In what is bound to be felt as a slap in the face for human resource managers around the globe, the website glassdoor.com recently named Facebook as the best employer in the world. As an employer, I was offended and frustrated by the award. It was a little upsetting that I wasn’t even considered as a possible recipient, though I suppose the blame for that lies with my colleagues who did not participate in glassdoor’s employee survey.
My bigger problem, however, was with the recipient itself. Facebook has, more than any other factor, been responsible for eroding efficiency at the workplace. With the endless flow of apps and layout changes, it is practically impossible to maintain one’s full human resource capacity while being a functioning Facebook user. I suppose I could go medieval and firewall Facebook in my office, and, to be fair, I actually did contemplate such extreme measures. But then Shahbag, in all its glory, happened. Before Shahbag, banning Facebook at work would simply be viewed as an anachronistic human resource practice perpetrated by out of touch managers. Employees would whine and moan about their feudalistic bosses, but would be secretly pleased by the extra time they needed to get their work done, while alerting the world about their “plight” through Facebook on their mobiles. It would be an irksome but manageable standoff between the management and the minions.
Since Shahbag, however, Facebook has become a different beast altogether. Banning Facebook has not only become unfashionable, it has become downright “Hitlerist.” A gross violation of the democratic right to free speech, protest, and changing of the world that young people seem to have become disturbingly addicted to. Their sense of agency is scary, and most managers, including myself, would not touch Facebook with a ten-foot pole. It has become the third rail of human resource best practice. You touch it, you die. Let me illustrate this with two conversations between a Facebooking intern and myself, one pre-
Shahbag, one post. Pre-Shahbag Me: Hey son, what are you doing? Intern: Online research sir! Me: No you are not! (Slap on the back of the head) You are Facebooking!!! Get to work weasel!!!! Post-Shahbag Me: Hey comrade, what are you up to? Intern: Writing a status on Facebook, buddy. Me: No kidding! But aren’t you supposed to give me that PPT in half an hour? Intern: AND FAIL MY COUNTRY??? MY PEERS???? What are you, sir??? A Razakar???? Have you no shame??? Me: As you were, boss. As you were.
The dynamic has clearly shifted dangerously. From the exploiter I have become the exploited, or at least a 200-pound rodent furtively moving around the office, and desperately trying not to step on any Facebookers’ toes.
I am backed into a corner, as are, surely, many of my fellow slave drivers. Thus I have no choice but to formulate my own x-point demand about Facebook. It is a matter of my survival. My x-point demands are as follows:
Ban Facebook from the country, so that we don’t have to ban Facebook from the workplace; Put an immediate end to all business unfriendly practices such as salaries, overtime compensation, health insurance, lunch, and conveyance;
Make it mandatory for employees to do a three second Bharat Nattyam move followed by genuflection every time they see their bosses; Transfer all tax burdens from hardworking bosses to atheistic, blogging, bleeding heart Facebook employees.
Having learnt my lesson from recent demands made by others, I am keeping my own list short and manageable. Nothing discredits a movement more than overreaching on the part of its conveners. But rest assured, if my demands are not met, I will do something drastic. Like write on my Facebook wall. I may even tag others in my status. That is when the fun will start.
But seriously, faux fascism aside, who would have thought? Facebook, an idiots’ playground, where I whiled away so many useless hours planting vegetables, has turned into such a genuine platform for civil protest. On my recent trip abroad, I was getting more updates about the events at home through Facebook than I was through our news outlets. Hundreds and thousands of Facebook users who had previously listed their political preference as “None” or “I hate politics” now rarely read or write about anything other than politics. Sure, everything that is written may not be savoury or smart, but the energy is palpable and largely positive. Even if the Facebook vigour seems esoteric in the larger context, it has in the very least produced a significant group of educated youth who are conversing about the nation’s future, instead of discussing Ranbir Kapoor’s latest hairstyle. And if recent historical events are any evidence, this engagement will turn into physical action against the wrongs of society. That cannot be anything but positive for our future. So a big “Like” to Mr Zuckerberg and his gleeful army. And glassdoor is forgiven. The employer’s hat is not easy to doff, however, and I am steadfast in my threat to write a status if my demands are not met, or if glassdoor.com does not give me some kind of recognition next year.
Disclaimer: I have quite a few Facebook friends and followers, and spend at least 4-6 hours a day on the monstrous website.
Iresh Zaker is an actor, filmmaker, and Executive Director at Asiatic JWT.