The Crapification of Work must end
Work didn’t suddenly become crap, it’s been a gradual process over the past few decades that created this cesspool of stress, anxiety, bullying and bullshit that typifies too many workplaces today.
It’s not even deliberate (well, not in most cases). It’s the product of a number of trends and changes that have leveraged each other to create this spiralling descent into crap work.
Putting profits before people.
Valuing efficiency over effectiveness.
An obsession with process and measurement.
The spread of mobile phones and the ‘always on’ culture
Tech replacing human interaction
Increasing work loads, hours and stress
These trends, and the many imperceptible changes they have brought about, have interwoven and multiplied each other to bring us to a crisis point of crapification. We are to our necks in crap and we’re about to drown in it.
Individually, perhaps, they could have been borne but their collective effect is overwhelming. As Jeffery Pfeiffer details in his book “Dying for a Paycheck”, work today is quite literally killing us. Not only physically, but psychologically and spiritually too.
Whilst there may be a boost to the bottom line and the share price, driven by the overriding obsession with profitability, it’s only for the short-term gain of the C-suite. In the long term, the crapification of work threatens the very existence of the organisation because it causes fragility, rigidity and sterility.
The impact of COVID-19 is a perfect example of the sort of unexpected and major shock that organisations will increasingly be called upon to respond to. Many of them are not coping well, as we can see from the established and familiar names that have already failed. It turns out fragility, rigidity and sterility are exactly what you don’t need in such situations. Who knew?
Why we must decrapify work now
There are some great places to work, ones that value their people and want them to realise their potential, give them meaningful work, have a higher purpose and make a positive contribution to society and the planet.
But there’s not nearly enough.
If we wait for the current leaders of organisations to see the light and change their approach, we will be waiting a long time for much to happen. Even longer for them to become the majority.
Yet we all deserve to have meaningful and fairly rewarded work. We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and feel safe at work. We all deserve the opportunity to realise our potential and be fulfilled. And we all deserve to have a full life of which work is just a part.
But it’s not enough to deserve it. It won’t arrive by magic, brought in a golden carriage driven by the business fairy and pulled by team of unicorns. We have to demand it. We have to take it for ourselves.
So we need to take action to change our workplaces. We need to use the power we have (and you have much more than you think) to improve our own lives and those of our co-workers and everyone else we interact with.
Cometh the hour, cometh the pirates
In “Be More Pirate”, Sam Conniff tells us of the Golden Age of Pirates, where sailors broke away from the brutal, repressive and exploitative conditions of the British Navy to be free men and create their own societies, both on their ships and on land. They didn’t just break the rules, however, they replaced them with better ones.
They reject the world that they were forced to endure and in its place they created a better one for the themselves and anyone who had the courage to join them.
They agreed collectively on the changes they wanted to see and came up with with groundbreaking codes that included; one man one vote; fair shares for all; support for shipmates who got injured or killed; and acceptance of gender, sexual, racial and religious difference. These were radical ideas at the time that changed the balance of power and showed it was possible to live by different values.
On pirate ship you had more freedom than anywhere else in the world, and certainly much more than on a Navy vessel. They didn’t ask for permission or acceptance, they just changed their world. And then the world followed, with these radical ideas leading to the American and French Revolutions, the founding of the mutual movement in the UK and much of what we consider ‘normal’ in our society today.
We need to take the Pirates’ approach to the world of work and start to break the rules to create better ones. We need to take action to change our world, without asking for permission.
We need to create a better world of work. Starting with where we are, where we work, and who we work with.
It’s that or wait for the rising tide of crap to close over your head.
What’s your choice?
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