CORPORATE STRATEGIES: THE INSIDE TRACK ON BECOMING A CONSUMMATE PROFESSIONAL

15: Are You Being Observed? The shady business of corporate surveillance

I am afraid I have some bad news for you. Some of your closest colleagues could, in fact, be deceitful buggers. If you work in the accountancy profession you may already have suspected this.

Industrial espionage is a real hazard in the modern workplace. Copying of ideas has always been rife - but nowadays corporate surveillance extends far further than this.

There is, in all probability, someone in your office who is keeping an eye on every move you make. This is not your "Supervisor" - who is being paid double your annual salary to keep an eye on every move made by the buttocks of young secretaries walking past the office window. It is more likely to be the Post Boy who is in fact a trained double-agent (hence the way he always puts your post in the big oak tree by the pond, instead of in your In-Tray).

It's a well known fact that most office pilfering is committed by those within the company. Some staff make no secret of their criminal tendencies, by having the word "Chairman" actually displayed on their office door. Others are more secretive and require more devious methods to catch them red-handed (or in the case of The Phantom Tippex Purloiner, white-fingered).

Companies are increasingly resorting to James Bond-style tactics to catch out unscrupulous staff. Surveillance cameras are now widespread. During your career, there is a real danger that you could be caught on film doing something highly embarrassing and totally out of character. Like working.

Inventors have recently patented a miniature surveillance camera identical in dimensions to a credit card. Of course, cameras can be concealed practically anywhere. In a few years, covert surveillance will be so widespread that the only item of office equipment NOT capable of capturing precise, high- definition photographic records at the push of a button will be the photocopier (which will continue to produce indecipherable, smudgy hieroglyphics in a uniform shade of dark grey.)

The world of workplace espionage is soon to be portrayed in new James Bond thrillers, The Man With The Golden Handshake and The Spy Who Loved Memos. Meanwhile, here are some telltale signs that Big Boss is watching you...

When someone puts a briefcase down, someone else walks past, picks it up, replaces it with an identical one and mutters that "the Black Swans are flying over the Kremlin tonight".

Instead of MD, the Managing Director just wants to be called "M".

The hold music on the switchboard is Shirley Bassey singing Goldfinger.

The chairman's car turns into a submarine when he presses the cigarette lighter.

You begin talking to your pot plants. They talk back.

Your manager swaps his C&A shirt for a black roll-neck sweater.

You see yourself on Crimewatch looting the stationery cupboard.

The boss doesn't use a dictaphone any more, he just talks more clearly than usual into his cuff links.

When someone leaves, they're given a watch inscribed "Don't Let The Buggers Get You Down".

The temp is called Moneypenny.

You can only be positive that none of your workmates is a spy if you work at MI5, where due to budget constraints, the spies have been sacked in favour of more cost-effective "Administrators".

If you suspect you may be being spied on at work, you should have this matter dealt with by the proper channels (such as Channel 5, who are always on the lookout for fly-on-the-wall documentaries).

Or contact a union. Equity is a good union to start with - if you're going to be on one of those "Funny Surveillance Footage" videos, you should at least get the hourly rate for being a TV extra.

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