An Abuse of Power

An employer has no business with a man’s personality. Employment is a specific contract calling for a specific performance. Any attempt to go beyond that is usurpation.

It is immoral as well as an illegal intrusion of privacy. It is abuse of power.

An employee owes no “loyalty,” he owes no “love” and no “attitudes” – he owes performance and nothing else. The task is not to change personality, but to enable a person to achieve and to perform.

Agree or disagree?

Would you read it differently if I told you it isn’t my latest ‘hot take’ on “Quiet Quitting” or the way that employers abuse their power but is, if fact, a quote from Peter Drucker, who has been described as ‘the founder of modern management’?

When he wrote that in 1973, employers often had a paternalistic approach to their charges. They invested in them, they provided sports and recreation facilities, they offered ‘a job for life’.

50 years later, after whole half century of change, we are not in a better place.

What Drucker calls immoral is, today, seen by employers as a right.

They meddle in their employees personality through tests and evaluations. They insist on “loyalty”, the demand “love” and they absolutely enforce the correct “attitudes”.

Recent articles in the media have lamented how Gen Z have ‘bad attitudes’ to work, being unwilling to ‘go the extra mile’. They take their lunch breaks and don’t do any work during them! They don’t check their emails on their phones out of office hours! They don’t want to stay late and do extra! They only want to do the work they are paid for!!

How very dare they!!!!

And yet, it seems, they are merely disciples of the great Peter Drucker. “An employee… owes performance and nothing else”.

That’s the very definition of “Quiet Quitting”. What Drucker described as the basis for employment is now cast as a pejorative. What sort of progress is that?

For far too long, employers have been allowed to push the boundaries of work beyond what is reasonable. They’ve used every tool they can get their hands on, from changes in the laws to reduce employee rights, suppression of unions, strike-busting and surveillance to using the narrative of culture and shared values to intrude into employees psyche and gaslight them into over-delivering.

At the same time they have salami-sliced the benefits they provide, increased the precariousness of the contracts they offer and victim-blamed employees for their burnout and health struggles.

Now Gen Z are calling a halt, and not before time.

So we’re returning to Drucker’s view. Going back to work as a transaction. Where it is a part of life but not an all-consuming one, rather one that allows flourishing in all other aspect of life too.

A new sense of proportion about work. It might just be the saving of us all.

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