9 February, 2017

Ethics in the workplace

One thing we take for granted, at least I do, is that our organisations behave ethically.  The definition of ethics I’m using is ‘a set of moral principles, especially ones relating to or affirming a specified group, field, or form of conduct.’

Sometimes there are people in an organisation who treat others rudely or unfairly.  They dominate conversations, talk (or shout) over you, say things to hurt you, shoot down your ideas before you’ve even fully stated them, play power games, play favourites, etc.  I’m inspired to broach this series of topics by an election that happened somewhere in the world in November 2016 that has focussed my attention on the question of ethics by people in power positions.  We now have unethical as a role model and I don’t believe it’s good for anybody.

Over my next few blogs, I intend to write about some of these sorts of issues in life and in the workplace.  The types of things I’ll present are issues of organisational communications and can benefit you, whether you’re a student or staff member.

Transactional analysis at Marshmallow Engineering

Let’s visit our recurring soap opera at Marshmallow Engineering.  Previous episodes: Group dynamics, Procrastination.

It’s mid-morning on a Tuesday.  Cheever is at work, headphones in place, he’s audibly humming to something that from the outside sounds like spit slapping tin.  Hargreaves, who stayed late at work last night to move her computer so that she’s able to watch the three staff down the line from her, has frog-chin-like bags under her eyes.  She’s decided to take control.

She waves a hand at Cheeve, then both hands, she pounds her desk, then stands and shrieks to get Cheeve’s attention.  Guatchalina, a desk down from Cheeve sees that he is deep in the zone and not aware Hargreaves is trying to get his attention.  She leans over and punches his shoulder.  He removes the earphone muff off the ear nearest Guatch and raises an eyebrow.

‘Mom wants you.’


Guatch points to Hargreaves, who is now standing rigid, looking like TheDonald when a member of the press asks him a question he doesn’t like, all smokey and aged-dragon-like.

‘Stop calling me MOM!’  Steam actually seems to come from Hargreaves’ nostrils.  Look close, is that an actual droplet on her nostril hair?

‘Well, then, stop acting like one.’

‘I.  Want. This. To. Stop.’   Steam.  NOW!’

Cheeve replaces his muff, which causes Hargreaves to stomp around her desk and stand with the pointy toes of her fright red heels up against his right boot, which is unlaced and half off.  Cheeve removes the muff from his ear.  ‘Yes, mom?’

Smoke escapes from nostrils.  ‘You will listen to me.’

‘Why?’  The muff pops back and Hargreaves yanks the headphones from his head, the  cord catches and the muffs fling back toward Cheeve’s face but he deflects it with a well placed backhand.

‘You’re deficient.’

Cheeve raises his eyebrows but continues to face the wall.  She holds up her left thumb and each finger in turn as she lists, ‘Your noise.  The way you dress. The way you sit. Where you have your desk. What you eat for lunch –‘ she holds up the right thumb and continues the list, ‘– the way you write. What you write. How you hold your pen when you write –‘.

Cheeve slouches.  He stares at the wall.

Eunice is watching from behind her tower of lotions and cardboard storagbe boxes.  Hargreaves points a long finger at her, aimed right in the centre of her eyes.  ‘What do you want?’

Eunice lowers her head, ‘I’m sorry.’

‘You’re right, you’re sorry.  You’re all sorry.’

Hargreaves stomps in her fright red heels to the door, one stomp at a time.   She turns, flings the long finger that was pointing into Eunice’s face in the air.  ‘Things are going to change around here . I’m going to tell you how you’re going to be and you’re going to obey me.  There are going to be some things here that will not be allowed, you are going to follow my rules and should any of you –‘

Pascal opens the door to enter the room.

‘Where have YOU been?’  Hargreaves pulls him into the room.

‘Toilet.’  Pascal looks around, startled, embarrassed, and crouches against Eunice’s desk, knocking over a few of her half-full lotion bottles.  Eunice hurries to straighten them, looking like a frightened rabbit.

‘From now on, you all have to raise your hand if you want a toilet break.  Hold up one finger or two, depending on which you intend doing there.’


‘Because I want you to.  It will provide good data for senior management.’

‘But  –‘  a chorus of voices tentatively tries.

Bertrand stands, quietly and calmly.  He looks right at Hargreaves.  ‘Why don’t you and I go have a cup of coffee?  My treat.’

Steam is still escaping from nostrils but Hargreaves finally acquiesces.   Bertrand grabs his mobile device and leads her from the room with only one or two backward glances from Hargreaves, which leaves a wet sort of steam clinging to the ceiling.  Guatch punches the photocopier with her right hand and kicks it with her left.  The whole room exhales a quiet breath in unison.

With a cup of coffee steaming instead of her nostrils, Bertrand gives Hargreaves some tools to consider.  He talks of ego states and how we each are made up of Parent, Adult and Child ego states.  This is about how people communicate with each other. Hargreaves pouts her lips, meets Bertrand’s resistant look and  stares into the mobile device. This is what she finds:

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Miscellaneous, Novel