The Dark Side of Work Revealed

March 19, 2018

The Dark Side of Work Revealed

As I mentioned in the Introduction to the Dark Side, an office has undercurrents which are never spoken of but which determine whether you are successful or how far you go. But these undercurrents are difficult to pick up, so to illustrate, here’s a work scenario to show you how they operate.

Deciding holiday schedules at the office

The deal

Your manager wants to discuss holiday scheduling. Thomas comes to your cubicle.

Thomas: This meeting at 2:00. I think Susie and the others are gonna snow us.
YOU: Huh?
Thomas: Because we’re the only two without partners— although I’m working it. Anyhow, Susie’ll suggest we do the Christmas to New Year shift.
YOU: But I wanted to ski!
Thomas: Exactly. We need time off even if we’re single. So, you’ll support me?
YOU: Absolutely.

The meeting

Note: Ned is the boss, everyone else works for him.

Ned: Okay, guys, who will staff December 26-31?
Susie: Christmas is a family thing. I need to be with my kids.
Thomas: You’re with them every day.
Ned: Thomas, let Susie finish.
Susie: And the kids are off so I have to be there.
Edgar: Yeah, I want to spend time with my new grandchild.
Thomas: But I want to spend time with friends, too.
Melanie: Friends aren’t family It’s not as if you’re going home to Madagascar
Thomas: I can’t afford the high season rates! Not only that, I have to use all my vacation time to visit my family but you only claim four days to get ten.
Ned: Thomas, let others have the floor.

Amir speaks up, and then Jason. Even Bradley who has just adopted a little girl with his partner Phil. All four square for family values and getting the time off.

The doubt

You know you should speak. Thomas is giving you the eye. But Ned cut Thomas off and prevented him from speaking again. Ned has two teenage girls. So, he wants the time off. Is it good to piss off the boss?

And Susie. Really good at her job but don’t get on her wrong side. Tick her off, too? After all, you’re just at Mom’s for Christmas and the usual pubbing on the 31st.

Thomas: Let’s do a rotation. Two of us this year and another two next.
Edgar: But what if next year’s people aren’t with the group then?
Thomas: So the next person on the list takes it.

You can tell the room is not with Thomas. They act as if he hasn’t spoken and nobody is looking at him. Thomas is shooting you daggers but you’re not sure. It probably is a bigger deal for people with families, especially small kids. Maybe you’re being selfish not taking one for the team. They’re sure not liking Thomas for not.

Crunch time

Ned throws up his hands. “This could go on forever. Let’s go around the room. Should people with families get priority for holiday leave?”

Susie says yes. Edgar says yes. Bradley says yes. Thomas says no. Jason says yes.

Yes. Yes. Yes. “Okay, let’s hear from you—you’re the only other single,” Ned says. “Should families be given priority?”

They’re looking at you. ‘No’ won’t change anything. You nod yes.

Why did you say yes?

Why did you say yes when you wanted to say no?  It goes beyond caving or even doubting yourself and has everything to do with how organizations shape your behavior. This is example of these unseen phenomena which permeate work.

In the next post, I’ll discuss why you voted the way you did.

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