October 13, 2009

1176401_executionerby James Costello

A friend of mine recently had a very Dilbertesque experience at work.  The company my friend works for has been acquired twice in the last three years and all of the dust seemed to be settling.  Sort of…

Locally there were four offices under the corporate umbrella, each a legacy of the acquisitions that had occurred over the last several years.  The parent company decided to consolidate three of the offices and scale down the most remote office by moving some of the staff from that office to the new centralized office.  This was reasonable, and most of the staff saw this as a good business move.  Most of those who did not see it as a good move were from the remote office and would have to drive farther to get to work.

Planning for the move had gone on for a couple of months and was finalized about two weeks before the actual move date.  The new seating chart was printed, offices were assigned, and additional requests were made.  Here is where we take a turn for the weird:

Treating your people like they are worthless: Elimination of a position announced through the new seating chart.

One of my friend’s coworkers found out by looking at the seating chart that he was not going to have a job in two weeks.  Rather than approach this individual before the release of the seating chart, the office manager chose to let things work themselves out a la “Office Space”.  Fortunately, the Milton in this case chose not to resolve the issue with fire but by talking with HR, but this left a bad taste in a lot of people’s  mouths.

Generate a menial or pointless task.

Actually, this one is a little worse than pointless, it is counterproductive.  Time tracking is a part of a lot of people’s workdays. I did it every day when I worked as a consultant, so that we could bill customers for my activities.  This is not a diatribe against time tracking; however, my friend was asked not just to start tracking time, but to go back to the beginning of the year and track all of the time since January 1.  The company wanted real data for that entire time.  Do you remember how you spent your day in fifteen minute increments 6 months ago? 6 weeks ago?  6 days ago?  As a group, the team that was asked to do this questioned the logic behind generating data that would contain a lot of errors and inaccuracy that would then be the basis of the next three years of projections.  They were told, effectively, not to worry about it and that the data analysis team would take care of it.  To me, dear reader, that is like saying, “Create firewall logs for the last 9 months that we can then use as the basis for the upgrade of the existing firewall and Internet connection, even though you only put in the logging system this week.”  Yes, you will have a smaller set of data to work off of but it will be more accurate, and your people will feel better about their work.

So what can you do to avoid putting yourself or your coworkers in such a situation – aside from not working where my friend works?  Treat your coworkers with respect and dignity. If you know of something that is going to have a direct impact on their lives, they need to be made aware of the upcoming change in as timely a manner as possible.  If you are implementing a new system that employees are going to be using, get their feedback and review what they have to say.  Don’t make decisions in a vaccum. If it impacts people, get their input.  Running a business depends on the people that work there; if they don’t feel valued, then the business won’t be valued.

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