By the book, to the letter…

Having had the opportunity to work with and around Asia and Europe, I am surprised to discover how intensely ‘by the book’ and ‘to the letter’ Canadian society really is. Nowhere is this more visible and stark than in employment sector, which of course, I am experiencing first here.

Everything which is written on a list of ‘requirements’ and ‘pre-requisites’ is taken as a divine law. Even if you get the requirements ‘done’ in whichever way, as long as they’re met and approved. This is a great example of a great society of law abiding citizens. But, this is also a somewhat strange example of mass conformity, without having to do any individual judgment or initiative.

If some wag jokingly adds “squat and quack like a duck” to the daily official chores, I swear the employees will do just that, unless another ‘set of rules’ supersedes the joker’s list.

It is indeed crucial that guidelines and rules and requirements are followed ‘to the letter’. But then, from time to time, there comes a point when one is challenged by something that requires the individual to take his or her own decision, based on the particular situation.

What I have observed so far, and I might as well be dead wrong, is that everyone has a list printed on a piece of paper which ‘must’ be complied or followed to the last full-stop. Great! But the bizarre thing is, the person presenting the requirement is simply secondary to the requirements themselves!

Just because a document takes 4 weeks to arrive (and it WILL arrive, mind you, just a procedural time), you would not even be considered for something that you are just the right candidate for. And the proof of that document’s arrival (receipts) etc are simply not admissible because they are ‘not in the prescribed list’. And to add insult to injury, the document will only be needed after you are selected for the job and get your first pay-cheque. Sigh.

It’s like even if a 300-pound-man-eating Tiger applying for children’s day-care presents a given set of documents and requirements to a person behind the counter, and as long as those requirements are matched with the “prescribed set”, he will be entertained and qualified fully. As compared to a really skilled person who simply forgot to attach one piece of paper required in the list and is simply taking the paper out of his/her bag to add to the entire requirement – but no, sir – you must present yourself to the officer AFTER you have properly attached all the stuff, and meanwhile, please make room for the kind Anaconda behind you who has filled an exceptional application for a job, and it really doesn’t matter to us that he is not even our species, but since he’s got all the papers duly presented, we’ll just take him on (insert a broad, “warm” smile, as instructed by the supervisor.)

Note to self: A follow up post on the lack of intuitive, innovative, creative and inventive encouragement.

First Published: June 8th, 2006


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