This I Believe

Nancy - Martinez, Georgia
Entered on March 21, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I believe…

Email is a great new tool in the workplace and can make an employee’s job much simpler. Technology has evolved a very useful tool but I have found that e-mail can be cleverly abused by employers. It is the latest impersonal channel for legitimate employer abuse. It can create hostile and harassing employee work conditions. I was employed by a company with a manager who would only communicate with me through e-mail. That’s right; I was not allowed to talk to her!

My office saw no need for a daily personal visit from my manager. I received a daily “to do” list via email with no personal interaction exchanged. No small talk about my family, my weekend, or even the weather. Without voice intonations or facial gestures, each new e-mail from my manager led to feelings of frustration. Whatever I did to accomplish a task, her micromanagement would generate another e-mail questioning my work. For example, one day after moving to a new building, my “to do” list requested me to notify a delivery service company of our department’s new change of address. The company was correctly informed of our new delivery address. I e-mailed the results to my supervisor and she called that company until she found one small department that still had our former address. I had been notified by the delivery service that not all computer screens would reflect our new address if that department had no dealings with us. However, I was documented for “incomplete” work despite my explanatory e-mail.

I never learned why my manager insisted on her “no talk” policy. For the first six months I was recognized for outstanding accomplishments and received a superior evaluation. I don’t know what caused the sudden change in my manager’s treatment toward me. Whatever her motive, I was required to e-mail my whereabouts anytime I stepped away for a bathroom break or went to lunch. Verbal statements were not acceptable, only written words. She defended the policy with one lame, unclear excuse: “I need to know when I can leave for a meeting.”

On another occasion, I e-mailed my supervisor requesting permission to take a company course. I attached the course schedule showing the actual times and dates of the course but had not signed up for it until I obtained approval. My e-mail asking to take the course was immediately forwarded to her boss and somehow this led to an immediate insubordination citation. Once again, despite my explanations to the department director, I was erroneously documented for signing up for a course without requesting permission first.

Management viewed this mandatory e-mail policy as totally acceptable. Infact, the superiors encouraged it! I tolerated a barrage of derogatory and ridiculous e-mails which attempted to stifle any creative thinking and instill humiliation. Employers no longer point fingers and scream at their subordinates. Today they can avoid a scene and abuse power by hammering out unreasonable orders and insensitive criticism on the keyboard.

I eventually resigned; an action that I did not take lightly. I learned from this experience that the unrestricted impersonal technology of electronic mail is only facilitating a new and growing form of employer abuse.