Going to Corporate School, I

I’m not exactly sure what it is that HR folks do, but the two pen-pushers at my new place of work have been after my fabulously productive and stunningly brilliant self for coming in ten minutes late on most days (and seventy minutes late one particular day).

This is a bit odd, since most everybody else – including one of these mindless watch-watchers – comes in about forty minutes late every day.

Missing the forest for the minutes hand.

So anyway, things came to a head day before, when they pulled me away from a deadline to tell me how awful it is that I come in a few minutes late, how utterly demoralising it is for the rest of the folks (I’d say, since they come in even later), and how this radiates “special privileges” for me, which they cannot in fair conscience grant. The HR head-honcho is an atrocious articulator, which means she took a good twelve minutes of my very precious time to make the points above, till I cut in gently and told her that her point was excellently made, and she needn’t belabour it further. But she decided to push her point one final time… and that is what kicked the matter up from “Mindless Irritant With Class-Monitor Hang-ups” to “Revolting Regressive Adult Needing Remedial Socialisation”.

Honcho-chick evidently believes that a little drama goes a long way in the disciplinary arts. So, she decided to depict visually and aurally how I sound when I ask for permission to come in late, and how this will start an office revolution like RIGHT NOW. (Just so you know, I have never actually asked her permission for anything, since I deal only with my supe and her boss the Creative Head. This meeting was the first time HR-honcho and I were first laying eyes on each other). She threw up her hands, twirled them about, and started blabbing excuses in a high-pitched, whiny voice. Hard to credit, but yes; a lady of respectable years, with the dried-up, pinched  look of a seasoned senior admin., decided that bottom-barrel panto was the best way to get her serious disciplinary point across.

While she dabbled in her performance, I tried very hard to rein in my shock and appallment. I am perfectly at home to caustic telling-offs, stern admonishments and friendly words of caution. What I find hard to accommodate are idiocy and crassness, and this person embodied the extremes of both, plus large dollops of irrationality. I mean, if you’re the damned human resources, it might just be part of your job to consider what effect you might have on company productivity by pulling out a productive new employee first thing in the morning, and treating her to a sordid theatre of your one-eyed clock-watching.

I cut her performance short by telling her firmly I was quite certain I did not sound like she wished I did, and that her acting was especially futile since it was, yet again, a grotesque repetition of points I had warned her was already well-made, and a waste of my limited work-time. Then I genially offered her the choice to propose my termination on grounds of ten minutes of lateness a month from now, and in the meanwhile, let me get on with my work. And then, thanking her warmly for her time, I left, glowing with revulsion and the satisfaction of toning down a bully.

But the encounter messed with my entire working day, unsettling my concentration and making me evaluate the fun work against the sly and idiotic monitoring paradigms. Never mind fairness or using appreciation instead of “we’re onto you!” telling-offs to boost productivity, if the HR department makes a valued employee want to leave within ten days of joining and enjoying the work, then they’re doing everything wrong, and need to be given the boot immediately.

In an attempt to be fair, someone suggested that HR might have been worried because I also took a day of medical leave – scheduled three days in advance and approved by my supe – to accommodate my bi-annual check-up. Right. So then the HR department, which is charged with handling a few hundred creative people (and not corporate flunkies), goes into crazy-eyed panic if a new and very productive employee comes in a little late every day (although earlier than many, and stays several hours after ending-time), and takes one day of medical leave. Well, I don’t see how it alters my suggestion, which is immediate dismissal, and a sympathetic suggestion for psychiatric aide.

Or, of course, they could carry on, enforcing a vampiric workplace which tries to cut its employees down to size by focusing exclusively on transgressions, and turning Heller Keller on everything else. Now, this will sadly lead to a dissatisfied workplace full of people who think of HR as cretins, and who shall, to cope with them, cut down extra hours and stick strictly to their “9-hour in office” policy, no matter how much work piles up. It’ll be very demoralising and depressing, but hell, even if our work suffers, we’ll be ticking the right boxes. Who knows, we might even win an award for punctuality. (And I’d personally recommend the HR person for a Certificate of Appreciation in amateur dramatics.) After all, isn’t that exactly what every person who sets up a company wants from his or her employees?

Sigh. Talk about breaking your own face to spite the tiny zit on your nose.

PS: Incidentally, while HR is very very concerned by my clock-in time, they still haven’t got around to giving me the papers they need to set up my salary account. It is the 23rd of the month. Just sayin’.

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