Going to work

Once upon a time, people used to go to work in the morning and come back home from work in the evening. They would bring a pay-cheque that enabled them to provide their families with shelter, food, clothing and some luxuries now and again. Work was not much fun but people put up with that because

  • Life was tough
  • People were used to doing what they were told
  • And it was understood that the payoff for putting up with going to work, being the ability to be a provide for your family, was more than ample compensation for the vicissitudes of working life.

Quality of living, meaningfulness and leadership were provided by family life, the village social scene, religious institutions and patriotism. People did not “live for work”, but rather “going to work” was a necessity that had to be endured in order to provide for “the important things in life”.


Post-modern utopia

The post-modern era has challenged this idea of “what life is all about” and is of the opinion that “work” should be at least as much fun, if not more fun, than anything else you do.


In order to accomplish this new state of affairs, corporations spend much time and effort in creating a submersive organisational culture which gives employees a sense of belonging. The company work scene becomes the place where employees feel at home and where they can be part of the societal fabric.

Consider yourself at home.
Consider yourself one of the family.
We’ve taken to you so strong.
It’s clear we’re going to get along.


A bizarre side-effect of this new way of living is that carried to an extreme of reductio ad absurdum, the ultimate effect of the submersive corporate culture is that employees see their careers as the focal point of their lives, so that anything that they do or experience outside of working hours becomes subsidiary to their life at work. Life events such as marriage, child-bearing and buying a house become “something to talk about at work” or something employees feel they were only able to accomplish due to the kindness afforded to them by the company.

New recruits were socialized into believing that Arthur Andersen was a special and exclusive organization. Arthur Andersen offered something special: a way of life… getting a job there meant making it.

Corporate Governance, Ethics and CSR, pg. 79

 Commercial reality

In reality, however, the reason corporations invest precious resources in order to create an internal self-contained society is purely and only for the financial welfare of the corporation (see a previous post on this here). Therefore the utopia of being emotionally molly-coddled at work may seem to be a normal state of affairs, but it is only the ongoing financial imperative of the corporation’s balance sheet that feeds the efforts invested to create a semblance of a warm and loving society.

Subsequently if a change in market conditions, or the financial imperative to “grow the company” call for a readjustment of the internal social order, then the structure of the corporate society must change in order to be in equilibrium with its financial accommodation.

The lack of this realisation is possibly the reason why many people search the Internet for the explanation of behaviour that their manager has displayed towards them which they feel is unwarranted, whereas it is possible that their questions do not necessarily have an answer.


All of these questions assume that the employee will be “emotionally provided for” at work. Within this context, if an employee experiences managerial behaviour which they find upsetting, the employee will deduce that that there must be a reason for their manager’s behaviour which makes sense within the context of the company social scene.

However since the illusion of a “self-contained society at work” is exactly that (an illusion), and since the driving force behind the maintenance of this society can only ever be financial, employees will invariably encounter shards of managerial behaviour that have little to do with the rosy prospect of utopia at work but have more to do with the raging financial pressures that typify the modern volatile and demand-driven marketplace.

Possibly the only viable personal response to situations that offer questions like these is a re-evaluation of the meaningfulness of individual life as it used to be, prior to the enticements offered by modern corporate culture.

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