Jul 28, 2009

France Telecomm Too?

Morning. New pants, dressed like an actual "formal worker", ready to be called into a meeting with managers, CEOs, CEFs and regulatory autorities. Like some would say, I actually "look like people". Not a "suit" still, but given the flexibility us women have on the clothing department, I'm coming really close to it. Office. Pink rubber gloves on and for 25 minutes I clean and scrub my work station with alcohol. Yes, there's people paid to do that. Would you mind telling them to do their job? I actually don't mind that much, specially since doing it myself allows me to keep everything tidy, in its place, make sure it is properly cleaned up, avoid all asthma triggers (which the cleaning lady just luuuuuuvs to use), and fighting back a bit the AH1N1. Then comes the ever present make-up, so we push the line into DWP (Devil Wears Prada), hair clipped into a ponytail with a hairclip, not a band, not a scrunchy. (I think I actually have no scrunchies...)

Finally I get Vonnegut on, check my empty mailbox, which fills up with e-mail too soon to my liking. I love empty mailboxes, which is why I get out of my way to file away everything in the inbox and the sent dossiers. It's almost as if an electronic mob where pressing against the gates of my mailbox waiting to be let in, scatter all around mixing importan mails with loads of garbage. One by one I go checking my main e-mail accounts. Gmail has my crips Wireless Network news rolled up and waiting. My news account (an account I save only to receive newspapers), is already bursting with e-mails, so after a mandatory clean up, I start to check headlines in order. Today, Le Figaro got my attention. Unlike the usual news about some far-in-the-French-country-women-freezing-baby-corpses I seem to be fascinated with lately, I read something that really got to me.

The story is about an employee of France Telecom, a 51 year-old man who killed himself and left a letter blaming the company. The guy didn't kill himself at the company, but at his own home, however made clear to denounce work overload and management by terror. This started to sound a bit too eerie for my liking. The article was short, and didn't really said much about the enterprise, which I believe must be covering up the ordeal and trying its best to make it look like the old dude was the hinged one. Certainly no other complains about the office have aired, but the feeling of such an environment is not strange for many of us. For those who have the blessing-curse of being office employees, know that more often than not, people prefer to keep their problems to themselves, or maybe talk it over with friends and coworkers, but they hardly file a former complain because the chances of actually getting something done from it at slim. Truth is that many people at the office does things the same way I've been doing them for a while now: you simply put up with it and stay in an eternal state of "looking for somewhere better to escape to". Yes, we escape often, from irrational, megalomaniac bosses.

Work overload is the daily bread of many office employees, whose bosses have no idea about the time it takes to get things done, and therefore, the keep asking and asking for things, as if they could be all done with just the pressing of a button. Because, you know, things are actually that simple, and that easy and bosses are too busy going to meetings "coordinating the work", and "you are paid to do that, so you do that". Irrational workloads, irrational deadlines and timetables... well, when there are timetables, and it's not a whole process or office or work plan dedicated to "it's urgent and I need it for ten minutes ago". Planning? Well, "planning" ain't planning as a rational person would understand it, but more like a hectic "make up a whole bunch of things, make it look professional and present it". Yes, stuff like putting a business administrator to prepare a schedule on the time it would take the Network Support Department to install a brand new mobile WiMax network. No idea of the number of people, other projects going on, activities involved in the installation of the network, parts of the network, time required... No, the B.A. knows about schedules, so schedule!

In his letter the man made emphasis in some features that I recognize in here as well, and I'm afraid people from other enterprises will recognize as well. He mentioned permanent urgence, work overload, lack of formation, absolute lack of organization within the company and the managing by terror. I can relate to all of them. Now, of course I won't kill myself or bring a machine gun to the office and level it, but that doesn't mean that this mayhem is any easier to survive. The sad thing, as I read this clipping, is that this might mean that there's no place to escape to. No Mexico to make a run for. However, as an economist, I can make the following bleak prediction: if things do not change, and I mean turn around 180°, then the next economical collapse will be origined by the overwhelming negligence imploding.

(Article refered to: France Télécom: un salarié se suicide, Le Figaro.)

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