Comment Rescue: Workplace Culture
Consider this an opening salvo for my upcoming post, if I get around to finishing it…
In Burt’s post, one of our resident attorneys with some experience in employment law pulls back the curtain and reveals what we all know and don’t think about much: your relationship between yourself and your employer is hugely entailed, by extra-contractual obligations that apply to both the employer and the employee. Which we forget, occasionally. It’s an important point and one that bears reiteration, but it’s not the point of this post. Yes, I’m burying the lede. Deal with it.
Burt says in summation:
Should the law abandon the pretense of employment being a regulated contract and move to the idea of this being a regulated relationship, with a contract being only one part of it, I suspect that we’d have a lot less hostility to things like Obamacare and wage regulation.
From the perspective of the Left, that’s a worthy goal in and of itself (the Right might find this horrifying.) I have doubts about the regulated relationship approach to marriage, myself, but the idea of having a more accurate way of looking at certain types of relationships by acknowledging that a contract approach doesn’t cut it is a powerful point.
There’s another aspect to this sort of change in culture that Burt overlooks in this summary paragraph. It is partially revealed in an exchange in the comments, illustrated best by this comment by Kazzy:
… And if that is how she wants to run the school, well, that is her prerogative. But it is drastically changing the culture of the school. And maybe that’s what she wants. Again, her prerogative.
I find this attitude to be very common, and I confess I now find it completely mystifying. I understood it at some point when I was right out of college, but it died somewhere between 1995 and 1997, and right now I can’t even recall why I thought this way.
Perhaps this is one reason I find so many places of employment and work-related stories to be utterly baffling.
I’ll state this as baldly as I can.
You don’t work for your boss, and your boss doesn’t have the prerogative to make the organization worse.
If you think you work for your boss, and you strive always to make your boss happy, you’re part of the same workplace culture problem in which bad bosses come to rule.
You will never contribute to changing the culture of your workplace. You won’t ever lead to the place that Burt talks about, above. You won’t even be able to get behind a leader who will try to change workplace culture and help push.
You will probably always be very conflicted about your employment, and you’ll probably blame an awful lot of that on your bad boss. And to be fair, your bad boss holds the power to make your life pretty miserable, so you have a whole slew of incentives to shut up and color.
Hey, maybe you don’t want to be management. Your boss being a terrible manager is something their boss rightly should fix. You aren’t paid to fix that problem. I get that.
But let’s be clear: from the perspective of the entire organizational culture, this makes you a cog. You’ve made yourself one. You’ve abdicated your power for change to someone in exchange for a little more comfort in your daily employment. Worse, you’ve abdicated your ability to make your organization better to someone who is actually making it worse (even worse than that, you’re probably enabling that person – who is making your life generally a little bit worse – into making someone’s life even worse than yours.) And sure, your boss’s boss should know this is a problem, and your boss’s boss should fix this problem, and if they don’t and aren’t, your boss’s boss is part of the problem. Which makes it even harder, as the line worker, to convince yourself to try and fix it.
But it’s wrong. It’s wrong for the same reasons that refusing to stand up to any injustice is wrong (albeit, granted, not anywhere near as deeply wrong as most injustices). Your workplace culture is something to which you – as an employee – contribute just as much as anyone else.
Let’s be honest and face it, okay? It’s fear that motivates this approach to the workplace. Justifiable or not, on your part, when you cave to this sort of incentive, you give your shitty boss positive feedback that his or her shittiness is the way to go.
If you want a healthy workplace, unless you’re one of the very few people who already work in one… you need to work at it. LeeEsq asserts that this is where unions help. To some extent that is true, although this solution with its own problems, but unions don’t magically spring from the head of Zeus.
You know who organizes labor unions? I will give you a hint, it isn’t management. You want these problems to go away, you know who needs to fix them? You.
You don’t work for your boss. You report to your boss. You work for the organization, which has goals. And when your boss’s misunderstanding of the goals is bringing you down, it’s probably also bringing the organization down. By continuing to work for the bad boss, you are digging your own grave.
If you’re not willing to take on your boss, you better start looking for a new job. Not just because you’ll be happier elsewhere, but because you’re not helping fix the problem, on the ground, right where you are.
And if the organization isn’t going to fail… it needs somebody, anybody, that will help excise the cancer that is there. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine. Like I said before, this is a problem that is rightly above your pay grade, and your responsibilities. It’s not your job.
But sometimes you’ve got to make it your job.