Friday, September 21, 2007

A moment or two to consider

Living in Wales, as I do, this article was on the local news last night. It gave me pause for thought then, and again this morning when it made the Today programme.

Three council workers have lost their jobs for spending too long on the internet auction site eBay.

So far, so what? People lose their jobs all the time for misusing the internet at work. Well, that's not what got me riled. It was a later quote, on the news and here in the article:

Union officials have blamed bosses for "putting temptation in their way" - by allowing access to the internet.

Eh? How does that work then?

Perhaps this should be taken further. Thieves cannot possibly be blamed for stealing your car, your telly or your wallet. It's obviously your fault for having these things in the first place. If I wake up in the morning and it's pissy wet outside, I can't be to blame for deciding not to go to work. That's the fault of the mattress, bedframe, duvet and linen manufacturers for making my bed so comfy and warm. I certainly shouldn't be sacked for not turning up.

And what about if I get plastered and drive my car into a bus stop full of children? Surely Alfa Romeo and Greene King are to blame, for they supplied the tools of my carnage. Pretty much every one of my actions can be easily blamed on someone else - my parents, for a start.

This is the kind of woolly thinking that has annoyed me for ages, the sort of thing I was told Unions got up to in the bad old days of general strikes and the Winter of Discontent. Anything at all going wrong with a company could, and should, be laid squarely at the feet of management. Not the workers whose day to day efficiency, proficiency and attention to detail generally determined whether or not management strategy would succeed. I'm not saying that there haven't been many, many examples of management ineptitude on a grand scale, nor that all Unions are bolshy troublemakers intent on perpetuating inefficient working practices. But with stories like this bandied about you can see where that image comes from and how it is sustained.

If you look a bit deeper, however, and find the actual quote from the union rep, it goes something like this.

"Obviously we cannot justify people spending a couple of hours of working time looking at these sites - but temptation was put in their way,"

Now, that's somewhat different. At least in my reading of it. Sure, it's still a pretty pathetic defence of someone's behaviour - 'they were tempted, they're only human' - but it's a good deal short of 'blaming' the management.

So now I'm faced with two things to rant about. The first being the continuing erosion of the concept of personal responsibility and the second being a lack of journalistic accuracy leading to an otherwise unwarranted rant.

Does that make this a nested rant, or a recursive one?

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