I worked for a company with some fraught industrial relations issues. Quite possibly this was due in large part to the jack-ass we had as our HR Director. He was quite possibly the worst people leader I’ve ever had the misfortune to know. He was an arrogant, sexist bully. A disgraced operations leader who was moved sideways into a ‘less demanding’ role. With his operations background, he’d had more than his fair share of run-ins with various union officials, and his personal style was not, shall we say, the most conducive to effective conciliation.
Negotiations were delicate. Union and Management were engaged in verbal sparring on a daily basis. Strikes were imminent. The management side’s communications tried to tip-toe along the tightrope of emotion to keep the workforce at work whilst simultaneously shafting the union.
The tide was beginning to turn in the company’s favour. Leadership was about to release a key communication that would deliver some key concessions but also impact future negotiations – a classic long play strategy. On the day of release, the Karma gods smiled down. We had been through several rounds of increasingly strongly worded messages from the IT Director regarding systems security. He had a particularly large and angry bee in his bonnet on the whole topic of ‘business integrity’ and ‘systems vulnerability’. His particular nemesis? The computer workstation left unattended and open. So on this day, he had instructed his minions to do a sweep at lunchtime – seek out those computers left open, and demonstrate the dangers people faced by not following a few simple precautions.
I believe his intent had been that his people should simply lock a computer by logging the user out and changing to administrator access. This would force the user to call the helpdesk for password reset. maybe these instructions were not explicit. Or maybe he gave his team a little more ‘creative licence’ than he ought. Whatever the reason, one of his team chose a different path to demonstrate the vulnerabilities of an unlocked (virtual) door. He (or she – we never found the guilty party) found an unlocked PC with a Word document open for edit. S/he typed a random word arbitrarily in the middle of the document. Maybe he thought the proof reading would spot the obviously incorrect word so no permanent harm would be done. Maybe not.
Proof reading didn’t pick it up. Neither did a spell check, because the word was correctly spelled. And so the next day, when the piece de resistance communications from management, the finale to bring to a close this industrial unrest was issued to all staff, our noble leaders had declared their intent to acquiesce to union demands for additional ARMADILLOS, together with the required time off for training and reskilling (it was not clear if the time off was for the armadillos or the employees).
Armadillo pictures periodically appeared in the HR Director’s office for several weeks after the incident, until he threatened to fire the next person who mentioned the cute little critters.
Posted for the 2014 Blogging from A to Z Challenge.