Mark Cantrell, Author

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BLOG: Is Your Boss A Cultist Or A Commissar?

Posted by Mark Cantrell on April 7, 2013 at 1:45 PM

When did getting a job become more like

joining a cult?

By Mark Cantrell 

IN 21st Century Britain, employers wouldn't dream of trawling cyberspace for any symptoms of 'disloyalty' to the 'brand', or any other signs of dissenting opinion; this is, after all, a democratic country with a strong civic tradition that has long tolerated differences of opinion, and raucous debate.  


Meanwhile, back in the real world, here's a work-unsafe question for you: when did getting a job and going to work start to become more like joining a cult?


No matter how low in the corporate pecking order a job is, no matter how run-of-the-mill the company might be, work seems to be becoming ever-less about earning a living, and more about signing up to some kind of transformational life mission.


Gone, it seems, are the days when employees were free to look to a life beyond the mundane chores of the day job, to dream of a living space beyond the employer to call their own. Nope, the dream is now the job; the corporate mission the very calling that gives life its existential meaning.


So, have you got the Right Stuff? Are you a Team Player? Are you Passionate about, well, whatever the boss thinks is flavour of the month? Are you Dedicated to the Corporate Cause? Do you Embrace the Company the way old school Patriots Embraced the Flag? Are you prepared to Go The Extra Mile and Think Outside The Box? Cool, sign here: your mop and bucket are over there in the corner.


Honestly, there are times when the cultural artefacts of the modern business world feel like cut-price versions of a Soviet-era political commissar's patriotic pep-talks, all designed to exhort the workers to toil harder for the 'Glorious Workers' Republic' (unpaid, of course; the reward being the satisfaction of furthering the Cause).


To be fair - the DWP's workfare regime notwithstanding - these human resources pep-talks don't include the threat of the gulag for anyone who dares to ask for pay rises/ trades union representation/ a lunch hour/ a life outside of work, or just the liberty of every citizen to detest Mondays, long for Fridays, and have the occasional grouch.


Actually, it's worth adding to this list the rather subversive idea of staff being free to work their contracted hours, without the prospect of being treated with suspicion, like they might be a dangerous anarchist, or a sleeper agent for Al-Qaida, or something of that ilk, whenever they grab their coat and head for home, rather than work on and long into an unpaid twilight.


Okay, so the language of the 'commercial commissars' differs from their Soviet counterparts; no faux-Marxist revolutionary heroism, just plenty of 'we're all in this together' business bull. The spirit is much the same, however it's dressed up: conform to the hierarchical consensus, submerge the 'weaknesses' of the individual in the strength of 'team' unity, subsume one's own sense of Self into the company ethos, and become a corporate avatar. Assimilation is Freedom; Freedom is Assimilation. Rejoice!


Does any of this make for a better working environment, boost productivity, or otherwise contribute to strong business? Well, it never did the Soviet Union any favours in the end, did it? But, given the old USSR is history, it's probably more apt to invoke North Korea as the analogy, and things aren't exactly rosy there either.


So what's with this weird 'Cult of Corporate Personality'? Whatever happened to going to work, doing the job, sharing a team-building moan, going home and forgetting about the day job for a blissful evening/weekend? Austerity? Well, perhaps it helps, but this 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' routine has been taking root since well before the Westminster and City spivs car-crashed the economy.


Public sector or private sector, multinational or local SME, it seems pretty much every company entity out there is infected with this creeping totalitarian urge. Not content to hire our physical and mental capabilities for a set period of time, employers now seem to want our hearts, minds - our very souls - gratis and for all time. Hell, Lucifer offers a better deal than that - and he's a notorious Gradgrind.


So, here we are, then, in this age of creeping totalitarianism, where it's no longer deemed sufficient to go to work, do your job to the required - and contracted - standard, go home and live your life. No, the job must be your life; the role must be your passion, your very reason for drawing breath, your spiritual, evangelical purpose.


To be honest, it's all rather disconcerting. And if that's indicative of a man with an 'attitude problem', a recalcitrant lack of 'team spirit', or a lack of dedication to the task in hand, well - so be it. Somebody's got to sit back and play the sceptic.


The corporate totalitarians can tart themselves up all they like, but a cult is a cult, and  (outside of the fantasies of its ruling elite) North Korea is a dismal little gulag; hardly role models for working life in a supposedly free society.


And as for 'passion', please - let's leave it for the bedroom.


Mark Cantrell,


10 February 2013


Copyright (c) February 2013. All Rights Reserved.




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