Double, double, toil and trouble
The Secret DoS has made a bit of a booby this week. No details yet – the extent to which I might find myself in trouble has yet to become clear. But we could be looking at anything between a smack on the wrist or a need to update my CV. Microsoft, if you’re reading, might I suggest that the addition of a dialogue box which said something along the lines of, “You have chosen to send this reply to all of the original recipients; are you sure you want to do this?” would be a very welcome one.
But the occasion has given me something new to ruminate on. Let’s chew the cud…
When somebody does wrong, what’s the right thing to do? I don’t mean something silly that shows that they need a little bit of hand-holding or a hug-sized slice of understanding. Let’s assume that we are not any of us the type to club offenders to death with rolled up copies of the Daily Mail. I’m talking about a monumental cock-up or a grimacingly embarrassing overstappage of the line. What do we do?
In my organisation, there is a layer of management that is virtually staffed by clones. These clones get Angry. That’s right, proper Angry, with a capital A. They are not pretending. They feel an emotional response. That emotional response is Anger. It is limbic lunacy; amygdalic atrophy; pituitary pandemonium. They become parental and rage, rage against the crying little shite; they get the hump more than conjoined camels playing Quasimodo and Richard III. They sulk, pout, fume and fustigate. And the thing that I don’t get is why they really care: this is work, people! Not life or death, but work.
If Johnny comes marching back to work one day all late and ill-prepared, I am not going to work myself into a frenzy about it all. If my son is late getting ready for school, I will. If Margaret still hasn’t written the reports, I will not beat her to within an inch of her life; if my daughter doesn’t hand in her homework on time, I cannot guarantee this degree of constraint. If Philomena finishes a class an hour earlier so that she can go and drink Pimm’s in the sun and backstab me, I will not collect her toenail clippings and use them to fashion a voodoo doll that is tied together with stray hairs and harvested earwax. It is work.
And they are not my children; I will not tell them off. I will not challenge them; I will not humiliate them; I will not reduce them to tears. I will ask them for an explanation and then I will offer my own explanation of why it is not acceptable. If they want to apologise, then that is entirely up to them. I don’t need apologies; I don’t think apologies actually make a blind bit of difference other than to signal some sort of contrition – possibly real, possibly virtual, the only way to tell of course is to monitor the post-apologetic behaviour which would have been the only way to tell if there had been no apology to start with.
And this applies to those newly qualified young Turks who are wetter behind the ear than the owner of a loved up Great Dane. Because age is irrelevant when dealing with misdemeanours. I may be old and greying, but I don’t think that this gives me the right to treat the yoof with too much condescension (everything in moderation…). So, if you are a Rizzle Kick who is being Kicked by A Wizened Prick, do not take it. Stop them treating you as if you were five, because it really doesn’t matter what you have done. If you know it was wrong and you are not a psychopath, you don’t need to have matters made worse by some asshole bawling you out. If you don’t know it was wrong, you don’t need to sweat it; however, you do need to understand why the Big Boss thinks it was wrong. You don’t need punishment, you need empathy.
Which leads me on to punishment; as I thumbed nonchalantly through the staff manual to see what might possibly happen to me, I became aware of the absurdity of exemplary punishments. If I were to be demoted, suspended, fired, condemned to a loss of wages, what would be the point? To highlight to me that what I had done was wrong? To warn the boneheads about what happens to People Like Me? To help the irate little Head Honcho expunge her bilious humour? To stop me from doing it again?
Ye gods on high! I am a DOS. Hath not a DOS eyes? Hath not a DOS hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Capo di tutti capi is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? If we balls up, do we not know it? Do we not regret it? Do we not learn from it? The villainy you teach me I will execute—and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.
Disciplinary procedures are only ever there for when there is no option; when, after time and time again, the problem needs solving definitively. When because the miscreant will not learn, the company needs to follow due process to remove the canker from within. Not to appease the outsiders looking in – the worker made you money so the worker is more deserving of your protection than the company which the worker helped build.
And so, from my lesson, I offer this one: if you are ever made to feel like a naughty little child by your manager, stop their mouths and push down their pointy finger. Tell them this, “The way you are speaking to me is not helpful; it is not constructive; it is not dignified or respectful; and it is not appropriate to the standards that I expect from you. If you want to continue this conversation, I need you to speak to me respectfully as a colleague, not as your child. I understand your concerns and I regret having caused you to feel this way. As far as I can control it, I will do my utmost to avoid making you feel this way again. There is nothing more I can say or do that will change the way things have gone. That is all I can offer you; it is up to you to decide whether or not it is enough. If you need to vent your anger and frustration, I would advise you to do it with somebody who is happy to let you do it with them. I am not that person.”
As for me, I am not Groucho Marx and wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that didn’t want me as a member. If anyone wants to employ a surly philosophical DoS, I may be able to put you in touch with one (finder’s fee negotiable). For now, I’m off to read The Merchant of Venice.