The corporatisation of us

I live in a village where there is an incredible amount of independent retailers.  Anything can be purchased, sorted, repaired, chosen.  Each retailer has a unique personality; one shop is a bit stinky – fags puffed in the backroom; another is a mother and two daughters who quietly disagree as they rearrange the handbags.  Another – saw me walking down the street with an elderly relative, and stopped me to ask if I would like them to reopen the shop (she was on her lunch) so my relative could come in.  Each shop has it’s own eccentricities.   I love it.

Last year, a space was occupied by one of our largest retailers, selling food.  Within six months, a baker of 40 years standing had closed.  I did pop in to the corporate retailer.  A lot of bland uniformed staff, very nice to me, walking me around past expensive loaves of bread.  Speaking from a script.  All eccentricities ironed out, tucked away, left at home.    There’s a place for this; whether it’s the local high street, I don’t know.  (btw The corporates are the ones that opt out of the £45 annual fee for the Christmas lights).

It seems that the larger organisations get, the more systems and processes are introduced to control, report, predict, contain the whole system.  Controlling these systems become a goal in themselves.

We need metrics, we love them, they give us certainty in an uncertain world.  When our viewing perspective is purely financial and numeric, – how much, how many, how often, what savings, what costs – I think we so limit ourselves.  We have taken 100 calls in ten minutes and it cost us 10p per call – what are we missing here….?

We have “saved 100k” through implementing the Bradford Factor (the most searched term that brings people every day to my blog is a variation of “I hate the Bradford Factor”). What other costs are we creating in making management more difficult, losing more people – the CIPD estimates that replacing each leaver costs in the region of 1.5 times their salary.

Umm, isn’t there plenty of evidence already in existence that tells us managers need support, training, development, encouragement, coaching?  Don’t the companies that perform the best (ie greatest financial returns) also in general (there are cultural bypasses but they are not the norm) have cultures that pay attention to human needs, and actually who see excellent performance being delivered through innovative, committed to a shared purpose employees?

Oh I know, we want gamification; we LOVE it.   “gamification is used to get consumers to do something more and to do it better”  “everyone loves a gold star”.  I think not.  We infantilise our employees.

I suppose if we view employees – “our greatest assets” in the same way that we view a consumer, it fits.  It seems distasteful to me; manipulative, creating conditions to drive human behaviour towards desired outcomes.  What about undesired outcomes, gender differences , what about transparency?  Isn’t gamification another version of command and control/Theory X, Theory Y?  Isn’t gamification what clever folks did to our financial system?  ”

Organisational systems ensure that managers have to protect themselves – and unless there is radical change in size of organisation units, pay gaps, and authority boundaries, so it will go on.

We internalise this and expect to be measured, controlled predicted.  We become compliant, passive aggressive, we internalise our protests, we accept bullying as a sad but realistic part of organisational life.  Sometimes we speak in a language that those outside the corporation don’t understand.  We are on an invisible treadmill, forgetting where to find our joy.

We think culture and change are powerpoint slides with a list of text boxes, we think employee engagement is a survey, we think customer service can be outsourced, we don’t think our hearts have a place in business.

We have bought into something that deadens the love, the playfulness, the silliness, the emotionality and the felt world.  What I feel is real; but you need evidence.

How do we get off the invisible treadmill of the corporatisation of us?

Teaching people to think independently seems to be a step in the right direction.