Clock In, Clock Out

The office I worked in dealt with applications from students and our daily targets were monitored and recorded for prosperity, and to check against what was and what wasn’t correctly documented in our individual tally sheets.  Of course these sheets were digital spreadsheets that were specially formatted for each different piece of work that was allocated to the worker.  The spreadsheets highlighted how much allotted time was given dependent on the category that the piece of work fell into, whether we’d have five minutes to complete it or ten minutes.  Simple pieces of work could be given only a few minutes whilst more complicated pieces, such as responding to emails with extensive trails or queries, were given a timing of a quarter of an hour or more.  We felt that luck was on our side when one such piece of work fell out of the electronic basket and into our caseload, we had time to breath, to relax, to look into the faces of the person sat beside ourselves and to realize that we each went through the same, day in and day out.

Many kept to this electronic tally, toting it up at the end of the night by memory or by scrolling through the master sheet.  I, unlike many of my work colleagues, kept a ink tally in Roman numerals of each type of piece of work that I had completed that day.  Towards the end of the evening, when we each heaved a sigh of relief and gladness that the working day was over, I looked down with fondness upon my scrap of paper to find an ever changing squiggle of lines, crossed and solitary, segmented by type and time.

It was the last action of the working shift that so pleased me, that I could scrupple up the piece of paper with my jottings on, tear it in two if needs be and thrice more into smaller pieces so that no readable piece remained, and declare that I was the master of myself once again.  No greater feeling of satisfaction came with the job then that final action of labour destruction, or rather rapprochement that my work towards the whole could be so simply and so justifiably torn up.  That my value as a worker was counted as so little that I needed to be constantly monitored for each and every movement within the workplace, each piece of work accounted for and judged against the character of my soul.  The residual of feeling of loyalty, that thinning pool of employee liquid that had somehow lingered through the various turbulent governmental changes and process improvements, now felt at a very low ebb indeed.  It could evaporate at any moment.

My action was, in its way, a minor everyday rebellion at the absurdity of employment itself.  That each man and woman shall spend a third of their life strapped to the face of labour so that the other third can be slept through and the final third can be lived in a state of fretful suspense.  It is perhaps not fair to categorize in this way what so many want, what so many need, but for me it is not enough nor is it a rightful use of the labour market.  To rebel, in whatever fashion is feasible or at least in which way is not detrimental to your standards, is to acknowledge that you recognize that this is so.  Such is life.

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On Health and Safety: Part 2

Q.2. A fire has broken out in the building that you currently work in, endangering the staff present and the building itself.  What should your first course of action be?

Please select one of the answers below

a. The fire has broken out just at the right time as it is currently your break period.  Cracking open your little used locker you locate the marshmallows that have sat in the locker for the past 8 months and, using a fork no-one has cleaned within the past month, you head over to where the fire is and toast the marshmallows.  You laugh hysterically as your colleagues vacate the building whilst you sate your belly.

b. The fire is close to your desk, however you notice that Gill, on secondment from the Lancaster office, is trying to leave before you do so you accidentally trip her up and run over the top of her to get out of the office.  The cause of the fire, it is later ascertained, was your specially ordered fan from HR, even though you ordered it in November and the office air conditioning was to blame for the high temperature.   

c. Fire excites you!  It strengthens you!  You have become disillusioned with office life and believe that, just like the dragon queen from telly, you too can become tougher and more leader-like if you throw yourself into a fire and survive its red hot embers.  Your remains are later found cramped into a fetal position.  Nobody mentions the embarrassing porn magazine found in your smoldering locker to your mother at the work service. 

d. You locate the nearest fire alarm and push the trigger, indicate the nearest fire escape and help colleagues through before closing each set of doors as you exit the building and wait for the fire brigade to turn up.

A Perfect Mistake

Can it be a mistake if she failed to spot the error that the corrector made by marking her work as an error when it was not an error, or is it a simple rectification that is needed?  What we certainly cannot have is a process by which the error spotter makes errors when there is no actual original error, and so their reaction action becomes an error in itself.  Unless of course their error is spotted not by the person whose work it is they are checking but by another person whose work it is not.

Therefore an original piece of work which was miscategorised as an error remains an error unless the originator spots the error made by the error checker, and not by some itinerant passer-by.  Do you see how clearly the system works?  It obfuscates the real impacts of a malformed and mis-trained workforce by allowing mistakes to go on unimpeded by the right and wrongs of the ‘business laws’ to which the lower workers are subjected to.  Any formal declaration of a contrast of interests, of an appeal, is buried by email after email after email and, with any luck, forgotten about by the original appealer whose work has, supposedly, already been checked and corrected.

It is, I think you will agree, a perfect machine, hiding its imperfections in plain sight but sparing no blushes when it comes to the highlighting of work well done, if it is done at all that is.

So yes, she should have kept quiet about her work that was an error but was not spotted by her alone.  Rather time is well spent going through the errors on her behalf of her own errors, if she deems that she has time to do so.  Work is, after all, a timed affair where targets must be met, money must be spent, satisfaction must be the number one customer benefit even, they say, at the cost of an efficient process.

So surround yourself with cronies during employment and you will never have to work again, but deliver your work out disguised as work that others should do and divide it piecemeal fashion to those that are not within your circle of influence.  Merge those relationships between friend and foe, between boss and employee, and you, my friend, have a recipe for most businesses today.

Of course she will remain disenfranchised, chained to a system that not only pretends to acknowledge her as an active agent within the workforce but progressively attempts to ignore her even during an appeal.  After all the work still has to be done, the targets must be met.