Work To Rule

They start complaining when you take an extra 1/2 hour of lunch. What do you do? If others start watching your clock, watch it for them. Get in at exactly 8:30 and have your coat on by 5:30 on the dot. Do no more than your job description requires. Never volunteer. Turn off your beeper at night. Document your bathroom breaks.


First: read the definition of WorkToRule here - http://archive.ncyoung.com/entry/463

Second: notice that WorkToRule will only work:

If you are a software developer, you're not going to get both of the above to hold true. Therefore, no matter what your opinion is of WorkToRule, it's not going to work if you are producing software for a living.

Conclusion: If you are a software developer and in a situation where WorkToRule seems tempting, start sending out your resume now.


The above is false for Europe since unionization rates in European software houses are the same as in industry in general.


Good description above, except for the "All workers cooperate" statement. It is not needed to have all workers cooperate, all though that would be the ideal. What if you had the best workers? Or 75% of workers, etc., etc.

That's possible perhaps. However, the problem with the software industry is that there are plenty of people to take your place (or that's my impression). If most of the software developers in a company band together and run a work slowdown, this might be the straw that causes the company to switch to outsourcing.


I am reminded of a comment made to me by an eminent barrister - "If you go to court then you've already both lost."


They start complaining when you take an extra 1/2 hour of lunch.

Who is they? Can you not answer to them: Is the company dissatisfied with my work/performance? If not, why does it matter? If so, how is a 1/2 hour possibly suddenly going to make them satisfied? You just keep doing what you do until they fire your ass. You win either way.

Don't stop caring about your work - do it as well as you can. If you stop caring, you're on the path to slavery. Be a beacon. -- AlainPicard

Yeah - that's the attitude American plantation workers should have had before 1865. -- SarcasticGuy

You have no choice but to stop caring if you work for a MicromanagingSadist. Caring about what you're producing in this situation can lead to bad stuff like ruining your liver with drink, kicking the dog, etc. It's better to put your heart and soul into your own projects (worked on after hours, of course).

So the difference between slavery and freedom is that the free man cares about what he's slaving away for? Is this the "slavery is freedom" GeorgeOrwell was talking about? As for winning either way ... one word answer: blacklists. If they didn't matter, people wouldn't grumble about them.

The difference between slavery and freedom is whether you permit yourself to be motivated by fear of the opinions of others, or whether you determine yourself to be motivated by the quality of your own work. The first abrogates responsibility for your work, supposing that the problem is the system, that there's no way out, that if only your employers were good, your work would be good. The second is uncompromising, trouble-making, and, sometimes, with determination and luck, extremely rewarding. Even if it's not, you'll know you tried. The choice of slavery and freedom is yours, no-one else's.

You don't seem to understand that a person is more than their job. The "problem" isn't whether your work suffers because your bosses are tyrannical idiots or because you just don't give a damn (the only possibilities you recognize). The problem is that you suffer.

You suffer because you choose to suffer. Choose otherwise. Of course, that won't make your suffering go away. You have to work to make your suffering go away.

Your advice is hardly new. It was Communist Party propaganda under the Bolsheviks. The mythical hard-working labourer who worked so well that he became an inspirational beacon to the proletariat went by the name of Stakhanov. Most people care much more about their personal freedom, liberty and power (or lack of it) than you do, so they won't be too happy with your urging them to become martyrs for the capitalist cause.

No, I'm not telling you to do the work that your Bolsheviks or capitalists say to do. I'm telling you to do the work that you say to do. There's obviously a burning brand in your breast, a great driving force. Focus it. Use it. Create. The longer you spend whining, the less you'll get done, the less effective your work will be. Of course whining is easier. So discipline yourself and do work that you find good. What if you have no burning brand?

I suppose that when I wrote "The only way to get justice is to join a cooperative, credit union, commune, mutual aid society, et cetera. Or more generally, join or create your own socialist society." I couldn't possibly have been giving constructive advice. Or maybe it's not constructive because it refers to collective action?


Your advice is hardly new. It was Communist Party propaganda under the Bolsheviks

True, it is hardly new. But it's not communist propaganda, it's from the TaoTeChing. So it's probably over 25 centuries old. This does not make it any less valuable. Oh, and thanks to the anonymous interlocutor who has expressed my views better than I possibly could have. -- AlainPicard [RefactorMe and DeleteThreadMode?]

It's not the TaoTeChing. It's CommonBloodySense, so it's neither new nor old. Just use your bonces and make no excuse for it. -- AnonymousInterlocutor?

It seems clear to me that views are being expressed, advice given and little listening and collaboration done. The theme one might arrive at, given the page title, is that one should be in control of one's own work.

Consider the opening statement:
Statement one: "They start complaining when you take an extra 1/2 hour of lunch."
What do you do?
Response one: If others start watching your clock, watch it for them.
Response two: "Get in at exactly 8:30 and have your coat on by 5:30 on the dot."
Response three: "Do no more than your job description requires."
Response four: "Never volunteer."
Response five: "Turn off your beeper at night."
Response six: "Document your bathroom breaks."

What do you do? - I will respond: I watch my own clock, no one needs to watch it for me, They only begin to do so if one does not honor the time schedule of the workplace. I would not take an extra 1/2 hour for lunch in the first place, it is not intended or implied by the fact that lunch time is allowed for eating lunch, if the period needs to be extended for any reason, I make arrangements in advance, or explain on return as to the reason I required more time. It is appropriate to do so. I usually get to work from 15 to 30 minutes ahead of the starting time, to allow the casual consumption of the morning coffee I consider essential, and to allow for time to greet my friends and associates and pass the time of day in amicable conversation. Secondly I would try to meet the terms of employment which in some cases includes job descriptions, I would consider them to be "minimum" requirements. Thirdly, volunteering is not one of the things a good workplace requires. Fourthly, I do not wear or utilize a beeper, since I consider such devices to be similar to a ball and chain. Bathroom breaks require no documentation nor do they require explanation. In other words, if one is to rule one's own work place, one must rule with responsibility the way one works.


Score: -1, Offtopic. What does any of this have to do with Work To Rule?

Just so. I remember the first time I witnessed WorkToRule, in England. I don't remember the precise context, but the application was (acting as a group) to go slowly, making little, if any, progress while keeping work-start and work-stop schedules religiously.

The thinking was "they can't fire us all" coupled with "if we produce essentially nothing while drawing wages and thus cause our employer to slip his schedule, he will get heat from his customer(s) and the pressure will cause him to give in/be reasonable/pay us more/give us more time off/whatever."

I'd never seen anything like it. In the end there were negotiations and compromise. Interestingly, the morale of the workers did not significantly improve. There was a sort of sullen triumph among them, while the employer expressed it as bitter resignation. Nobody won, not the customer, not the employer, not the workers. But everyone involved felt "justified" in his actions.

It was the first time I'd seen a group act out PassiveAggressive on an industrial scale.

I can't say I've ever seen WorkToRule in action, but my understanding it is that it is a tactic commonly used by organized labor, akin to striking or worker slowdowns, to get the management to accede to demands. WorkToRule works because many job descriptions are not complete; any worker complying only with the letter of their employment contract will likely be tremendously inefficient. ''It has the neat advantage over striking that it doesn't invoke the laws restricting striking while, if done right, not violating your employment contract either, making it much easier for people to engage in industrial action which would otherwise be illegal (prohibited professions or banned reasons for strikes (such as sympathy strikes or political strikes)).

There are some occupations - including unionized ones - where the success of the operation depends upon employees going above and beyond the call of duty. In the US, teaching is the classic example. Teachers are paid salary, but technically are not FullTimeExempt - technically they cannot be demanded to work hours beyond the specified workday. Most public school teachers are unionized. Most teachers - usually as a manner of professionalism - put in many unpaid hours at night correcting papers and engaging in other support activities (the workday does not provide sufficient time for this). As a result, WorkToRule is very effective in a labor dispute between teachers and the school district.

For some reason in the US, there's an expectation among the populace that teachers, alone among professionals it seems, should be altruistic - and should enter the profession for the love of teaching and children; and not expect compensation commensurate with the education level of most schoolteachers (a BS at minimum, most have advanced degrees). This doesn't seem to apply to other public servants - nobody tells police officers and judges that they should take pay cuts and do their job "for the love of it"...

I think the PassiveAggressive label fits only if WorkToRule is used as a first resort, instead of a more straightforward dialogue. If an honest attempt at communication is made and rebuffed repeatedly, other forms of communication may need to be pursued.


What's really too bad is that due to the un/professional nature of programming, sabotage isn't a viable option. Sabotage is a perfectly viable tactic in manufacturing, where results are immediately visible. Sabotaged source code would be indistinguishable from normal source code. Which kinda says something about programming, don't it?

Some days, I think our normal source code *is* sabotaged source code.

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