The word “organization” was originally interpreted in two ways: it meant “everything in its place” and the add-on, “a place for everything.” Additionally, the organization came to mean a workplace; for example, “I work for the Chicken Feed Organization where they pay me chicken feed.”
Some time, perhaps in the late 1950s or early 1960s, an interesting term came to life. They were (in those days) known as “The Organization Employee.” The organization employee was the consummate “yes person.” They did everything “the company way.” If the corporate manual said that a desk for a mid-level manager could only have one potted plant and one photo on your desk, by golly, there was a stringy Philodendron in a clay pot and a Kodachrome snapshot of the family unit at Disney World.
On the serious side of things, the term came to mean a regimented, well-dressed, inexpressive person whose greatest delight was to be “in the box,” never to take a risk, to nod in agreement and collect pins for faithful service. The organization employee towed the company line to the extreme.
A New Generation
As the decades passed, the view of the organization employee changed, though some professions still expected and valued undue commitment and dreadful hours. This is true to this day, from Silicon Valley programmers to Wall Street newbie lawyers who work horrendous hours. But by and large, work and play became more inter-mixed; dress was looser, workplaces relaxed and work life was seen as needing to be more about issues and less about work stuff. Is it bad? Not entirely.
We should be more compassionate and accepting. We shouldn’t work so many hours that we lose touch with our very souls. We should allow ourselves to enjoy life outside work.
So, is the “Organization Employee” gone forever, along with other 1960s relics? Unfortunately, he and she are still with us, just more subtly hidden in their presence and cleverer at their disguises. We may know some of them quite well. Want to “see” some modern-day organization employees? Here are but a few examples:
The “Me-First” Employee – The “Me-First” is the opposite of the 1960s organization employee. Not really. This type of person clings to their group. For example, this is the person who angrily and impatiently snaps at someone who is just ahead of them in line at the grocery store, airport or train station or who “flips off” another driver whom they always deem to be too slow. It’s their world and their way!
The “Perfect Body” Employee – Then there are those who mock those with less-than-perfect physiques. We often find this type associating with similar people at gyms or spas, ski slopes or beaches, who shame people who are not “ripped” or who may be a few pounds overweight or are simply not cute enough, tall enough, or have blemishes.
The “Low Expectation” Employee – This is an interesting character who values others like him or her who have no ambition, and who mocks anyone around them who believes they can do better. The low expectation person will tell friends, relatives, even their own children, that they will never amount to anything – and that they shouldn’t even try. How many children have been crushed by such parents?
The “Social Media” Employee – This personality spends pretty much every waking hour communicating with a lot of other people who spend much of their waking lives on social media as well. They may have 1,000 or more friends, but they have never met any of them.
There are many more Organization Employees who are in our midst. They are dividers, not healers, negative, never positive, hypercritical and never helpful.
As I reflect on these modern-day types, I can’t help but compare them with those who were mocked as the original “Organization Employee.”
They were far from perfect, but they were less concerned with outer appearance than the inner, more respectful of their leaders, offered assistance when they could, and built up when they were able. While we have come a long way in our organizations, we need to go much further. Let us not disregard everything they stood for, but embrace the values and work ethic they gave us. While the “Organization Employee” may have worked with less passion and more methodically, they nevertheless took pride in their performance. They learned that every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence!