Wednesday, January 22, 2014

WSM, Karaoke and Democracy

Not the most important issue facing my very favorite co-op at the moment, but one it is worth mentioning nevertheless. Not least because, on this occasion, I actually side with WSM management.

[Cue fibrillator in WSM corporate office ...]

There was some muttering before the WSM Annual Employee Party this past Monday evening that the hugely popular karaoke had been cancelled without notice or discussion with employees. I was one of those doing the muttering.

I have had a brief discussion with a manager since the Party. The line presented about karaoke was that, each year, an increasingly small number of folks dominated its use, which, in turn, dominated the whole Party.

Er. As one participating in the dominating, I can agree with that.

But I had already formed much the same opinion within about ten minutes of being at the Party itself. And I can say this. Because I have little time for political correctness.

About half of the people at the quite well-attended Party were Hispanics. Most likely first generation Hispanics. Who, for all sorts of cultural reasons, which I know from talking with them, are a little nervous about making their presence felt.

And they (along with many of my Caucasian mates) were having a ball dancing to the DJ.

I suddenly realized that, in previous years, we Caucasians, without really thinking about it, and not intending to be insensitive, we had made our karaoke a bit of a white preserve.

I got it. And it was ok. I'm now totally on board with the idea of keeping the same format for future years.

I spoke with another manager today and said, ok, got it. But you could have let us know why.

The response was that a decision had to be taken quickly But that next year, a vote would be held.

I pointed out that I love democracy, especially in its most direct from. But on this occasion, it could be wrong.

[Cue fibrillator for all worker-owners.]

I know, I know. Send for the doctor. Take his pulse. The cold has got to him. He's possessed by the ghost of Genghis Khan.

Hear me out. I told the manager this. If you hold a vote, the same noisy folk (including me) will vote for karaoke. And the same Hispanics, who had such a good time this past Monday, will stay silent, for said cultural reasons.

We had 'a vote.' This past week and on Monday. I spoke to managers. Other people spoke to managers. I heard them. And the Hispanics voted, with their feet (literally!), on Monday. That's good enough.

Democracy is a fragile and fluid entity. I will rarely argue with its form. I do, however, argue when it is absent.

So. Next year, stick with this same format for the Party. It worked. I had fun. I can find karaoke any other day of the week. We all can.

But. Engage a bit more with employees beforehand. A note could have been posted in each unit of WSM. Telling us that soundings had been taken. A decision made. And that for reasons of sensitivity (I get that you can't post stuff all over the workplace saying we're doing something as an affirmative action for Hispanics; I can on my FB and on my blog), if you want more info, talk to your manager.


[As always, WSM Employee Policy demands that I state that these are my views and not those of the WSM corpora ... hang on, fan me, fan me. They might just be the views of the WSM corporate office management team. I may have to go lie down ... ]