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Micro-politics of Cell Phones

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Lead from the Start: Micro-politics of Cell Phones

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Micro-politics of Cell Phones

Having moved from the classroom to an office I have been re-exposed to the intricacies of coworker micro-politics. I gained a pretty thorough understanding of micro-politics in my young adult life working for a grocery store. My father also worked for the company so I was in a unique position because employees would confess to me things and ask me not to tell my father. This type of information manipulation caused me to understand what was open information and what was sub-information. I because fairly adept at understanding when I was hearing information for my benefit and when I was hearing "gossip" meant to secure my allegiance.

Working in a school, the school day was so structured that the information exchanges were also fairly structured. I became adept at "not" overtly describing people and places so as not to be considered a gossip even though that was exactly what I was doing. This type of gossip is likely not exclusive to education but I think it holds a unique place in the school culture. I just finished reading a study of this type of gossip titled: Gossip at Work: Unsanctioned Evaluative Talk in Formal School Meetings. Gossip holds a special place in the hearts of teachers because "we" have always been the least powerful stakeholders in education besides students (another gossipy group). Gossip to me seems to be primarily concerned with power. When individuals feel dis-empowered they gossip to gain feelings of power and solidarity against an "oppressor". This can be the boss, parents, or other teachers.

This week I also learned that it happens outside the school too. One of my coworkers has been engaged in a power struggle with our supervisor for a long time. During a recent meeting she came 45 minutes late and then answered a phone call after she had been there for 10 minutes. She went in the hall to talk. Then, 8 minutes later, while the supervisor was talking, she answered her phone again. This time, instead of going in the hall, she started talking in the meeting. When she was ignored she finally hung up with a loud, "OK. OK, then. Talk to you soon!" Her voice rising so loud she was almost shouting.
This is when the politics came in. My supervisor did not address the interruption. I don't know the back story but I know that her decision was likely made as the most strategic decision. I thought to my self I would definitely have addressed the interruption. It seemed to me that by not acknowledging the power struggle she actually gave it more power than if she had.
What do you think? What would you do?

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5 Comments:

At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beth here:
This was an interesting one. It is difficult to say what you would do, if you don't know the back story. I think I would have stopped talking and sat down until she finished. When she finished, I would have apologized to the group for having to take extra time given the interruption. This would have ended the struggle for power, and let her know that it was inappropriate. In terms of her being late, I would have asked her to stay after. I would ask her why she was late. If it was legitimate, I would have asked her to call and let us know in the future if she is going to be late. If she had no excuse, I would have given her a verbal warning.

 
At 5:26 AM, Blogger Ginny said...

Cell phones - the bane of my existence some days and other days my connection to the world. In your situation, I would have addressed the "no use of cell phones" during ANY meeting prior to this incident. That needs to be set in place with the entire group so you have buy in and adherence. If this had been in place, the supervisor would have some grounds for addressing the issue during the meeting. As for the tardiness and what appears to be blatant insubordination (at the least disrespect) I would address it outside the confines of the meeting. These conversations do not need a public forum for airing. Just my two cents...

 
At 11:38 AM, Blogger Wendi said...

It seems like it would be a good time for your supervisor to establish (or at least address!) professional norms. Why some adults don't think it's important to be courteous in a meeting even to someone you may not always agree with is beyond me. I completely agree with you...this person now has more power than the supervisor, and I wouldn't be surprised if attendees at the next meeting begin to take personal phone calls.

 
At 5:12 AM, Blogger standard said...

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At 10:25 PM, Blogger Helen said...

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