Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!

man-in-a-box-lenore-senior It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed.
Albert Einstein

Thinking that everyone’s out to get you is a common feeling at work. And it’s not just some paranoid delusion. Many of the people who run large corporations are determined to wring every last drop of effort from their employees. Sweating your assets is a surefire lowest common denominator approach to your fellow human beings. It’s where the butterfly of engagement gets ground to a pulp on the wheels of commerce.

As I read back over past posts on this blog, I see a recurring theme – humanity. Euan Semple’s phrase “Organisations don’t tweet, people do” applies universally to almost any aspect of corporate life you care to think of.
Organisations don’t treat people as a figure on a profit and loss account, people do.
Organisations don’t keep people in the dark, people do.
Organisations don’t hold pointless meetings, people do.
Organisations don’t make people redundant, people do.
Organisations don’t find ways to avoid paying their fair share of tax, people do.
Organisations don’t have byzantine recruitment processes, people do.
Organisations don’t have wasteful procurement policies, people do.
Organisations don’t humiliate and discriminate, people do.
Organisations don’t claim credit for the good work of others, people do.

Every single decent act, every single difference made, the best thinking, the hard graft, the long hours, the caring for customers, the money in the bank, the bonuses paid, the CEO’s skiing holiday, the staff party – all down to people. Not assets. Not capital. Not resources. People. Human beings. Homo Sapiens. The direct translation from the Latin is “Wise man”. Look at the way people treat other people in the pursuit of commercial success and you’d be hard pushed to find a more unsuitable term with which to describe us.

Our workplaces may no longer look like Taylorist warehouses but an entrenched command and control mentality still afflicts those who employ and govern us. That’s why terms like “human capital” persist. It’s why we’re on the annual report as a cost (and a happy CSR case study if you’re lucky). It’s the reason for our obsession with measurement and productivity. And it’s why everyone has their knickers in a twist over the rise in self-employment. From the Bank of England to the Wall Street Journal, everyone wants to get a handle on what’s behind it because they are having a hard time measuring it. It doesn’t fit neatly into one of their tidy, pre-determined boxes. The pigeon won’t go into the hole.


I like people who don’t fit in boxes. I like to see the human being behind the job title. I want to sit down for a pint with a person, not a field in a form. I want my relationships to be determined by something other than an algorithm. The truth is, not everyone’s got it in for you. Some have. Some are just in it for themselves and will stand on you to get what they want. Some have got your best interests at heart.

Me? I’m not going quietly. The only box I’m going in is a coffin.

Postscript – We should go for a change in accounting rules so the value in people can be listed as an intangible asset or goodwill to offset against people costs

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Picture credit: Man In A Box by Lenore Senior



  1. […] Simon Heath explodes the myth of organization as entity in this stirring write of the yin and yang of people. The world has changed and yet we still try to manage people as capital. Read why this relic of a practice is fast fading and why @SimonHeath1 celebrates its demise […]

  2. So true. After years as a non-conformist (actually normally labelled as a “maverick” – which I take as a compliment) fighting for the value of humanity from specific individuals within what claims to be a humane organisation I am moving on to a smaller organisation where I think it will unfortunately be the same. I have to get out of my work box to avoid the coffin!
    Organisations set out to have the high moral ground, only often people without those values are employed and then supported who often seem unaware of the morality espoused by the organisation. I’m beginning to wonder whether not not amorality is the true problem. They’re not immoral – if they were they would know it – they have none hence amorality.
    I have some thinking to do on the topic of “Farewell, adieu, auf wiedershen, goodbye”. It’s going to be difficult to keep my mouth closed but I’ll have to do it.

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