It Comes Down to Faith and Trust
Snooping on your employees' e-mails -- that can't be good for morale.
Right around the time of the dotcom crash, I was working for a company as their
systems/mail administrator, carrying out those responsibilities in what I believed
to be a pretty dedicated and conscientious way.
The company CEO had just retired and a new management team was put in place.
My boss also left around that time and was replaced by a non-IT person. My old
boss was someone who would routinely question what he believed to be bad IT
decisions, but this new manager clearly demonstrated himself to be a yes man.
A Perplexing Situation
Compounding the problem, the company was struggling during this period and had
a series of layoffs where plenty of good people lost their jobs. Raises and
bonuses were nonexistent and morale was lower than I'd ever seen it. After a
couple of years of this -- and as general market conditions improved -- people
started leaving to work for competitors and were getting raises by as much as
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What perplexed me about this situation was management's cluelessness: They
actually could not understand why people were leaving. What was even more perplexing
was management's response to this: to start monitoring employees' e-mail.
Well, did my new non-technical boss come to me, the e-mail administrator, to
ask how we should proceed with this new directive? No. He took it upon himself
to find the software that could do the trick.
Once he made his choice, he loaded the software onto the mail server without
telling me and set up rules to forward any message sent to or from our competitors
to a mailbox where he and the COO could review them. When I found out about
this I was outraged.
There was little I could do, but what I did do was very casually let
people whom I trusted know that they should watch what they said in their e-mails,
because I felt management was doing something totally unethical.
side effect of my boss's actions was that performance on the mail server was
adversely affected. I started suggesting the reason for this was the new tool
he'd added to the server. After a few months my boss and the COO were not uncovering
what they thought they would and asked me to remove the program. Once I did
all performance issues evaporated.
Loss of Faith
The ugly bottom line to all of this was the new management team showed no trust
or loyalty to its employees, which caused the employees to lose trust and faith
in them. Employees were constantly looking over their shoulders, focusing more
on what management might be up to instead of focusing on doing the best job
Not long after this, management thought it would be a good idea to have Q&A
sessions with each of the different departments. During our session with the
same COO present, very few questions were asked. But the one answer I'll never
forget was the COO's response to my question having to do with employee fear.
His cold response: "Fear is good!"
No Fond Farewell
Well, I was terminated about a year after this incident, but I was happy that
I was no longer working under those conditions.
The COO's response to my question wasn't due to anything they found in my e-mail
because I made sure I kept my personal mail off the company mail server.
The submitter of this "Never Again" story wishes to remain anonymous.