British management and workers fail to realise their American Dream

The Statue of Liberty front shot, on Liberty I...

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How do we view the subject of work and/or providing a service and, is the predominant viewpoint a cause of organisational failure and our exorbitant public spending?

There was a time when the vast majority of employees possessed what I (and others) would call a good work ethic. They usually tried (to the best of their ability), to do ‘a fair days work for a fair days pay’. All too often these days it appears that as a nation, we actually have a predominant shirk ethic; it’s more like; “what’s the least I can do for the maximum amount of cash?”  This ethos is probably also one of the main reasons behind the all too common belief that; “you’re better off on benefits than working!” In addition, the somewhat ‘protected’ status of jobs in the public sector also means it has suffered to an even greater degree than commercial organisations.

During my thirty years as a police officer, and I believe it’s the same in other public sector areas, there was a pronounced change in work ethic direction. When I joined the service it was all about; “how can I best resolve this situation and bring it to a logical conclusion, for the benefit of all those involved but most importantly the victim, where applicable?” Unfortunately it changed and became; “what’s the least I have to do to keep the boss off my back, tick the box on the relevant statistical returns documentation and importantly, shift the responsibility to some other bugger?” I can’t put an exact timeframe upon that change process but in my opinion, it has probably been most prominent within the last ten to fifteen years.

I believe one of the fundamental causes was due to social change. We became a far more self-important, self-interested and self-indulgent society, one where the individual was seen as king. As police officers (supposedly) reflect the society they serve, shouldn’t this be a natural assumption? There was however some profound organisational and managerial style change that also impacted upon the work ethic. We moved towards a more target driven business practice, we panicked under blame culture and, the running scared management adopted robust methods for self-protection within our social and working environs.

As ever in the UK, much of this new but mostly inept social functionality and work ethic was born out of desire to emulate North American productivity and wealth. In the social context, our young people have been bombarded with somewhat unreal expectations via the explosion of satellite TV and new social media. Suddenly the American Dream was seen by many in this country as their absolute right of passage also.

“…life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”. (The Epic of America – James Truslow Adams)

Our kids have grown up without any doubt in their minds that, they were destined to become disgustingly rich and even attain celebrity status popularity; hopefully without having to actually work for it. The reality of the situation was that it lost something in translation during the transatlantic pond crossing. In reality much of the American Dream may actually come to fruition for some, with very little effort however, for most there is actually an element of hard work involved. Contrary to popular belief, not all the business moguls and gurus in the states actually got to the top of their tree without toi, a factor that doesn’t usually make for good TV.

Continually (and blindly) following this American business management model fallacy is actually flawed. It simply makes no sense to follow America to the ‘nth degree the country, its people and ethics are fundamentally different. For once let’s stop elevating the Americans to the level of our all seeing all-knowing social and business oracle. If you must constantly gaze across the pond for inspiration, FFS move inland from the west and east coast areas. Examine some of the less self-important and self-promoting  genuine American people.

Look towards individuals in the central and southern states (see previous post) to find the more socially conscious hard-working people. Some of them may be hicks but they usually possess far more genuine and socially acceptable community and productivity orientated values. The overt (and somewhat predominant) bible bashing methodology (of some) may not appeal to all (me included). That said, their family, morality, community and work ethics are usually above reproach. They’re certainly more appealing than the falseness found in the chemically cleaned smiles of many of their surgically enhanced coastal cousins!

“Think not how others will benefit me but, what can I do to help others that might bring personal rewards” (Me – but like most quotations, probably someone else, in one form or another before me)

End Note: Whilst Googling the above, to see if anyone had actually said it before me I accidentally found Organica, the blog of an American Muslim woman. Born in the U.S., but partially raised in Alexandria (Egypt), she examines predominantly (but not exclusively) American/Muslim social issues. One comment I immediately liked was;

“…stop acting like good deeds are an opportunity to score the highest number of tickets to cash in heaven. Do it because you care..” (Read more at Organica)

I also like the following musical summary of my kind of Americans…

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About Dave Hasney

National Coordinator for UK SMART Recovery - Previously a Recovery Worker and prior to that a Management Consultant and H&S Practitioner - Kept sane by Angling, Good Food, Real Ale & Wine - Cynical thoughts sometimes developed from others.

Posted on 01-11-2010, in Business Babble, Public Service Babble, Society Babble and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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