Peering Over the Shoulders of Junior Staff

From Rachel Connolly in today’s Guardian:

One of the worst jobs I have ever had was made particularly bad by the micromanaging efforts of my manager’s boss. He seemed to spend all day skulking around, peering over the shoulders of junior staff to check that whatever we were doing looked like work. If he spotted someone doing something he considered untoward (usually reading the news or, on slow days, perhaps online shopping) he would come up behind them, point at the screen, wag his finger and say: “Not work!”

Sometimes it actually was work, but there was no point in arguing. It was a frustrating and corrosive environment, and not conducive to getting things done. His measure of productivity was clearly a blunt instrument and, instead of fostering a motivated workplace, he created an atmosphere of jittery paranoia and low-level resentment.

Amen to that. The writer goes on to reveal that, with most office work taking place online this year, there has been a surge of interest in technology to monitor the activity of remote workers, yet again leading to “jittery paranoia and low-level resentment.”

This is the Anarchist in me speaking but it’s also the psychologist and the economist: leave people alone!

Whatever happened to results-led practice? i.e. treating adults as adults?

In the event that a worker isn’t doing their job, regularly failing to deliver what they’re contractually obliged to deliver, then there’s a problem (and there are productive solutions to match it). But until that day, leave them alone and let them do their job at their own pace and according to their own methods.

It’s bad enough that they have to work at all, let alone be bullied and hassled around the clock, suspected of petty slackery when they’re probably just taking a brief pause, cleansing the palate before moving on to another task.

My old boss was an extreme example, but in any open-plan office it is normal to be watched almost constantly by your superiors. […] a common experience is trying to orientate the appearance of your productivity around what you think is being measured, rather than trying to do your work to the best standard; dragging out tasks to stay late so your boss will not think you are shirking your responsibilities by leaving early, for example.

There’s currently £2 off The Good Life for Wage Slaves at the publisher’s website. Delicious! Just use code RAGEQUIT3 at checkout.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

2 Responses to “Peering Over the Shoulders of Junior Staff”

  1. Eric B says:

    Clearly you’ve spent too much time working in Amazon warehouses if you’re often “cleansing the *pallet*” 😉

  2. Ah, lordy. I’ve been hauled over the coals for that one before. I just can’t get it to stick! Well spotted, Eric. I’ve fixed it.

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