Sometimes it amazes me how much things have changed since I graduated from college in 1980.
I landed a job working for an Architectural firm just three months later and thus began my exposure to office life.
The office I worked in was a highly respected firm, one of the biggest in New England, and had an impeccable reputation for quality and service.
Every employee in the firm (there were usually about 50) from the Top Dog all the way down to me, the runt of the litter, displayed a very professional attitude whenever anybody was looking…but to quote Charlie Rich – “when we got behind closed doors…”
I’m not saying we didn’t do our jobs, we did, and I can honestly say that I haven’t seen many companies since then that did their jobs as well as that group did.
The point is we had fun and we knew where the line was.
We engaged in politically incorrect behavior practically daily, almost hourly.
People said things that could get them fired today, they touched fellow employees in ways that would almost get them arrested today and if somebody got angry at somebody else they had an argument and cleared the air without worrying about creating a hostile work environment.
Then it wasn’t uncommon for several of us to meet at a local bar after work and have a few drinks. The office Christmas parties would carry an R rating today, but the gift exchanges were a lot more fun than they are now!
In today’s work place, these things are not only frowned upon, in many cases they are against company policy.
There’s something that was almost non-existent back then; company policies that addressed personal behavior.
Who knows? I suppose that somebody who was picked on as a child got elected to office and decided to make sure they weren’t picked on as an adult.
Out of this new trend an entire branch of employment has developed – the Human Resources Department.
If two employees have a conflict they now have an entire department to resolve it for them – because God knows we’re all too immature to handle things like adults.
They (the Human Resource people) will interview anybody who may have witnessed the altercation, advise them of their obligation to keep everything in the strictest of confidence (in other words – don’t discuss this with the other thirty people we’re interviewing) and spend an astronomical amount of time, money and resources trying to smooth out a wrinkle between two guys who had an argument over the Super Bowl.
Naturally neither of them will be disciplined, not even the one who instigated it.
There are steps and procedures that must be followed, none of which involve any type of tangible disciplinary measures, least of all firing – oops I’m sorry – termination.
I honestly feel sorry for people who work in HR departments. Aside from the fact that they will almost always be a necessary part of office life, (job security is nice) what do they have to look forward to?
They are essentially baby-sitters for adults who have to be reminded of how to behave. I couldn’t do it. I’d either end up telling somebody to grow up on a daily basis or I’d develop a nasty drinking habit.
Back in the day, if you did something wrong your boss took you aside (probably into the elevator or the rest room) and told you what was what, in no uncertain terms.
Now if you commit a violation of company policy you are referred to HR where they sit you in a quiet interview room, with a witness to take notes so that there can be no suggestion of impropriety, and address your behavior, and advise you of your rights as an employee. And forgive me for saying so – but almost all of the terms are uncertain.
That’s another of the side effects of political correctness – you can’t say what you mean. You have to speak in vague generalities so that you can never be held accountable for what you say.
“I didn’t tell him that I was going to kick his ass, I merely suggested that he find an alternative way of thinking or I would have to employ stronger methods of persuasion.”
Let me make one thing abundantly clear – there are certain types of behavior that are unacceptable in any situation; but if you need a policy handbook and half-a-day of employee orientation to know what they are, then the ball was dropped for you before you were out of elementary school.