Something’s Working? Time To Meddle!

, , , , | Working | December 1, 2020

My workplace has some strict confidentiality rules. What happens in the office, stays in the office. Most of us are totally fine with that rule, as we have the “work stays in the office” mentality. Unfortunately, a global health crisis wasn’t fine with that rule.

When lockdown kicked in, we suffered badly. The company refused to relent on its confidentiality policy, meaning that we couldn’t download any work to take home. As such, next to nothing got done for a few months. Occasionally, a few of us would sneak back into the office to shave off some of the backlog, but that was nowhere near enough.

When the restrictions were relaxed, we faced a massive backlog of work, but social distancing meant that only half the department could be in at any one time.

Our managers worked out a schedule for us, splitting our nine-to-five shift into an eight-to-three and three-to-ten shift. The only time both shifts would be in would be for the joint briefing at three pm. And although they didn’t consult us on who was on which shift, they actually did a surprisingly good job at picking who was on which shift.

The early shift was made up of the guys that lived nearby the office, under the justification that their travel time was lesser, so the strain of waking up earlier was less. That was totally fine for them, as they liked getting off work two hours early and could go drinking before the dinner crowd came in.

The later shift was made up of the guys who lived further, which was great. Personally, I loathe waking up early to go to work and the rest of my shift agreed. It helped that we were made up of the more competent guys, so we could do more work in less time, which meant that we usually left on average two hours early, despite the backlog.

With this system in place, we managed to get our department functional again. Unfortunately, HR cottoned on and decided that they knew better.

First, they stole the dual-shift idea and presented it to the rest of the company as though it was theirs. Second, they insisted that keeping everyone constantly on the same shift was “detrimental to morale” and ordered us to swap shifts every week.

Yeah, that didn’t work out. My shift had to wake up by six am at the latest to get to work on time. Also, as we were the more competent guys, we got everything done early but couldn’t leave until the three pm joint briefing, no matter what. For the other shift, that didn’t matter as they always barely finished in time, but we always had to spend an extra two hours in the office every time we got stuck on the early shift.

The other shift also hated the new schedule, as they could never go back early, couldn’t go drinking, and couldn’t watch late-night shows.

Our managers agreed that the situation wasn’t ideal and told HR that we wanted our shifts to be permanent. They did that… for only the managers under some tortured justification.

That didn’t work. Everyone loved their own manager but hated the other. The early manager was the micromanaging type and could get the less competent shift to work better. And the later manager was more easygoing and knew that us competent guys could do our work without his constant supervision.

However, when shifts swapped, everyone suffered as the later manager hated having to constantly deal with the less competent guys and the more competent shift loathed the earlier manager’s micromanaging.

So, we all sent a more strongly-worded petition to HR, all but demanding that we get back to the original arrangement. HR then spouted some bureaucratic nonsense.

HR: “The rest of the departments in the company agreed that the shift swapping is working well.”

They were totally ignoring that we weren’t them.

Despite all our complaints, our managers insisted that we still had to obey HR.

Manager: “We’re willing to take s*** from you, but we’re not willing to take s*** for you.” 

Basically, if they disobeyed the higher-ups, it was their heads on the chopping board and they didn’t want that. So, obedience it was.

The worst part was that sometime later, the higher-ups still had the gall to demand to know why our department’s efficiency varied so greatly every week and why we couldn’t consistently go at peak efficiency as we had initially done.

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