Submitted by a Concerned 594 Member
November 20, 2019
The Elephant Tea Company began production in Marseille France in 1896. It became a popular brand in Europe and the company flourished. The workforce was happy and productive. Management had few problems and the plant required only a few people to oversee the approximately 180 employees. The plant and brand were profitable enough to attract the attention of Unilever, the parent company of Lipton. In 1972 Unilever purchased the plant.
Things began to change at this point. The number of management staff increased dramatically. Consultants were brought in to provide advice, at a price of course, for the now burgeoning numbers of management who couldn’t think for themselves. Profits began to fall and in 2010 the plant was slated to be closed and production moved to Poland.
I learned about this story while reading Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber. He proposes that the last few decades have seen the proliferation of a managerial class that serves little to no purpose. The Elephant Tea Company was just one example that hit home for me. Looking around and observing the changes over the last five years I see many people in positions that cannot explain what they do. When on vacation, nobody fills their job. They seem to spend their day trying to figure out what to do to ensure they have an income tomorrow. I’m sure I’m not alone in noticing this. Look around your area and try to estimate how much money is thrown away on management jobs that didn’t exist just a few short years ago. We have shored up our ‘Shaky House’ by adding layers to the top.
A few people in such positions have quit and moved on. I can only guess that they see how precarious their positon is or are tired of having no real purpose and being a drain on society. Others cling on because they need the income. I genuinely feel sorry for them as I suspect they cry themselves to sleep at night knowing their professional life is a fraud.
Another book that I am reminded of constantly is 1984, George Orwell’s dystopian novel about living in a totalitarian regime. If you’re not familiar with Orwell’s masterpiece, imagine a place where all information is delivered by the state. There are imaginary enemies and nearly all enjoyable activities are banned, including most personal relationships.
One particular event at work last year brought back memories of my trip to Cuba. We took a day trip to Havana and there happened to be a book sale. Obviously, I had to check it out, and imagine my luck, if I wanted a book about the Cuban Revolution or a biography of Fidel Castro the options were endless. Now try to imagine an organization that hands out copies of Risk and Relevance to every employee. I shudder just trying to imagine such a place.
Another mechanism the state uses in 1984 is newspeak. Up is down and down is up, if the authorities say so. Your entire life is bombarded with propaganda that your brain tells you is not true. I sit at my board and have to look at the company mission statement with the words Integrity, Excellence and Responsibility in large font at the bottom. I wonder if they know what it means, or am I going insane from the steady stream of BS? Soon I will have a large TV screen behind me beaming more messages from the Dear Leader. I may as well just change my name to Winston Smith and my address to Oceania.
When you have integrity, nothing else matters. When you don’t have integrity, nothing else
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