In 2011, the government’s official intelligence gatherers had an intelligence gathering problem of their own.
A little backstory: Among the info leaked by former security contractor Edward Snowden were documents written for an advice column by a veteran of the National Security Agency under the pen name Zelda.
Yes, the NSA has an advice columnist, and it’s clear from her write-ups that the folks at the NSA have some of the same workplace issues the average HR pro has — including workplace monitoring issues.
A column from September 2011 addressed an employee who was concerned about a manager who was listening in on employee conversations to glean the latest gossip — and who had even gone so far as to assign certain employees to snitch on others.
Zelda’s response: “Wow, that takes ‘intelligence gathering’ in a whole new — and inappropriate — direction!”
You and your co-workers could ask [the supervisor] for a team meeting and lay out the issue as you see it: “We feel like you don’t trust us and we aren’t comfortable making small talk anymore for fear of having our desks moved if we’re seen as being too chummy.” (Leave out the part about the snitches.) Tell him how this is hampering collaboration and affecting the work, ask him if he has a problem with the team’s behavior, and see what he says. Encourage him to come directly to the employee in question if he has a concern (rather than ask a third party to gather intel for him).
Trust is hard to rebuild once it has been broken. Your work center may take time to heal after this deplorable practice has been discontinued, but give it time and hopefully the open cooperation you once enjoyed will return.