This is an essay about the crisis of our modern workplaces and about ways to repair them.
Everyone knows that our modern workplaces are in crisis. They are often run under unethical rules and practices which would not be accepted anywhere else in our society. They routinely give rise to appalling behaviour, such as workplace bullying, which is somehow regarded as legitimate–in fact essential–in the modern business environment. “Nothing personal, just business” is the justification. This is wholly immoral and inhumane.
These attitudes and negative values infect every part of modern people management, such as performance metrics and performance management, compensation and rewards, hierarchies, position descriptions, contracts, teams, decision-making–in fact everything to do with the core business of the organisation, which is inseparable from its people. As a consequence, widespread, numbing damage is inflicted on both people and organisations. Given that we spend a considerable part of our waking lives in these places, the effects of lost human potential are dramatic, both for individuals and the society as a whole.
This essay examines these issues, with the aim of developing the remedies to them. In fact the remedies are not too far away. In many years of working with organisations, both for profit and non-profit, with boards, CEO’s, managers, employees, consultants, suppliers, customers, clients–the communities of organisations–I have come to see that given an opportunity the remedies are there in people themselves. I have been amazed and inspired by what I’ve seen people doing at all levels of organisations to repair toxic workplaces, to make them healthy, mature, collaborative and creative places to work. This is what the Greeks have called ‘practical wisdom’. It is the basis of common morality and of all approaches that support and foster the progress of people in the workplace, and enhance their organisational achievements.