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Vying for survival

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in Office Politics,Workplace Communication,Workplace Conflict

Sally, a technician for a manufacturer of scientific equipment in Texas, explains how a team-oriented workplace has turned cutthroat in recent months.

I’ve worked here five years and we’ve always collaborated well. Until lately, that is.

My colleagues and I used to help solve each other’s problems. We are engineers and scientists so we’re used to thinking in teams to work through issues and find solutions.

But with the economy going south, our culture has changed. We’re so scared of losing our jobs that we seem to be retreating into our shells like turtles. No one is willing to stick his (or her) neck out and say, “Hey, I’m stuck. Help me here.”

It gets worse. The other day, we got a call from a customer because one of our measuring tools wasn’t functioning properly. Normally, the project team for that product would meet and jointly figure out what to do.

But within hours of the call, a few of my co-workers separately sent e-mails to our president claiming they weren’t to blame for the defect in the product. They defended their role and subtly pointed the finger at me for what they seemed to imply was my shoddy workmanship.

I know all this because the president called me into his office. I was stunned. For years, I’ve grown to trust my peers and confided in them. Now I see that they’re more concerned with covering their you-know-what rather than figuring out how to fix what’s broken to satisfy an unhappy customer.

While the president understood my concern and didn’t blame me, I’m not sure how to proceed. We all want to survive this recession. But the price—losing our team culture—seems so high.

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