During the years I worked as an employee, there’d often be notifications posted around the working area by the company. I started working at a time of fear and submission following the 1980 coup. The air of subservience ran through every level of society, so when the people programmed to obey saw such notifications, they stood on attention. The notification would at first create a fearsome effect, with every new employee entering the food court reading it, sometimes aloud with a broken intonation, with a mixture of fear and respect. Despite with what feeling these memos (which is what they are called in corporate nomenclature) were written by the administration, after some time they’d lose their effect for the better or worse, they’d get dusty, torn on one corner, and after all has been said and done, all rude or smart jokes about it have been made, they’d be thrown in the trash by a janitor. Then, everything would go back to normal.
After the 4857 Labor Law limited the power of the employer to the employee’s benefit, harsh memos such as: “From now on smoking and speaking loudly in the food court is forbidden, anyone not complying will be fired” left their place to more indirect memos using patchy legal terms, like: “According to company regulations article 15A employees are required to be in their work clothes and at their workstations 15 minutes before the start of their shift, doing otherwise would be a reason for dismissal.”
For us white collars, the situation became awkward once email became a part of our work life. Nowadays, reading between the lines of messages from the administration can be considered a whole new field of expertise. Administrative memos show us the character, organizational climate and culture of a company. These messages give us clues about weather this organization is run from top to bottom, if there is a democratic structure, or if the management is just trying to save the day. The attitude of the boss or, to use the more popular term, the CEO, is especially important in this; it is these messages that convey who really runs things. Are there angry messages by the boss, is there anyone who dares answer these or is there only those who say ‘yes, sir’, and never voice their true opinions? Is the most frequently discussed subject the distribution of benefits (and if that is the case we must really question the productivity of the company), or are the messages mostly encouraging and motivating?
And then there are the clichés which I couldn’t stand neither as an employee nor as an employer.
“We are a family” or “….Company Family”. What family? Where did this come from? Who decided I would be a part of their family? Did anyone ask me?
This is true, in the sense that in every family there is a father who just comes home in the evening and says “I’m tired, where is my coffee?”, a mother who has her hands full and listens to everyone’s concerns (or vice versa), an uncle who works hard to support the whole family, and a brother who lays around wastes away the family inheritance.
“As …Company family we’ve increased our market share as such and such in the year…, there is a big role of the human resource’s added value. Our success is a result of our team work and synergy. With the insight of our respected CEO…”
Then there is teamwork, which infuriates me. In fact, teamwork is nothing but camouflage for useless employees. Most of the team just sits around looking as if they are working in harmony, a few know-it-alls contradict everything and do not make any useful and positive suggestions, and when the deadline approaches one or two people finish the job. That’s it.
“We are making a reservation this Sunday in … for our customary annual company breakfast.”
“In 25th March our company soccer team will be competing in the final match of a soccer tournament. The location is attached for anyone who’d like to support our team.”
“Corporate custom” includes everything from enjoying weird picnics to soccer matches organized by fat men who end up injuring themselves. Misunderstanding these customs may result in awkward situations. In the beginning of 2000’s a young woman we’d placed as an executive secretary in a large company called me to say she’ll be resigning. I asked “why?.
“Since I began working here, our general manager kissed me on the cheek every morning. At first I thought this was a corporate custom and said nothing but when he started to write me poems I decided to resign.”
And when you consider that employees understand and interpret these chlicés according to their own level of understanding, such awkward situations become more and more normalized.