The cliché of a large, soulless company — a crowded commute to an office of cubicles as far as the eye can see, micromanagement and HR processes with no basis in logic — is a cliche for a reason. And while some of it could be considered annoying but harmless, and none of it new, it’s also pretty clear that a lot of “modern” corporate practices are firmly rooted in a culture of surveillance, control and mistrust.
I’ve been lucky enough to work in quite a mix of environments, and in each place I’ve put up with policies I didn’t like, because they were balanced out by the good things and that’s life. Almost none of them have been deal-breakers. But it’s always been at least a little bit frustrating, not least because no one responsible for them ever wants to talk about them.
Some of the policies I criticise here might seem… very normal. Reasonable, even. My criticism of them might seem a bit entitled. Well, good. Even the most common practises should be questioned and critiqued, perhaps especially the most common ones, and I dare say it’s a lot less entitled to question a practise than impose it without justification.
Every place I’ve worked for has had some policy around taking sick leave, and it usually goes: if you take more than eg. two consecutive days of sick leave, you need a medical certificate from a doctor for any more.
So your worker says they have a cold and you don’t believe them. Firstly, holy macaroni you’re a tool. Secondly, how exactly do you think a medical certificate is going to thwart this evil plan of your employee’s? Do you expect the doctor to do a swab for cold bacteria, send it off to the lab, pace around their office until the results come in, circle the incriminating results and yell AAAAAAAAAHA! before loudly and publicly tearing up the unsigned certificate in the face of your conniving employee?
Here’s how a medical diagnosis really works:
- Patient describes symptoms.
- Doctor agrees those are symptoms of a cold.
- DOCTOR PRESCRIBES GOING HOME TO REST.
I could not tell you the number of times I have dragged myself to the doctor because of this idiocy — worsening my own condition, prolonging my absence from work, spreading disease around for no reason whatsoever. I have yet to hear a single practising doctor actually endorse this idea, or indeed express anything but hatred for a policy that is a total waste of their time and attention and is constantly making them sick too.
An employer insisting on this is effectively refusing to trust their employee, but accepting the word of a doctor who is, themselves, trusting their employee. Which means it has nothing to do with trust, it’s just about petty control. A way to remind the employee that even at home, even when taking time to care for themselves and their colleagues, they are under your watch and your rule and must do meaningless busy work at your discretion. Which is a bit sick, really.