Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The New Hive of the Mind: The Workplace Revisited

The word “employee” has been used to replace human beings in work communities. In fact, a “work community” is a new development proposed and advertized by employers in the work space to recapture some essence of what it means to be human in the work environment. In policy, “employee” has been effective in separating “employee” from “person” a being that is physically present, tangible, and that is a form that can develop relationships and can connect to other “persons” in the work space. By cutting out the personal and condemning a person to employee status, all signs of life are therefore crushed. It now becomes easy to sever the “employee” because all personality has been drained out of the concept. The employee is a commodity, it can be shifted to a new department, its status can be raised or demoted, and the employee can be faxed around or emailed about, because while on paper, they are just an “employee” an eight letter word that is usually black on a white background. When a policy becomes effective, it has the potential to affect the employee. When the employee is not a real, tangible being, the policy is much more easily carried out. There are no sticky questions of whether or not the employee has been a good employee if the policy will have a negative effect, there is no feelings of remorse upon employee termination because who gets attached to black letters on a page? No one has to worry about human things like, “family and kids” or has to think that maybe the employee needs the money, or needs the job, or likes the job, or values the job. It becomes even easier to lump the employee into a category thus policies become rules that are generic and if the employee fits into a category their role becomes clear. Once the employee is categorized, the policy makes it clear what must be done with the employee. As an example, imagine that you are presented with an employee. They have black hair and a lopsided smile. This is an undesirable trait in your company because in the past one of the “higher ups” (not an employee this time but a manager or Chancellor, a title with just as little humanity but more power) had problems with dark haired individuals who showed too much tooth on the right side. When you now find yourself presented with an employee who retains these primitive and detrimental characteristics, the formula is spelled out for you in black and white, taking decision making out of the mind of “human resources” (an appropriate title when the shift from human to worker commodity has been implemented) and putting it into their hands, little things that can employ action but do not need to get caught up in any moral argument with themselves. This little black lump has shown to be effective in businesses all around the world. Racial discrimination, gender discrimination, discrimination against the disabled or elderly have had a hard time finding their way back into the workplace now the policies promoting discrimination have been smoothed over with white out or a paper shredder. However, the one standing policy: that members of the same family or close relation shall not work as employees together stands strong. This is good because it is known that people in families or in close personal relationships are more volatile than employees who only know each other on an employee to employee basis and not on a human level. Cementing the incontrovertible fact that policies are in place because they are good and right and are therefore able to be carried out blindly is this aforementioned example. Because case by case scenarios mean nothing in the workplace, it is good that a generalization remains that has been proven and proven again to be true. When one is a little too human, too real, something outside of “employee” the office becomes a dangerous place. Work is affected, moral plummets to an all time low and coffee is spilled at a much higher rate. In order to guard against the non-employee status uprising, all forms of its antithesis, the human, must be squashed. Protect yourself and remember: it’s not angry or volatile people with bad attitudes that make the work place uncomfortable, its people working together that know one another outside of the “employee.” And please, don’t question the black marks on this page. They are good and right and true.

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