Here’s a blast form the past from way back in the Summer of 2011
The Three Ways Your Employer Takes the Piss Out Of You And, What You Can Do About It
Employers take the piss out of employees; that much is obvious to anyone who has ever suffered from the affliction we call working for a living: long hours, low wages, and unpaid overtime.
It’s an economic fact of life and it’s the reason your CEO lives in a mansion while you live in a hovel.
You know this, you’re not an idiot.
What you might not have thought about is that your employers are not just taking the piss via the means of poor financial remuneration and ropey management practices. They are actually openly mocking you. To achieve their nefarious end they slip into three different types of disparaging personality, namely: The School Bully, That Bloke That You Know Who Is Nowhere Near As Funny As He thinks He Is, and The Abusive Spouse.
To counter these three types of attack you will need the following:
- The Special Operations Executive Handbook,
- Post-it Notes™
- A blank A4 sheet of paper.
For instructions, I’m going to give some examples from my own place of employment.
My employer specialises in openly mocking its employees. Obviously, I’m not going to name my employer as I still work for them, but they sell groceries and their name is an anagram of “Morons Sir?” Well, it is if you stick a question mark at the end, and after working for them for fifteen years I feel I’ve earned that right. And yes I am aware that makes me one of the morons. But let’s face it, anyone who does a job that doesn’t involve lying on sunny beaches drinking nicely chilled cocktails is a moron. So that’s pretty much all of us.
This company is inflicting the same things on me that every other company is subjecting its workers to. Overtime bans, shrinking budgets, zero recruitment etc. There’s a recession on and corporate bigwigs always use recessions as an excuse to introduce measures they couldn’t possibly get away with during more prosperous times. This is how business evolves and it’s the reason why there’s no more treble time on Bank Holidays and we don’t have strikes over demarcation issues anymore.
Usain Bolt – The Doctor Will See You Now
As I’ve said, we’re going to discuss what you can do about this sort of thing. But let’s start off with what not to do, particularly if you happen to be in charge of people. Firstly, you do not raise a skeptical eyebrow when presented with Bunco Booth “proof” that you have enough hours in your department to work with. Do not point out that hours are what you work in, not what you work with and what you work with are people. People who, nature has decreed, have long term breaking points. Do not bring up the subject of sustainability. And whatever you do, please do not bring in any analogies at this point, particularly this one:
While Usain Bolt can run 100 metres in 9.5 seconds, he can’t run a kilometer in 95 seconds. And even if it were possible somehow to make him do so, then he’d probably cough up his heart and lungs in a sticky heap in front of him. He would not be winning any medals for anything in the near future without the aid of a large shovel and some revolutionary cardiopulmonary surgery.
In short, at work do not counter anything using facts or logic of the real world. Serving these people facts and logic will garner the same reaction as serving them a severed head on a silver platter. Horror and wrinkled noses and demands to know ‘what the hell you think you’re playing at!’ And if your employer is anything like my employer, they will continue inflicting all this stuff on you anyway, only making it worse now for being naughty.
But this is the workaday stuff that we all know and grind our teeth over. It’s the additional stuff that we’re really talking about here. What my employer is also inflicting on me is songs over the tannoy system, because there is a huge Disney promotion going on. We are all running around like headless chickens because our head count is about half of what it was this time last year. And what are we being forced to listen to? ‘Whistle While You Work’.
Yes. At least ten times a day. And it’s summer. We are all baking in a building you’d really think would have been air conditioned for the comfort of the patrons. So what do we get? Buster Poindexter’s rendition of ‘Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot’.
I find this particularly galling, because Buster Poindexter is a pseudonym of Dave Johansen, the lead singer of the New York Dolls and I can never understand why he suddenly decided to do a novelty disco record. It could have been worse though. At least he didn’t end up yomping around the countryside wearing plus-fours and trying to sell everyone butter. Guess we have a clear winner in that particular game of Pop Goes the Icon.
All of this behaviour emanates from the School Bully personality. It’s the workplace equivalent of the time when some big lug in the playground would grab your wrist and repeatedly slap you in the face with your own hand, punctuating the strikes with cries of “Stop hitting yourself”. To deal with this sort of thing, we need some advice from the Special Operations Executive Handbook.
The Art Of War
The SOE was in charge of Britain’s spies during The War. These spies were encouraged to recruit for The Resistance as much as possible. But not everyone was willing to carry guns or shelter wounded allied airmen as the Nazis tended to shoot people for that kind of thing and people wanted to be around for their kids when it was all over. So our main method of sabotaging the German war effort went to the workplace.
Here we recruited workers in important war related industries and told them to do one simple thing: follow the rules. What’s more, this method was more successful that all the bouncing bombs and limpet mines put together and here’s why:
The rulebook at any place of employment is often describes as its Bible. And in many ways it is exactly like The Bible inasmuch as:
– It has been cobbled together over an extended period by lots of different people, many of whom have never met each other and each extra bit was added on without regard to what previous versions might have said.
– It is self contradictory and any idiot can tell you that the way things actually get done bears very little relation to what is written in the rulebook.
Stick to the rules and you throw a major spanner in the works for your company.
Persuade enough people to do the same and the company will go under. Disciplinary procedures can’t be used to counter it, because everyone is following the rules. How far you go with this tactic to counter the School Bully personality is a matter for your own conscience.
Funny ‘ha ha’? No.
Having vanquished the School Bully, it’s time to deal with That Bloke That You Know Who’s Nowhere Near as Funny as He Thinks he is. This is where the Post-it Notes™ come in. Blokes like this were a lot more prevalent in the ‘80s for some reason, probably because of alternative comedy and every man in the country secretly wanting to do Stand Up. And like many things from the ‘80s, he is coming back to haunt us.
Along with distressed denim (only looks good on people who would look stylish wearing a bin bag covered in seagull droppings) and multi-skilling (the best way to make your staff disinterested and below average in everything they do) this man is back with a vengeance and he’s bringing something with him. Motivational Posters.
Now, motivational posters have not gone away but trust me, as the recession bites ever deeper you’re going to see a lot more of them. Most companies treat motivation like British tourists treat Spanish waiters. But sadly, touting the same uplifting platitudes that have never worked, over and over again is no more effective at motivating people than repeating your order louder and louder will making your unilingual waiter understand English. And That Bloke That You Know Who’s Nowhere Near as Funny as He Thinks He Is uses motivational posters to sneer at you behind your back anyway, not to motivate you.
The reason you find these things infuriating may be different to mine, but where I work it’s all about positioning. My favourite is the one titled ‘Leadership’. There’s a picture of an eagle and the caption reads:
‘Leaders are like eagles. They don’t flock together. You find them one at a time’.
Ok, it’s trite and it’s glib and doesn’t really mean anything which is annoying enough, but That Bloke That You Know Who Is Nowhere Near as Funny as He Thinks He Is has added another layer of annoyance by positioning this poster in the corridor which leads directly to the room where we hold all of our management meetings.
Another one, titled ‘Movement’ has a picture of a rolling wave and the caption reads:
‘You begin to be successful the moment you move towards a worthwhile goal’.
This is right next to the only exit used exclusively by staff when they have finished their shifts and are about to leave the building. Tee-fucking-Hee.
Pass The Warfarin
Whatever motivational monstrosities have been put up on the walls of your place of employment, a simple device can be used to neutralise the infestation.
Motivational Post-it Notes™
Just get a post it note and then sit and consider the business-speak nonsense which has been put on the wall to irritate you. Then write out a suitable retort on that Post-it Note™ and slap the note onto the offending poster when no one’s looking. Actually, get a friend who doesn’t work there to write it out for you in case someone recognises your handwriting.
I successfully neutralised ‘Leaders are like eagles. They don’t flock together. You find them one at a time’ by the simple addition of “A bit like serial killers then.”
Now, while this approach doesn’t actually make the posters disappear, it is deeply satisfying. Your little message will be removed almost immediately but, you have at least let That Bloke know that you’re onto his little game and are equal the challenge. And you’ve done it without letting him find out who you actually are.
Gratifying as all these counter-management tactics are (and you’ll find out how gratifying when you try them out) they cannot protect you from the third corporate piss take personality.
The Abusive Spouse
There is nothing covert about The Abusive Spouse. There’s no playing around at being the world’s worst DJ or putting things up on walls that most sane and civilized people agreed were a waste of time twenty years ago. No, all that is involved here is the out and out irrational shouting and belittling and humiliation dished out on you if you happen to be unlucky enough to work under people who clearly weren’t hugged enough as children.
If you are experiencing this then it’s time to break out the big guns. Namely: the blank A4 sheet of paper. You take that blank A4 piece of paper and you put it in your printer at home. Then you go to your computer and write out your letter of notice. Then you print it out and put it in an envelope. You do this every Sunday night, changing the date on the notice letter to whatever the date a week on Monday is. Take this letter of notice to work with you every Monday morning and put it in your locker or your handbag or jacket pocket.
It’s amazing the effect that having your letter of notice close at hand has on your behaviour. Knowing you can drop that A Bomb acts like an invisible shield. The shouting and humiliation bounces off you and eventually becomes an irrelevance. And shouty people get very unnerved by that and start to develop a tendency to leave you the hell alone. But if they are particularly dumb, or indeed received zero hugs as a child so still won’t stop, then you actually drop the A bomb.
Hand your notice in for real. It’s ok; you can always retract it if they call your bluff. They won’t though. The Abusive Spouse will act like any abusive spouse does when their partner is leaving them. There will be stunned disbelief and lots of “Why, why, why?” and promises of change. This is the point where, if you mention a pay rise, you’ll almost certainly get one.
Their behaviour won’t change entirely but it will be tempered a little, at least for a while, and you’ll get some more cash in your back pocket. In the unlikely event that your bluff is called, then maybe you should look for another job, because that reaction does suggest that you are not very good at your current one.
So, what do we do when our superiors take the piss out of us at work? In the words of the great Kevin Costner in Robin Hood-Prince of thieves: ‘Then by God, we take it back.’
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013