Wednesday, March 28, 2007

All in good fun

The following conversation occurred on intra-helpdesk IM:

Team Lead R: "Can everyone who is in aux and should not be please either go available or explain to the Tactical Manager why your in aux."

Analyst W: "I am in aux because I don't know any betta"

Team Lead D: "this why we need to meet with you @ 14:45 in the Site Manager's office."

Analyst W: "Oh, I gotta go see the principal"

Analyst A: "you in BIG trouble. i'm telling!!!"

Team Lead D: "quit while you're ahead....please"

Tactical Manager: "May I see you back at my cubicle for a moment?"

At this point, there was a collective "Ooooooohhhhhhhh" from the floor, the kind of juvenile behavior of elementary school kids when someone got caught doing something wrong.

Team Lead D: "we need to do that more often.....W went to see the Tactical Manager and people got out of AUX.......hmmmm???"

This little exchange pointed out just the thing I had warned about last week when I said that the "banter" using IM would go to far. I sent an email to the Tactical Manager.

"You should recall from the end of last Summer when I was solicited for my opinions as to why morale was so poor here at the helpdesk. In that I pointed out Team Lead D's tendency to use public humiliation as a management technique was a significant factor. The message to have a disciplinary meeting with an analyst, even for so minor an issue, is really not appropriate to broadcast to the entire helpdesk.

You fell into the same trap by broadcasting this to the entire helpdesk and the public ridicule that was heaped on Analyst W for being "called to the principal's office" was juvenile and unprofessional but not wholly

And finally, there was Team Lead D's affirmation of the successful use of public embarrassment as a management technique.

Really, NONE of this should be going through IM to everyone. And that it went out not once but multiple times from a number of managers is really unprofessional. Doesn't anyone notice these things and think that maybe this sort of thing shouldn't be broadcast? I've been called into the office for being overheard talking about things management doesn't think I should be talking about. To have management then turn around and broadcast this sort of thing in a forum that is not only helpdesk-wide but can also be saved and documented really doesn't speak to a whole lot of fairness going on here."

The Tactical Manager responded:

"I did not see it the way that you articulated - as it was nothing more to me than an affirmation to Team Lead R of accountability to everyone for going into Aux unnecessarily.

I didn't fall into a trap - I wanted to participate as the majority found great humor in this. Not a whole lot of that going around lately - so I took advantage of what appeared to be a harmless reply to have Analyst W explain his IM to me.

It was a very effective method of expressing a very profound truth to the floor - by utilizing humor to cushion the blow - everyone needs to stay available - which in turn resulted in the 10 people in Aux going immediately available.

I'd say it worked - there is always room for improvement - and this provided a different approach that I took advantage of."

This really pushed all of my buttons.

"No doubt, Team Lead D thought he was being humorous when he sent the IM commenting on the way I smelled. And so, perhaps I am being overly sensitive.

But, no. I don't think so. It is because I have been the specific target of this sort of humiliation that I can recognize it for what it is. Using a public instant message to everyone to call one analyst into a managerial meeting is inappropriate no matter how much humor is attempted to be injected into it. It's not funny, it's harassment. And just because the majority thinks it's funny does not make it acceptable.

This humorous banter has shown me some disturbing trends. I have noticed that IM is being used more and more often for analysts to ridicule one another. Sure, much of it is supposedly good-natured ribbing but that environment has gone too far. Not everyone likes being harassed in this way. I have heard from behind my cubicle walls a disturbing increase in talk reflecting homophobia, sexual harassment, bigotry, outright racism and general ignorance.

This kind of behavior is dangerous. It is a lawsuit waiting to happen. And as a manager you should be very careful in endorsing this kind of behavior."

I included screen shots from last week's "eating paint chips" and "reporting them to INS" commentary as examples. I didn't get a response from him after that so perhaps my language (especially the words "sexual harassment" and "lawsuit waiting to happen") finally cut through his "all in good fun" attitude.

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