• Thu, Jan 17 2013

HR Mistake Of The Week: This Nauseating Job Posting For An ‘Office Host’

perfect-hostessWorking as an office manager can be satisfying, and it’s a way for many people to get their foot in the door at a dream company. That said, it’s not glamorous. Maybe that’s why this job posting for an “office host” at a San Francisco startup is so maddening. Read on.

The 400+ word job posting comes from Medium, a new online publishing platform from Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams. (The listing was titled “Office Host” when I first saw it yesterday, but has since been changed to “Office Manager.”) Here’s how it starts:

Ever been to a great party where everything is perfect? Every guest always has a full drink; the music is the right tempo and volume; people are mingling effortlessly; the food is delicious; temperature is ideal all night; the decorations are playful yet tasteful; there is never a line for the bathroom; folks are talking about the latest movie or an upcoming concert; another group is having an erudite discussion about politics and might have just solved the US debt crisis; everyone is happy to be there and wants to stay forever… Just like that perfect party host, you’ll make sure all the details in our office are organized and that everyone is having a great time every day.

Cool, I love parties! But don’t try to sell me a catering job and tell me it’s a party.

Then — oh happy day, sweet rapture — the work begins!

A few invoices came in since you last checked. One needs approval so you send off that email and then enter the rest in the accounting system before filing those PDFs in our cloud storage file vault. Sweating the details is easy for you, so getting the file names right and storing them in the correct folder always happens. The first visitor calls up for a meeting; you jump in the elevator to get them from downstairs. On the way up to the meeting room you stop by the kitchen to grab them a drink. Returning to your desk someone calls from the back room, “The projector screen isn’t working”. Rushing back, you start troubleshooting and determine the AV cable is broken; a quick swap and they are ready to go. Back at your desk, its time to finish the bank account reconciliation and prepare a PDF for review — your environmental sensibility is bolstered by the trees saved by being paperless and the highly effective recycling & compost program you champion.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, the ugliest sentence in the English language: “your environmental sensibility is bolstered by the trees saved by being paperless and the highly effective recycling & compost program you champion.”

Meanwhile, some of the other actual tasks mentioned in the ad: unloading the dishwasher, setting up the conference room for meetings, taking lunch orders, making coffee, cleaning up coffee (“Ugh, half a cup of coffee and there are no more pens — no problem, you’ll have that sorted out in seconds.”)

So, it’s pretty much your average grunt-work, only in this context you’re supposed to be thrilled about doing it:

  • “As people filter in, your warm greeting and unwavering smile make them forget how much Muni sucks and reminds them why they are excited to come in each day to be with their work family.”
  • “Someone stops at your desk to chat about a show they are going to next weekend, a couple others gather and a few of you decide to all go because you’re all just awesome peeps.
  • “Your positive upbeat attitude and enthusiasm will radiate through the office to make everyone’s day brighter and create the fun surroundings for the important work we’re doing together.”

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I find this so nauseating. Is it the geisha-like servility required by the successful candidate? Is it the fact that the “office host” is supposed to not just do her job, but plaster on an “unwavering smile” while she does it? Is it the term “office host”? Is it the notion that launching a money-making publishing platform is called “important work”? Is it the suggestion that the assistant is supposed to hang out with her coworkers — pardon me, “awesome peeps” — on the weekends? Or is it the fact that I’m finding it impossible to imagine a man or an older woman in the job?

Photo: Yuri Arcurs / Shutterstock.com

 

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