You think your workplace is bad

Let's say the CEO of your company is retiring, but he's going to keep an office at headquarters and the services of the same secretary as the new guy.



Or how about working at a company where the boss just decided you can no longer work from home, a godsend once you had kids, even as she brings her baby to the nursery she built for him next to her office.



This past week was a veritable schadenfreude-fest for those of us who love nothing more than complaining about our work — unless it's discovering how delightfully awful someone else's office must be.

So, the Vatican: On top of the usual workplace issues that must plague the Roman Catholic Church's corporate offices — there's that impenetrable glass ceiling for any women employees, for one thing — this past week brought word of a leadership transition from, um, hell.

Pope Benedict XVI retired, but, as it turns out, won't actually leave the Vatican. His private secretary will live with him in his Vatican quarters, even as he serves in the same capacity in the office of the new pope, whenever he is named.

And you thought you worked in a dysfunctional office. Imagine you get the best promotion ever, and yet the person you replaced is skulking around the hallways. And when this shared secretary gets home at night, he's pumped for info on how the replacement is doing.

The palace intrigue may be better than anything you ever saw on "The Apprentice" or "Survivor." It's going to be "The Real Clerics of the Roman Curia." Oh, to be a fly on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Suddenly, my office seems a little boring. My theory on office politics is that it fulfills our need for real-life and mostly harmless drama. Whispering about co-workers, grumbling about bosses and — oh, joy — those misfired emails when someone accidentally hits "Reply to all" — they make the whole working-for-a-living thing a little more fun.

Which brings us to Yahoo! (And the fact that if you have to add an exclamation point to your name — I'm looking at you, Maryland Live! — you're trying too hard.)

Last week, the Internet company's CEO, Marissa Mayer, triggered the kind of hand-wringing that quickly turns comical when she halted the work-from-home option.


All sorts of outrage, backlash and backlash to the backlash ensued, the issue quickly framed as either a slap at working mothers or a validation of what those who can't telecommute suspect is going on with those who can — as in, massive slacking off on company time.

What's funny about the whole brouhaha is that we're talking about a pretty small and largely privileged group of professionals who actually have the telecommuting option. If you teach elementary school or work as a grocery store cashier or drive a bus, for example, this is no option at all.

Less than 10 percent of workers spend at least one of their workdays each week doing their job from home, according to the U.S. Census. If you're talking about those who spend a majority of their working hours at home, the Census Bureau says, the percentage is just over 4 percent.

And, of course, all the words spilled on the subject come from the keyboards of people who have a bit more flexibility than most — writers, bloggers and other opinionators.

But what do I know? Home-or-office is not really as big an issue for reporters these days as, say, access to Wi-Fi or cellphone charging. And yet I come here not to bury offices but to praise them. There likely are more times I could work from home than I actually do because, well, dirty dishes.

I mean, when I work at home, I constantly feel all my household tasks calling me. In the office, it's out of sight, out of mind, at least temporarily, and anyway, I welcome the excuse for someone else to make me lunch.


This is why I'm always baffled by parents who home-school. Oh, I get all the reasons and would never say they're not valid. But I just need a better line of demarcation between the domestic and the rest of the world.

I think we're on a slippery slope when we give up yet another venue where you have to interact with — eek! — other people rather than their Twitter avatars. It already feels as though humanity's social muscles are atrophying — people, why make a lunch date if both of you are going to bring your tablet with you?