Wednesday, 24 March 2010


Value and quality. The 15th sector. A grim prospect. Thoughts that we don't have anymore. In the hallway leading to the great hall, there is a notice board which announces "Quality Awards." The board is bare, save for some redundant pins. It has been bare for as long as I've been here.

Every 30 days, my ROD (Resource Output Driver) begrudgingly takes stock of me, his unit. He pats me, rolls his eyes and puts me at ease. Makes it known he's in on it with me. He doesn't want to be here. He knows I don't want to be here. He knew before I knew. We laugh. I relax. I have a seat. He needs me to put him at ease.

He monitors my pulse and then reads to me the latest "messages". Performance is up by 6. Productivity is out by 3. But we are outperforming on Dialogue quotas. 17% of staff are working effectively. There are still to be cuts but no one will go empty handed. There is nothing to worry about. Stranger things have happened. We are grateful for your hard work. I shift in my chair as the outside light starts to break through the blinds and into my sight line. I try not to squint.

There are new directives. We drink to our health. Warm tea. Health and success. This month, a new initiative is to be introduced to review and regulate Unit Health. The idea being, if there is anything more we can do for you, we will. Particularly in relation to your mental processes - or "mental health" as it used to be called. Of course, we don't use this term anymore, ROD says and rolls his eyes again, smiling. I try not to blink.

All other areas of unit health are being monitored satisfactorily. My sitting action was deemed exemplary. The idea is that if we can get people to share more about how they're feeling about work, we can help people be happier. ROD stops reading and tells me an anecdote. It's a bit like when people used to do something called smoking, he says. We were instructed to offer friendly support to staff to help wean them off. Wean being the operative word. Once people feel they have someone to talk to, anything's possible, he says, fixing me with a steady gaze. No one smokes anymore.

It's important you feel you can come to me. But we don't want to threaten your anonymity. There is a new button to be installed on your surface. You will notice it shortly. It's called "Button". It will be colour coded to match your unit. Every time you feel anything you are uneasy about, we'd like you to press it. You can use this if you get sent an inappropriate email, come across some unhelpful content, or even if you feel a little upset by something. Button will then take your concern and help provide productive solutions; normally starting by asking "how are you?" you can then simply type in whatever's on your mind. How are you feeling? I'm not sure.

ROD is going to list some examples. He says we know that certain negative thoughts can be problematic. Have you ever heard of the thing about pink elephants? If I tell you not to think about pink elephants, what happens? My mind's blank. I'm not sure what to say. Well, most people think about pink elephants. So, if we can get rid of those annoying negative ideas - like pink elephants! (ROD guffaws) - it helps for a better state of mind. So if you're thinking things even little things like, "I hate this", "I hate this or that person", "that person is making me cross," "this piece of work is making me angry", "I wish I wasn't here" these are all important to us. OK? My temples start to ache.

ROD knows what I'm thinking now. He knows I’m sad. He knows there are things I don't want to think about, let alone talk about. The last thing he needs is me pressing the Button. It will be flagged under his section. ROD doesn't want to be hauled before his ROD and made to explain why his sector has so many Buttons going off. I feel tension in my neck. ROD says its time to go.

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