Have you ever wondered what the workplace would be like if the staff were given the same treatment our schools give our children? It is worth pondering since school is supposed to be preparation for work.
If companies were run like schools, the first sign would be the company uniform. A unified dress code, applicable to all. All would have the same footwear and outfit to ensure that “no one felt inferior because of their different economic status”. Jewellery, make up, and designer clothes would be banned. In some places women would be made to wear ties, jackets and short skirts no matter what their shape, size or inclination.
At the end of each working day, staff would be sent home with an hour or two of extra work to be handed in the following morning, and everyone would be assessed on everything — from appearance, to attitude, to personality, to achievement. The assessments would be written down four times a year and shared with family and colleagues. Charts would be made and prizes given to highlight the achievers, and expose those who do not do well. And, every year, each worker would be subject to a written examination in subjects related to their areas of employment. And those who do not do well in these exams would be made to do the same work all over again for another 12 months!
Pity the worker who was slow or disinterested or simply failed to do his work on time. Is that the accountant standing in the corner wearing a hat with the big ‘D’ on it? Was that the marketing assistant who was caned? Or the personnel manager writing out a hundred times “I will not hold shoddy interviews”? Of course, in our school-influenced company, the biggest punishments would be reserved for those who copied their colleagues’ work or got the answers to a management problem from the person sitting next to them. Off to the managing director’s office with them for six of the best! And after that, they would be placed at the front of an open plan office, where they can be seen and stopped from helping each other with the answers to their corporate problems. But their humiliation will not end there. Letters will be sent to their families, who will be made to come to the corporate office, and told of their relative’s behaviour so that they too can put pressure on the errant worker.
The truth is schools were originally designed to be oppressive, totalitarian organizations, where children were to be uniformed and moulded, seen but not heard, speaking only when spoken too, “taught a lesson” by their “masters”, tested, examined, beaten and humiliated and put into different “classes”.
Times change. Once, the adult world had indentured labour and the work experience was often in tune with the oppressive education system. But organizations have moved on. The uniform of the workplace has been replaced with an informal dress code, women can and do wear make up, and sometimes (whisper it softly) are treated as equal to men! In progressive schools, “masters” and “headmasters” have been replaced by “teachers” and “principals”, but there is still an awful amount of 19th century oppression in the system and we are still a very long way from a modern child-centred system.
So next time you miss a deadline, fail to secure a contract, fall short of your targets or fall out with the boss, don’t get depressed. Life could be worse — you could be stuck in the corner with a big “D” on your hat, waiting for someone making you write out one hundred times, “I must not be a naughty boy”. Luckily for you we reserve that kind of abuse for our children...
The author is an education consultant. She will write a monthly column on training and education as they relate to careers and the workplace. Respond to this column at firstname.lastname@example.org