Friday, June 02, 2006

Force-feeding good intentions doesn't work

I feel like I should start this post with a disclaimer: I quite like my current workplace. I don't want to sound like a non-stop whiner who can never be happy - I'm only angry at things that are worth being angry over. Like bad toilet etiquette at work. The incident I'm about to relate would make me very angry if I was in a shitty workplace but here, well, it actually made me laugh. The irony of the situation (I've written before about the correct use of the term "Irony" - I'm pretty sure this is correct usage) appealed to me.

This is the third workplace in a row (the life of a contractor means many and varied workplaces) that has undertaken a "Blue Review." It's one of those enlightened business practice dealies (I think it was developed by the university of Illinois at Chicago) where everyone says let's be positive instead of negative. Behaviour is broken down into three colour coded types: Blue is "constructive styles" (good), Green is "passive/defensive styles" (bad) and Red is "aggressive/defensive styles" (also bad). This is one of those almost new age concepts that would really piss me off if it was done wrong.

The good thing is, in the three workplaces I have seen it, it has been done constructively and positively. People (including management) have seemed to genuinely want to honestly assess their shortcomings in these areas and work actively to improvement. The idea is be less Green (things like always relying on others, avoiding conflict, going along with rules to the letter) and Red (being overly critical, a control freak, overly competitive) and try to be more Blue (co-operative, receptive to change, takes on challenges).

The funny/ironic thing that happened involved the IT network people's desire to have complete control of PCs on the network. Before any IT security people jump down my throat, I'm all for stopping users from installing programs or running executables. People are dumb as shit and need to be protected from themselves ("a free screensaver to download from the internet? What could possibly go wrong with that?) But I think stopping people from setting their own wallpaper or selecting from default MS screensavers is stupid. Common but stupid.

Invariably when this is the workplace rules you are forced to have some sort of corporate desktop and screensaver. Like this is somehow going to make you love the company more or some such bullshit. You can't ram corporate conformity down people's throats and expect them to feel positive about it. Well, I suppose you could feel that way but you'd be a dickhead. Anyway, a few of us had discovered we could change the screensaver to be a slideshow of personal photos. A small thing but it was a nice humanising touch.

When I switched on my PC yesterday I discovered that the IT network people didn't think this was a good idea. They had done a network "upgrade" that locked us out of the screensaver controls and forced us to have a corporate screensaver. And what does this screensaver feature? Wonderful, uplifting "Blue" slogans. This made me laugh and yet again I had to explain to my cow-orkers why I was having a giggle fit. If one checks on the Blue/Green/Red chart one finds the following negative behaviour described under "Red":

Has little confidence in people.
Wants to control everything.

That sounds about right. The ultimate workplace irony. Thinking you can inspire Blue values with blatantly Red behaviour. As I like this workplace, it's only an annoyance and it's lightened by the fact I appreciate the irony. In a bad workplace it would make me really fucking angry.


pigeon weather said...

wow, i never heard of color-coded behavioral conditioning. oh, wait a minute, we have terror alerts like that. the alert level is now yellow (go to sleep, my children, and pay no attention to the ransacking of all your personal data) ... at my last job we had "start, stop, continue" reviews so you could suggest things that people should start, stop, and continue doing. my own little contribution to the project managers - start saying NO once in awhile (feature creep, etc ...)

Mr Angry said...

Well, you know how cyncical I am Tom. Done properly this corporate brainwashing can be quite good. Although it's funny when someone fails so bad at the very values they are trying to push.

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