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Tales from the Corporate Jungle: Tattletale colleagues

October 21, 2008

One of the more remarkable tales I’ve heard is a company scheme that asks you to rat out on your colleagues.

The company sends out a staff memo requiring encouraging its staff to keep an eye on their colleagues attendance. If they notice anyone missing after a certain cutoff time, they are to fill out an electronic form on the corporate intranet. Click send and it goes out to HR.

HR will then investigate the incident. If the staff has no valid reason to be late for work, they generate a warning letter. 3 warnings and out comes the big stick. The anonymity of the sender is assured.

Pros: HR catches more delinquents at no extra cost, apart from the small reward they give for every sucessful catch.

Cons: People start distrusting each other. They can also gang up and take turns to game the system. Finally, it had everyone focusing on failure rather than success.

If you think such a system is bound to fail, think again. For this particular company it actually works, thanks to the ill-feelings that was apparently rife among the staff.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2008 10:12 am

    When there’s no trust among the employees, the fun will no longer be there. The team will disintegrate slowly and it’s a matter of who will last longer.

    Honest staff won’t like it but the backstabbers will find it a lot of fun. What shocked me was how a responsible management could think of such a scheme.

  2. LC Teh permalink
    October 21, 2008 1:44 pm

    Sounds like a piece from the Cultural Revolution described in Jung Chang’s ‘Wild Swans’. You’ll never know when you gonna get snitched on by someone else on something real or fabricated. Gives me the creeps.

    They still do that in Cambodia, N. Korea and China. But who needs live snitches when you have technology. London leads the way in CCTV surveillance I hear.

  3. October 21, 2008 2:16 pm

    Perhaps…. it is a psychological based approach the company is applying?

    The technique works because employees might be experiencing cognitive dissonance. They experience dissonance between the conflicting cognitions they have. In this case, helping the organization but betraying colleagues. Employees failed to justify their behaviors with the small reward given and thus, have no choice but to internalize their attitudes. The behavior internalization then helps the scheme to work out so well.

    Maybe, but IMO poor punctuality is symptomatic of a deeper problem at work and I’m not sure if any amount of betraying between colleagues will fix that problem.

  4. LC Teh permalink
    October 22, 2008 11:56 am

    At least CCTV tells it like it is…

    True. They leave no room for interpretation. Or do they…

  5. October 24, 2008 1:12 pm

    Wow, I’ve just been away for a week and you started a very interesting series on the Corporate Jungle.

    My own personal take is that this is not a good system. Most companies have a software that will tag the time the employee enters using the access card. Less bias and less problems.

    Besides, there are always ways to circumvent the system. Asking employees to *rat* on each other creates a less conducive working environment. Such organizations can be very successful but it will need a very strong leader to control the warring factions eg. Hitler and the Nazis.

    Hi, must have been a fun trip. 🙂 Yeah, I agree. IMHO once a company feels the needs to conduct employee surveillance, it has lost its way. It needs to ask why is it hiring untrustworthy people and what did the company do that’s causing good employees to turn bad. The company should surveil itself first before surveilling the staff.

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