toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

June 05, 2012

the old melting pot workplace culture

Deirdre is 46 and has been a working wife and mother for over twenty years, the last ten of which have seen her elevated from the shop floor to a position in management and witnessing a change for the worse in the old melting pot culture of workplaces.
Now that her two children are in the workforce -- and coming home every night with tales of woe -- she has to admit that workplaces and management styles have changed so much over the years that she, too, is finding her working life to be difficult than it once was.

"My workplace once acted as a melting pot that aimed to strip away our prejudices and differences and transform us into one homogenous blob -- a tolerant, productive and jolly team -- but that aim is far from achieved these days," says Deirdre.

"We are living in difficult and dangerous times and all that angst out there is spilling over in workplaces."

"Under the umbrella of 'teamwork' a wide range of women - married, single, young, old, with children or without, from all cultures, etc - are expected to behave as team players rather than who they really are," says Deirdre, "and this just doesn’t work so well any more."

"It was my job, following the melting pot management theory, to get my girls to define themselves as team players - rather than who they really are - when they are thrown together at work."

"I think schools still act like great melting pots," says Deirdre. "but I no longer see workplaces achieving the same outcome. I've got girls who blatantly identify themselves at work by who they are in their private lives rather than as an Acme Corporation team player and this sort of defiance is making my job very difficult."

"When we first start school we tend to melt into the pot very easily," says Deirdre. "We can do this because just about everyone at school is from our local area, we are the same age and - in the case of privately run schools - we are also of the same religion or social class and indeed sometimes of the same intellectual level."

"Schools help, too," she says, "by fostering loyalty. We learn the school song and we are generally very proud to belong to the local Kidsville School and wear its uniform. Nobody at school is particularly interested in who you are in private, but at that age we have generally not yet formed a strong idea of who we are, and what we stand for. We are happy to be thrown into the melting pot of school and take on an identity that is shared by everyone else."

"Japanese workplaces were once run upon the same lines as schools and achieved tremendous loyalty among their workers," says Deirdre, "and we sort of achieved the same goals but without the Japanese extremes."

"The melting pot management philosophy expected that people thrown together at work by propinquity and serendipity would develop team loyalty," says Deirdre, "and with a little encouragement from managers we did achieve that aim even though many of our girls didn't have the same cohesive factors that brought them together at school."

"Despite all of our differences, we still manage to achieve a melting pot of some degree at my workplaces," says Deirdre. "Our one defining characteristic is that we are all working to earn a living and it is an unwritten law that you respect the rights of co-workers to earn their bread and butter."

Unfortunately, this unwritten law is no longer being observed.

"With more and more competition for jobs," explains Deirdre, "you find women ganging up against someone of another culture, trying to force her to quit her job in order to get someone of their own culture into the job."

"In past times even if we were not particularly loyal to the company we work for," says Deirdre, "we were at least loyal to the notion of being working women - if not team players."

"We related to the fact that we all have similar bodily functions, relationship problems, glass ceiling problems and all of the other factors that make us similar despite our differences," explains Deirdre.

"In our private lives, of course, we tended to mix with people who are very similar to ourselves," says Deirdre, "but in our working lives we accepted that we will be thrown together with women from all walks of life, and we did our best not just to co-exist with these women but also to identify, in part, with them. We were all working women, on the same team."

"However," says Deirdre, "these days we are becoming more aware of differences between people, some of which can be so stark that they act against the melting pot teamwork principles."

"I am trying to impart to my daughters, who are having some real problems getting along with co-workers, that along with the miseries of discovering some really awful women at work, there are also the joys of discovering some really interesting women - people they might never have had the opportunity to meet in their private lives."

"Generally," says Deirdre, "the vast bulk of working women in melting pot workplaces are married women. They don't really appreciate pretty young girls like my daughters on their team because they tend to arouse jealousy and unrest."

"However," confides Deirdre. "the women who are most victimized on teams are the single or divorced mothers. They often bring this victimization on themselves by expecting special treatment because they're single mothers, and some just don’t pull their weight at all."

"I'd never victimize someone on account of their culture or marital status," says Deirdre, "but slackers and slackers whatever their color and they deserve all they get."

"Anyway, I'm glad I started my working life twenty years ago and gained a managerial position," says Deirdre. "Life was much easier then and I feel sorry for my daughters and anyone else starting out in today's world."

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