I absolutely love observing the unravelling Wikileaks saga.
I love the runny egg on the face of so many US government officials and the furious backpedalling that is taking place in trying to smooth very ruffled and indignant feathers of local government officials in various jurisdictions across the world including Kenya.
I love the fact that everyone is bristling at who said what about whom, conveniently forgetting what they themselves may have said about the very people they are complaining about.
Suddenly it is fashionable to stand up to the Americans in self righteous indignation and posture sanctimonious horror at having been talked about in such negative and sometimes outright derogatory light.
My all time favourite is the cable from Russia that cited the Russian President Medvedev as playing Robin to Prime Minister Putin’s Batman in reference to who really pulled the strings in the Russian government.
It is a witty analogy, demonstrating the diplomat’s literal skills in juxtaposing popular comic characters to a very real power imbalance in Russia.
It gets one thinking about what would happen if some of the internal communications within our own organisations were leaked out.
What would the reaction be for instance, if employees could see what their bosses actually thought about them when submit their appraisals?
I fished out some of the top ten appraisal statements written by supervisors about their direct reports and they go something like this:
TEN: Since my last report, he has reached rock bottom and has started to dig.
NINE: His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of morbid curiosity.
EIGHT: I would not allow this employee to breed.
SEVEN: Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap.
SIX: When she opens her mouth, it seems that this is only to change whichever foot was previously in there.
FIVE: He would be out of his depth in a puddle.
FOUR: This young lady has delusions of adequacy.
THREE: She sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.
TWO: This employee will go far â€” and the sooner he starts the better. And the absolute top number
ONE statement is: This employee is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.
I would gravely err if I said that no one has ever said or written anything negative about their colleagues, after all it is only natural to constructively discuss our subordinates or our bosses within the work context, right?
Wrong! Let us call a spade a spade, many workplace discussions about colleagues be they our seniors, juniors or peers may start off as constructive observations but more often than not will spiral into real or imagined shortcomings about the subject matter with negative statements interspersed throughout such discussion.
We can’t help ourselves, we’re human after all. We thrive in other people’s pain, humiliation and absolute reduction to levels equal to or beneath ourselves.
So being accidentally copied into an email that was meant for the eyes only of the human resources manager which might give the circumstances under which a colleague should be placed under disciplinary action for gross misconduct might be entertaining at best but quite dangerous if it falls in the wrong hands.
Last week I received an email from the customer service officer of the credit card department of an institution where I bank.
The email whose subject matter related to a disciplinary matter for a staff member was addressed to the legal team and copied to a number of people of whom I was one, albeit mistakenly.
The only reason I was erroneously copied was that I had previously complained to the customer service team, they had my address on record and my name was similar to an intended recipient.
While there was nothing remotely earth shattering about the disciplinary matter, I did at least get to know the name of the individual, their alleged misconduct and the progress of the case thus far.
If I were so inclined, I could have forwarded the email to any number of people with a certain amount of salacious glee to inform them that the individual in question was facing disciplinary issues in the process causing the individual great embarrassment and pain.
But I wasn’t interested in pandering gloomy news about an individual’s misfortunes and instead I replied to all concerned alerting them that the email had mistakenly been addressed to an external party and, though titillating as it was, it was a dangerous oversight especially since the subject matter could potentially sue for defamation.