I’ve been meaning to write something on this for some months. The observation I wanted to share is about practices in organisations under the current austerity regime. Observations supporting it come from a variety of organisations, mostly public sector, or public sector-related, in several countries.
What we are seeing is a definite change in the way people are being treated, a ‘malign turn’. What is underlying this is probably the increased desperation of those in positions of power as budgets get cut and competition hots up. This leads to the targeting and scapegoating of people who take a more independent line, people who come up with alternative perspectives or who question the ruling strategies. Such people get marginalised, threatened, subjected to disciplinary procedures on slender grounds, and depending on the place and organisation, summarily dismissed or given the ‘opportunity’ to leave. Some leave on their own accord to escape the harassment and bullying.
It seems that under these conditions, the more ruthless people rise, and get into influential positions, and this in turn adds to the general poisoning of the culture.
Trades unions in some cases collude with what’s going on, and are often (if not always) ineffective in resisting this decline in manners (I like this deliberately old fashioned way of describing it for it is nothing short of an increasing lack in ordinary human decency and respect for the other).
So that’s it – not a scientific survey but a definite trend that I’m hearing examples of all the time. And in organisations that are meant to serve the vulnerable and disadvantaged, the corrosive effect of this malign turn within the organisation has its effects on the way those people are treated, as the epidemic of callous ruthlessness serves the ends of austerity, and deepens the ideology-structure complexes that create and maintain marginalisation, exclusion and oppression – what is after all, austerity’s purpose.
“The definition of alternatives is the supreme instrument of power.”
Yes. It’s bad enough in hierarchies at the best of times, but when there are heads to be chopped off, it is the disobedient or the ones who are clearly smarter/harder-working/more talented and more popular than the manager who had better watch out. Billy Budd, much?
What’s interesting about the present conjuncture though is that those getting it in the neck also include some managers and people in senior positions, but who tell the truth, or have inconvenient views and say inconvenient things. I’m rather glad I retured when I did – maybe it would only have been a mater of time…
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