Men in the workplace have historically not had many opportunities to show individuality. Take dress, for example. Most professional men, even today, look similar — dark suit, white shirt, black shoes. Rules of the workplace. The only sliver of personality they’re allowed is their tie. A tie can be purple, striped, packed with pictures of snowmen.

In work-related communication, your instant-message chat “status” is comparable to the tie. That’s where you can show your personality, and have some fun, without your colleagues thinking you’ve lost your mind. Your instant-message program will default to displaying an “Available,” “Away,” “Gone to lunch” or “Away for the day.” But using those is such a wasted opportunity, like wearing a gray tie. Or like the failed innovation described by the great standup comedian Steven Wright: pancake-flavored syrup.

Why not write something for your instant-message status that shows some personality — some purple or planets on your tie? Here are a few ideas to get you started…


scribbling gibberish

plagiarizing shamelessly

deflecting criticism

feigning diligence

scheduling spontaneity

cutting corners

rehearsing excuses

blaming others

rewriting history

seeking acceptance

ignoring reality

managing expectations

minimizing downside

chasing praise

destroying evidence

trying patience

pointing fingers

being petty

ducking responsibility

whining constantly

blundering badly

crying uncontrollably

perfecting mediocrity

fearing failure

dragging down the curve

shading the truth

denying everything

copying and pasting

justifying my existence

behaving defensively

displaying immaturity

masking insecurity

deciding it’s good enough

discovering new weaknesses

aging disgracefully

promising nothing

neglecting obligations

not being an enabler

staying vague

accomplishing little

making faces

considering therapy

avoiding eye contact

denying allegations

not panicking


taking a personal day in my cube

begging for approval

enjoying denial

over-thinking everything

wasting youth

falling behind


habitually snacking

overly caffeinated

forcing a smile

wishing I were a perfectionist

deleting everything

thinking positive thoughts

demanding a larger cup at Starbucks

trying to ignore the clock

looking up how much coffee is “too much”

looking for a closer Starbucks

looking busy

elevating stress to an art form

far less busy than I’m pretending to be

evading questions

repeating affirmations

ignoring the voices

submitting to authority

rethinking adulthood

renegotiating deadlines

remotely working

planning to stop procrastinating

complicating the simple

shallow in thought

asking Starbucks to super-size me

in need of adult supervision

making the semi-responsible look responsible

writing auto-response emails for folks I’m ducking

blaming it on a “corrupted file”

proving no amount of coffee can kill you

balancing work and sleep

dodging scrutiny

testing the body’s junk-food limits

standing by the printer to look busy

three parts human, one part iced coffee


erasing furiously

begging for forgiveness

establishing alibis

making mistakes

seeking defenders

fooling everyone



shunning technology (except TV)

seeking happiness in food

eating “family-size” portions

having a meal between snacks

winning an eating contest

repeating the phrase “food is not love”