"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Enchanted Workplace

I am sure that whoever coined the phrase "enchanted workplace" meant for it to signify a wonderful new world full of meaning, opportunity, and promise.  However, for me, the image brings to mind the enchanted castle in the Disney film, Beauty and the Beast, where all of the household servants (personified as household appliances based on their particular duties) are singing and dancing to the song "Be Our Guest."  Held against their will by a spell that was cast on them, they cannot be free until the enchantment is broken. As Gee, Hull, and Lankshear point out in The New Work Order, there is always a dark side to enchantment.  Not only does the enchanted workplace promise meaning and fulfillment, but it is also "easily vulnerable to abuses of power and [to] the elaborate manipulation of people and values" (p. 34).  In order for the enchanted workplace ideal to function in reality, employees need to be willing to make a full commitment to the team and its core values.  Otherwise the enchantment is broken.

The problem is that an organization's core values and mission are not usually written with the employees themselves in mind as the audience. More frequently, the organization is trying to project a certain image to the consumer or client, or they are catering to higher authorities within the organization.  In many cases, the average employee has very limited input in the formation of these organizational pillars.  Thus, it creates a gap between the espoused beliefs of the organization and the realities that actually drive it.  Employees may not be able to connect with the organizational culture and may not understand how their work and behavior tie into it.

Disney is actually a great example of this, and I had to laugh when I saw that they were listed as one of the examples in this article.  As a college student, I spent one summer working in a local Disney Store as a sales clerk/cashier.  Frankly, I used to find it hilarious how hard they tried to indoctrinate all of their employees into the "Wonderful World of Disney."  We were told to refer to our customers as "guests," even when they were not within earshot.  Furthermore, we were not "employees" or "cashiers," but "cast members" called to uphold Disney's magical image.  We did not "take breaks"; instead, we retired to the "green room."  Also, nothing in the store had a price tag.  We were told that it "takes away from the magic."  If a guest really wants to know, then they can ask.  Our participation in the company jargon was halfhearted at best.  We were all keenly aware of the fact that we were working minimum-wage retail jobs, and there's nothing magical about that.  Even the customers would look at us strangely when we welcomed them as "guests."   Or when they looked around and couldn't find any price tags on the toys.  It just seemed impractical.  We were not buying it, so why should they!


  1. Funny to bring up Disney. They have a saying that goes something like, "If you don't find your pleasure here, we invite you to find your pleasure elsewhere," meaning, if you aren't happy to work here, you should go work somewhere else. I always think of this when we are talking about workplace Discourse!

  2. One of the students last year worked at a nearby hospital. As a human services initiative, they were using If Disney Ran Your Hospital http://www.amazon.com/Disney-Ran-Your-Hospital-Differently/dp/0974386014 Weirdly, I liked the fact that for Diseny, employees are merely 'acting"; corporate doesn't own your soul, just act like they do. That was, at least, a bit more honest than those folks at the Urban Hotel, who had to smile and drink the cool-aid. (Anyway, that hospital has since abandoned Disney for something else... let's see: Carnival Cruise? Vegas Circque du Soleil? :)


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.