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Hot & Bothered

Terrible news!

The global supply of dried meat snacks is being threatened by a boardroom fight at the headquarters of Beef Jerky Outlet.

The subject of the conflict is not executive salary, nor the potential ecological disaster following the introduction of panda jerky.


The problem is temperature.

Not the temperature in which one keeps the jerky, of course. Jerky has survived in the North Pole in winter. Jerky has been lowered into the depths of a volcano. Jerky has even been sent into space. That delicate burnt-cardboard texture and the piquant tang of sodium nitrate never changes. It’s one of reasons people like jerky. You can eat it, but you can’t kill it.

But back to the Outlet.

The fight in the Troy, Michigan, headquarters is over the right temperature in the office. And if The Wall Street Journal’s Work & Family columnist Sue Shellenbarger is to be believed, and she is, the same issue is causing similar battles across the country.

“Never mind messy desks, noisy colleagues and smelly office kitchens,” Shellenbarger writes in “Let the Office Thermostat Wars Begin.” “No workplace dispute is as divisive as where to set the office thermostat. Some 3 in 5 employees tamper with the thermostat without asking colleagues.

Makes sense, really. Some like it hot. Some like it not. And some take matters in their own hands.

Another survey finds another 3 out of 5 employees “use personal fans or heaters or don lap blankets and fingerless gloves”

Clearly, these employees should be fired. Demonstrating this level of initiative will only show up people like thee and me, mindless drones with zero initiative. Plus, fingerless gloves are just not a good look for you. You look best in gloveless fingers.

Not content with attempting to control their environment with fans, heaters and gloves, some employees go so far as to stay cool by placing a “small wading pool under the desk to ‘paddle’ their feet.”

This is an idea I like, but why stop with a small wading pool? Why not hook up hoses to the whirlpool tubs in the executive spa and flood the entire office with two feet of refreshing water? As workstations go floating by, you’ll know that you’ve done your part to create a cool, beach-like environment in your soulless office space.

As you might expect, the problem of divergent temperature opinions represents an opportunity for the high-flying vultures of high-tech. A number of companies have created a number of apps that allow employees to instantly transmit their dissatisfaction with office temperature to the powers that be.

Unfortunately, since the powers that be tend to be “facilities managers,” the illegitimate love child of the workplace tyrants in HR who set rules to determine the acceptable depth of your coffee cup and number of pencils you can have on an annual basis, your digital scream for help will likely fall on digital deaf ears.

My favorite high-tech solution is “Comfy” of Oakland, California, whose app offers you the ability to send messages like “Warm My Space” or “Cool My Space.”

One assumes the recipient of your demands in the facility management floor has only one response available, “Kiss My Butt.”

As it happens, the most brilliant solution to the temperature wars is not a high-tech wonder, but the plain, old, no-tech deceit you’ve come to expect from management.

“To placate chronic complainers,” Sue Shellenbarger reveals, “some facility managers install dummy thermostats. They’re equipped with buttons or dials to give occupants an illusion of control, but lack any connection to the air-conditioning system.”

I love this solution. Not only does it build on management’s use of dummy compliments and dummy raises, it’s a beautifully elegant, totally evil way to prove once and for all that management thinks its employees are idiots. (Of course, we’re not idiots. Given 10 or 20 years of alternately freezing and melting, we’ll figure out that our constant button-pushing and dial-spinning doesn’t result in anything but carpal tunnel syndrome.)

Shellenbarger also includes some of the factors that make us sensitive to hot and cold. Women typically have slower metabolic rates and want a warmer environment. People who stay up late may feel cold since their body temperature reaches its lowest point at dawn.

Most importantly, “eating a lot of protein, or foods that are spicy or rich can elevate one’s body temperature.”

Do you see the problem, Factory Outlet? You can sell all the jerky you want, but if you want peace in the boardroom, don’t eat it.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


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