Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Vocational Issues: TSA Workers and the Big Picture of Bureaucratic Jobs
September 16, 2009, 10:22 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

In workshops,  guided meditations or team-building sessions at various large organizations, it is possible to guide each worker, at whatever level or type of job, to consider how his or her work fits into the larger picture, how it supports a larger mission, how it matters.

I thought of this in the security line at the airport last week:  how mind-numbing, boring and frustrating it would be for me to be part of the TSA bureaucracy.  The most interesting part of the job would be foiling an evil plot, or at least finding something dangerous in someone’s bags or pockets.  But the system exists to dissuade people from even trying that; it is set up to be mundane.

As I waited in the TSA line I saw a sign proclaiming:  “TSA workers have rights too!”  It urged people to be respectful of the security agents and asserted that verbal abuse and physical assaults against them would not be tolerated.  So, to add insult to tedium, they have to deal with ungracious and ungrateful travelers.

But perhaps the TSA workers can see their routine jobs as protecting the safety of thousands of travelers and airline employees every day and thereby reassuring travelers of the safety of air travel.
Of course, a problem in any bureaucracy is when rigidly following the rules or SOP and ignoring exceptional or new information.  Also, systematic oppression or biased treatment can find cover in the required routines of any bureaucracy, in particular publi-safety bureaucracies.

Recall that it took two hours of questioning of a Muslim Indian Bollywood star in an American airport before he was released.


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