Jewish World Review Sept. 27, 2002 / 21 Tishrei, 5763

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

Oh, no! Bosses want to know what's on your mind | We should all be deeply concerned, on an unconscious level, by a recent Texas district court ruling that said any thoughts we have on the job are the property of the company.

The court ruled that any professional thoughts software engineer Evan Brown had in his head during the 10 years he worked for DSC Communications are the property of the company, even though he may never have expressed those thoughts in a tangible way.

In the 27 years I've frittered away in this dead-end job, the newspaper has expressed little interest in my thoughts, tangible or otherwise. This may change, however, now that a court has ruled that my thoughts are company property, just like the paper clips and pencils I smuggle home in my briefcase every night.

(Now that my 401(k) has evaporated, I plan to finance my retirement by roaming around the neighborhood selling little yellow sticky-note pads.)

Indeed, it might be in my best interests if management thinks I have a lot of unexpressed thoughts banging around inside my skull, thoughts that may, in some way I can't quite conceive, have value for the company. An employee who's thinking deep thoughts is a valuable employee. If I appear lost in profitable thought, it's possible that management will be so pleased that I'll be taken off probation and given a desk in the new building that is not downwind from the newsroom refrigerator.

Clearly, if I wish to impress management, I need to appear to have ideas swirling around upstairs more profound than "scratch" and "lunch." In the future, I intend to affect an air of studious detachment, assuming I can find someone who can explain to me exactly what that is. I think a good way to start would be to scribble cryptic notes to myself and paste them around my cubicle. One note might just have the word "paradigm" followed by a question mark. Another might read, "Don't think outside the box; BE the box!" A third might be a reminder, such as "Call Pulitzer committee" or "Greenspan, 2 p.m."

My hope is that management will interpret these notes to mean that I am a person capable of deep thoughts and that managers will stop thinking of me as someone whose main contribution to the Big Picture is providing something to break up the couscous recipes on the food page.

I also need to convince management that I am thinking Deep Thoughts even when I appear to be napping or just wandering aimlessly around the building.

Once management understands that playing computer solitaire and locking myself in the men's room for long periods of time is simply my way of tapping into my reservoir of creative energy, I will be well on my way to making myself the company's most valued employee. "

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2002, Sarasota Herald Tribune