Just as George Orwell predicted in his negative utopian classic ‘1984,’ Big Brother has arrived! Not just overnight, but slowly, ever so slowly, the new corporate mindset, with its’ over-obsession on worker accountability, has slithered into the workplace. Of course, and as we all know, HR, aka the Thought Police, has become not just a separate profession, but really one of the most prolific and powerful, yet stunningly unproductive, industries known to the modern American workplace.
In fact, it’s these corporate cops, and their big business bosses, that we have to thank for the hypocrisy of political correctness, the ever-increasing number of employee regulations that we’re subjected to, and the like. It’s damned ironic, if you think about it, that our employers, while perenially whining about the bottom line, can still have the gall to sink millions-yeah, milliions!-into every type of techno-crap for really only one reason, and that’s to better monitor the workforce. And all under the guise of technology or, worse yet, ‘going green.’ So rather than 2008, or even 1984, the current attitude of squeezing employees for all their worth is more akin to the sweatshops, assembly lines and factories of, say, 1884.
Recently, my organization decided, as they so eloquently put it, to bring the company’s time-keeping system into the modern age. So, without any real consultation with our unions, or even senior staff for that matter, they have mandated that sign-in sheets and time cards be replaced with computerized hand geometry machines. The idea here is to have each employee, irrespective of rank or level, sign in (and out) on a daily basis by placing their pre-registered right hand in a special, computerized machine that recognizes individual hands’ geometry. They also made it real simple-no hand imprint, no pay check.
There have been mandatory training classes, meetings and seminars on the process, and the issuance of colorful, almost child-like brochures and laminated handouts for everyone to read. Hey, we even had to take online quizzes to prove that we understand how the new system works. And these faux modern hand reader machines have been popping up on office walls, like so many toadstools in a damp cellar. Except that these are, of course, always under CCTV camera surveillance.
All right, you may say, what’s so terrible about it, anyway?
What is so dangerous about this system is that it is nothing more than management creating a better mouse trap, so as to insure that they get their full day’s worth, and then some, out of us. Not only does this reflect a total lack of trust in the staff, but it also creates a rigid environment that stifles creativity and flexibility. Oh, there’s a line at the new hand reader, and now you’re considered late? Too bad. Your boss stopped by to chat about an important project before you imprint in? Oops,late again. Oh, and if you think that this can be over-ridden by senior staff, it can be. Just don’t let it happen too often, ’cause then an exception report will be generated. And that ain’t good.
Imagine if they took just some of those bucks away from techno monitoring, and gave out long-overdue raises, bonuses and promotions instead? Or improved the size and quality of our workspaces? Or provided real incentives? Though none of this good stuff is likely to happen any time soon, we still need to be alert to what IS possible, and not simply accept management’s decree that, a la Big Brother, ‘ignorance is strength.’
If your place of work is undergoing any kind of similar transition, please let us at Jobacle know. Misery does indeed love company!