Are you ever stressed at work?
That was a trick question. We are all stressed at work, in ways so fundamental that we do not even recognise them.
Work is a deeply unnatural social environment. People are actually very good at coming together to help each other to achieve a common purpose. When this is a voluntary process, the natural stresses and strains that are involved in getting on with a lot of other people are dealt with by a few million years’ worth of evolution of the subtle social behaviours that enabled our ancestors to do exactly that: to form effective, and quite large, social groups.
But when it is an artificial process – when, for example, people at work are introduced to a large group of strangers and told that these strangers are now their ‘colleagues’ and that one particular person is now their ‘boss’, then funny stuff happens in our brains.
‘Command and Control’ is a phrase that we only use nowadays in connection with modern management in a tone of amused irony. We all know about command and control as the management system of choice from the earliest days of the major modern corporations—and we have definitely ‘moved on’.
Or have we?
Command and control systems used by the armed forces were deliberately adopted by the emerging corporations of the early twentieth century, as a means of ensuring that the most appropriate command decisions were taken by the general staff (senior management) and that these were effectively transmitted to the ranks (workers) via their officers (middle management).
Anarchy in the Workplace
By Jonathan Gifford
There seems, thank goodness, to be a genuine and growing interest in the idea that our workplaces should be more ‘democratic’.
I don’t know about you, however, but I still see precious little sign of any real change towards the democratisation of the places where we spend the majority of our waking hours.
And, just to be contrary, I am going to argue that ‘democracy’ is actually not what organisations need. I think that what organisations need is a healthy dose of anarchy.