A new book by Jeffrey Pfeffer, Dying for A Paycheck (HarperBusiness, 2018), documents the terrible price that modern globalised capitalism, with its manic production schedule is having upon human social life, and health. The focus is largely upon the US, as most research is, but it is still relevant to us in Australia, since we are a microcosm of the US, and most diseases made in America, soon blow to our shores. In one US survey, 61 percent of employees said that workplace stress had made them sick, and of these 7 percent had been hospitalised. Job stress in the US costs employers over $ 300 billion per year, with 120,000 excess deaths annually. China is even worse with an estimated one million people a year dying from overwork, and rising. The world has become a vast sweatshop:
Here are some insightful comments in an interview which Pfeffer gave about his book:
“You talk about a number of barriers to moving, and one of those is individual psychology. What is that psychological dynamic? There are many issues. One simple one that we should never overlook is sheer exhaustion. Finding a job is itself a job. If you are physically or psychologically drained by workplace stress, then you’re not going to have the capacity to go out and look for another job. I want to wake people up. This is a serious issue that has serious consequences for corporate performance and for people’s well-being. Companies also play to our egos. They say, “What’s wrong with you? Aren’t you good enough? We’re a special organization. We’re changing the world and only certain people are going to be up for the task.” Who wants to admit they’re not good enough? And we are influenced by what we see our peers doing.
I’ve had people say to me: “I look around and all my colleagues are working themselves to death. What makes me think I’m so special that I don’t have to?” We have come to normalize the unacceptable. It’s hideous. You make clear that yoga classes and nap rooms won’t fix this. What are some of ways this culture might change? I don’t think it’s going to. What changed environmental pollution? People decided that we were not going to permit companies to create a world with polluted air and fouled water. I cannot see that happening with respect to the workplace in the current political environment and the push for deregulation. And, for reasons I’ve already alluded to, I think people don’t necessarily see, recognize, or appreciate what’s going on in the workplace. To the extent that they do, they think it’s inevitable — everyone has to be working long hours and be miserable. You know what might change this? I gave a talk on this to Stanford alumni and afterward a lawyer came up to me and said there are going to be lawsuits. On what grounds? In a way parallel to the lawsuits that were filed against tobacco companies. Some companies are killing their workers. People have been harmed. If I had to bet on how this will change, some company is going to get sued, some lawyer will win an enormous award, and that will open the floodgates.”
Thus I the end, we will need the lawyers on the job to make the corporates pull their horns in. But, as always, there needs to be the social will to do that, which requires the sheeple to start objecting to being treated like working bullocks, for it is unfair to expect a sheep to do the work of a bullock.