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Profiling and Selective Rulemaking... Coming Soon to a Workplace Near You

By RadiantMatrix in Culture
Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 12:57:28 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Not too long ago, I sumbitted this story about naive workplace policies being created because of the incidents in Columbine. Well, it appears that some of the other problems that were faced in schools following that incident are making thier way into the workplace.

What I'm referring to is profiling and selective rulemaking: in brief, singling out those in a workplace who have "threatening" (read: unusual) habits or images, and then creating a set of requirements specifically for those people. What qualifies as "threatening" would confound most readers here. When will this stop?

I have several collegues who work at various marketing, web design, and software firms - and we often compare notes on management decisions. Usually, we end up laughing at the typically pointless policies that have been made. When I wrote the other story, I passed it on to these collegues. The response I recieved disturbed me deeply.

It seems that three firms (out of about nine) have made policies that remind me of the "geek profiling" that occured in schools shortly after Columbine, though no direct connection has been made by the employers. In each, certain individuals were singled out and given restrictions beyond those the rest of the organization had to follow - simply because they were non-conforming in some way, and thus viewed as a threat.

In one, a 23-year-old web developer was asked to cut his long hair, wear long sleeve shirts to cover the tatoo on his forearm, and stop wearing the (dress-code permitted) blue jeans he was accustomed to. Thinking that this meant he would be dealing with customers soon (a promotion), he gladly complied. It has now been three weeks, and he has not been given any addtional responsibility. In fact, his internet habits are being monitored (against policy), he has been reprimanded for taking breaks, and been given restrictions as to what software he can use (no more Linux!). These restrictions have not been placed on anyone else. He is leaving next week...

In another, my associate - a manager in the firm - was asked to add similar restrictions (limited browsing time, etc) to a certain employee because, in the words of the boss, "that guy seems odd to me - I think we need to watch him." According to my associate, the employee in question has been nothing but a model employee.

When will this stop? Are these isolated incidents, or symptoms of a wider problem? Surely there must be some way to combat this kind of folly.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Profiling is:
o Harmless 1%
o Harmless unless taken too far 10%
o Damaging, but neccessary 3%
o Damaging 84%

Votes: 83
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o this story
o the other story
o Also by RadiantMatrix

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Profiling and Selective Rulemaking... Coming Soon to a Workplace Near You | 23 comments (23 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
You think *this* is weird??? (1.57 / 14) (#1)
by MeanGene on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 09:01:41 PM EST

We have a guy at work who comes to the office dressed in a full cat-suit with makeup (Tugger cat from "Cats"). I'm so relieved that they moved him to another floor - you never know when he'll bring a shotgun to work.

Re: You think *this* is weird??? (3.60 / 5) (#4)
by AgentGray on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:49:44 PM EST

What type of business is that?

Please don't say Broadway play...

[ Parent ]
Re: You think *this* is weird??? (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by Novalis on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 10:57:01 AM EST

Dude, you would *hear* about it if people like that were violent. But you don't, because they aren't. He's more likely to kill himself than you. Violent types tend to be the middle class, white, males - the "normal" ones. But that doesn't mean you should start avoiding those types (including me!). Instead, you should learn to judge people by who they are, not how they dress.
-Dave Turner
[ Parent ]
A Solemn Nod (4.00 / 12) (#2)
by IoaPetraka on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 09:37:54 PM EST

As one who has alway held a rather, "off-kilter" view of life, and the world around me, this article is highly relevant to me. In general, I am able to outweigh my oddities with my quality of work. In other words, certain things get overlooked because I stay to myself and do the work of four other people. This does not always work, it depends on the job.

I've never been fired, but I was definatly given my hat at the last job. While they didn't say so directly, (in fact they still call me to this day trying to get me back) they took me off of most of the more interesting jobs and treated me as an ugly duckling, best left kept behind closed doors.

Why? Because I happened to wear a dark trench coat, and eye makeup from time to time. It does not bother me in the slightest if somebody informs me that it would be best if I looked a bit more socially presentable. I'm a very layed back and agreeable kind of guy. Changing the rules to fit me, and stabbing me in the back does not qualify as polite information in my book. So I left the job, and they are out of my work. It was there loss, I found a better job.

It always strikes a little fear into me though whenever I hear about new rules or regulations that seem tapered towards hammering the individual out of me. I've got nothing against appearing socially acceptable if you have a high profile job (such as working with clients,) but if you do not have such a job, the need for such petty unforgiveness grows wane. When the whole Columbine thing hit, I was actually afraid to go out in public with a trenchcoat, or wearing any sort of makeup. It was silly, I'd been wearing a trench coat since 8th grade, that was my trademark. Having to conform to other's idealistic views of upright individuals disturbs me for some odd reason.

Perhaps it is because I believe that if people were allowed to express themselves more, we would have a much more cohesive and efficient society. Instead we are expected to look a certain way, act a certain way, and be interested in certain things. If you deviate from that, people raise eyebrows and scowl. The freedom of expression is squashed by human nature though, so that is not going to be changing any time soon. I just wish it would remain on the social level and not escalate into legislation. That is when I start getting visions of brainwashed masses living in a fabricated reality.

Ioa Aqualine Petra'ka

what if.... (2.83 / 12) (#3)
by transiit on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:43:12 PM EST

what if this isn't really a widespread problem, but your anecdotal stories are really nothing more than just a sign that you have to live under bad management at your company? Consider some of the complaints we've heard as well "I had to take my knives home", "They don't like it when I wear a lot of eye makeup.", "My trenchcoat has been my trademark since 8th grade". Who the hell cares? It's work. There's no protected guarantee of being able to dress however you want. You don't like their policies -- go somewhere else. Traditionally, the people who get to dress weird are the ones with a great abundance of skill...and whether or not you fit that criteria, it's pretty darn tough to convey that impression on people when you're sitting around bitching and moaning about what you get to wear. So what if your employer wants a certain mode of dress at the workplace....it's not like they make you wear dockers on your offtime or anything. If dressing like the average high school marilyn manson fan is what makes you happy, then so be it. (caveat: yes. People dressed like this long before the current crop of teenage goth. Maybe then, it was still something of a statement. Either way, it was appropriated by a new group, and it's really not specific to us anymore. Crap, there are chainstores that sell gothwear at the mall now. Maybe it's time to move on if you really want to be original) As for traffic monitoring on your computer, hey...assume it's being done anyway. Afraid they'll catch you reading k5 instead of working? Who pays for that computer, anyway?

Anyway, give it a rest. Civilised life likes to have different rules for different situations. As long as you're on their turf, play nice. If you don't like it, you can always leave. Geek profiling, in my opinion, has never existed. There's "antisocial hipster miscreant" profiling going on....but face it, geek culture itself is a sham, at least in the form it's always reported. I'm more or less a geek, and I haven't really seen myself in any of the recent geek culture pieces lately. I don't do drugs, I don't have multiple sexual partners, I don't practice the occult or mysticism, and I'm not a huge anime fan. Sounds more like the luser Digerati squad to me anyway (look up mdxi's posts. it's summed up pretty well there)


Re: what if.... (3.42 / 7) (#5)
by RadiantMatrix on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 11:12:57 PM EST

Note that I never said "Geek Profiling", and that these anecdotes are not from my company, but from others. What bothers me is the whole idea of "profiling".

I agree with your thought that there need to be standards in certain environments -- the point is it should be the same standard for the same job within an organization. "He's odd, he must be dangerous" - whether 'dangerous' means potentially violent or just potentially offensive - is no reason to single someone out.

If the company policy said "you may not wear blue jeans to work", as it does where I work, I'd have no problem with it -- but to prevent one person from wearing them with no clear reason is just plain wrong. And that's just one example.

As for traffic monitoring, again - if everyone's traffic is being monitored (for abuses of bandwidth, not for 'threatening' behavior), it could be quite alright - but to single someone out because they seem odd, so they must be up to something, is unfortunate at the very least.

Oh, and as a side note: I bought my own computer, I had to. The only thing the company pays for is the bandwidth to my home office. But that's aside the point, since this article isn't about me.

Do try and read carefully next time! :)
I'm not going out with a "meh". I plan to live, dammit. [ZorbaTHut]

[ Parent ]

Re: what if.... (3.66 / 6) (#8)
by transiit on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 01:18:37 AM EST

It wasn't directed at you...just a convention of mine to say "you" instead of "one" (i.e., "One who wears rodents on one's head deserves an olfactory-unpleasant hairstyle" just doesn't really fit my tone. If I'm pointing my finger at anyone, I'll make sure to mention them by name)
Anyhow, I think my point before I went off on my tangent was that I see little point to these anti-weird horror stories. I'll avoid the trap of "well, I don't see it happening, so obviously it isn't", but what's being described doesn't really sound like it's that much of a threat.

First, the whole thing would gain a great deal of credibility if the subject of said tale was more specifically identified than just "A friend from another company". Perhaps said friend is worried about losing his position, so anonymity is fine...but at this level of detail, there's very little I can observe of the matter. What sort of company are we talking about? You mention "various marketing, web design, and software firms"...but even more detail than that would be helpful. There's a big difference between IBM and Id, and I'd wager a guess that an artist-run web design house would be a lot less worried than one that's mostly suits. Everything that I see from the marketing front tells me that they are either idiots, or assume that I am...so forget them. What part of the country? (Something tells me the Midwest would tend to be more paranoid than California. Broad generalization, though) What country for that matter? (Armenia?)

Second, if post-Columbine-trauma is indeed their motivation, they're idiots and probably not worth working for. Is the difference between school and work great enough that they need not worry about similar incidents? Couldn't tell you...we've seen maniacs take out their violent impulses in all sections of life. Have any of these companies actually come out and said "In the wake of Columbine, we're instituting these specifically targeted rules to keep you freaks in line" Other than one arse in management specifically saying to put restrictions on certain people, are we actually seeing these being instituted as official policy? (note: offices are always full of stupid politics. people fighting over staplers and keeping their own private stashes of paperclips. I've worked under people that became management only because they'd been there a long time...and kept their own weird agendas)

Third, alright...this article isn't specifically about you, radiantmatrix, but it follows exactly in line with your previous article...which was about you.

So if we set all that aside for a moment, let's get back to your original question: What to do about this? Well, in the US, at least, there are laws dealing with discrimination and the creation of a hostile workplace. Of course, they could make similar arguments about your decorative daggers...why are you even bothering to bring those to work, anyway? If you aren't comfortable with the laws, try exploiting all that bureaucracy that we're always facing...unless we're already at the top of the company, they've got a boss. If you're being asked to monitor somebody for reasons other than legitimate, pull them aside and let them know. If you want to take a more active role, start monitoring everyone in management.

The easist way to fight idiocy is to refuse to participate. If it means finding another job, you'll have to decide if you're willing to go that far. There's no reason why we need to willingly accept a big steaming pile of crap.


[ Parent ]
Poor managerial training... (3.25 / 4) (#6)
by Speare on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 12:05:47 AM EST

Many small companies (and a few big ones) are notoriously poor about training their managers to be effective leaders.

One maxim that is telling:

A first-rate executives hire first-rate managers. Second-rate executives hire third-rate managers.

If your human resources department doesn't make attempts to require 'sensitivity training' throughout the organization (or if you don't have an h.r. department, or if it's one secretary who xeroxes the W-2 forms), then this kind of uneven management creeps in. I nickname H.R. the "paper tiger;" it's both an annoyance and a necessity.

The other maxim that sums this up perfectly:

It's implicitly condoned if it's not explicitly prohibited.

Remind you of the various "police brutality" vs "code of silence" cases in recent weeks, months, years?
[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]

a clarification (4.61 / 13) (#7)
by blaine on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 12:09:23 AM EST

I want to clarify what the original author is saying here, because apparently some people don't get it.

The reason this is disturbing is NOT because an employer is enforcing a dress code, or enforcing a policy of metering internet usage. What is disturbing is that they are actually going against their own policies and giving stricter rules to people who they feel are "different".

It is one thing to say "nobody can wear jeans to work". It is an entirely different thing to say "everyone can wear jeans to work, excepting Bob because he has long hair and he doesn't fit into my view of 'normal'".

That is called discrimination, and it is abhorrent.

[ and for those who care: my appearance is probably the definition of 'business casual', complete with short, neat haircut. so this would hardly affect me. regardless of this, it is still wrong ]

Re: a clarification (2.50 / 4) (#9)
by Potsy on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 01:40:34 AM EST

That is called discrimination, and it is abhorrent.

I agree with you, and I'm surprised the fellow mentioned in the article (the guy who thought he got a promotion at first) hasn't filed a lawsuit. Maybe he's planning to do so after he quits...

[ Parent ]

The good job market can help (3.00 / 6) (#10)
by Potsy on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 02:25:19 AM EST

These restrictions have not been placed on anyone else. He is leaving next week...

Fortunately, at the moment, the job market is good enough that the person you mentioned is able to do leave for another job. I say, good for him. After they lose a few people over this sort of thing, and it starts to affect their bottom line, they will no doubt, take another look at their policies.

What worries me is what happens when the business cycle inevitably kicks in and there is a downturn? If the job market is no longer as good, and people can't change jobs quite so easily, quitting and going to a different company every time this happens will no longer be an option, or at least not as readily available an option. What then? How can people respond in those cases?

Well, I think the answer just might be that time honored, all-American problem solver -- the lawsuit.

Suing companies for discrimination whenever they implement policies like this will definitely get their attention. And if you think about it, fear of lawsuits is probably why they are doing it in the first place. After all, if somebody goes postal and shoots up the office, it will reduce their liability if they can point to some brain-dead profiling policy and say "at least we tried to prevent it".

The key is to show them that the risk of getting sued for discrimination is greater than the risk of getting sued for not "doing something" about potential violence. For that reason, every time they profile and single out employees, they need to be sued. That's the only sure-fire way to stop this.

lawsuits (3.00 / 3) (#11)
by www.sorehands.com on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 10:08:20 AM EST

A lawsuit won't solve many of these types of problems.

The law protects on discrimination based on a protected class (race, sex, disability, age). The law also will enfore the terms of a contract.

The courts (despite what many defense firms and insurance companies claim) do not sit as a super human resources department.

Mattel, SLAPP terrorists intent on destroying free speech.
[ Parent ]

Group Conformance... (3.25 / 4) (#12)
by ScottBrady on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 10:50:06 AM EST

The "gay men of IBM" come to mind when I read this story. A strict dress code, among other rules, were used to enforce a feeling of unity (or, more sinisterly, to enforce group conformance).

Any way you look at it, there is certainly a different set of rules that you must abide by when you are at your place of work. In today's society you need to be looking over your back to protect yourself from back stabbers and also from speaking (acting) out the ass. "Hey hot mama, let's go in the coffee room and 'fill 'er up'!" Not a good idea. Say something like that in the modern workplace and your ass is going to be seeing the hard wood bench of a court room.

Now, with that said, I do think there are instances were mainstream management (you aren't going to see this as much in a .com) lets the past days, weeks, years events seep into his or her mind and poison his or her good judgment. "Computer geeks with black cloths kill a dozen people, news a 10!" Suddenly every computer user, geek, or black colored clothing clad person is a potential killer. It's called profiling. Every one of us does it to some extent. The US has a terrible history of doing it to Africans, Native Americans, Asians, Drug users and now Geeks.

Human beings take one bad incident and attempt to analyze it. They attempt to find some cause or pattern that can be used to answer why it happened and how it can be stopped from happening again. That kind of thinking leads police to pull over black automobile drivers because "they are drug dealers." It furthers the image that all Native Americans are "drunk gamblers." That all Asians are "spies." That all geeks are "killers."

Until the day that the collective IQ of the US goes up 1000% we will still see over generalized profiles being made by individuals, bosses and law enforcement.

Scott Brady
"We didn't lie to you... the truth just changed."

Re: Group Conformance... (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by vmarks on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 05:25:16 PM EST

Today was "if you want, wear a hawaiian shirt day" at IBM where I work. Oh, and I took a 30 minute break to play on the dreamcast in the lounge, where we have the pop machines set to 'free.'

Okay, dreamcast. It was a management decision, what can I say?

[ Parent ]
Re: Group Conformance... (2.00 / 1) (#22)
by ryan on Tue Oct 10, 2000 at 08:11:36 AM EST

How is it that your company has specific days for specific shirts. If a hawaiian shirt is ok today, then why not tomorrow? BTW, our soda machine is even better than free. If you hit it just right you can get the last guy's money.


[ Parent ]

hawaiin shirts everyday (none / 0) (#23)
by vmarks on Thu Nov 09, 2000 at 02:22:15 PM EST

Friday is the "if you want to, it's hawaiin shirt day"

I have taken to wearing one everyday now, and no one seems to care. not my first or second line manager. so, then, it must be okay. (or at least, it's okay until my performance review!) :P

[ Parent ]
A different way to look at it... (3.00 / 1) (#14)
by aragorn on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 02:00:58 PM EST

I agree that profiling people and singling them out sucks. But this can be looked at from a slightly different angle. Companies are run by people. People are not fair. People are seldom required to be fair. Fortunately, in the US we are still allowed to use our own (sometimes poor) judgement in our day-to-day affairs. You can describe it as "profiling" and being "singled out" and those are proper terms. But what it really comes down to is your boss being a jerk. Last I checked, this was still pretty much legal as long as you're a white male.

If you've got a jerk for a boss, you can do one of two things. You can either leave or stay. Which you choose usually depends on how much money you're getting payed. Often one can be compensated for dealing with jerks and/or fools (look at level 1 tech support....)

Rant warning: Pick your battles. (4.50 / 10) (#15)
by iGrrrl on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 02:36:49 PM EST

Hmmm. My perspective on this comes from two sources. First source comes from having been a pre-Goth glamour punk in the 80's while writing instructional software for a military project. Second, I'm of the subgroup that generally has to "do it twice as well to be considered half as good," but have spent my professional life generally in male-oriented arenas. The last is subtext -- this is not a feminist manifesto. For the record, I don't think that specific rules for specific people are necessarily fair.

When I worked on JSEP (PLATO-based system for the Army) I had multiple hair colors, spiked wrist bands, sleepless eye make up, and a very bad attitude. I also did my job. When the brass showed up for a tour of our university-based programming (such as it was) shop, I was one of the few warned in advance and asked to take off for a smoke. I would have left the job if my appearance had become an issue, but then, they wouldn't have hired me if it were.

As translit said: "Civilised life likes to have different rules for different situations."

In my last job before going back to grad school (head technician, cancer biology research lab), I made sure to look very normal. We're talking Lands' End. My work involved dealing with people outside the lab, and in order for those interactions to run smoothly and efficiently, I had to play the nice girl. Inside, I was still the mohawked glam-punk. But I knew this was all part of the job. I could not simply produce work in that position; I had to participate in primate politics games.

Which brings me to the real rant here, now that I've established my alternageek credentials (did I mention the Linux fish on the back of my truck?). I've been on the periphery of hacker culture from back when most of the programmers I knew could juggle. (What else did one do during 3-7 minute compiler times?) One thing serious computer people rarely learn is how to hack culture and interpersonal interactions.

I have a lot of respect for people who can maintain their lives / appearance / etc. exactly along their chosen model. However, most of the people I know who do that successfully have picked their battles and made their choices. They have not asked the world to conform to them.

Now I'm in grad school and can pretty much look the way I want, given the options when broke. Because I was broke I've looked pretty normal if slightly out of fashion. However, when my battered khaki mac needed replacing, I went out on the anniversary of the Columbine massacre and bought a black trench coat.

I bought a black trench coat for reasons of a longer rant (where were those boys' parents?!), but I told people why. My reasons were deeply grounded in my emotional response to Voices from the Hellmouth (which I know has been chewed over ad nauseum ). It gave me a way to talk about profiling with people who already knew me, but knew the wearing-out Lands' End clothes me. They had no clue about the punk inside.

I chose to talk about what is under my surface precisely to throw an interrupt into most people's opinion of me and what they thought they knew. In other words, it's my small attempt to hack their wetware. Like any good virus, though, I haven't hit head on. Instead I learned how to look like them, let them get comfortable with that, and then unveiled a stripe or two.

Summary: If you want to look however you want and decorate your workspace to your own tastes, then start your own company or telecommute. Working with other primates involves primate politics. If you don't learn to play, you'll get dumped to the bottom of the troop hierarchy. Expanding your hacking horizons does not necessarily mean capitulation.

You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.

I have one thing to say (4.00 / 2) (#16)
by vmarks on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 05:20:58 PM EST

I have only one comment I can add, without repeating everyone else:

Everyone is someone else's Eichmann.
You typically can choose to either have standard rules that apply to all and crush an individual for whom an exception must be made, or have flexible rules that allow exceptions to be made for everyone on a case by case basis.

Either method allows for abuses, as shown by the man made to cut his hair, cover his tattoo, and give up his jeans for slacks. He looked at it positively, more responsibility, maybe seeing customers. His employers went the abuse route. Am I surprised? no. Each person must be on their guard to not trample another unintentionally. Does this happen? no. It's far easier to persecute than open a dialog.

Dialogs are important. They're a method of communication where all parties have equal importance. see www.cluetrain.com

Free Will (2.66 / 3) (#18)
by bakednotfried on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 09:31:46 PM EST

I guess I have two comments here; we all have free choice, and businesses who treat their employess with disrespect will lose their best employees.

I'm one of those folks who think quality of life is far more important than the size of my paycheck. I could probably double my paycheck (atleast) if I were willing to move to California or a big city. I choose to live where I do, because it is such a cool town. Dressing up means shoes instead of sandles, jeans instead of shorts and leave the tie-dye at home. I also choose to work for someone who doesn't care what I wear to work and allows me the freedoms I would allow others. These choices necessarily come with consequences.

The consequence of choosing the corporate world is putting up with pointy haired bosses and seemingly ridiculous (and often unfair) practices. (This is not to say that all corporations suck).

The other side of this coin though is the power we as good and hard working employees have. If management makes more ridiculous decisions than sound ones, we can choose to leave. (and I'm not suggesting that y'all move to a small town like me, just to another (cool) company). The more bad choices companies make, the more cool employees they lose. Conversely, the good companies retain cool employees. Survival of the fittest I say.

Interestingly enough, there was a question of racial profiling during the Vice-Presidential debate last night. Of course, both candidates were against racial profiling. I wonder how they feel about bosses who spy on employees with long hair because they are 'odd'?

As an aside, I've run the gamut of hair length in my life from long like a rock star to short like a marine (although not a flat top :) and clean shaven to having a very thick,long,full beard. I've always liked to use my appearance as a way to cut through the BS of society. If someone is offended (or concerned) by my looks, to hell with them. I probably don't want their friendship anyway.

I think what happened to your friend sucks, I'm glad he finally decided to leave.

-- once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right
(3.25 / 4) (#19)
by James Mulholland on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 08:49:55 AM EST

But what it really comes down to is your boss being a jerk. Last I checked, this was still pretty much legal as long as you're a white male.

I don't think this helps. I'm not saying some of them aren't jerks, but I don't think that goes together with gender or race (and there's no indication it does in this case). One of the worst managers I had was (coincidentally) female: I still remember her rebuking me for wearing a pullover to work because it "wasn't professional". She was wearing a red pullover with large black spots on it...

...fear of lawsuits is probably why they are doing it in the first place. After all, if somebody goes postal and shoots up the office, it will reduce their liability if they can point to some brain-dead profiling policy and say "at least we tried to prevent it".

And massively increase their liability if someone can demonstrate that this sort of unfair and ill-considered policy pushed an unstable person over the edge. There comes a point at which you have to accept that some problems (especially inter-personal ones) don't have a solution. I live in the UK, where most guns and knives are illegal, but there are still shootings and stabbings (although at a far lower rate than in the US).

These restrictions have not been placed on anyone else. He is leaving next week...

In the UK, this is "constructive dismissal" and puts the company concerned in front of an industrial tribunal and a hefty fine. Constructive dismissal means "we didn't like this guy, but found no legitimate reasons to fire him, so we treated him so unfairly he had to leave". Maybe there is similar legislation where you are?

I think this whole thing is indicative of a deeper, perhaps more subtle problem: managers and companies need geeks, and their ability with the technology, if they are to succeed. But they don't want all the baggage that comes with them. They don't want the strong opinions, the non-conformity, the tendency to mischief and lack of respect for authority. They just want the skills. Problem is, how to get them and make the geeks wear suits, deodorant, a clean haircut, etc. One of the best things about where I work now is seeing a geek in a Metallica T-shirt, with long black hair and dirty jeans, talking to a "suit". That's the sort of tolerance we should have for each other.

Meet them halfway (3.75 / 4) (#21)
by iGrrrl on Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 10:40:58 AM EST

Mr. Mullholland likes the image of the geek in the Metallica shirt talking with the suit. I like it, too. As was recently said to a friend of mine with long silver hair and a penchant for loud shirts, "You don't look like an Assistant Vice President for [international financial firm]." But he's a unix guru/wizard, and as Mr. Mulholland said, they need him.

However, my friend has met them half way. He has the strong oinions, the non-conformity, the tendency to mischief and lack of respect for authority common to many geek types. He also has a clue as to how people tick, and he picks his battles. They don't make him wear suits -- they can't -- but he doesn't take the "sod you, pal" attitude with managers who are not as technically proficient as he is.

My point? The respect has to be mutual. If you want them to base their interactions with you on your skill and professionalism, then exhibit some professionalism. That does not mean you have to put the black trench coat in moth balls.

Professional behavior is not just a matter of skill in technical production. It includes treating colleagues with courtesy, even when you don't respect them. You don't want to be profiled? Don't behave according to the profile.

Heck, when I had blue hair I was much more likely to hold doors for little old ladies and smile politely. Blew a hole in their expectations quite efficiently.

You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

Profiling -- Reverse It! (4.00 / 6) (#20)
by meme_engineer on Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 05:02:19 AM EST

I've always thought the best defense against this sort of offensive stereotyping (for that's what it is), is an aggressive offense. If you think you're being "profiled" in this manner, take to work pictures of nattily attired, clean-shaved, jut-jawed Nazis from 1930's/1940's Germany, and ask pointedly if it's preferable to look like a horrific mass murderer. By all means look sharply at the clean-shaven, natty appearance of the hypocrite to whom you're giving the hairy eyeball, and make remarks to the effect that "business-like" activities have nothing to do with Nazi-like attire. As a bonus, bring a picture of Albert Einstein in rumpled casual attire, and ask if he was an unproductive bum.

Just keep hammering on this and asking whether a lawsuit is preferable to leaving you alone to do your job. Sure, this will piss off the hypocrites up on high, but if they think so little of you that they'd pull this crap, it's time to look for another, better job anyway.

Profiling and Selective Rulemaking... Coming Soon to a Workplace Near You | 23 comments (23 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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