If you think that nobody at your company listens to you, think again.
Based on what I’ve just learned from a Ki Mae Heussner article on abcnews.com, your co-workers are not only listening to you, but they’re also recording you!
That’s right. Apparently, there are more purposes for the audio- and video-recording features on your smartphone than capturing Junior’s first words or your third helping of birthday cake.
Take Jonathan, a Houston-area nurse who was being subjected to “unwanted sexual advances” by his supervisor. Like any good robot, Jonathan went to human resources, where his request to relocate to a somewhat less passionate wing of the hospital was considered, assured, and eventually forgotten completely.
At this point, you or I would probably give up. How many years ago was it that you stopped trying to hide your irresistible physique and sexual charisma under a basket, or inside a cubicle?
Not Nurse Jonathan. Getting out his trusty cellphone, “Jonathan covertly recorded 15 to 20 conversations with hospital administrators discussing his sexual harassment complaint and transfer request, some of which lasted a couple of hours.” The outcome of Jonathan’s story has not yet been written, or recorded, but he has filed a lawsuit and “intends to use those stealth recordings to support his allegations.”
I hope he wins. After all those two-hour recording sessions, he’ll need a fat settlement just to pay his cellphone bill.
It wasn’t noted in the article, but I’ll bet Jonathan will be making his recordings available in Apple’s iTunes store. I’m not saying that listening to a hospital administrator ramble on for hours on end will hit the top of the Billboard charts, but, hey, it’s got to be better than Justin Bieber.
Jonathan’s decision to produce a personal documentary on his twisted management team is not an unusual situation. As the ABC reporter reports, “Joe Bontke, an outreach manager for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Houston, said he estimates that one-third of the people who come to the Houston E.E.O.C. office to file discrimination complaints bring some kind of digital evidence with them, such as audio and video recordings, email messages, text messages and photos.”
The other two-thirds bring Whitman’s Samplers, I imagine, but let’s face it — actually having evidence of the harassment you suffer has got to add another dimension to your claim. On the other hand, if you’re in management, and you’re the one who is chasing a fetching employee around your desk, Bontke recommends that you “assume that whatever is happening is being captured in some recording device … and manage that ultimate risk.”
Not sure whether you are being digitized? Ask your victim whether they would rather be harassed in profile or if a three-quarters view harassment would be more photogenic? And if your victim listens to your slimy proposition and asks you to “do another take,” prepare to appear in court, if not in the multiplex.
As for the poor employee, filming your bad boss might just make a bad day at the office a little better. Pretend your fire-breathing manager is actually an evil alien from another planet who has come to earth to turn the inhabitants into mindless slaves. Shouldn’t be hard to imagine.
Hey, if management is going to give you a hard time, the least they can do is provide popcorn and Milk Duds.
Even if your stealth recording never reaches the big screen, holding digital proof of your claim can accelerate an out-of-court settlement. “You have someone on the phone ranting and raving and making stereotypes and degradations, that’s going to get some attention,” says employment lawyer Katrina Patrick.
But why be stealthy about it? Why not bring in the giant 35-millimeter cameras they used to film “Avatar” and film the whole meltdown in 3-D? Considering the antics of your managers, you might even consider bringing back Smell-O-Vision. Makes a lot of sense when management really stinks.
Finally, one caution for the amateur filmmaker — make sure that your state does not require all parties to consent to a recording. Michigan and Massachusetts do. New York and Texas don’t. Also, some companies have also added language to the employee rule book that prohibits the recording of conversations. Why, it’s almost as if they think they have something to hide.
Bottom line: Stop using your cellphone to play Angry Birds and start using it to play Steven Spielberg. Your boss’s bad behavior could win an Oscar, and you could protect your job.
Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com.