in who won. Now he was a good worker and was quite smart. But he was also crafty, it wouldn't surprise me if a deal was made LONG before the drawing. He was also Chris's good friend too. And he got anything he wanted and we all knew it since he was very vocal about it.
Also, the barrel of ping pong balls was already filled before anyone got there. A couple of employees claim that they saw something in Chris's hands before he reached into the barrel to pull out a ball.
Personally, I think they loaded the bottom of the barrel with his number. They had some employees shake the barrel but when it is full, the balls won't move. I can also picture Smalls testing this out in his office. While there were other balls, the chances of pulling anyone else's ball out the bottom were not good.
Do I sound bitter? Sour grapes you might say? Well, that may be true but trust me, I have a TON of other stories which I will share on this blog that will show why I was so paranoid working there.