Office Rat-A-Tat with Hongbing

Directed by BB pal David Israel and scored by Wilidacious, Hongbing offers a hypothesis concerning office email power dynamics. From David:
If you enjoyed Office Space, you're going to get a kick out of the much shorter, lo-fi version called Office Rat-A-Tat, starring his guy endearing guy named Hongbing, who describes his vid series thusly: "Thoughts on work life and the office circumstance." Well, maybe something got lost in translation there. All I know is that Hongbing speaks the truth... verily I say unto thee.


  1. I try never to be the guy reserving a room.  People see, oh HE reserved it, screw him, I’ll make him move.  I tell the higher ups if they actually want a room and not to stand in each others’ offices, then they need to reserve it.  Kinda like leading from behind, but errh, no not really.

  2. You kick ass Hongbing! You’re also totally right that the higher up the corporate ladder you go, the less you respect others… at least, that’s been my experience so far at just about every job I’ve ever had. God-willing there are some exceptions to the rule.

    1. Well, for one thing, they also don’t need to add in a lot of unnecessary information to make themselves look smart/important/whatever, like many of us lower-level employees feel the need to do.

    2.  Generally, conserving.

      You have a day with 300 messages an hour requiring a response, and you’re CCd on god and everything from everyone who’s ever taken an interest in covering their ass. Ever.

      You learn to be brief, be kind, and be seated.

  3. He ignored the bottom rung. (so he is one of the ‘rude?’) I have seen this hypothesis before but including the assistants at the bottom who mostly exchange humor or pathos by email. This is probably the largest use.

  4. Almost nails it except for one key aspect in the case given…  

    Since the example is about scheduling a meeting, the content of the response will –at the VP level or so– flip over to less-and-less polite versions of , “Please contact my assistant re: scheduling meetings / remove me from this thread.”

  5. Boss-types may tend towards abbreviations, poor grammar, spelling and punctuation, but not necessarily because of their position of authority. I would say it’s because they’re keyboard-averse, used to communicating in short bursts via Blackberry, and text so often that it’s easiest for them to write like teenagers.

    There are people, even if only a few, who actually give a damn about how they come across in written communication. I expect you can find them at all levels on the corporate ladder.

  6. Spot on, except that where I work there is always the signature line ‘Sent from my Blackberry’ which really ticks me off because no one’s ever offered ME a stupid blackberry.

    1. Or “Sent from my iPad.” 

      Bugs me when people don’t take a few seconds to figure out how to turn off that advertising function.

      1. Thinking about it, I could just apply that same signature to all of my e-mails and pretty much use it to skate by on al erors form know aon.

        Sent from my iBlackberry, sorry fro typoes!

  7. It’s true. Also, my personal opinion of the sender is directly proportional to their level of effort in communicating intelligently and effectively in any given medium.

    I don’t just mean this sarcastically (I do a little bit) but maybe I’m not important/busy enough to need to dispense with superfluous things like grammar, punctuation, or attention to the matter and the crafting a thorough response. 

    I work for a law firm, so a lot of these guys ‘n gals are quite used to dictating rather than typing their own missives. At least the older ones are. But I definitely find that the more, shall we say, dismissive messages that are sent are the ones that waste time as clarification is usually required, and It’s like pulling teeth getting good information or a complete request from these types. 

    Bottom line: I take a “long” time to write a message, but everyone knows what’s what when I do. 

  8. Eh… dunno… I guess it depends on the social codes for a country. In my country (Finland) the emails tend to be short, no matter what your status is in a company… well, at least in the IT world, can’t say about others. The bosses’ emails can be identified by the (previously mentioned) “sent from…” line, and an obligatory sprinkling of some buzz words.

    As an example, my own emails tend to look like this (I’m an IT engineer)

    Hi!  (note, not all would even put this line in)

    I will come late in today, should be at the office by noon.


    Short, to the point, not waisting everybody’s time by having to go look for the relevant information.

    I _really_ didn’t like the “peer” email example in the video, I couldn’t see directly what the heck it was about. The upper level emails were waaaay better in my opinion.

  9. Ditto on the “don’t waste everyone’s time with empty verbiage”. Every single second boilerplate politesse takes from me is one I’ll never get back.

    There are emails where you should be verbose, but “OK so long as you loop back with Tomkins” is not one of them.

    Even when verbosity is required, it shouldn’t be empty noises, but unpacking things so people who could perceive slights or personal critiques know that isn’t the case — or if the critique is intended, it should be unpacked sufficiently to be constructive.

    Bad: “Re. Q1 review. Shape up people, or heads will roll!”

    With flowers, still bad: “Hello everyone, Regarding the Q1 review just completed, the results aren’t quite what we want. I want everyone to understand this, and feel part of the team. If performance doesn’t improve, there will have to be cuts. Everyone have a pleasant day! — The Management”

    Unpacked, without flowers: “Q1 review looks bad. Need to improve sales by 10% over the next Q, or cut costs. Everyone to give sales the support they need. If you know how to cut costs without hurting quality, speak up!”

    Feel free to make it prettier if it makes you happy, but if your prettification adds more than 5-10% of text without adding real content, then it’s just noise.

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