Friday, 1 November 2013

More leverage, being 2 tips, a story and some observations

Tip 1: You’re summoned to a meeting with HR. Not good. She’s already sitting behind a desk with a note pad and an intimidatingly fat folder when you arrive. During the meeting, the HR person taps the folder, at one point implying it concerns you and the reason for this meeting.

Or it might not. A bog standard HR tactic is to take a  folder into meetings like this to deliberately intimidate people. You're within your rights to ask to see it and if she refuses, inform her you'll be making a subject access request  -as per the data protection act - after the meeting to have a look at all these files she supposedly has on you. Now whose intimidated?

Tip 2: The meeting with HR is almost over or at least she’s said all she’s got to say. You, on the other hand, if you’ve just found out your being made redundant, might have a lot more to say, but are understandably distracted.

However, you're not so distracted you don’t hear the HR person pick up her pad and tap it on the desk, punctuating the meeting with a full stop you instinctively recognise and acknowledge. You look up, then at her as she starts easing out of her chair. Now the meeting is over or at least it is until you realise she is actively exploiting your civility so she can avoid having to contend with what you’re actually thinking or feeling.

A story*: What people leave on printers is great sometimes. The best I’ve heard about minuted the organised shafting of an executive who, for the purposes of this post,  we’ll call Mr Deputy Divisional-CEO. Mr Deputy had been recruited with the stated intention that after a few time he would take over from Mr Actual divisional CEO. Time passed, everyone agreed Mr Deputy was a very good deputy indeed, however, they also agreed he wasn’t quite divisional CEO material.

And so the shafting began; executives across the bank were contacted by HR who explained the situation and what they were going to do. Once all the executives agreed this was the right thing for the business, HR invited Mr Deputy to a meeting and told him his services were no longer required. Mr Deputy was taken aback at this, so much so he asked if he could speak to Executives A, B and C, especially B. HR said of course, but also advised (these were minutes remember) that executives A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H were all fully aware of and in agreement with the purpose of the meeting. To save face Mr Deputy made clear he would definitely be speaking to B, oh yes (unfortunately, the minutes of that meeting weren’t left on the printer).

Observation 1: From what I understand mass office redundancies are a horriible process. Individuals are queued at their desks, summoned into mass booked rooms to be informed of their fate, escorted back to their desk to collect their belongings, stripped of their security passes, then escorted out the building.

Observation 2: The above chat illustrates how decision-makers are institutionally insulated from the consequences of their actions, so much so this “insulation” has been professionalised, resourced and ritualised to the extent where I’m guessing there are flow charts somewhere detailing every step of the way.

So not having a sense of the consequences of your actions is a defining characteristic of both children and executives. This is very obviously a bad thing; if we don’t have the opportunity to learn what the consequences of our actions are, then what’s to stop us repeating what could well be mistakes in future?

Which brings us to the actual subject of this post, the Unite union’s “leverage” tactic, which can involve protesting outside the houses of executives. To the Tories this is a “thuggish” and intimidating tactic, except  its not. Its about people not playing by the decision-makers' rules and confronting them with the consequences of their actions. And if a decision affects a lot of people, then fine, let a lot of people do the confronting. Heck, HR is usually the first to claim work is about more than just pay, so why shouldn’t executives have to actually deal with the human costs their decisions impose?

Besides, from what I’ve personally witnessed (and read and documented above), executives are actively and strategically willing to exploit our politeness, our civility, essentially our passivity to achieve their own ends with as little fuss as possible. They’re also - are you listening ArthurScargill? -  vicious enough to cannibalise their own in the process. To my mind “leverage” is an honest, civil and legal (for now) means of challenging this rude exploitation.

No wonder the Tories are squealing about it, squealing like stuck, shite covered pigs

P.S. Nov 3rd - Andrew Neil's politics show had a wonderfully facile discussion of "leverage". Mr Neil huffed and puffed about it prompting, Diane Abbott to claim Unite hadn't protested outside an executive's house. Except, they very obviously had.

How dare Unite behave with such termerity! How dare people try and defend their not especially well paid jobs by protesting outside the however many hundred thousand pound house of the executive on a six figure salary, with a good pension, the kids at private school, a shiny German car in the garage for him and another for the wife. How dare they! Actually, they did him a favour, now his kids know what he did at work today without having to ask.

* this story is very obviously sheer fantasy. No civil person could ever contemplate being such a c&nt.

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