Office IT Intrigue

The NBC TV show “The Office” has risen to popularity by archly satirizing the general minutia of and tribulations associated with working in an office. Of course, by depicting a modern office, the show ends up frequently addressing the way information technology interacts with our daily professional lives.

An episode from the show’s second season, titled “E-Mail Surveillance,” is a prime example. It begins with the office’s regional manager, Michael Scott, played to great effect by actor Steve Carell, telling the camera, “There are certain things a boss does not share with his employees … and I am not going to tell them that I’ll be reading their e-mails.”

But after setting up the capability to access his employees’ e-mail accounts, as soon as he steps out of his office, an employee confronts him: “Hey, what’s the deal Michael? Why are you spying on our computers?” Michael attempts to humorously deflect the question, failing, and the employee shoots back: “Actually we just got a memo from IT saying you’re doing e-mail surveillance.”

Of course the whole office immediately freaks out and starts deleting everything in sight. An accountant confesses to the camera, “I gotta erase a lot of stuff. A LOT of stuff.”

This seems to be how it goes when a company decides to engage in e-mail surveillance. The employees are not supposed to know this is happening, but everybody does, and thereafter treats their e-mail accounts as nothing less than a public forum.

Daniel Margolis


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