Return of THE MGT.

Hail Eris!I was listening to the 23 Apples of Eris podcast yesterday, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t sent any messages from THE MGT. lately.

In my old office at the Watergate, there was a back exit door from the Creative Services department. In theory, it wasn’t accessible from the other side — it just looked like another section of the wall, with no door handle. But on occasion, people would prop it open briefly so that they could hop back in without traversing the needlessly convoluted route they had to take otherwise (we had pretty much the worst location in the building, par for the course for most corporate “creative” departments).

It’s also worth noting that — even disregarding the poor office layout issues — this was a particularly bad point in employee/management relations. Our department turnover was ridiculously high; the employees were overworked, underpaid, and completely unappreciated, and the higher-ups in the company were overtly resentful toward a department that, from their perspective, wasn’t serving their needs. Basically, some really poor organizational decisions on both sides, problems that wouldn’t be cleared up for months (if not years), accompanied by several managerial replacements.

One day, a sign appeared on the exit door: “IN ORDER TO ENSURE THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF [OUR] STAFF AND BELONGINGS, THIS DOOR MUST REMAIN LOCKED AT ALL TIMES.” First of all, it was a little ridiculous to pretend that this door would do anything to protect anyone’s safety or security — at least during business hours, anyone could just walk right into the regular door. Yeah, it’d take them an extra minute, but I imagine that anyone intent on causing harm to person or property would be willing to deal with that. Second — while I don’t doubt that the company actually did care about its employees, at least a bit — the primary concern was doubtless less one of employee safety than protection against theft of company property; nothing wrong with that, but the message’s implied balancing of the two was a little disingenuous. Third, the message just appeared one day, without any personal notice to the staff, or even any indication as to just who had left it. Finally, fourth — and most significantly — the door didn’t have a lock; it didn’t even have a latch. It was frankly impossible to obey the message.

I decided then and there that it was time for Markoff Chaney to make an appearance. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mr. Chaney’s work (or who are too occupied to follow the provided link), Markoff Chaney was a character in the Robert Shea/Robert Anton Wilson opus Illuminatus! A self-described “midget” (a term that wasn’t so out of favor back in the 1970s), Chaney made it his life’s work to counter inane messages from THE MGT. — as in “The Management” — by replacing them with ever so slightly more absurd admonitions from THE MGT. — now meaning “The Midget.” Nobody would question the legitimacy of the messages at hand; workers never questioned the decision-makers, and the decision-makers were so far removed from day-to-day operations that they would be none the wiser.

As would be proven in the real world with the advent of media monopolies and agenda-driven outlets like Faux News,* Chaney realized that true power comes from controlling the means of communication.

So, following in Chaney’s footsteps, I decided to subtly alter the sign, using exactly the same typography and format as the original (there are some advantages to working in a creative department). The sign now read, “IN ORDER TO ENSURE THE SECURITY AND SANCTITY OF [OUR] STAFF AND BELONGINGS, THIS DOOR MUST REMAIN LOCKED AT ALL TIMES. — THE MGT.”

A subtle alteration, but one that I felt accurately conveyed the holier-than-thou attitude behind the message.

After that, I started actively looking around for other, similar messages and making the appropriate adjustments (hint: office kitchens are a gold mine). But after a while, between running out of signs and the stirrings of improved management relations, my enthusiasm trailed off.

It’s way past time I started up again.

Now, am I going to start making such alterations at work? No — for two reasons. One, I am management now (even if only lower-level middle management). It would be a little hypocritical of me to pretend that I’m sticking it to the man; I am the man. And two, there’s not nearly as much flagrant abuse of employees by the company at large anymore. It’d still be funny, but it wouldn’t be biting.

But I still live in Washington. And we’ve got no shortage of intrusive, contradictory, or otherwise nonsensical signage.

I’m on a mission. Any of you able-minded folks want to join in, just keep an eye out for likely targets. If not, then at least be warned to take a closer look at those signs...

* Believe it or not, the first link that comes up after a Google search for “Faux News” is in fact Fox News Channel. Just thought it was appropriate.


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