HR specialists are trying to unlock the powerful forces of pleasure for organizational success and competitive advantage, believing that ‘The happy worker might be the more productive worker.’ Crochett’s (1955) work shows little support for this relationship, but the costs of job dissatisfaction are high, stimulating increases in absenteeism and labour turnover (Herzberg, Mausner et al, 1957). Meanwhile, one could claim that HRM produces desirable characteristics within the workplace such as loyalty, commitment and motivation, which are sources of pleasure to be enjoyed by employees.
Management consultants are busy trying to rethink work, subjecting it to various motivational tools and strategy, but some argue that job redesign and the like are mere tranquillizers which do little to rectify our suppressed passions and creativity in the workplace. ‘Job enrichment is part pep rally, part pain-killer – uplift and aspirin’ (Black, 1992). In today’s workplace increasing emphasis is placed on reducing the hierarchical structure and making it more participative (Baron and Kreps, 1999). Encouraging the use of flexi-time, providing mentoring and coaching schemes to reduce work conflict and encourage compassion.
All these help improve the workplace to make it more harmonious and a ‘pleasure’ to work in, based on the rationale that a more uplifting, participative culture can create a more productive workforce. Alternatively, it can be seen that it serves a distraction in the workplace, another thing to be managed and controlled to ensure rules are adhered to and the work in hand is carried out with minimal disruptions and distractions.
Cartright and Cooper (1994) say that ‘Organizations in functioning like mini societies, have distinct and identifiable cultures.’ They believe the purpose or organizational culture is to maintain order, regularity and create cohesiveness in the lives of its members. Following their work, it appears that the traditional workplace adopt a ‘role culture’ focusing on maximum efficiency and rationality, achieved through regulations and formal procedures, epitomizing the Weberian concept of bureaucracy.
Now the contemporary workplace supports more of a ‘task culture’ where commitment to the specific task, bonds and energises the individual (Cartright and Cooper, 1994). It is characterized by encouraging autonomy, flexibility, creativity and work-life balance, one could say by attempting to amplify pleasure. Cunningham (1980) claims this organizational culture is created in isolation by those in positions of power and authority, questioning how the masses can relate to these. Employees undermine this culture by creating their own. This conflicting can create chaos and anarchy in the organization, increasing the need for regulation.
The process of managing an organization involves imposing structure and order on the workplace, and its members. One may ask how this can possibly produce pleasure. An example may serve to illustrate this ‘logic’. In the WIS Docudrama event 2003, an elimination of traditional roles and boundaries, time and space resulted in the stimulation of emotions, pain, frustration and anger. Identity was questioned and insecurity amplified.
Organizations protect their employees from such anxiety and insecurity by imposing discipline, structure, rules and regulations. These take away the unpleasantries, whilst the motivational tools are needed to produce notions of pleasure (including pay-for performance schemes, autonomy, job enrichment, company cars, Christmas parties, subsidized canteens and so forth) which in turn lead to improved productivity.
Conversely, it can be claimed that this is a pessimistic view and the employees’ best interests are at heart, as they will reap the rewards and pleasure from increases in overall organizational performance (in the form of job security, increased wages etc). Either way, it is interesting to note that the resulting pleasure is a desired, intentional outcome rather than a benign product (taken to mean an unintentional consequence, a byproduct).
Furthermore, in relation to earlier discussion, it can be argued that the reverse holds true also, and organizational discipline can follow from pleasure, just as in a love relationship where one person surrenders themselves to the other. This is arguably a form of control and parallels can be drawn to the contemporary organization where employees are induced to commit themselves to their work in the name of ‘loyalty.’
Regulation of Pleasure
A gradual process of desexualisation has taken place as managers are attempting to repress and expel sexuality from the workplace. This links to Weber’s notion on the development of rational bureaucracy. ‘With modernity came surveillance, bureaucratization and de-sexualisation’ (Dandelier, 1990). Increasingly codes are being put in place that govern and regulate our pleasures in the workplace. These attempt to bring sexual energy under control and stop polluting the work environment. But these can create hostility and lead us to question if it is necessary to impose such controls and repress such sexual interactions.
For example, Pringle’s (1989) work showed how secretaries were far from passive objects of the bosses banter, deriving pleasure from imitating or ridiculing existing stereotypes. On the other hand, it can be argued that such regulation is necessary to prevent against undesirable consequences and support grievance procedures, such as in cases of sexual harassment, in which one persons pleasure is inflicted on another.
Thus certain types of pleasure can be disruptive to the organization, highlighting the need for control and regulation. However, Gabriel (1995) proposes that there exists a terrain within every organization that cannot be managed, which is referred to as the ‘unmanaged organization’. Organizational members are free to engage in unsupervised, spontaneous activity, where their emotions (both pleasure and pain) can find expressions in highly irrational constructions.
It is a dreamworld where ’emotions prevail over rationality and pleasure over reality.’ (Gabriel, 1995). The engagement with fantasy is at its core, and stories, jokes and gossip are among its manifestations. Traditional literature views fantasy as stimulating either conformity or resistance. However, fantasy offers a third possibility involving a ‘symbolic refashioning of official organizational practices in the interest of pleasure, allowing a temporary supremacy of emotions over rationality and of uncontrol over control.’ Interestingly, with reference to the discussion in the earlier section, claims that have been made that a bureaucratization of leisure is occurring. For example, Club Med was originally seen as a pleasure center, but now it has become commercialized and organized. Thus, even pleasure places are not free from the shackles of management discipline and organization.
Adam Smith (1959) claimed ‘no society can surely be flourishing, or happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable’. The suppression of pleasure in the workplace can serve to stimulate even greater and more detrimental indulgence. Paradoxically, Smith’s work is often referenced and used to support capitalism and globalisation, which can be said to generate poverty, crime, mental illness and so forth (Aglietta, 1979; Mafessoli, 1996). In past Centuries, pleasure was visible in work; people were engaged in creative jobs in which they could express themselves and achieve satisfaction from the process, not just the outcomes of their labour efforts.
The strict demarcation of leisure and work came into effect and a deskilling of workers took place, aided by Taylor’s Scientific Management and Ford’s standardized principles. Rationality and efficiency and regulation prevailed, and pleasure was driven out of the workplace. This saw the birth of the consumer culture as people turned to other things outside of work to derive satisfaction. However, though this fuelled certain economies (leisure etc) it had a negative backlash on organisations where plummeting morale saw its effects on increased absenteeism and high labour turnover, both of which proved very costly for the organization.
The twenty first century is witnessing a spur in economic efficiency, rapid technological developments, spurring globalization and the desire to achieve a competitive advantage. Thus HRM movements promote the importance of leveraging employees as the most sustainable competitive advantage. Motivational theories have come to the fore heralding the importance of a committed workforce. Management consultants draw attention to the importance of a meritocratic, open, enjoyable organizational culture. At the same time mechanisms such as performance indicators, appraisals, and evaluations are instilled throughout the organization, claiming benefits for employees, but can be seen to be control mechanisms, regulating and disciplining employee behaviour.
The purpose of managers is to manage, but this essay has demonstrated that the dynamics of pleasure mean that it cannot be easily packaged, shaped, manipulated or controlled to give the desired organizational result through the imposition of rules and regulations. Nonetheless, it has been shown that pleasure is a relevant concept at work, in industry and throughout society. EXTRA Pleasure origin and control However, this is controlled by managerial discipline such common practice in the United States of giving drug tests on the job. Managers are even delegating the responsibility of controlling through self managed teams that serve as an inescapable surveillance function.
Work-life balance-contradiction? Interestingly, more and more organizations are emphasising the value of a work-life balance. But this sends subliminal message that work is not the appropriate place to have a life. I.e keep fun outside such as we were subject to at school where there was a distinct division between the behaviour expected of us in the classroom distinct from that when out in the playground. Thus the contradictions are apparent.
Extras But work fails to motivate a person to maximize their productive potential, unlike the play impulse. (Black, 1992). Such adrenalin is the employers’ favoured drug for use by employees as a source of pleasure. Work is escape from outside, chaotic world. Docudrama. Pleasure can be derived from achievement. This ties into the notion of performance appraisal where employees are assessed against objectives.
Extra, P through organizational discipline But for managers, in controlling and disciplining employees they themselves experience pleasure as it confirms their power status. This can be seen as a negative source of pleasure although it has positive effects in that they have a passion for seeing the organizational gain and successful results, which will be passed on to the employees, thereby stimulating pleasure! Thus it works both ways.
Pleasure at work consuming other pleasures On the other hand, Knights and Willmott’s analysis of the novel Nice Work points out how ‘work that is meaningful can become so absorbing or consuming as to displace or destroy other sources of meanings and pleasure, such as family, marriage, leisure etc..’ EXTRA This is the reverse of the question that was posed, so that pleasure itself is used to discipline and control corporate citizens (both in and out of the workplace). We are manipulated through our unmet desires. Pleasure is being increasingly used to sell commodities and has become a commodity itself (Featherstone, 1990).
Use pleasure to control producers, workers and customers. E.g customer care policies involve training check out operatives to smile at customer to give positive signals. This is problematic as danger of being misread and thus cannot always control the meaning which is subjective and thus hard to manipulate and control through pleasure. Calas and Smirich’s (1991). In contrast, my first job as a PR assistant was a completely different experience. I had been involved in the heart of the business and put a lot of time, energy, blood sweat and tears into the work! In terms of salary I had very little to show for my efforts but more than anything my work brought me a true sense of satisfaction and achievement. My work was indeed a source of pleasure, and a dismal paycheck would not deflect from that.
Thus with respect to the above discussion, pleasure is a key ingredient in driving the economy forward and fueling capitalism (Burrell’s third face). This is achieved by engaging employees in their work through rewards that help to increase motivation and job satisfaction. The increasing fluidity of the workplace concept (through flexi-time arrangements etc) and increasing labour mobility leads to a fragmentation of work. Thus work becomes less structured, formerly the main attractive feature of leisure time. For example, In Nice Work, Robyn sees no boundary between work leisure and life. ‘I never stop working…This isn’t a factory…We don’t clock in and out.’