Corporate Culture and Being Human

Much of the discourse surrounding the current moral panic about sexual conduct is dominated by a particularly puritanical and sociopathic, corporate culture that takes it for granted that ‘at work’ human beings should not behave like human beings.

Unwanted sexual advances, sexual bribery, sexual assault and rape are abhorrent everywhere and anywhere including the workplace. But in the modern corporate workplace human beings are not even supposed to find each other sexually attractive. Indeed, many corporations have severe sanctions including sacking for employees who engage in sexual relationships… and yet one of the most common places to meet a future partner is in the workplace?!

In the corporate workplace necessary bodily functions like drinking water, eating and going to the toilet are often frowned upon and in some (call centres) they are strictly controlled because they are regarded as a ‘private’ use of your time and in some jobs as being equivalent to ‘taking time off from work’ and thus unpaid.

It is now common in corporate workplaces to ban the sending or receiving of private phone calls or even emails using company equipment, thus workers are expected to entirely suspend all responsibilities they may have as parents, children or carers during working hours.

In the corporate workplace you are expected to suspend all concepts of individual autonomy and or collective democracy. In the corporate workplace you are merely a cog, a human resource, whose only function is to carry out specific tasks assigned by the larger corporate machine.

But above all In the workplace people are not allowed to ‘express’ any emotion other than a robotic, smiling, ‘have a nice day’, moderate enthusiasm for your job and for the ideology of your corporate employers.

In this culture it is assumed that decision makers know all the relevant facts and make entirely rational decisions that minimise risk and maximise profit. Confrontation of any kind is abhorrent. Passion is deeply suspect and anger is entirely verboten; you must never raise your voice or be sarcastic or criticise those above you in the hierarchy. Humour is deeply suspicious and regarded as ‘unprofessional’. Even mortal enemies must at all times maintain a collegiate, cooperative discourse. You must at all times remain calm, polite and moderate in tone.

Eccentricity or individuality of speech or looks is regarded as a weakness and something to be ‘treated’ through counselling and application of the strict codes of behaviour. Dress codes that severely limit the opportunity to express individuality are often strictly applied.The uniform of a two piece suit in blue or black with a light blue or white shirt and black shoes is universal for men and pretty ubiquitous for women. Repeated breaches of these often explicit dress codes will be met with sanctions including fines, formal disciplinary cautions and ultimately dismissal. Steve Jobs was regarded as a visionary revolutionary because he had the shockingly anarchic idea of allowing adults to choose what to wear at work!

In this corporate view of ‘professionalism’ employees must never challenge the decision making  hierarchy, must always defer upwards to the hierarchy and never challenge decisions made by those further up the hierarchy. Just as in a school, in the corporate workplace passive obedience is the greatest virtue.

In the corporate workplace the interests of the corporation must at all times be pursued whatever the consequences for fellow employees, the general public or the environment. This principle is only restrained by legal sanctions imposed by the state which in any case staff must be subvert (within the letter of the law) wherever and whenever they threaten the interests of the corporation.

Indeed much of the humour created out of the corporate workplace is based on this central incongruity of being a human being in a sociopathic, corporate culture. Scott Adams, Dilbert and Ricky Gervais’ The Office are the most obvious examples that come to mind, along with movies such as Horrible Bosses, Office Space and 9 to5.

The Office in particular is actually written from the stand point of this sociopathic culture and the main source of humour is the individuality of the main characters set in this corporate office. That is what is funny. Human beings in an office.

Yet we all are human beings. We actually do find some other members of our species sexually attractive. We actually do get stressed angry, irritated and depressed. We actually do get physically and mentally ill. We do actually need to eat, drink and go to the toilet and above all we actually do make mistakes.


About I Am Not A Number

I Am Not A Number is written by Chris Jury. For 30 years Chris Jury was a TV actor, director and writer best known for playing Eric Catchpole in over 60 episodes of the BBC’s antique classic, Lovejoy, and for directing over 50 episodes of Eastenders. In 2008 he was appointed as the Senior Lecturer in Recorded Media in the School Of Music & Performing Arts at Bath Spa University. He currently presents, Agitpop, a pop & politics radio discussion programme on North Cotswold Community Radio He is currently the Communications Officer for UCU at Bath Spa University and a UCU SW Regional Rep at SWTUC.
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2 Responses to Corporate Culture and Being Human

  1. Christopher Maughan says:

    As stimulating as ever. Thanks.

  2. Steve says:

    This piece ring true (minus unwanted sexual advances, sexual far) to my wife’s employer. Small group of extremely qualified & talented Cardiologist, had to be acquired by a large Healthcare Organization. The Cardiologists treated the staff as true individuals. Each with an ability,or talent, that made the entire Practice work. The new regime, is just that. No individuality, all work for the greater good, no opinions are allowed, & on. The new regime has gone so far as to tell (excuse me, please)….I mean teach all staff how to promote it to patients. Good timing on your part, last pm, all were told (by the CEO) how to speak with elderly patients, regarding signing up for our Medicare. Not what was best for the patient. Rather, what was going to be the most profitable for the regime. Comments against the regime have resulted in termination. Notice of resignation, has led to employees being let go prior to their resignation date. The regime doesn’t want anyone to say any negatives, or to have the system’s faults discussed. The 8 hour day has become 10 hours of labour, within the mandated 8 hour day. Overtime is verboten. I’ll end my drivel. Be happy that I sent this to my wife. It has been copied & read by most of the staff (about 50, between 2 offices). The question many have asked, “How does he know, what it’s like to work here?”

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