There is a reason why cartoons such as Dilbert, and shows like “the Office” exist. The workplace is the original soap opera and comedy. The workplace is funny, at least, until it is not.
It is not, generally when companies are ramping up for some kind of ambitious change. If it is true that change is uncomfortable, all those unpredictable and dangerous moving parts are most uncomfortable during some kind of planned expansion. That is because people change. They see those shiny baubles of power, and forget their humanity.
I think there are basically two types of people: Class Monitors and Safety Patrols, and everyone else. The first category, you will remember from Grade School. They are those kids who happily volunteer for some brown-nose function that involves spying on and/or ratting out their fellow classmates in order to curry a bit of favour with the teacher.
In the workplace this translates to those who wrap themselves in process because it is easier to champion process than to follow it yourself. New processes are untried and they are fraught with the kind of folly that plagues the eternally optimistic. Management generally believes something will work simply because it has been decreed. In practise however, things rarely run as smoothly as they do on paper, or ever worse, on a newly trotted out diagram that shows who now answers to whom within an organization. Those who have wrested some power in those little diagrams, have basically volunteered to rat everyone else out, while pretending to the bosses that the new processes will work - or else.
I think this one has been tried before more than a few times in history. Et Tu, Caesar? Thirty pieces of silver the price of a bit of blood and betrayal. It is where villains come from.
I have seen people whose personalities have undergone a wholesale transformation for the worse, once they are thrown a scrap of raw meat in the workplace. They become VERY willing to turn over any dissenters, excited with their newly borrowed powers. Sometimes this astonishes me, but then, nothing in human beings should really ever astonish anyone. There is nothing new under the sun, as they say. I have even seen newly married people who unashamedly had affairs at work as a way to move up the ladder.
At lunch one day, I overheard a conversation in an elevator. Someone was relating to a co-worker, about a meeting with the big cheese, the boss of all the other bosses. He didn’t have a conversation, he had an audience with him, like with the Pope. Someone whose time is very important. I think I understood by the conversation that the teller was not passing on business nuggets to his friend, he was bragging about himself, that he was important enough that someone with so much power would listen to him.
It is clear. We like power. People want to feel powerful and they find different ways to get to it. Some people like the guy I just mentioned, try to get power by association, by hanging out with powerful people.
Others get power by abusing it. When I was a student I worked as a waiter and there was one customer we called ANGRY MAN. He was a regular, and once you got to know him you would know what to expect. Angry Man would come in with other business men, order a bunch of food, and then call you out and make a scene. He hated the food, nothing was right, and he wanted to talk to the manager. He would leave, and come back the next week to do the same thing all over again. Being angry was just his way of showing the other guys at your expense what an important person he was.
But it really comes down to two types of people in the world, the Class Monitors and Safety Patrols, and everyone else. The “everyone else” category did not really need to exist. It was created. I think the modern term for it, is to be “othered”. Get ready people. You have been “othered”.
There are things you can do about the regular stresses of life, but the real head scratcher is what you do with those kind of people who are so very willing to sell everyone else out. They exist in every workplace. It is enough to keep you awake at night. Trading off filial relations for private gain is the original sin of humankind.
Thanks, and that will be thirty pieces of silver please. Oh, and a promotion.