Collective punishment doesn’t stop at school

A recent article by Robert Wringham (an author I enjoy and who’s books I recommended in a recent post) had me thinking about collective punishment in the workplace. In many ways this is related to F-U money, but I think it applies to employment generally. Wringham’s post describes receiving a collective class detention, the point of which is to have the students unfairly punished turn on those responsible for causing the situation. I’ll be honest, early in my career I did put an entire class in detention more than once…but I challenge him to stand in front of 30 baying little psychopaths like I encountered in the U.K. and not do something drastic to try and establish a modicum of control. That said, it’s not something I’ve done for many, many years.

Are meaningless work rules that dissimilar to collective punishment?

What really got me thinking, however, was that this notion of collective punishment never really stops at school. I have been employed at my current place of work for nearly a decade. Almost every year I have been there new edicts and rules have been introduced. Sick days have been cut. Dress codes altered for men (not nice in summers where a temperature lower than 30 degrees is considered an anomaly, day or night). Requirements for medical certificates on time off have tightened to the point of absurdity – if you need a certificate from a doctor for a single day, why only take a day, even if that’s all you need? Take as long as they will sign you off for!

The slow creep of rules is phrased by management as if its a necessary reaction to a few bad apples. The implication seems to be that a few people ruined it for everyone…but did they really? Wouldn’t a conversation with any one person who took the piss be more effective than a new blanket rule? Just like a teacher who collectively punishes is in the wrong, this form of management is also wrong. It attempts to turn workers on each other rather than direct their ire at the managers putting the bullshit rule into place.

Collective punishment doesn’t stop when you leave school, it just takes on another form.

This is why unions are so important. However, failing that it’s important to get that F-U money accumulated and escape plan formed!