“Vigilantes at work: examining the frequency of Dark Knight employees"
May 6, 2017 1:29 PM   Subscribe

They are the Dark Knights of the office: lone vigilantes who police the workplace, ever watchful for heinous crimes that cannot go unpunished. Woe to those who step out of line and return from break two minutes late, leave food in the office fridge too long and fail to refill the photocopier...Researchers [Katy DeCelles and Karl Aquino] in Canada asked 2,000 people in the US if they had come across workplace vigilantes, meaning those who took it upon themselves to dob in their colleagues for breaches of company policy, or what they deemed to be egregious moral violations. 58% had, and on average, respondents recalled four work colleagues over the course of their career who fitted the description. (From The Guardian, via). You can read the original paper here.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl (22 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
It strikes me that at a time that we feel out of control and taken advantage of on a grander scale (how many of us can truly say that we're being paid what we're worth or that we feel our workplaces genuinely appreciate our work), that this is a move that some would take to try to Fix Things. You know - "My boss isn't taking me seriously and that yutz in accounting is being paid better than I am, and I can't do anything about that, but dammit, I can do something about that jerk that keeps stealing lunches."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:11 PM on May 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Years ago when I worked in a large British department store that shall go unnamed, someone working on the tills tried to write a song. I know this because someone else working on tills later that day found the song, written on receipt printer paper, and handed it in to our manager because You're Not Supposed To Write Songs At Work.

Three managers then launched an investigation to find the perpetrator. This went on for days and included asking people for handwriting samples. It was the talk of the floor for a good while (although they never did find the dastardly song-writer).

I don't miss that job at all, but I still wish I'd got to hear that song.
posted by Catseye at 4:11 PM on May 6, 2017 [36 favorites]

(Catseye: In my fevered imagination that song was trying very hard to be sung, and that department store was a front for something much darker, and there was a reason they could not be found ...)
posted by nickzoic at 4:44 PM on May 6, 2017 [15 favorites]

People like this should be set upon in dark alleys, have a hood dropped over their heads, and beaten with sticks.


I''ll bet they're all conservative Republicans gotta-get-all-up-in-your-bizzness.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:57 PM on May 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

"You're Not Supposed To Write Songs At Work."

In high school I worked retail and one day at the register (nobody checking out) I had a flash of inspiration for an essay I had to write that night for homework, and scribbled it on a post-it or notepad or whatever was right at the register with me. I got reprimanded for using company paper for personal thinking.

I have mostly worked at places that are well-run (so someone's in charge of supplies and keeping the fridge clean and compensated accordingly) and/or a little laid back on the margins, and treated employees like adults ("Hey, we know people just wander off with pens all the time and we don't begrudge you, but the non-repro blue ones run us $X/year, so try to return those if you find them in your pocket and take a ballpoint instead." and then people would come divest their purses of 15 non-repro blue pens.). But I did work one place where the admin assistant detailed and priced out every supply you used (medium sized binder clips were 19 cents!) and complained if she thought you were using too many. This was a government org with no coffee budget so everyone who wanted coffee paid in $20 or something at the beginning of each "coffee cycle" and that bought coffee and cups. The admin assistant was ON MY ASS for months about my failure to pay into the coffee fund (although I told her I wasn't drinking it) and complained so many times to the manager I finally got called in to talk about the coffee fund. The manager rolled her eyes, sighed, and said, "So I know you're not on-site very often, but you are supposed to pay into the coffee fund if you drink the coffee even if you're not here very much." I was like, "Cool story, bro, but I don't drink coffee." "Ever?" "Ever." "Not even frappucinos?" "Ew, no. But if you want to start a Diet Coke cooperative fund I will pay into that bigtime."

The admin assistant STAKED ME OUT every time I was in the office after that trying to catch me drinking coffee because she just couldn't believe in a human who didn't drink coffee and was utterly convinced I was trying to cheat my way out of the $20 coffee contribution. When she didn't catch me, she started denying me binder clips for spite. I'm totally positive she was trying to get to $20 worth of denied 19-cent binder clips.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:01 PM on May 6, 2017 [63 favorites]

My first full-time job was as a security guard at a manufacturing facility in the Virginia suburbs of DC. Hours were 3 pm till 7 am and they kept putting me on 9 days in a row and I started scavenging because I didn't have time to make food or do personal hygiene or sleep. Vending sucked. Half the time you'd put your quarter in and the cup would come out sideways.

Everyone would sign out between five and six and then I had to make sure nobody was there and turn the key in the Detex clock to prove I'd made my rounds.

First I started using the shower in one of the executive offices. Then I found a big bag of pot in a desk. Then I looked through refrigerators and ate things. Can of Pâté. Mmm.

Next Monday morning there was a memo directing me to search outbound employees "for personal food items that might be stolen." This held up people getting home to their families and I felt bad so I quit and got a job at a gas station.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:49 PM on May 6, 2017 [16 favorites]

People who are devoted to rules and processes and procedures, isolated from their value for the company, are worse than slackers who don't do any work.
posted by NeoRothbardian at 6:08 PM on May 6, 2017 [9 favorites]

You know, C.S., the only omnipotent moral busybody, by definition, is god (or a god). You're not wrong, though.
posted by maxwelton at 6:16 PM on May 6, 2017

The worst are the vigilantes who are all over other people's perceived "infractions", but ignore their own - like the lady who was all - "You're not at your desk until 7:35 instead of 7:30!!!!!" but went shopping for 45 minutes during our 30 minute lunch or worse - would take her lunch AND THEN go shopping for 45 minutes on her 15 minute break.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 6:30 PM on May 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

I worked with one of these during my brief stint as a gas station cashier one collegiate summer, and I've always referred to him as "the Dwight Schrutiest motherfucker I've ever met". I eventually quit that job the day after a closing shift when I dropped too much money in the safe, leaving the drawer a few dollars short. He opened the next morning, and when the drawer didn't come up to $200 exactly due to my mistake, his response was to call me (I have no idea where he got my number) at 6 AM, when I'd been asleep about three hours, and scream at me for several minutes that I was a thief who was going to jail.

I didn't sleep a wink the rest of the day, and once I got to work told the actual manager that school was starting again soon and not only was the phone call vastly inappropriate in every way but also I couldn't be awakened at random times at the whim of a coworker when classes were in session. He couldn't even pretend to care, so I told him I was quitting at the end of my shift, which I did. I was furious, but that was no reason to fuck some other random employee over by quitting on the spot.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:40 PM on May 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I want on a leadership course once, with people from other departments from my enormous company - people with whom I didn't work and had never met. There was this one handful of people who turned every single conversation into them being the only ones who did any work in their department. One of them in particular kept complaining about how much work it was to watch everybody all day to make sure they didn't do all the little things described in the article. Somebody asked her is her boss had actually asked her to do that in addition to her own work, and she just got more agitated and said, "If I don't do it, nobody else will!"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:28 PM on May 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Employees are a superstitious cowardly lot. So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the office, black, terrible, a... a...A MEMO!"
posted by dannyboybell at 9:38 PM on May 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Years ago I worked for a tech company that decided it would be "fun" if we all went to see a movie together in the afternoon. This was usually some thin cover for a pep-talk, followed by whatever dreck they thought the kids would be into that year.

I never felt like going, mainly because moving around in large groups makes me feel like a fascist, so I decided once that I wouldn't participate in the forced-cheer ritual. One of my coworkers approached me to ask if I would like to take the subway over to the theater with him.

"Oh, I don't think I'll go", I replied, as mildly as possible.

"You have work to do?" Some inner demon had been activated; I could hear it in his nascent quarrelous tone.

"No", I replied, because I wouldn't lie, "I'll just go home or for a walk instead."

He went quietly and worryingly apoplectic. I feared I had damaged him in some way. Impulses he had not even considered present in him warred on his face. It was a dead heat but he decided to say, "You can't do that!" first and then "I'll report you!", in quick succession.

"Report me?" I enjoyed the idea.

He then turned on his heel and left the building, but not before facing me briefly near the door, pursing his lips, shaking his head, and actually wagging his finger at me. I don't know where he found the energy.

I downloaded the movie years later, watched it, and thoroughly hated it. I'm sure he'd have an opinion on that as well.
posted by tillermo at 12:02 AM on May 7, 2017 [9 favorites]

K is for Kafka, not Keurig
posted by thelonius at 1:24 AM on May 7, 2017

In case any other American was wondering:
dob (slang, chiefly Australia and Britain) To report (a person) to someone in authority for a wrongdoing.
posted by octothorpe at 4:12 AM on May 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

I was wondering whether any of these people do whistle-blowing about anything important. It sounds like probably not.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:03 AM on May 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

However, there is no guarantee that a vigilante’s behavior is both justifiable and appropriate given their lack of formal authority for dispensing punishment.
The enemy of my enemy often writes an interesting paper. But, it's hard to know how to weigh the qualitative summaries written by someone who decided to publish that sentence.
posted by eotvos at 6:48 AM on May 7, 2017

"Okay, you. I saw you come out of the bathroom without washing your hands. You can't go back to work until you wash your hands."

"I'm not going back to work. I'm going to lunch."
posted by mule98J at 9:30 AM on May 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

dob (slang, chiefly Australia and Britain)
It's a top-hole expression but we definitely learnt it from the Aussies, don't you know?
posted by comealongpole at 1:02 PM on May 7, 2017

There are people who find (real or perceived) fault as if there were a prize.
posted by mikelieman at 1:21 PM on May 7, 2017

"You're Not Supposed To Write Songs At Work."

At a restaurant I worked at, when they hooked up the house speaker into the kitchen (country music, bbq restaurant) I managed to come up with about seven or eight songs for a post apocalyptic concept country album. It was going to be awesome.

But yeah, I've worked with office vigilante types. It boggles the mind that people so identify with their employers that do their best to pay them as little as possible that they'll zealously watch out for any infraction.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:50 PM on May 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is such a specific type of shithead. There's something so juvenile about it; it's like someone couldn't grow past a certain tattletale stage.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:51 PM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

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