Gee, Hull & Lankshear use the term ‘enchanted workplace’ in The New Work Order to describe the ideology of fast capitalism. The term amused me, as I’d underlined multiple statements leading up to the use of ‘enchanted workplace’. Are we not enchanted to be submerged in a fast-paced and stressful work environment? Imagine Disney’s Snow White scrubbing and cooking for seven unkempt working men. Enchanting; no! Yet eliminate the seven middle men and consider the work conditions she endured on her slate bed and her duties of waiting for the Prince. Now we’re enchanted. Gee, Hull & Lankshear mention Disney’s Core Values, number one being no cynicism allowed! Instead let’s ‘bring happiness to millions and celebrate… wholesome American values’. In other words, “Let’s get to work”!
The repeated descriptions in this article rang so true to today’s workforce that I was anything but enchanted which I suspect was the goal of the Gee team. The middle management has been eliminated; the bosses are bossier and richer. The hub workers are doubly responsible, highly devoted to their tasks, working over forty hours a week, training for additional tasks in their off hours, answering calls at all times of the night, checking e-mails while out to dinner with family and smiling while doing it all. And the bosses are saying “We want you to be eager to stay, but ready to leave.”
Competition is the only thing that matters. Our products need to be unique, of high quality, with excellent customer service and marketed at the best price. In order to achieve these goals our companies are now ‘lean and mean’. We have increasingly sophisticated consumers, but are the hub workers as sophisticated without the middle? The missing middle management is potentially creating a workforce of ‘partners’. These partners are described by the Gee team (and translated by me with additional cynicism) as practically dancing through the endless forest looking for Snow White. Their jobs are meaningful to them, they seek to improve their performance, and they control their jobs because they are ‘supported, developed and coached’.
I imagine that those hub workers that have managed to preserve their jobs in these corporations without middle management are anything but enchanted. They are overworked, overstressed, over-trained (but it won’t all be retained), over-committed, and over-the-top in their efforts just to keep their positions. In today’s economy we are told everyday how lucky we are to have jobs. We’ve been told this so many times that we have ‘reengineered’ our own thinking or have we? I admit I feel many of the same things being pushed at me in the workforce, even in the public education system. There’s always room to do more! Yet ultimately as someone who believes in capitalism; given the chance financially I would quit my job as ‘partner’. Ultimately I continue to go to work for the paycheck; I am no longer enchanted with my career.
(To follow up on facilitated class discussion: This blog has been typed in Tahoma font, the font we’ve been coached to use at school, as the student’s SOL tests use it.)