I’m writing this for managers who amaze me with their naive concepts of what they think they are getting away with in their work places. I have gained an intimate knowledge in the way middle and upper management perceive their labourers and base my views on this experience.
I've been a contract labourer all my life. In this time I have been exposed to varying levels of responsibility and had offers of advancement on numerous occasions. I learned to refuse promotion after several forays into leading hand roles that soon showed the inconsistencies between expected responsibilities and the compensation offered. I also knew my workmates would continue doing the things I did behind my bosses back. Often I made more money than my supervisors in the lower casual position anyway. Taking a pay cut for the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder isn’t much of an incentive.
During any stint of labouring I tried to stay well informed on what was happening on site and made sure the information got passed along as required. The workers on site have more than one set of eyes and ears and lots of tongues. If nothing much was going on we'd make something up but that's another story.
I remember on occasion when a manager and I were having an argument regarding whether the "workers" at this particular industry knew the specifics of the upper and middle management bonuses. Their perception of the workers blissful ignorance seemed a little condescending and very naive. Were we all stupid? Were we being underestimated because most of us hadn’t been to Uni? Maybe most of us didn't even finish high school but as far as I know most people can read.
How many times has some employee wandered into the boss’s office while he wasn't there? And how many times had that boss inadvertently left his pay slip, or memo regarding lay offs, or some other interesting piece of paper lying on his desk just begging to be looked at?
Do you really think that information isn't going to be spread around site faster than tinea in a communal shower?
Maybe some workers are too stupid or lazy to properly utilise their information conduit, (the cleaner usually), or their management is simply too clever to leave anything important lying around. But, in my experience, the workers know what is going on well before the manager does. Who's having sexual relations with whom? Who's screwed up and cost the company a shitload of cash? Who's robbing the place blind?
On the other hand I wonder if management are aware of what is happening while they laugh at us behind their hands. I've worked in places where the entire nightshift goes home early and leaves one poor bastard to swipe them all out. I've seen truckloads of gear stolen right under the nose of the boss who are more than happy to ignore what their lowly slaves are up to.
Neither of these scenarios are sustainable in the long run. People get pissed, brag to their mates and dob each other in. There’s always someone to pick up indiscreetly divulged information and spread it around. It’s human nature. I’ve been told horribly personal information that I really could have lived the rest of my life not knowing by people who barely knew me. While I’d like to take the higher ground here, (don’t I always), and swear I kept this information to myself but some of this stuff was just too good not to share. It happens, nobody’s perfect.
To sum up, workers might wear dirty clothes and not be very articulate without resorting to swearing but they aren't stupid. Take care you middle and upper managers. You’re only fooling yourselves by treating workers with contempt. We should both remain wary of each other while honouring the status quo.
Breaking the underlying ‘us and them’ culture, a cause management pays a lot of lip service to, can’t be realised unless everyone on site is equal. Who’s going to push a broom or dig a hole then? The ‘us and them’ culture is not meant to be broken, leave it alone. Workplaces as we know them can't function without inequities and unfair practises. Oh yeah, and I hope you remember who got you that bonus.