Sunday, July 12, 2009

Corporate Stockholm Syndrome

For most of us, a job constitutes a straightforward, though often very unpalatable trade-off: you, the employee, hand over enormous chunks of your life (time and sentience) to a corporation, and your employer hands you back some money.

Needless to say, for the vast majority of people in this world, it's a poor trade. They work exceedingly long hours, endure poor to horrible working conditions, and are paid ridiculously small amounts of money.

Yet there is clear evidence to suggest that after an extended period of time, employees develop a Stockholm Syndrome-like response to their employers. They become grateful for the smallest crumbs that are handed to them. Here is an example I recently came across....

Improving employee morale with incentives a challenge in tough economic times
By Wailin Wong | Chicago Tribune reporter

ThoughtWorks, a Chicago-based information technology consulting firm, gives its employees a three-month paid sabbatical when their tenure reaches 10 years.

Nancy Kistler took her leave last summer after 14 years at the company, where she oversees several large client accounts. Instead of traveling around the world like some of her colleagues, Kistler stayed home in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her two young children. It was a welcome break after having traveled weekly for 14 years.

"I was really thankful for getting that opportunity because you don't get that anywhere these days, and having it be fully paid makes a huge difference," Kistler said. "To me, it really said a lot about how I'm valued by the company."

And there you have it, folks. This woman spends FOURTEEN YEARS traveling every week for her company (and I am sure paid quite well). For at least several of those years, she is separated from her children for a large part of the time.

And she ends up being really thankful for three months of time with her family.

I guess it's a whole lot better than being bitter.

1 comment:

Byte64 said...

oddly enough, this is not a peculiar nuance of capitalism as most of the people might think.
If you have a chance to read the "ultimate" biography of Che Guevara written by Paco Ignacio Taibo II, you'll find that one of the compelling reasons that brought Guevara and the other prominent of the Cuban communist party on an increasingly diverging path was Guevara's lifestyle, especially when he spent most of his spare time working in the cane sugar fields instead of enjoying life with his own family (and he was pushing others to follow his example...).

I also believe that we managed to put ourselves in a sort of stalemate situation: on one hand we praise the emancipation of women through work, on the other hand this results in children spending most of their time at school or elsewhere, with the parents who barely see them in the evening hours. Unfortunately this is the outcome of "progress". Until mid '70 many families could live well with one wage. Now, at least here, only wealthiest could afford such tenure, so both must be working and in many cases only to pay their bills, if they do.
It looks like in many nations family has turned into an "optional and at your risk" thing, as if the future were not to be taken into account, unless it means "how the company will perform" in the next quarter.