Workplace Spies

Plugging away at a computer all day can be very exhausting, despite the fact that most of the physical activity is confined to the fingers. Being the frail humans that we are, we need a physical-and emotional break-even if only for a few minutes. Not every one feels that way.

Over the last several weeks, it has become quite obvious that there are people checking out our department-the smallest in the office. There has been a virtual parade of “casual strollers” going down our aisle, an area well out of their way. My supervisor has a more laid back style, and doesn’t pressure people-as long as the job gets done. And the job does get done. But there are other departments where it’s heads down, no socializing for the entire day. I think it’s no coincidence that department has a at least 60% turnover rate in the last few years.

The hierarchy in a particular department (I don’t even know how that mess is set up) has focused their attention on us. We have been notified by higher ups that we are being too “chatty”, and need to do more work. I immediately thought about the string of observers walking by all day. Friday, I caught some kid skulking on the other side of one of our cubicles. I came around the corner, stopped, and stared at him. He walked off without looking at me.

I’m a grown man, and being subjected to that kind a childish behavior is insulting to say the least. I think I know what’s going on though.

About 3 years ago, this company was on the verge of bankruptcy. This office-on the other side of the country from the corporate office was engaged in nepotism, cronyism, phantom employees, and other manner of ineptitude that resulted in massive losses in revenue. The incompetence was staggering, and I even at one point as a temp (that’s how I started there) wondered how this company was even in business. Well, it wouldn’t have been very long. At the 11th hour, investors brought in some new corporate management, and they crunched numbers, and cleaned house pretty well. Pretty well, I say, because they didn’t get everybody. Those people are still in relatively high positions officewise, and if they lost those high paying positions…Talk about your foreclosure crisis…

It looks like a case of panic to me. Eyes from the outside are looking hard at this office, and those long-timers-some who, in my opinion shouldn’t be there are freaking out. I think the response is this crackdown on anything not completely related to work. That crackdown has deteriorated into kids peeking over our shoulders and looking for something, anything not related to work.

These supervisors showed their poor management skills in the past, and it seems that there has been no improvement. It amazes me how they could still be there with all the changes. I think it might be amazing them as well, if their actions are any indicator. These “spies” aren’t acting on their own; somebody put them up to it. And you can always find somebody looking to score points with the boss.

Gordon Lippett has surveyed thousands of management and non-management personnel and asked them to answer what were the most motivating factors for them at their job. Respect for me as a person consistently ranked near the top of the list of most people, even ahead of good pay.

Although it could be possible that the writing may be on the wall for some of these managers, including the office manager herself, life is too short to wait around for the possibility. I heard an entrepeneur say the other day, “If you feel different on Sunday night than you did on Friday night, you’re working at the wrong job.” I’m dusting off my resume.

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