Sunday, September 18, 2005

little fish

I was surprised to read just yesterday about the whole saga involving the two Sydney secretaries fired for breaching email policy by lawyers Allens. I happened to have worked beside one of the girls involved a few years ago (not at Allens). I think, man, that could so easily have been my embarrassing email exchanges with her, there for the whole world to see. Geez. But it could've just as easily been some partner's affair with a secretary being exposed instead. It's not as if secretaries are the only people who use office email for private purposes. Secretaries in these firms generally have access to their bosses' email accounts. They can have up to five bosses, often including two partners. So a secretary might figure that since it's okay for her boss have her endlessly deleting stupid forwarded jokes from his CEO buddies, emails that are sometimes borderline porn, then it's probably okay if she lets of steam through her workday by pinging emails around the girls.
Everyone knows the problem of wasted productivity through email/internet use is spread right up and down the hierarchy in these big firms, and they're only sacking secretaries rather than solicitors because they're cheaper to replace. (Longtime readers might remember I came close to getting sacked for blogging. My rationalisation was always that I worked twice as fast deliberately to allow myself down-time. But I could see their point in the end.)
Allens' HR could've called a private all-staff meeting instead; discussed the crisis, reiterated email policy, given out final warnings (don't they get three strikes anymore?) and let the whole thing die a natural death. Instead, they really have made a mountain out of a molehill, as well as humiliating two young women. They clearly decided to make an example out of them. And I'm sure it will get results. Office workers who have signed Draconian email policies as part of individual workplace agreements should be nicely paranoid now.
Maybe it's the beginning of the end of personal email use, or internet use generally, at work, at least for the worker bees? But won't employees go nuts if all they've got left on their desktops to play with is Solitaire?
Anyway, all of it reminds me once again how much I don't miss the city one little iota.