No, I don't eat popcorn. That's not the point.

Three times in the last six months the fire department has been called to my workplace to extinguish fires in microwave ovens. All three fires were caused by people putting popcorn packages into the microwave oven, and walking away while they cooked. You have to put the time select all the way up for this to actually produce flames, by the way, mostly you just get a God awful stink that lingers for days. I know this, because the burnt popcorn thing happens about twice a week in my particular unit. (No we were not the ones that had actual flames, and fire engines.)

So, management has forbidden the practice of making popcorn in the microwave throughout the facility.

Sigh. Ok, I got nothing to say to them. I keep my mouth shut politely, and never say a word. A few weeks later I get a memo. Turns out I have to sign a piece of paper so they will have proof that I know that I am not allowed to use the microwave for popcorn. I ignore the memo. A few days later, The Absolutely Useless Employee Anti-defamation Committee sends me an invitation to a meeting to address workplace policies, and offer my suggestions on how I feel management should have dealt with the problem that the County Fire Department had advised them that there would be a $14,000 dollar charge for any future fire alarms for burning popcorn. (Turns out that there was another fire after the policy against popcorn was implemented.) I file that memo with the one about signing the acknowledgement of the no popcorn policy memo.

I took a vacation. While I was a way, the Committee on Past Useless Projects and Committees has a meeting, and there is evidently a great deal of unrest among popcornitarians among my coworkers. I get my copy of the memo, and file it unread as per the prior ones. The following day, I was advised by my boss that the head of that committee asked her if she had given me a copy. I admit that I had been give one. She says thank you. She pauses, because she knows me well. “Did you read it?” “Of course not.” She hands me a new copy, and says, “Please, Tris, do me a favor and read it.” I read the memo as I stand there, and say, “OK.” I hand it back. She asks if I read the part about making suggestions. I ask her if she really thinks they want my suggestions. She laughs, and says, “No, I doubt it.”

Days pass, and the Chairperson Herself comes to my workplace. As it turns out, I am not busy, and when she asks me if she can speak with me for a few moments, I say sure. (She is in Human Resources, and might actually have something important, or at least significant to tell me.) She shows me the blank suggestion form I have now been given three times, and says, “You know, if the bright people like you won’t help out, there isn’t any way we can improve this sort of thing.”

“OK, but remember, you asked me to tell you how to solve this problem.” I print in all caps on the form, HIRE PEOPLE WHO ARE SMART ENOUGH NOT TO BURN POPCORN IN A MICROWAVE OVEN. I sign the memo, and hand it back to her.

I wonder if they will implement my suggestion.


You’re being a bit flippant. If you’d actually thought about it a bit longer, you would have realized that hiring dumb people who don’t eat microwave popcorn would also have been another option for the CoPUPaC to examine.

I approve of this story.

My own, somewhat less vituperative story: years ago, I worked in a place with one microwave in the employee lunch room. Lunches were always working lunches, so you could go in there, heat up your lunch, and eat while you worked.

Except at least one employee was nasty. He or she would leave the microwave disgusting inside. Most of us covered our lunches so they wouldn’t get gross, and wiped up if something spattered, but at least one person didn’t.

So the boss got mad about it, and sent out an email saying that if we couldn’t behave like adults, the microwave would go away. We all shrugged; what were we supposed to do, stand guard over the microwave while working through our lunch?

Sure enough, most of us continued being non-nasty, and at least one person considered being nasty. So the boss took away our microwave. Before it left, though, we were all called down to the main office, where the boss’s secretary made us look at the inside of the microwave, then reread the email threatening to take away the microwave, then sign that we’d read the email and seen the nasty microwave.

Morale was not high at that workplace.

Tris - why does Management all seem to think that you hold the Secret of The Problem of The Popcorn? They seem to be working awful hard to get you to solve this for them. It sounds to me like the popcorn ban is reasonable and the popcornites should put a sock in it. They’ve abused the privilege.

Do you work in a movie theater or something? I don’t get your coworkers’ hard-on for popcorn. When I worked in an office (now I work from home), all we got was nutrient-rich sludge and we were grateful for it, damnit.

The fire department called out FOUR times in six months? I’d call all the staff together and throw the microwave off the building in front of them. Idiots.

I worked at a movie theatre. One Christmas week we popped 1000kg of corn.

I never want to see popcorn again.

I am sure no one in management actually wanted to know what I thought they should do. I am highly likely to point out how stupid new policies are, out loud, among my coworkers. I also failed to acknowledge the receipt of all the memos involved, and admitted out loud that I had not read them. I have refused to serve on committees or investigation teams into stupid crap many times over the years. It is a pointless waste of time, in my opinion. The actual answers to the problems that are addressed are mostly the same answer that I had for this one. Another actual answer that I have said out loud many times is, “That was not a violation of policy that was a felony.”

The thing is, when you don’t want to tell your subordinate “You must do this particular thing, reliably, and without direct observation by supervisors, or you will be fired.” Then you can be very sure that some of them will not do it. Then, if you don’t fire anyone for a few years, even though some of them are not doing it, it becomes legally impossible for you to actually fire someone no matter how bone lazy they are. (I know the lawyer who is 9 for 9 getting people reinstated at this workplace. At least two of those should have served time in jail.) Of course, if you want to do it, you have to come out of your office, and get to know what happens in the facility you are being paid to administer, manage, or supervise.

Circulating memos and collecting acknowledgements is part of the “whose fault is it” plan of management. This is, of course a top down phenomenon, in our case coming from the Governor of the Commonwealth, and seven levels of bureaucracy. The committees I was referring to, which of course have other actual names than those I gave, are unimportant window dressing taken out of “Good Management” texts intended convince line workers, such as myself that we are valued members of the team, and have input into policy decisions. I find it all pointless, stupid, and dishonest, and have often said so. This was one of several attempts to get me to put up or shut up about a currently “serious problem.”

The fact that rampant stupidity in the workplace was not the perceived problem is what actually makes me fairly sure that no improvement, not even on the Great Popcorn Debacle, much less on the quality of our operation is likely in the foreseeable future. I don’t care about the popcorn.


I have no idea how much my current co-workers like popcorn, largely because I work with people intelligent enough not to burn it. I’ve seen people making it a few times and noticed the popcorn salt in the cabinet, but that’s about it.

Previously, when I worked for a Fortune 100 company, I worked with a lot of morons. Stupid people were at all levels, from the top down. Popcorn, burning of popcorn, the threat of management coming down on the microwaves because of the popcorn, memos about popcorn, meetings about popcorn, and popcorn-smoke fire alarms were all a reasonably frequent part of the current events at that workplace.

Avoiding the hiring of stupid people solves many problems… including this one.

(That company no longer exists, but the most famous case of having the authorities called due to stupidity at our location wasn’t the popcorn – it was the person who slipped a white powder into someone’s drink. In October 2011. Turns out they bought it as a ‘love potion’ from another employee, who was apparently selling our staff magical spells and hexes. Yes, for reals.)

I feel like Encyclopedia Brown, because I am absolutely certain your story is untrue.


To heck with the white powder. Find out where they got the time machine.

[spoiler]FluidDruid’s mistake was the date. She said the co-worker had slipped a white powder into someone’s drink in October 2011–but she was posting in September 2011!

Confronted with the discrepancy, she sheepishly corrected her story, and thread continued with a lot of swearing.[/spoiler]

If you ask me, putting a sock in the microwave would be abusive to anyone in sniffing distance.

I think you meant to say “That company doesn’t exist YET.”

On the other hand, going from zero to Fortune 100 in a month and change is pretty damn impressive.

And the going out of business…

Yeah, I’m sticking with my previous post. :slight_smile:

I wonder at this point whether it’s not a bunch of idiots so much as it’s one malicious employee who sees the fire department thing as a way of getting even with the boss, or society, or co-workers, or whatever.

Well, I feel it only fair to report that a lot of my coworkers are actually fairly sensible people, moderately intelligent, and reasonable. The part that brings me to the pit is that THE FOLKS WHO RUN THIS PLACE DON’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM AND THE PYROCORN MANIACS!

These are the same great minds that decided to fight rampant theft by changing from opaque trash bags, to transparant trash bags.


Okay, now I’m changing my opinion to “Throw management off the roof, too.”