OFFICE POLITICS 101: Our office equipment is driving us crazy!
Q: Our office equipment is falling apart! Our photocopier is becoming totally unreliable and most of our computers and printers are out of date. Management seems oblivious to our concerns. What should we do?
What can be more frustrating than to have work responsibilities you can’t fulfill because of inadequate tools—ask any mechanic or tradesman!
In the case of an office environment, the deadlines and expectations are no less rigorous, but because there are often blurred duties—with a number of people involved—the accountability may be less obvious.
I would assume the current situation did not appear suddenly. Perhaps the photocopier initially required the occasional servicing. With the ensuing months, however, the problem became more noticeable with frequent downtime. The same story may apply to your computers.
Unfortunately, your tolerance for poor technology has been similarly incremental. You and your colleagues now find yourself in an intolerable situation with high levels of frustration and apparently little or no appreciation of the problem by management.
Every company has limited resources. Even the most celebrated Silicon Valley software startup still needs to budget and meet a payroll. Your employer may be employing the “squeaky wheel” approach when making expenditures. (Money is only spent when there are no other options.)
If you can observe other departments being authorized to make needed purchases—and even hire more employees—you are probably witnessing management’s philosophy of spending as a last resort!
Your office might be lower profile or staffed by less expressive employees, for example. Management sees you as being relatively compliant with responsibilities that are less important than some others.
In addition, if the voices of dissent have been relatively serene, management could be receiving a message that while you and your co-workers are unhappy, it is not a “big deal” and has little impact on departmental productivity.
Communication, I would suggest, will be essential in order for you to receive the attention you require. Your main priorities will be to demonstrate that your department has a significant contribution to the life of the company and that the poorly maintained office equipment is making it impossible for you to do your best work.
Management will pay attention when you are able to successfully show the profitability of the company is being negatively affected by out-dated technology. A well-documented analysis—signed by your supervisor—will be persuasive and will likely be forwarded to various managers for their consideration. Practical recommendations—with estimated prices—will be especially convincing.
Your dissatisfaction with the current situation is understandable. Take the initiative to work with your supervisor and colleagues to prepare a thoughtful report that will alert management to the critical nature of your office equipment. Acknowledge practical reasons why they should approve your request and ensure the overall benefit to the company is identified.
• Simon Gibson is an experienced university professor, marketing executive and corporate writer. He has a PhD in education from SFU and a journalism degree from Carleton University. Submit questions to email@example.com.