BBC’s Cheesecake Thief Causes Newsroom Chaos (And a HR Nightmare)
First the gender pay-gap scandal, now this. The BBC has been hitting deadlines with their newest controversy… the aptly named “Cheesecake-gate”.
Last week, news editor Rachel Kennedy achieved twitter infamy when she began to document a battle of the wills between herself and a mysterious office cheesecake thief. After discovering the unthinkable crime, she penned a scathing note to the “scumbag thief who stole my New York cheesecake”, adding that she hoped “you choke on it”.
To console the office, producer Amrit Singh Cheema replaced the cheesecake and also left a note, urging the staff to stay calm and remember that “violence is not the answer” – however, this remedy was short lived when the cheesecake thief struck again, leaving the office baying for blood and a perpetrator still at large.
It’s easy to see the story as a bit of a joke but in a high-pressure profession, untempered disagreements can be like a pot on the verge of boiling over and misguided pranks like this can quickly escalate to a more serious level.
When managing or working within a high-pressure environment, it’s always going to be necessary to try and find a balance. Without a way to break the intensity, you’re likely to find more than a few instances like Cheesecake-gate cropping up in your work place.
The simplest way to do this is short breaks in the work day. It’s easy to forget about breaks when you feel like you’re drowning in work, but encouraging employees to take ten minutes to themselves to do something positive, even if it’s something as simple as taking a walk or listening to music, can help massively. Giving them time to step away from the pressure of their job will reduce the chances of minor disagreements escalating and could also improve productivity in the long run.
A psychological study into stress management in high-pressure professions (Clarke & Cooper, 2004) found that investing into building strong employee relationships can also help to manage the confrontation associated with strain in the workplace. Research showed the relationships to have a buffering effect, reducing the psychological strain associated with workplace stressors by providing instrumental and emotional support.
But no matter how well you invest your time and effort into taking the pressure off your employees, the chances are a conflict will eventually be unavoidable. It’s a reality that can be difficult for some employers to accept. A business can run like a well-oiled machine but, as long as people are involved, there will inevitably be some disagreements. The occasional discord doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your management, and it certainly doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your workforce – it’s simply human nature.
Not every workplace problem will be as light-hearted as a cheesecake thief, but it is a good example of how a seemingly small disagreement can escalate in a high-pressure environment, especially when the conflict isn’t dealt with effectively. It’s important to remember that management aren’t there to parent employees, but to get in front of any problems, they do need to have a clear idea of what’s going on with their team.
If animosity between employees is allowed to simmer quietly in the background, no one can predict when and how that friction will manifest. Assess the severity of the discord before you get involved, use your judgement and, if necessary, discuss the problem with the employees separately. Mediation can be a useful tool, but you should also be mindful of any potential harassment or discriminatory motives behind the argument and act accordingly.
In the end, whether it’s a missing dessert or something more serious that causes an argument between your employees - a conflict in the work environment will always have a negative effect on a workforce. Prevention is the best cure, but where it can’t be avoided – it needs to be addressed (and remember, a replacement cheesecake is not always the solution).