1. Mission Favorites. Mission staffer’s favorite movie is “Under Siege” but not/not because they’re die-hard fans of Steven Seagal. The mission’s theme song is “Front Office in a Bubble” to the tune of Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle and it’s not because they want to save time in the bubble and spend them with you.
2. Voluntold. When the Front Office holds a meeting on morale participants had to be voluntold so there are real people in the room and not just left over cardboard cut-outs of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama from election past.
3. Liquor Store Run. Every town hall meeting causes a minor run on the commissary liquor store. This is not necessarily bad as it improves the commissary’s bottom line but, but when employees get up with a hangover the day after every town hall meeting, that is never a good sign.
4. Not So Cute Nicknames. Front Office executives and senior managers get nicknames that are neither cute nor fit for polite conversation. The nicknames are occasionally funny, that is, funny to everyone except to those they have been assigned to.
5. Suck It Up Buttercup. The embassy’s motto of DMWL or “doing more with less” has been replaced with SIUB or “suck it up buttercup.” If employees have legitimate concerns that are impairing their ability to do the work they are sent to do and you tell them to suck it up, what kind of manager does that make you?
6. Hamsters on Wheels. Mission staffers ask questions about crisis preparedness in various re-iterations, repeats, rinses, then do over again and again like hamsters on a wheel. When employees kept repeating the same questions over and over it means 1) they’re not getting the answers they need or 2) they do not believe what you’re telling them. In which case, they’ll keep asking those questions until they’re satisfied with the answer.
7. Rumor Has It. The rumor factory has taken over the embassy compound like the pink slime from Ghostbusters. Rumors express and gratify “the emotional needs of the community.” It occupies the space when that need is not meet, and particularly when there is deficient communication between the front office and the rest of the mission.
8. Humor-less. It’s been a long time since anyone at post had a real good laugh. Once humor becomes the missing link in the chain of command, then that is a sign of not good things to come. Employees who are unhappy, demoralized, despondent, frustrated, angry have a hard time laughing at anything unless they are laughing at their senior managers.
9. Post Trends. El Jefe of one of the largest sections at post is suddenly retiring. The resident regional psychiatrist also curtails and retires. And just about everyone has a curtailment plan. The non-resident regional psychiatrist posted across the globe has been told he/she is spending way too much time at post. The community liaison officer shows up at Country Team meetings wearing a mockingjay pin. (In The Hunger Games, the mockingjay is a symbol of rebellion and hope among the districts). Uh-oh, trends — the not so subtle and the crafty. And don’t even think about making mocking jay pins illegal.
10. Fan Mail. Demoralized embassy employees in the Republic of Z send howlers to this blog. Not one email or two email but emails from the parliament of owls. Frankly, they are worse than those listed on Harry Potter’s Owl Post. If you think being featured in this blog is bad, think about how much worse your morning can be when you end up in Al Kamen’s In The Loop column, widely read by the chattering crowd inside the beltway and the Seventh Floor.