Does the Corporation own our personal life?

There was a time when bosses used to say to employees who were having a hard day at work, “Don’t bring your personal life to the office,” or “I don’t want to know about your personal life, get on with the job I’m paying you to do.” That message has changed over the years, and now reads, “Get on with the job of doing more with less, and also lead the life I expect of you.”

Somewhere at the end of the last century, employers realized that they needed to embrace the whole person at work, that the private life of an individual influenced his professional life and vice versa, and that they were ignoring a whole area that affected employee performance. So began the rounds of personality testing, and the emotional intelligence movement that scored employees on scales from extrovert to introvert, from red to blue, from feeling to thinking, from emotionally evolved to emotionally stunted, giving us night sweats that we had never before had in our lives, making us want to conform to an optimal corporate personality stereotype that some of us were totally unsuitable for. This “whole person” movement then intersected with a quest for doing more with less as machines and computers began taking over “routine” tasks but creating other routines that now had to be dealt with incrementally by these personality and emotionally “boxed” employees.

Then came the social media age where employees were encouraged to express themselves on corporate and personal social media pages, as long as they posted politically correct messages. This followed with the move to check on what these employees were engaged in at their desks by planting clever bots to spy on keystrokes and provide reports to inquisitive bosses. Then the action moved on to monitor employees’ behaviour at recreational events that were no longer tied to the 9-to-5, or should we say the 24/7, workday. And woe be unto employees trying to de-stress in a socially unacceptable way—they were now on Candid Camera! Some of these employees had no social lives to begin with, due to being strapped to a grinding corporate life, so their behaviour outside of work had to have a reactionary component shaped by social media itself.

Then the sanctions and punishments started to rain down: “You were seen at this public sporting event, uttering rude words.” “Our team lost, I was upset.” “But you were spouting four-letter words.” “That’s the way I talk when I hang out with my friends” “Well, you were caught on public TV and your tee-shirt bore our logo.” “Sorry, that’s the only stitch of clothing I have these days, you pay me so poorly.” “You’re fired!”

I am glad that I escaped before things got to this stage at the Corporation. Even back then, I realized that my days were numbered when I released my first novel fifteen years ago; I realized that I was going to end up in a conflicting situation sooner or later. My novels are not politically correct and are aimed at discovering the truth, while corporate messages are based on “positioning that exposes truthful elements and masks untruthful ones.” My books are complete exposés—all or nothing! Yes, it was time to exit gracefully. And I did.

But younger employees may not have that luxury. Theirs will be a life that will bear more scrutiny from employers, more suppression of their true natures (not sure what it will do to their emotional intelligence!), more nervous breakdowns as a result, and an earlier mid-life crisis, all in the name of earning a pay cheque. It may also lead to more self-employment that will ultimately compete and weaken the Corporation, and start the next cycle of workplace evolution.

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