What's Scarier Than Ghosts?
Miserable Coworkers Who Are On The Verge of Breakdowns Because of Their Looming Automation
The goal of my company was to automate the ops team.
This doomed group consisted primarily of 22-year-old women fresh from second-tier Ivies (Cornell, Barnard, Michigan) who shopped at Brandy Melville and enjoyed pushing the boundaries of the acceptable amount of midriff to reveal at work. The rest of the company essentially consisted of me, the founders, and the tech team — we were the ones working behind the scenes to eliminate over half the company.
Over the course of the year I worked there, the job of an ops person went from being fairly labor intensive (if rote), to consisting of pressing a series of buttons to launch a cascade of automated messages and follow-ups. Puzzlingly, though, despite the ops team being almost fully automated, none of them were laid off — instead, they spent their days “launching pipelines” (aka pushing a button), following up on payments, and conducting pointless yet energetic meetings where they would vote on “new initiatives.”
Naturally, being automated took an emotional toll, though. One of the ops girls, who wrote in her Slack introduction that she had been a wait-list candidate at Cornell, reacted to her automation by showing up to work in sweatpants, flirting with the brother of the Belgian CEO, and sending aggressive Slackmojis when people would @ her. Another, started a secret Slack channel to organize the ops team around getting the Friday after Thanksgiving off (the battle was comically easy to win). Yet another waged a war against the length of the All Hands meeting, and successfully got it down from 30 minutes to 25 minutes.
But the true extent of the disillusionment of these roboticized office workers was not realized until the office Halloween party, which I, as Head of the Office Committee, unfortunately instigated. At the bequest of a particularly meek Duke graduate who apparently loved Halloween, I bought mini candies, plastic pumpkins, fake spiderwebs, and white balloons with spooky faces drawn on them. I sent out a calendar invite for “Wear Your Costume to Work Day” and incentivized the masses with the promise of hard cider at 6pm.
The day arrived as promised; the Duke graduate was a mouse, the Michigan graduate was a “Michigan Fan,” the Penn graduate was a cat, and the Barnard graduate wore a flannel belly shirt. Spooky ghost balloons adorned the desks, and spiderwebs covered the doorways. The ops team seemed mildly placated by the mini candies, and I felt excited for the hard cider. My party was poised for success.
I came back from my celebratory lunch beer to utter chaos, though: the ops team had rebelled. The girls were gathered in the lobby hissing about the different jobs they could have accepted. The CEO was awol, and the tech team had retreated to a dark corner of the office. “He forgot to reimburse me for my Equinox membership for the last time,” one of them declared. The others cheered.
I snuck past them and stared at my computer to distance myself from the coup. But then behind me I heard one of them shriek, “Are there more ghost balloons?!!?” I laughed nervously and admitted that yes, there were more ghost balloons. “They’re fun?” I said. Suddenly I was surrounded. “Fun for you,” cried the Barnard girl, and as if it were a rallying cry, they began to pop the ghost balloons with their hideous stilettos one by one. The Columbia girl punted one into the tech team’s dark corner, laughing at her own brazenness. The Michigan girl threw her purple and yellow beads into the fray. Even the mouse from Duke started cackling, and sent a devil emoji to the #general channel.
As exploding ghosts rained down on me, I realized that I had to save myself: I had to leave the ops girls to their own obsolescence, and forge a new path. I sent a waving hand emoji on Slack, put my festive wig over my head to protect myself from the torrent of Halloween goodies flying through the air, and made my escape through the lobby, into the elevator, and out onto Madison avenue. Onto my next office job.
Until next time, XOXO - Ashley 🖤 Moses