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Every week, something comes along that'll take the crown for Most Effectively Pissing People Off Online before the weekend rolls around and the tournament resets. Oftentimes, it's a sleep-inducing bad take. Sometimes (okay, also oftentimes) it's a well-paid opinion columnist pinning societal ills on, I dunno, "fancy" meat. If we're doing our jobs right, it might be a video you see right here on Digg dot com that you don't quite regret watching but can't get out of your head. For me, I don't need to see what the rest of this week has in store. Come Saturday, I'll still be thinking about this awful, no good plaque.


Supposedly found hanging in a Dairy Queen and first posted to the internet on the Facebook group for Street Fight1, a Columbus, OH-based anarchist comedy radio show, the plaque is getting passed around by Twitter users compelled by the reflexive instinct to share whatever terrible thing the internet throws our way. At first glance, it's just some hand-drawn, retro workplace decor. When you stop and read it, you wonder why anyone would seriously create something so awful (and then frame it).

"Just Once I Wish My Employees Would Say…" belongs in a museum housing the flotsam and jetsam of pre-internet, post-Fair Labor Standards Act capitalism. It's hard to accept that it's even real; if someone could confirm it was clever set-dressing from a deleted "Office Space" scene, I could sleep easier at night. Instead, given the real-life indignities of wage labor and the all-too-genuine existence of Successories posters, it's very safe to assume that this plaque is real as can be. Which is just the pits.

The plaque seems clearly intended to be lighthearted and joke-y, but read every last one of the statements on it and ask yourself what kind of person would actually read this thing and chuckle, rather than feel tempted to burn down their office building. This is "I'd rather be fishing" for the managerial set, after several bumps of cocaine. There's a difference between making light the real and valid stresses that come with a job involving managing employees, and then there's the thinly-veiled contempt on display here.

It's possible, though depressingly unlikely, that "Just Once I Wish My Employees Would Say…" is not a cursed object but a work of wry parody. It was reposted on Reddit at /r/GetMotivated, which is a popular (13.4 million subscriber) subreddit that seems to be genuinely dedicated to Successories-like motivational material. Needless to say, some of the people replying to the post didn't seem to get the joke of posting it there (that or the folks posting things like "Get a new job. ASAP" and "It's top-level bootlicking" are on some double-irony wavelength). This plaque is like one of those magic eye pictures — you can look at it and see it as a genuine expression of anti-worker sentiment, or you can tweak your eyes and see the most straight-faced parody of motivational kitsch ever.

Anyway, I'm going to be mad about this for at least another couple days. Responding to each of statements in "Just Once I Wish My Employees Would Say…" will only bring me a fraction of the catharsis I'd get from smashing and burning the thing, but that's better than nothing.

"The customer just called… the job was perfect!" — Right off the bat, we're mad at employees for being the bearers of bad news and at customers for exercising agency. Cool.

"We are way ahead of schedule!" — Now picture the boss receiving this news, thinking, then laying off a portion of the workforce since going slower might be more profitable anyway.

"I canceled my vacation plans… I'd rather be at work!" — What kind of person both dislikes their employees and would prefer to be surrounded by sycophants who'll never leave them be?

"The suggestion box is empty." — As a millennial, the very notion of a physical suggestion box is a nostalgic comfort. These days, you'll get access to a dubiously anonymous submission form where your answers will be stored for all time on a Google or Amazon server at best.

"You are the greatest boss we ever had!" and "We love this place!" — Just statistically untenable in any workplace of decent size. Accept it or you shouldn't be peoples' boss.

"I can't believe how much money you pay me… Do you want some back?" — When the creator of this plaque penned those words in their strange calligraphy-and-Comic Sans lovechild handwriting, it was undoubtedly the first time anyone formed that thought in human history.

"I'm sorry… That problem was all my fault!" and "You're right… I was wrong!" — Employees say stuff like this to their bosses all the time, because sometimes owning your bosses' mistake is better than getting fired for telling the truth.

"Profits are up… Costs are down!" — Look at that rosy-cheeked, bow-tie wearing chart lover. I despise them.

"Of course I don't mind working late!" and "I'm coming in early tomorrow!" — Did the person who writes all the ad copy for Fiverr make this plaque?

"Why don't you go home early… We have everything under control!" — I could see employees saying this to then slack off and shit-talk their boss behind their back, so it's the one thing here that gets a thumbs-up from me.

"I just love your meetings!" — This is the most Michael Scott thing on the whole plaque. This is what your boss who takes improv classes yearns to hear.

"I really don't need a raise… My review alone was more than enough!" — Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha no.

"Can we make Fridays 'dress-up' days?" — Honestly? A good boss would fire whoever asked this in earnest. This is work, for adults, not Spirit Week in middle school.

"Given the chance to keep working here… I would gladly accept a cut in pay." — Somewhere out there, someone has assuredly said this to their boss, then gone to the bathroom to cry. On the commute home from work, eyes still glistening with tears, that person considered the cold-hearted incentives that shape commonly accepted labor practices. Weeks later, instead of quitting their job in disgust, that person started a union drive that eventually successfully organized their workplace, securing better conditions and wages for themselves and all their peers. That person should be allowed to take this plaque and do whatever they wish with it.


A cursory search of the group on Facebook didn't pull up the plaque.

Mathew Olson is an Associate Editor at Digg.

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