Weary Workers, Be Wary

“[Rousseau] said the primitive man is spontaneous and naturally wants to work and be creative. When people are made to work for someone else, they lose their creativity and their desire to work.” – from The Working Life by Joanne B. Ciulla

Since I began working, I’ve felt there’s an innate silliness to work environment and constructs. This is not to say that the environments and constructs themselves were silly, rather, they are obscure, nonsensical, and exploitative in many ways. The silliness derives from mannerisms, self-importance, and creeping conformity. It’s walking in every morning, making your regular (forced) rounds of greetings, settling into your desk, trying to predict your day while simultaneously tottering on the verge of madness, anticipating the thing which will set your manager off today, feeling physically chained to your desk while looking down to see the restraints are not visible, peeling yourself away from the cloying inappropriate conversations, standing the comments about your body and how you look in your dress, and sitting with your stomach rippling in unending whirls of pain, constriction, and grumbling.

photo by Shwetha Shankar

People want to work. It’s in their nature to do something, whether with their hands or with their minds. And people may well adopt hobbies for the purpose of fulfilling this want to work. The reward is innate, working is a pleasure in itself. On the opposing end of that, Western work requires individuals to devalue, degrade, and scale down their skills. It emphasizes weaknesses over strengths, and conformity over innovation. It places barriers while simultaneously consistently reinforcing a workers’ limitations. It fails to foster proper usage of an individual’s pronounced talents, thereby repelling large parts of his or her personhood.

Fundamentally, our work environments and constructs are not healthy for the individual psyche.

They impose false hierarchy that seep out and spoil in the sunlit world outside of the fluorescents and plastics of our office places. Abusive individuals are given freedom to thrive perpetually under the justification that “there is a place for all”, while those who speak out are mentally and emotionally reduced to the reprimands only otherwise left for the punishment of children. To rethink our workplace is not a passing examination meant to absolve some negative spats, it’s a request to garner truthful and accurate information about how, where, and why we work.