I could have been jailed if I didn’t do my work right! The thought of going to jail swung me into action to seek another job, but I’d jumped from the frying pan into the fire!
My old workplace introduced an imported ‘Let-jail-us’ procedure to help maintaining and upgrading the computer systems we had built over the years. With the ‘technique’, computer programmers were paired up to check on the quality of each other’s work, transfer knowledge and make plan together for the next round of maintenance. The pairings were supposed to change frequently to avoid expertise lying stagnant in particular areas. The approach was what developers deemed ideal even if the work would take longer. In reality, developers hardly had time to transfer knowledge or plan their work with others. One horrified setback of the ‘modus operandi’ was that any problem we caused the company due to our faulty work could potentially result in the prosecution and jailing of the pair!
My next workplace was very big, hectic and conveniently located nearer to my house. The organisation possessed a very complex and giant system, consisting of many other smaller systems. The success of the company therefore could only be credited to groups and individual staff became nameless.
The workplace was swamped with volatile deadlines. The achievement of the head of the company and thus his annual productivity bonuses were based on how the corporation delivered services within a certain budget. Consequently, the workplace strain was passed on from the top down, and so were all kinds of bullying tactics and exploitative policies. Half of the staff were overseas contractors paid cheaply and had employment conditions substantially worse than the permanent staff.
Managers concentrated on producing results so they condoned wrongdoings, twisted the truth and took side with the staff considered vital for the delivery of work rather than who was right. Only in this organisation that it wasn’t rare to see supervisors, while backing up their own staff for political cover-up, came head to head with each other and no one would concede that they were wrong. The firm was entrenched in a culture which must have stemmed from a ‘cookbook’ training that said to boost staff morale. Not often did supervisors drop their facades, falsifying support for their staff!!
Staff kept their heads down all the time and had no time to take notice of new staff’s arrival or existing staff’s departures. Gradually growing workloads put staff under constant stress so they were prone to bickering, blaming as well as quick to threaten each other with discipline in reference to workplace regulations. They were also less willing to help, and asking for help was perceived as incompetence.
Work life balance was an untrue motto because due to a tight budget, employee numbers were cut and staff were forced to work completely unreasonable hours as there were not enough other staff with expertise to rotate through the office. To make things worse, personnel policies were constantly revised to remove staff entitlements such as breaks, sick leave, overtime,… Employee’s activities on the computer as well as frequency and length of breaks were reported regularly to their supervisors.
Staff who complained about workloads or lack of training or being pushed to learn new skills in their own time, or the staff who had caring responsibilities or were often sick were put into a black book, and were shortlisted for redundancy. Managers were trained to investigate cases where people took lots of sick leave and ‘help’ them to solve the problem. Workplace psychological and physical injuries were consistently high.
I had made a mistake of coming from a bad to a worse place.
My old workplace is a frying pan,
By introducing a new work plan,
I am so scared of being deep-fried,
If my work was found as misapplied.
My new workplace is a real hot fire,
Rises from hell and emits strong ire,
Bullying and stress burn staff outright,
The firm’s success is built on staff’s plight.
by Greg Hayter.