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Walmart banned alcohol and swearing from Jet's offices and it was a big mistake (businessinsider.com)
100 points by kgwgk on June 28, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 124 comments

I have no problem with banning alcohol at work. Even though it was present in almost every office I worked at, I failed to see the benefits, and I did witness some of the drawbacks. I have nothing against consuming it, just do it somewhere else, and not near people you'd be embarrassed to work with the next day.

As for swearing, I never really understood the PC approach in offices. English is my second language, so English swear words were used daily when I grew up. When I just started working in the US, I had to train myself to avoid uttering 'shit' when something hit the fan. But the I found out some people are offended by 'damn', and 'hell' (will never get that. Do they think they won't go there if they avoid saying it?).

So everyone has words that offend them - big whoop. I'm offended by words like 'synergy', 'disrupt' and 'scrum' but I never told people to avoid them near me.

However, in certain contexts, swear words can create a negative work environment. Uttering 'fuck' when something hits your foot is completely different than using it as a verb in a story, in front of other employees. As with alcohol - do use, but in moderation, and at the right time and place.

Your points are valid, but they ignore the fact that there was a more permissive company culture, then it was changed to be more restrictive.

Behavioral economists have studied this type of change and it can seriously affect relationships (there was a famous study of an Israeli day care that started charging parents a fee if they picked up their child late, then tried to change back to the previous policy). Having a benefit then losing it makes people feel like something is being taken from them (even if Jet can still have off-campus happy hours).

That said, I don't know how much I care. WalMart has a reputation and if you are part of a company that chooses to be bough out by WalMart, you have to expect that some big things will change. Hopefully the Jet execs set expectations correctly.

> (there was a famous study of an Israeli day care that started charging parents a fee if they picked up their child late, then tried to change back to the previous policy)

I see that you too have read Dan Ariely's Predicably Irrational :)

Recommended reading for everyone else, by the way. It was an enlightening on the topic of socio-economics, or the application of psychology to economics.

Was Jet privately owned and bought outright by WalMart in a private deal? I thought they already had an IPO, in which case it wasn't their "choice".

Swearing can lead to later charges of harassment and verbal abuse. Alcohol can lead to situations where conversations and/or moves can be later interpreted as sexual harassment.

Chances that an ex-employee (or a vendor, or a customer visiting the office) will sue a small startup for that are nearly nil - the litigation is too laborious and costly. Chances that a $230 billion corp will be taken to court are somewhat larger than nil.

Even if the plaintiff loses or settles the case, the media still has a field day with it.

Do shareholders of WMT want that liability?

Stifling an established company culture and the existing behavior patterns of employees can lead to talented people leaving out of frustration. Do the shareholders of WMT want to risk devaluing their acquisition?

Examples of other companies with "an established company culture and the existing behavior patterns of employees" include Uber and Binary Capital.

For me, swearing (and hearing it) has a strong emotional component. While I don't consider it offensive really, there's a moment of distracting shock. Someone using rough language casually in speech is a little bit grating. Things tend to offend me based on their meaning, not on whether they're in my culture's fairly arbitrary list of "crude language".

In contrast, outside of English, swearing doesn't bother me much. No shock. No offense. Maybe that's your experience, as well.

The benefits are that it is a employee perk that makes employees happier.

Sometime the people you work with are your friends. And sometimes people like to go out with their friends.

Companies that disallow alcohol will have a hardier time attracting employees, as that kind of uptight company doesn't sound like it would be pleasant to work at.

I don't understand why you need alcohol at work so bad you wouldn't want to work there without it. To me, that sounds like a dependency issue or possible wanna-be-fratboy-ism.

Booze is awesome but there's a time and place for it. If someone gets loaded at work enough to impair their ability to drive, then gets into an accident and injures or kills someone, their employer (in the US at least) could be liable in part. It's one thing to go out with your coworkers after work, or maybe even have a beer over lunch before going back to work, and it's another to need booze on premises.

Look, it is not a need, it is one factor among many.

Having draconian alcohol policies is a negative, and it can be weighed against the pros and cons of working there.

Maybe the pros out weight the singular drawback of uptight HR representives. But maybe it doesn't, and that one negative among many negatives is enough to push someone over the edge of not working there.

Ex:if the pay is higher then maybe I'd still take the job.

I don't really care about employer liability. That is their problem, not mine.

It's not the lack of alcohol, it's because HR are dictating culture. Beyond health and safety, the law or contractual obligations HR shouldn't be dictating this.

We're all adults, use your best judgement. Companies and offices should be able to have mature conversations around this without it being dictated.

At Stanford in academic dept, we had wine and beer social parties at work and at dept chair's house. No sexual harassment, no brogrammers and no calling the cops. Everyone went home sober enough.

Would you say the same about coke or ecstasy?

Those are both illegal and can cause much more problems than alcohol.

Not many people do coke and ecstacy. Whereas the vast majority of the population drink alcohol to some extend.

>Uttering 'fuck' when something hits your foot is completely different than using it as a verb in a story, in front of other employees.

Maybe the employees didn't demonstrate the same level of judgement. Act like children, get treated like children.

Another possibility is they want people near clients and visitors to be more proper.

I don't know I hope it's more than just not trusting the employees.

They probably didn't demonstrate the same level of judgment. Most people are clueless.

I have a coworker who uses "fuck you" as a casual insult or joke. Can't get him to stop and no one will make him stop because "he doesn't mean any harm by it".

To play devils advocate if he doesn't mean any harm by it and everyone's aware he doesn't, is it still an issue?

I'm not going to even address whether drinking and swearing in the office should or shouldn't be allowed - it's irrelevant. Walmart basically decided that they wanted to buy Jet because Jet had capabilities and talent that they wanted in order to compete with companies like Amazon. It's a major failure on Walmart's part to either not discover, or not understand, that those capabilities and talent exist within a specific corporate culture. The fact that they think they can change it without impacting what they sought to acquire indicates a real lack of understanding of corporate culture.

You don't need to drink and swear in the office to do what Jet does, but Jet was built with that as part of its culture, and changing it is going to impact its workforce. Don't acquire a startup for the value of the startup-y things that it's done unless you're in it for the whole package. Otherwise, license what Jet does or become its customer/client in some other way.

"Welcome to the family, please change who are you".

It's not that they're necessarily wrong- alcohol at the office has a lot of consequences, liability, etc, and discouraging swearing can foster a less aggressive environment. It's just that they should know who and what they were buying. Jet had a culture of its own, and that culture included alcohol and swearing. I read the other day that the founder owns a vineyard, and is a big wine lover, sharing his love with his company.

Culture is hard, and critical to any company. Coming in and saying "change your culture" is dangerous, especially with things as visible, noticeable and enjoyable as alcohol. It leaves the question of "what will they change next?".

That's just insane, especially for someone that can afford to have a personal driver on staff.

She probably can shoot someone on 5th Ave and nothing will happen to her.

But, does Walmart actually care?

I'm not super familiar with the details of the acquisition but I thought it was more landgrab to extend their online presence than acquihire.

The general consensus, I think, is that the acquisition of Jet is Walmart stepping into the online retail space to fight off Amazon.

Sure, if you want to ban drinking in the workplace I can understand (but don't agree) — it can be a liability. There will be always be a slight risk there, and it's hard to trust everyone in a larger sized company.

If my employer tried to enforce a rule as puritanical as "no swearing" my response would be "fuck you."

If my employer tried to enforce a rule as puritanical as "no swearing" my response would be "fuck you."

Provided you have the FY money sitting in your bank account to be able to go that route, that is.

I don't have fuck you money, but I can easily find another job in Silicon Valley

I guess you'll have to lie to your prospective employers about "why you left your last job", then. Not wanting to put with inane policies is one thing. But very few companies would want to hire someone who resorts that quickly to that kind of aggression in the workplace.

> I guess you'll have to lie to your prospective employers about "why you left your last job", then

Who's ever completely honest about why they left a previous company anyway?

I left a previous position largely because my boss was a psychopath. But I certainly didn't mention that during interviews.

I left a previous position largely because my boss was a psychopath.

It's one thing to "simplify", and gloss over the details of what other people did.

It's quite another to invert the basic nature of something that you did.

Yeah agree, but pretty much anything can be "simplified", short of being fired.

The "company got acquired, added 'no swear' policies & removed perks' so I said fuck that and left", can be simplified to something vague like "the company got acquired and changed direction (you don't even need to mention culture, but you can), I'm looking for something more like what you're doing here at 'New Company' ... ".

There's a big gap between "fuck that" and "fuck you", actually.

The value of some self control at work isn't puritanical. Replace "fuck you" with "nice ass" or "Have you met Jesus." You don't need to say it, people don't need to hear it, and it can make work more pleasant.

Alright, let's consider that I'd generally not recommend saying "fuck you" to a colleague. What if I say "that's fucking weird" or "that's bullshit" — not really comparable to sexual harassment or pushing religion.

I agree: "Sorry, this is bullshit" is vastly, vastly preferable.

Has the advantage of depersonalizing the issue and avoiding the (completely unnecessary) sexual/aggressive overtones -- while still sending an unequivocally clear message (that you also wouldn't necessarily mind being quoted for in the press or in a book, some day).

But curse words offend my god. By not being tolerant to my intolerance, you are the one who is intolerant!

You are 100% correct. However, that is something that should be enforced by the norms and values of the human beings on the team, not HR.

Cursing isn't bad, it's that cursing can be used to express sentiments and intentions that are bad. If you police words and then say 'ok, my job here is done', you have succeeded in removing a symptom and done nothing to address the cause. Moreover, this gives shitty people a policy wall to hide behind.

Our company was acquired by old-school finance firm. They banned alcohol and happy hour beer-Friday's we used to have. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but all the millenials work elsewhere now (especially given the competitive nature of the Boston market for technology talent). I'm not going to put all the blame on the banning of alcohol Fridays, but there was definitely a culture shift, of which this was one thing. Which sucks, because we had some really good coding talent.

It happened to us too - acquired by a Finance company, no more alcohol in the office when we had weekly "beer-o-clock" on Friday. I honestly fail to understand why that would be a big deal for people. We still re-group on Friday at 5pm and we all go down to a local bar. I believe company culture is bigger than alcohol and ping pong in the office. As a group, we have maintained our "identity" (and culture) even though our toolchain has changed and we can't have a beer at the desk.

The pervasive drinking culture in this country is a problem. More than 5% of the population suffers from alcoholism, and the more drinking is encouraged in the culture, the more likely someone will have a small problem turn into a full blown problem.

Young people especially are unlikely to judge their own propensity for alcoholism, so "encouraging a fun workplace culture" is not a good enough reason to use alcohol to attract a younger generation of workers.

Americans drink less then the UK and virtually every eu country - let alone places like Russia.

Don't try and project your biases onto 320 Million Americans many of whom come from different cultures

Fine. Can we at least agree that Americans are bad at drinking? Possibly because of the drinking age of 21?

It just seems like a foolish idea to put drinks in the hands of 20-somethings who just got out of college and are starting their first or second jobs. I remember investment banks recruiting my business school friends by promoting their heavy drinking culture.

I know I'm sounding like a nanny-stater here. But there is a dark underside to this relaxed attitude towards drinking that you ignore at your peril.

I'd argue the dark underside comes from your puritanical attitude towards drinking.

I went to Uni here in the UK with a lot of Americans. What always stood out was how stupidly drunk they got and how proud they were of it, as if they were 14/15. Most of them matured out of it after a year or two.

The reason for this as far as I can see is that the US doesn't have a culture of sociable drinking. Drinking is something you do to party or on a date. The concept of social drinking doesn't exist in the US like it does in the EU. No one goes to the pub (you don't even really have pubs or cafes - bars are not the same thing) for a drink or two with friends or colleagues. So young people have no examples of what moderate drinking looks like. People either don't drink or get proper wasted, thus re-enforcing the BS slippery slope argument, thus people drink moderately even less, and a vicious cycle continues.

I totally agree with your description of U.S. drinking culture, and much of your reasoning about it. I still think at this point that workplace drinking is a bit over the line, though.

>Most of them matured out of it after a year or two.

Some of them, however, probably became alcoholic. It's a terrible disease I wouldn't wish on anyone.

By workplace drinking do you mean drinking in the office during work or drinking with colleagues (potentially also in the office but out of working hours)? I'd agree with the later and no one's suggesting that but I think the latter is part of a healthy moderate drinking culture.

Alcoholism is a funny one. Our understanding of addiction is still developing and I'm not personally familiar with the issues around alcohol addiction specifically so I won't get deep into to debate, but there's strong evidence to suggest that addiction is a symptom of other issues as much as it is an issue in it's own right and there have been many many functioning societies that by modern US standards most people would have been alcoholics.

always struck me as very odd that you could both vote and join the forces but still not be considered adult enough to have a beer

We do Friday happy hour because it's been a reliable method for having multiple teams interact, spread ideas, talk about what they have been working on, etc...

I agree with you. But I do think casual drinking affects socializing a lot more than people think. I think most people here now just want to head home at 5 on a Friday. I wonder what would happen if we did something at 2 or 3 instead of end of normal business hours, though.

The younger people had more spare time to hang out later, so that probably affects things, too.

Edit: the concept of cross-departmental conversations that someone mentions later in this thread is completely gone now, too.

Drinking isn't inclusive. That's why it's a problem.

I find it very strange they banned drinking. I work at a large finance company that you have probably heard of, and happy hours are very common and practically encouraged since it helps with team bonding, relieves stress, etc. We even are allowed a beer at lunch if we go out per policy.

Which sucks, because we had some really good coding talent.

On the other hand, you're still in business - right?

Ha, I'm not surprised. Walmart seem to have a tin ear for any culture not their own.

As a student I worked for ASDA, a UK supermarket chain, while it was bought by Walmart.

Management decreed we had to do a team power huddle at the start of each shift, like we were American Football players or something instead of bored teenagers on minimum wage.

It was excruciating. Everyone hated it, from management down. I think the policy lasted a week before everyone gave up in sheer embarrassment.

I legitimately don't understand the odd obsession in the US with swearing.

Do you arbitrarily categorise words as "bad," then you ban such words in a lot of everyday circumstances, and therefore such words are made pointless.

Why even have swearing if it cannot be used? Elsewhere in the English speaking world, these are commonly used words with specific emotional attachments, in the US you "offend" people or get gasped at if you utter the forbidden phrases.

At least with certain racist phases I can understand the rational. Because you want to "discontinue" those words from existing. Not so with regular swearing.

It's kind of a result of New England culture pervading the rest of the continent as the country grew. New England was founded by Separatists (starting with the Mayflower) and Puritans. Puritans wanted to "purify" the Church of England of perceived corruption. Seperatists had written off the church as a lost cause, which was treason subject to the death penalty.

A trickle of Separatists and Puritans settled New England from 1620 to 1630. Then from 1630 to 1650 many came over during a period called the Great Migration. Then the migration abruptly stopped (it stopped being uncomforatble to be a Puritan in England). So the culture stewed in its own very, very doctrinaire juices, and became homogeneous. Then it's ideas spread as the country expanded. Among those ideas is never using a word that is not written in the King James Bible, much less a swear word. Of course, there isn't a lot of logic to that choice of vocabular no matter how you analyze it, but there you are.

The Puritan church died out, but the no-drinking, no-dancing, no-card-playing version of the Congregational church survived quite nicely intact to my father's generation. (It is possible for it to wear off -- as my friends with whome I have played a game of Hearts over a few beers can attest. I'm a lousy dancer, though.)

> Why even have swearing if it cannot be used?

I think the point of having words which are not supposed to be said is to create a sense of risk around using those words. Because swear words are mostly considered taboo there is a social risk to using those words (your listeners might be offended) that helps to emphasize the importance of the issue to the speaker (that they're willing to take on risk because it's important).

For example it would be acceptable in a meeting to say:

"That is a bad idea."

But if you want to add in some social risk to emphasize your point you could say:

"That is a really fucking bad idea."

The latter statement would be considered rude and unprofessional in most work settings and, depending on the social environment, could even be grounds for termination.

> Do you arbitrarily categorise words as "bad," then you ban such words in a lot of everyday circumstances, and therefore such words are made pointless.

The other view is that without cultural pressure to restrict their use, swear words lose their gravity. Think about how many words we've gone though to express that something is very good -- we're currently on awesome.

Cultures sometimes develop, believe it or not, without examining the rationality of a cultural norm. The short answer is 'that's the culture'.

Exactly. You could rewrite that for any cultural norm.

"I legitimately don't understand the odd obsession outside the US with banning guns. Do you arbitrarily categorize certain tools as 'bad,' then you ban such tools in a lot of everyday circumstances, and therefore such tools are made pointless."

It's even funnier, because in most countries hate speech is a criminal offense. The US has the least censoring of speech of any country I know of.

Well in the UK it was mostly a panic over he general strike in 1926 that started the restrictions on the right to self defence (derived from common law)

> because in most countries hate speech is a criminal offense.

Typically the standards are different from what seems to be called "hate speech" in the US. Though there are some odd laws around that should really just be removed.

I didn't think it was a big deal until I spent significant time around swearers and non-swearers. There is just an ugliness in swearing both in the harsh consonants that intrinsically reflect the ugliness of the words and the general attitudes surrounding the spewing of the words. I remember a non-swearer who shared with me the misperception she often felt was falsely accused on her. This surrounded her use of other words to express frustration or pain or anger or what have you that the underlying emotions of those softer words were curse oriented, just sugar coated or something to that extent. She told me that was a perennial confusion with her, that it just was not the case, her emotions did not reflect the harsh swearing attitudes/content. Pretty interesting thought, I used to think that internally they had all the rage/etc but just repressed it or whatever. I learned apparently cursing does reflect an internal state of one's heart that could very much be lacking entirely in others.

> There is just an ugliness in [...] the harsh consonants that intrinsically reflect the ugliness of the words

I won't comment on the rest of the post, but come on.

What is the ugliness in, say, "shit", that is not present in "shot" or "sheet"?

the logic here is "if curse then harsh", not "if harsh then curse", which raises an interesting question is there a soft curse word?

Come to think of it, it's like an emotional mapping to auditory expression, similar to this concept I heard about many years ago https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouba/kiki_effect

> the logic here is "if curse then harsh", not "if harsh then curse", which raises an interesting question is there a soft curse word?

I don't mean this to be insulting but rather to answer your question. I think the word "asshole" has relatively soft sounds.

hilarious, good find! Just a few minutes ago, I tried an experiment to make a softword spoken as a curse word. It was kind of hard, at first I imagined screaming "banana" as a curse, but it just came off silly. Then I wondered if the silliness was because banana's are kind of silly and I was blurring the mental concept into the attempt, then I said "monana" to try to make gibberish so I couldn't lean on existing concepts. Fun exercise.

I'd say soft curse words are the "clean" variants we've developed, like shoot, or fart. My Spanish roommate used to say miercoles, instead of the poop alternative.

> is there a soft curse word?

i believe the common parlance is "alternative curse words"

I was speaking of phonetically soft, but I see what you're getting at with the interpretation that dwesr2648 shares with the "clean variants". Come to think of it this actually brings to memory all those safe for TV dubs they'd substitute for curse words. Those must surely be a direct application of "alternative curse words". After work I'mma try to see if anyone made a YouTube mashup for dubbed curse substitutions. I always got a kick out of those as a teenager.

hilarious, a search suggestion for "alternative curse words" was this "alternative curse words for moms who swear". I love it :-p

Well, certainly not the phonetics.

This is something that you can't really generalize widely. People view words differently.

> I legitimately don't understand the odd obsession in the US with swearing.

It's largely classism. Some work environments shun people who swear to signal that they are part of a different social class that is more professional.

I think Fussell'd peg banning swearing to act higher class or more professional as a deeply middle class thing to do. Part of their trying-too-hard while missing-the-point tendencies. Avoiding out of fear of punishment would be more mid- and low-prole (high prole being too independent to care much about the whole matter).

Imposing it from above might be an attempt to force/encourage middle or low/mid prole attitudes in one's workers in general, and to make people with such attitudes feel elevated by the notion that "we're so much more professional now!"

More people should know about Paul Fussell's book.

I haven't yet seen an analysis that points out that a lot of middle class disgust with Trump is an aversion to his lower class signals. The gold bedecked Oval Office nearly made me laugh out loud because I knew what the response would be. As Fussell would say: money is not class.

His taste is so incredibly vulgar that all I can figure is it's actually marketing designed to appeal to proles, both in his role as an entertainer and to fleece nouveau riche proles with direct sales of products and real estate.

TIL I have an odd obsession with swearing. I never knew. I swear a lot so I'm glad you mentioned that, as an American, I don't like swearing.

(All joking aside, perhaps trying to generalize 300+ million people is too coarse of an approach :)

As the "Elves Leave Middle-Earth - Sodas Are No Longer Free" post mentions, it's not enough to just undo the change. Because the change itself is enough to get people thinking about whether they should stick around.

For now, you can drink and swear in the office (I guess). But who knows what other weird changes are looming...

I'm amazed that companies allow alcohol at work. It has to affect product quality and safety. Nobody in manufacturing allows that.

We had alcohol at a manufacturing company I worked at (I was responsible for that policy). At 4pm on Fridays we closed the warehouse and everyone had a beer then took off early. It definitely improved relations between office and warehouse staff, and I think it made the warehouse folks feel like they were part of the team.

I think there's a big, gaping difference between "alcohol at work" being "every friday we hang out and have a beer before taking off" and "people sipping on scotch while they work".

The difference is basically "at work (the place)" or "during work (the job)".

Ah, the linked article is specifically about Jet's weekly happy hours, so I figured my story was analogous.

Last place I worked had a substantial alcohol budget - liquor, beer, wine, kegs. It was staffed with 100% adults/human beings, and people drank if they wanted, when they wanted, where they wanted and as much as they wanted. It was fun, and there were no problems. If there had been any problems, I'm sure people would have taken care of each other.

Manufacturing is a tiny bit more dangerous than typing on a keyboard.

Banks (where people type on keyboards most of the time) are also AFAIK alcohol-free.

And so are Lawyers firms, accountants, and more or less every kind of work involving mostly typing, exception made for some start-ups, possibly limited to the US.

A glass of wine or beer at lunch may of course be OK, but surely not drinking in the office or happy hours.

What's the distinction you're drawing between having a drink at lunch and having an office happy hour? The latter certainly seems preferable if we're forced to choose since the workday is essentially over at that point.

happy hour = unlimited free alcohol for everyone

> Banks (where people type on keyboards most of the time) are also AFAIK alcohol-free.

As in, the places you drive up to deposit checks? I have friends who in finance (for banks) and there is a very strong drinking culture at work.

I'd rather drink after I'm done with work at a happy hour than drink during lunch and have to work the rest of day.

From a job performance perspective the happy hour seems better anyways.

The other exception is advertising firms.

I know several law firms which have happy hours in the office.

I am amazed as well. At my office nobody drinks at work outside of special events, and when we go out to lunch nobody orders alcohol.

I moved from a small company to a large (IT for non-profit / University) and it was kind of an adjustment for me that when we all go out to lunch, at a pub, nobody orders a drink!

Admittedly we go out for lunch more often as a team here than at my old job, and there's a conference/travel budget for everyone in the whole group (which we didn't have at all at my old job, unless you were in sales). And we have seasonal gatherings where alcohol is provided, and we are allowed to put drinks on our expense report when traveling for conferences, although usually in my limited experience here, nobody would dare order more than one drink per meal and try to expense it...

So not really the same thing at all. But yeah, I've never seen anyone order a beer at lunch since I came here, and it was a bit shocking coming from somewhere with no conference budget, where a beer at lunch whenever the boss is paying was one on a short list of perks we did have!

I've never worked at a place that allows alcohol at the office, but I've worked at places where it was common for people have two or three drinks at lunch. From the productivity perspective I'm not sure there's a difference.

It's all about hitting the Ballmer peak at my office, baby.

> Nobody in manufacturing allows that.

So who's right?

> It has to affect product quality and safety

Like anything else: it's fine in moderation. Abuse is still abuse.

In Bavaria, I've seen beer carts going along factory production lines at noon time, handing out a couple lagers with lunch. Didn't seem to affect quality, safety, or output.

Relevant blog post from 2009 shared on HN from time to time:

"The Elves Leave Middle-Earth - Sodas Are No Longer Free"


I see this same pattern over and over with talking to people who are leaving a company. There's almost always that "wake up" moment: one singular item which pierces the veil. But it's rarely ever just that one item that causes people to leave, and that one item would probably be tolerated if there weren't other reasons. And the set of those reasons for any two people leaving are not likely to be the same.

So, given that:

* Leaving is actually an accumulation of these items,

* Individuals will have their own distinct list of such items,

* Individuals will have differing tolerance levels for waking up...

Is there actually any actionable information here other than: "Don't make unpopular decisions?" I mean, sure, in hindsight, on this particular and possibly unusual scenario, a bunch of people woke up with a singular item which had minor impact to the bottom line. Easy to look back and say, "Maybe that was a silly decision."

But an employer will always have to make decisions, and some individual will probably find that decision distasteful and add it to their list, and maybe that's finally the item that wakes them up... At what point do you just factor that into cost of making decisions and move on?

> Is there actually any actionable information here other than: "Don't make unpopular decisions?"

Make sure you actually do a cost-benefit analysis, even if it's just quickly in your head. Decisions like this are the result of seeing a metric and thinking about optimizing just that one metric. It's not easy to sum up costs and benefits of connected policies. And it can be very hard to a priori determine what the costs and benefits are. But when people come to you and complain about a new policy you should probably listen.

I just don't get that logic: saving $10,000/yr is important, but docking my benefits isn't a great way to do it.

If I have 1 soda per day, it's less than 1% of my salary, and I don't necessarily miss it for monetary reasons, but why would I see it as anything besides you slashing my salary/benefits package by a fraction of a percent? Any time your plan to save money is to slash my pay/benefits without warning or negotiation, it's a good sign that I should start looking for employment elsewhere.

It's also a fiscally poor choice: the time lost to me debating if I should have a soda (5min; since the choice is non-obvious now that it involves a trip) and going to purchase a drink during the work day (10-15min) costs more than just preemptively buying me a can of soda costs by an order of magnitude.

If half of the devs spend 5 minutes a day thinking about drinks now that they're not provided, at a 50 engineer company that's costing 2 hours of developer time a day. Developer time is between $40-100/hr, so you're talking about ~$100/day in lost work because you're not buying 25-50 sodas. Whatever you're saving in soda costs doesn't offset that. (And if they actually leave the office to go get a drink instead, you're tripling that cost.)

I just find it odd that they're so focused on what a benefit costs, they don't analyze what it's providing to the company in value (by, in this case, alleviating a related cost).

Company I worked at removed all coffee from the break rooms, because it would save them money.

Sure did, except that people now had to go down the cafeteria, if it wasn't closed, or go to the local starbucks down the road (which quadrupled it's daily order volume almost overnight).

Going to Starbucks was a 20 minute walk, plus the 5 minutes standing in line... some of us started bringing insulated containers with coffee to work to save some money, but if the black liquid ran out and it was close to normal quitting time, we now went home instead of grabbing one more cup and finishing the problem we were working on.

Not sure which bean counter decided that was a good idea :P

Sad, grey, big company people can't imagine that anyone could ever be any other way.

sad, grey big company vs drunk cursing bro culture. Maybe there is a middle ground.

...sad, grey, drinking, cursing bro culture?

Well, it is in New Jersey...

Surprised to see all the comments about how alcohol should be banned at work. To be fair most of the commentors that said this said "I've witness its drawbacks."

I have a beer at my desk during lunch every now and then, especially if I am working through my lunch as I eat. And every now and then if I know I have to work late ill crack one at 5pm while I work.

The other company in my building also has frequent at-work happy hours (after office close at 5pm, sometimes at 4pm) and everyone seems to be responsible and have fun.

In the end I think its all about showing you can be an adult, and not holding up the intern for a keg stand or slamming tequila shots.

Cached version of the page to get around BI's anti adblock bullshit http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://...

This is basically a non-story. And also a horrible click bait headline. There was extremely minimal chafing during the brief ban on alcohol in the office. Prior to the Walmart purchase I very rarely saw anyone drinking in the office when it wasn't a company sponsored happy hour, and NEVER saw anyone drinking before 5PM (still haven't). People were a little miffed because no one likes having privileges taken away, even if they aren't using them.

I also think that people were barely aware of the no-swearing rule...I didn't even know it existed until I read this article! Seriously, how is it even enforceable?

Edit: Last thing. Even if either of these things had been strictly enforced, it wouldn't have changed things much around here. We don't have a culture of heavy drinking/swearing. We DO have a culture of trusting people though, which is what bothered some employees.

Source: I am a Jet employee.

Does this affect customers? Alcohol somewhat, swearing in office but not with customers no. Therefore, no swearing is a stupid policy to change, limited cultural benefit high cognitive tax. Alcohol in the office has really harmed one company I worked at, and no one missed the omission when it is not there. I understand when you are a two person team and your kitchen fridge has beers, but a giant company pretending to be that instead of people just getting alcohol when out makes no sense. Just go to a bar and pay for it yourself.

Funny story, when IBM acquired Blekko one of the things we had to do was show them we weren't keeping any alcohol on premise[1], even in the machine room. Apparently they didn't have a problem with copies of 'Modern Drunkard' on the coffee table in the lounge area though :-).

[1] There was an excellent scotch collection that had to go, and some Corona's that had been providing thermal mass in the drinks refrigerator for years.

I have no strong opinion about the alcohol rule. Personally, I don't drink at work (or work functions) as I have seen the deleterious effects of same. Feels like a liability issue as well.

I'm also super-supportive of a harassment policy that prohibits language that is used to harass, be it "profanity" or not. (case in point, many people don't consider the R word to be an official profanity, but I will object to its casual use every time, as it is pretty terrible).

All that said, I swear in general, because profanity is really interesting. I moderate my language around people who object to it, sure. But I also do things like use words that sound "dirty" but are not in fact official profanities, or perhaps are marginal. Referring to someone as a "turd hurler", for example, skirts the line. I find it an interesting challenge to develop insults that can be applied to a specific person without pulling in old racist / imperialistic / patriarchal (&c.) tropes.

Further, actual semiotic disruption is also fun. I've trained myself that the phrase "man cave", for example, is a profane reference to a portion of a gentleman's anatomy. "Let me show you my man cave" is a much more hilarious and interesting phrase these days. The creation and evolution of profanity as a socially-negotiated construct (especially those profane words that are titillatingly transgressive but not so inherently evil that they mark one for immediate ostracizing) is pretty amazing.

This is kind of related to my own walmart experience. As a teenager, I worked for a warehouse club (pace) which was bought out by sam's, the walmart of warehouse clubs. Suddenly I had to cover my earrings with a bandaid (as I was male with earrings, and such couldn't display such a terrible thing to the clients). I quit instead, but spent a lot of time thinking about dress codes since - they (and fashion in general) are another fascinating (and frankly under-appreciated by the tech crowd) channel by which meaning is negotiated. I may think a dress code is stupid, but the person who puts stock in it is instead thinking I think that person is stupid. Which isn't my intended meaning, but communication is a two-way street and only possible when both sides understand the shared context.

Anyway. It's possible to ban a list of words, but it is not feasible to ban profanity as such. It is a far better strategy to build a code of conduct that is predicated on respect and mutual support. Ban harassing and insulting behaviors, rather than certain words, and you'll show that you care about the central concept rather than the surface features.

what's the R word you mention? (serious question)

I'm gonna guess "retard". Agree with OP that it has no fucking place in a civilized office.

Its like buying a Ferrari because its fast and cool and then filling it with diesel because that's what all your other delivery vehicles run on.

I didn't find anything in the article that indicated that the decision was a "big mistake", just that some employees were annoyed. Did this affect their employee turnover? Productivity? Any objectively measurable effect at all?

I don't necessarily agree with the decision one way or the other, but this article seems like its pushing a narrative with very little evidence to support it either way.

One of the more memorable articles from The Economist was on this topic. "The boredom of boozeless business: The sad demise of the three-Martini lunch" http://www.economist.com/node/21560265

Last time I was in Hoboken, "Thank You" and "Fuck You" were used interchangeably.

Fuck Walmart, booze afterhours on Friday is de rigueur.

'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'

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