Dealing With Surveillance

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being watched:

I just recently started a job as a contractor and I met this young lady who is also a contractor. Over the couple of weeks, I noticed that all the other managers watched her and she mentioned it to me. She said they walk by and look at everything she does. If my manager, along with other managers, are watching her and seem to not care for her, should I stay away from her? Handle her at a distance? Also, I noticed there are (and it’s very obvious) employees that have been there awhile and my supervisor follows me when I get up from my desk. They also follow me. This is uncomfortable.

Signed, Watched

Dear Watched:

What’s going on? You and this other contractor feel like you are being watched and you wonder why. You also even wonder if you should avoid this other contractor because she too is being watched. So far it appears you have not asked, “What’s up?” And I see no reason for you to do that. You’ve only been in this new workplace for a short time. It also appears that your supervisor and other employees are curious about what you are about. Obviously, those in your new work environment have not been briefed on your presence.

You have several options that are not exclusive:

Option 1. Watch. Baseball great Yogi Berra said: “You can observe a lot just by watching.” So what are you learning? What are you learning about your new work environment by observing those who are watching you? Have you ever thought of what’s going on from that perspective? Do your job and at the same time learn the ropes and culture of your employer by shadowing them. What are they doing? How does their work link to yours?

Option 2. After a couple of weeks or even before rather than to allow this discomfort of being under or over watched–since your say “it’s very obvious”; turn to the those who are following you, ask, “Is there something I can do for you? I’ve noticed you are following me. Am I wrong about that?”

Option 3. Meet with your supervisor to learn how things are going with your own work. In the course of that frankly tell her/him that you feel like you are being tailed. Propose a briefing about your presence by the supervisor and/or whoever is charged the work area to which you are assigned. Do any of these three options make sense? If they do, act. You were contracted for a purpose. Realizing that purpose entails feeling accepted, contributing to and a respected member of the environment. All that takes time, but it can be accelerated by you helping shape your environment. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Think and act with that mindset and I predict the discomfort that prompts your query will soon be lessened if not completely resolved.

William Gorden