Since the Millenium I have noticed society changing. The change for the worse seemed abrupt to me, especially at work, where the office once a place to fulfill your vocation and do an honest’s day’s work, became a place filled with nasty politics. At work, I suspect especially in highly competitive pressure cooker, Asia, people have become more selfish in their blind ambition, willing to allow colleagues to perish in their bid to go full steam ahead. I couldn’t bear watching the reality show ‘Survivor’ because it reminded me too much of the treachery at work and it even rewarded those who managed to deceive everyone, with a million dollars! Bad behaviour is rewarded. Now tell me that isn’t warped!
All this bad behaviour has been cultivated at top management level, where loyalty is no longer valued and the Board of Directors are only interested is what makes the stock price go up. And then when you do leave you’re berated for not being loyal. Why should anyone be loyal, when your job could be easily outsourced for cheaper labour or made redundant with the use of machinery or technology, all in the singular quest to make the stock price rise.
Technology has made us work like robots with bosses setting impossible deadlines. You frequently hear “I want this yesterday”, today. You are expected to carry a blackberry and check your emails in the evenings and during weekends. But does increasing dependence on technology really make our lives better? Tell me honestly, would you rather speak to an automated machine than to a real person?
We have an especially bad habit in Singapore where the number of hours you are physically seen to put in at the office, is more valued than the actual work done. People in the office who know how to play the game, succeed this way. It’s sad when honesty doesn’t pay. When HR talks about work life balance we know it is all talk and the opposite is in action. In more progressive companies, you are measured based on your actual quality of work and output, but sadly these companies seem to be few and far between.
There is also increased incidence of bullying at work. The bully is usually in a position of power and relishes what he or she can get away with. It’s like the bully at the playground, but this time it’s at the office and the bully is rewarded. Usually the bully shows two different kinds of behaviour, that of a model employee to the bosses, brown-nosing and bending to their every whim, and that of tyrant reserved for the meek colleague. I know of a company where the top management was fully aware that this individual was a serial bully and cause for attrition, but they decided they could do nothing about it because the person in question had too much clout with the Board of Directors. Incidents like this infuriate me to no end.
Our values have become eroded. I remember a time when the company values really stood for something – ‘Treat others the way you would like to be treated’. Management used to sincerely treat people with trust and respect. They really upheld those values and they were not just put there as window dressing.
We used to respect seniority and we learnt from those who were more experienced than us. Today with increasing technology, the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers have been left in the dust and sidelined. I think this is very sad. There was so much I learnt from their wisdom, but increasingly, the new generations, both X and Y, don’t seem to think they have anything to learn (I am one of the Gen-Xers).
I remember a time when we genuinely wanted everyone to succeed. If we saw someone at work struggling, we would rally together to help them get the job done and vice versa. There was no real need for artificial team building exercises. It was a natural element that grew from caring about your colleagues. Today a vast majority seem to be out for themselves. It is truly like the show Survivor, with the survival of the fittest and meanest. They will step on or stab anyone in the back just to get ahead. They also suck up shamelessly all in the interest of money and power. How did our values get so eroded? Where did dignity go? Is this a sign of capitalism gone wrong, as pure greed takes over our society?
We see signs of this in the irresponsibility displayed by Big Corporations like the BP with the recent disastrous Oil Spill. Greed and selfishness caused the company to take greater risks and they obviously didn’t give a damn that they were also taking big risks for society as a whole. White collar crime on Wall Street is another example of capitalism gone awry, and the internal rot.
I long for a time where an honest day’s job was valued and it was not just purely about the money and power. I miss the time when it was a good thing to work in a team and help out your teammates. Not because you were praised for it, but because you knew it was the right thing to do and you genuinely wanted to because your colleagues were your friends. Work was a joy because you actually liked the people you worked with and you all shared the same values. You didn’t dread going to work every morning but actually looked forward to it. Productivity was a natural consequence and attrition rates were low. Productivity didn’t need to be shoved down out throats like it is today. Rather than outsource 50 people, the whole company would rather take a pay cut and work shorter hours so that no one would lose their livelihood. This was a real case in the 80’s. Most people want to do a good job and come to work highly motivated, they just need a bad environment (bad bosses or co-workers) to demotivate them. It’s no longer good stress at work where we strive towards healthily achieving our targets because we are proud of the organisation. Rather it has become a situation of distress with employees suffering from headaches, illness and depression as a result. In the worse case scenarios, you could even die of a heart attack from work distress. I have even seen cases of employees committing suicide as they can no longer bear the pain.
What happened to sticking up for each other? If people treated each other with dignity, we wouldn’t need all those anti-depression pills or yoga, spa and meditation retreats to de-stress. I truly hope we realize where we’re heading and it’s not too late to turn back.