Just a cog in the machine

As I mentioned below, Madeleine Bunting’s Guardian Weekend piece ”Sweet smiles, hard labour’ (from her forthcoming book, with it’s frank and unblinking look at the emotional investment demanded by employers these days, struck a chord with me.

Today’s follow-up extract is equally incisive, detailing how the prevailing cultures of overwork and consumerism are altering our attitudes to work. Bunting explores what she describes as “the emergence of a new form of elitism in the labour market: work as vocation and work as pleasure. In a society that places a high premium on self-expression and fulfilment, to have a lot of interesting work is a status symbol. It’s not just that you have a job that pays decently; you have a job which is so satisfying and fulfilling that you don’t want to stop working.” I don’t believe many of those involved in corporate life could deny the truth lying behind the observation of Kristen Lippincott, director of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich: “We’ve become enamoured with deadlines. We want to feel an adrenaline rush. We believe that if we’re always chasing the next deadline, we must be important. A lot of our busyness is a way for us to avoid thinking about what is most important. There’s a difference between being busy and being productive.”

I used to work 5 minutes’ walk from home and yet I regularly stayed late in the office working on the ‘latest important thing’, missing never-to-be-repeated family moments, all because I knew that I could be home in 5 minutes…but never quite tearing myself away to do so. A good few years on, having worked out that such behaviour doesn’t actually change anything and garners little thanks from the Board, I have focused on working more efficiently in order to be more productive in less time. However, as I am now faced with a four hour round trip to the office and back, I have plenty of time to rue all those hours I wasted trying to feel important and make an impression. Rob Parsons – of Care For The Family and The Sixty Minute Father reknown – and many others, have often written that no-one ever lay on their deathbed and uttered the words ‘I wish I’d spent more time in the office’. How true.

One Response to “Just a cog in the machine”

  1. Emchi says:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/06/18/strategy_boutique_shirt/ Just what you need I feel… ;o) all those corporate buzz words in one place

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