The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Empowerment and other psychological tricks

The above strip brings to mind an actual meeting in which I participated and played the role of Wally... sort of.

Back in the mid-80's, there was this "empowerment" phase going on with AT&T. I suspected it wasn't all that real. I mean, management really didn't buy into it but they wanted us to. It would, they felt, make us feel a kind of "ownership" and we would therefore work harder and strive for more quality in our work. It was called:

Quality of Work Life

Or, in short, QWL. Something I suggested stood for "Quiet Workers' Laments" I could have been wrong about that. It all could have been on the "up and up", as they say.

[Background] In the office in which I once worked (and I use that term loosely), there were two two rooms where workers gathered at desks and such and, often, performed tasks. They were the MOC (Maintenance and Operations Center) and the TOC (Trunk Operations Center). The MOC was my domain. From there we monitored the switching equipment and ran diagnostics. We also sat around telling jokes, reading, and mostly devising practical jokes to play on fellow co-workers. The TOC watched over the trunks (links between offices); running tests and also telling jokes, reading, and devising practical jokes. Supervisors for these areas had desks in said areas. Everyone seemed satisfied with the arrangement.

The management, as part of QWL, thought a bit of re-arrangement might boost morale and improve working conditions. They devised a plan wherein the wall and door between the MOC and TOC would be removed and replaced with a half-wall (a "fence", one might say). The supervisors would also get individual offices, with doors, and walls (no cubicles) or cubicles within one room. They would be all together and we, the lowly peons, would be all together. But the supervisors and the people they supervised would be separated.

At the meeting, much was made of how our input was valued and how we should feel "ownership" in this project. In the end, we were given only the "power" to choose whether we wanted the walls to be painted pale green or some form of light beige. Did I mention that we all voiced our opposition to the plan in the first place? We did not want just a half-wall between the two areas, we were happy the way things were, and did not want change.

In the end, we did feel empowered. You see, in addition to selecting the color, we were supposed to also do the painting. After some commentary by me, our answer was to, as one, refuse to paint any wall or choose a color. This meant that they would have to hire someone to come in and do the painting and that busted the budget for the project.

And that ended the project. It also brought QWL to an end in our workplace. And everyone was happy again. Except the supervisors who never did get their little offices. You can't please everyone.

1 comment:

Grant said...

Having been a department manager for BellSouth (I'm sure the initials BS mean nothing), I learned that employee empowerment means you should feel empowered to follow management's "suggestions" without question.