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mental health mondays :: marketing insanity

and you should feel lucky for a warm place to stay
a few days ago, local employment service grenier aux emplois posted a link to this article, detailing the excuses that unproductive employees use to justify their behaviour. as i read it, i was trying to control myself from screaming out loud at the computer. i rushed to their comment thread to show my ire and was gratified to see that at least a half dozen others before me- most of them small business owners or managers- had had much the same reaction. score one for conscientious employers in quebec.

but what i find fascinating is that someone at praxis- who are ostensibly trying to provide some sort of training for young entrepreneurs- wrote this up, got cutesy graphics to go with it and published it on line without realising what a complete piece of tripe it was. people proofread this. people greenlit this. and it's about the best example of how workplace psychosis functions that you could find outside of a large-scale study.

i've already written about the widespread phenomenon of burnout and its costs to society in general, so maybe i'm approaching this backwards. because the real issue may not be burnout at all, but the depraved way in which employers are encouraged to adopt increasingly sociopathic tendencies. think i'm exaggerating? let's look at some of the "unproductive excuses" targeted by the agency wanting to train the leaders of tomorrow.

points 1, 4 and 9 all demand that the employee's needs be subjugated to those of the corporation. the employer is entitled to receive more than what they are paying for [point #1- stated clearly]; benefits to the employee are not as important as those to the corporation [certainly arguable, since the whole must function well in order for everyone to benefit, but there is no distinction made between refusing to work towards the benefit of everyone and reluctance to work at something that will benefit only those at the upper echelons- even questioning that is grounds for dismissal]; and finally, the employee should never be allowed to feel that they have earned something- money, respect, benefits- everything is to be deemed a courtesy that needs to be justified by the employee through their hard work. and who judges when the work has justified the investment? why the investors, of course. any sense on the part of the employee that they are deserving of something is to be deemed "unproductive" and therefore dangerous.

one of the hallmarks of the sociopath is their inability to feel empathy for others and a sense of entitlement. the points above are all about entitlement- to an employee's loyalty, hard work in excess of the reward offered, to the employee's very sense of dignity. it's not important how these people feel about being exploited, what's important is that they always believe that they are at fault, that they are undeserving. thus does the sociopath get what he or she wants from others- by pretending [constant dishonesty is another hallmark of sociopaths] that they will some day be able to rise to the level of the deserving underling.

SO MUCH MORE TO EVISCERATE...



points 3 and 7 are reminders that the employer should be able to ask anything of an employee without incurring the obligation to make sure that they are trained to do it. responsibility for learning how to do an assigned task outside their job description is offloaded to the employee, because not having the ability to do something is a sign of weak commitment. notice the wording of point 7 in particular- if the employee does not take it upon themselves to learn how to do an unfamiliar task [without any reference as to who they should turn to for instruction], it means that they are lazy and not putting the needs of their employer above their own.

it's one thing for an employer to ask these sorts of things from time to time- shit happens- but if this becomes a regular feature of their management, it indicates a lack of judgment and an inability to plan based on past mistakes. both of those, you guessed it, are characteristics of a sociopath. once an employer knows that they can demand a lot extra from an employee, there is no reason for them to deviate from that path. and once the bar has been raised, the employee constantly needs to do more for the same pay, the same benefits, the same treatment. the employer is encouraged here to accept that as a perfectly normal way to do business, without feeling any remorse [lack of remorse is one of the best known traits of the sociopath] for the pain they might be causing their workers. and of course, as we've seen earlier, any employee who has the temerity to stand up for themselves is to be held in contempt.

and speaking of lack of remorse or empathy, how about points 8 and 10? we're not talking about the bart simpson "dog ate my homework" kind of excuse here- these points specifically mention emergencies and illness and implore managers to view them with suspicion whenever they interfere with office productivity. no mention of the fact that, if there is work that needs to be done, the absence of one employee should not cause the machine to grind to a halt. no mention of the fact that such an eventuality is evidence of bad management. oh no- emergencies and illness are the fault of the employee. no quarter should be allowed.

what i find most interesting about these points is the immediate assumption that emergencies and illness are fake, with no grounds for this other than the belief of the employer that the timing is suspicious. if an employee works in accounting and gets sick reliably every time he or she is supposed to close the month's books, i agree that there's reason for concern. but what if, as frequently happens now, there is simply no down time, that the company is always busy? by definition, any emergency or illness would fall at a conveniently inconvenient time. but employers shouldn't worry about that. it's the employee's responsibility to ensure that they are healthy and urgency-free. no need to feel badly for them.

my point here is that this is a recipe for mental illness that is being promoted as good management. that an employer should feel neither remorse for their harmful actions, nor empathy for those they harm and certainly not a sense of responsibility to create a fair, equitable working environment sounds like insanity and it is, but it is clearly a sort of insanity that is deemed valuable. there are benefits to be gained from the dehumanizing of lower level workers and the assertion of unconditional superiority on behalf of those who are at the top. it is an insanity that works at a cultural level, which is why an organisation like praxis can present its fundamentals as cutesy truisms.

as i mentioned, the reaction to grenier aux emplois posting a link to this article was virulently negative [negative enough that they've removed the link from their facebook page], which means at least that a lot of small business owners don't agree. that said, quebec is considerably more liberal than other areas, so i fear that this reaction might not be indicative of the corporate population as a whole. don't fool yourselves: caving in to this sort of treatment is a sure-fire way to destroy your own mental health, which is something you can never buy back, no matter how far up the corporate ladder you climb.

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