toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

March 12, 2010

learn the steps of the office shuffle

Daphne, 18, started her first job full of youthful energy and brimming with plans for all the things she wants to do with the rest of her life, but doing the office shuffle four times in six months seriously destabilized her.

"I took quite a while to adjust to being at work rather than at school," says Daphne, "but as soon as I had settled down my world went into a spin with the first of many office reshuffles."

Daphne maintains that an office reshuffle always seems to happen when you have settled down and are most comfortable exactly where you are. Sometimes a shuffle comes about because of companies restructuring, merging or expanding, but Daphne is adamant that it is mostly caused by someone in management wanting to justify his or her existence.

"Doing the office shuffle - moving desks, rooms, offices or even buildings - is such a common experience in my workplace," laughs Daphne, "that you may as well learn the steps so you can dance with ease when the music plays."

Daphne works in a team that did the office shuffle four times in six months. They were not even given time to settle down in any one of their new locations.

"No, the office shuffle is not a 'moving' experience," laughs Daphne. "On the contrary, it is destabilizing. I enjoy excitement, but like any normal human being I am a fairly territorial animal and a large part of setting down into a job is feeling comfortable, at home, with what has been marked out as being your ‘territory’."

Daphne made her first job experience easier by making her working space 'homely'.

"I brought in pictures and funny messages and stuck them up on the wall in front of me to remind me of home," explains Daphne. "I. also brought in plants and tended them lovingly. They made me feel human in this alien environment of work."

"I also filled the drawers in my desk with personal items," adds Daphne, "and I set up my PC with the colors and wallpaper I use on my home PC."

"I'm taller than average so I need to adjust my chair to just the right height," explains Daphne. "So, the whole settling down period is quite an experience."

When Daphne finally trusts the inviolability of her work space, she then grows accustomed to her surroundings.

If there is a window in the office, Daphne fixes her gaze on something she can see that pleases her. She knows exactly where everyone sits. She knows exactly where to lay her hands on, or fix her eye upon, some vital document.

Daphne says that it usually takes at least two weeks before someone settles down to a new surrounding and feels sufficiently comfortable to be able to attribute ownership to the little space where they work and - as a result - to work to their best ability.

"To uproot an employee from a familiar territory," says Daphne, "is not good management practice."

"By emotionally destabilizing the worker with a move to a new location, the company suffers in lost production time. The ‘territorial’ claim taking has to take place all over again before the employee can settle down and produce good work once again."

"Sometimes people are relocated because of a lease expiring - and moving to a new building should be exciting," says Daphne, "but the shuffle caused by someone in management wanting to justify his or her existence is a painful experience."

"These office shuffles," says Daphne, "are often nothing more than an exercise of power. Ostensibly, shuffles are supposed to make better use of office space, but I’ve never seen a better use of office space as a result of them."

What she did see, though, was a whole lot of disgruntled employees - herself included - who were quite happy where we were and resented being moved.

The lunatic responsible for moving Daphne’s team four times in six months was definitely on a power trip.

"Nobody likes him," explains Daphne, "so moving staff around haphazardly must have been his way of wreaking revenge. Not only did he move my team four times, but shortly afterwards he also started making structural alterations to the office building."

"Imagine putting up with the noise, dust and inconvenience of openings being knocked out of walls, ceilings being re-wired and carpet being laid. What a first job experience I've had!"

Daphne’s theory is that Nature abhors a vacuum and as soon as staff is moved to make better use of office space something inevitably fills the space they vacated.

"And that something," laughs Daphne, "always seems to be empty boxes and junk."

"Welcome to the world of work."

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