toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

August 29, 2012

toeing the company line

Bettina is a top-level manager, a toe-the-company-line careerist no matter what the consequences of its mushroom management style. She's a stereotypical wealthy DINK woman -- both she and her husband, Doug, have never wanted any children and they both live for their work.

Bettina derives extraordinary wealth and power working for a company employing the mushroom management style.

"As we all know," laughs Bettina, "this type of management style keeps its employees in the dark, feeds them manure and waits until they are nice and fat and comfortable before turfing them out and exposing them to the elements."

"The mushroom management style is the most prevalent way to manage people in the world today," says Bettina, "and like the stealth bomber it's the most effective of its type."

Bettina is typical of a mushroom manager. She has a highly developed stealth mentality and can be lethal.

Companies using this style of management aim to achieve an outward appearance of excellent employer-employee relations while secretly exploiting, despising - and yes, also fearing - the power of their employees.

Bettina walks around chatting with her staff, acting like she is just one of the girls, but in private she admits to despising and mistrusting all of them.

Like the potato management style there is a basic 'them and us' divide between management and staff, but in a company run on mushroom management principles it is expressed in a manner entirely opposite to its real nature.

Bettina outwardly gives the impression of being a caring person, concerned about everybody’s jobs, but she admits that she has often axed people the very day after telling them their jobs were safe.

"You need to put the company first," says Bettina. "That’s what being a manager is all about."

When you work for a company operating on a mushroom management principles, managers will make a concerted effort to do be doing everything within their power to make you a happy employee.

Bettina believes that a happy employee is a productive employee. She holds lots of team meetings, gives regular pep talks and promises lots of wonderful things to come.
"Workers need something to look forward to, even if it never eventuates," says Bettina. "When they are promised a bonus, or a trip, they will work harder."

In this happy yet essentially dark, and well-manured environment, workers will settle down and grow into a particular type of fungi.

Typical of mushroom management style companies is that they often do not pay very well, but they offer so many other benefits that workers believe they are getting a reasonable payoff.

Bettina admits that her staff are paid less than the going rate, but nobody complains.

"Why should they?" queries Bettina. "This company gives them everything - we have a canteen, a crèche, regular bonuses, a tennis court a swimming pool and lots of other staff amenities."

Another shining benefit of this type of company is the staff camaraderie. The company actually encourages staff outings and friendship. It is all 'one happy family'.

Bettina challenges anyone to find one unhappy face in the building, and she made her point. Everyone did look happy!

In this sort of climate employees feel very comfortable and secure and often go into debt buying a house, a new car, or even start a family believing that their job will last a long time.

After all, at every team meeting Bettina assures everyone that the company is doing great. And if Bettina says so personally, it must be true. Right?

There is also evidence that the company is apparently doing great. It is either hiring new staff, or doing renovations, or buying new equipment, or expanding operations, or all of these things.

In actual fact, all of these measures are simply ploys.

The company is safeguarding its interests by feeding employees manure or lies. The company may be in financial trouble and seeking capital or a merger, or it may be in the process of acquiring another company. In both cases it sees absolute stealth as being necessary to ensure that everything looks 'normal'.

Bettina laughs and agrees that this is the way things are.

"If employees knew the truth," she said, "management believes that they would leave the company and de-stabilize it before it had finalized its business."

In the former case, an investor or buyer would be turned off from investing in or buying into a de-stabilized company; and in the latter case a de-stabilized company is in no position to get itself out of debt by acquiring another company.

The mushroom management style basically fears employees?

"Yes," admits Bettina. "It knows that without an army of happy, settled employees the company cannot prosper. It’s my job as a manager to keep employees in line, to stop them demanding too much."

"It also works on the premise that most people are trusting of superiors," says Bettina. "So, by deliberately lying to workers, I can lull them into a false sense of security until I am given orders to strike a blow at their underbellies."

And when Bettina strikes, she strikes hard and swift.

"Yes," she admits. "People have come into work one morning, totally oblivious of what is going on, and I’ve fired them within the hour."

Asked how she feels about doing this sort of thing, Bettina said that it is part of her job and she is only acting on orders from superiors.

"You need to understand that often even I am not in full command of everything that is going on behind closed doors," confides Bettina. "I do what I am told to do and I sleep well at night."

Asked how she feels about people who have bought houses or settled their children in new schools on the basis of being assured by her that their jobs were safe, Bettina replied that people have to look after themselves.

"If they don’t, they’re stupid," she quips.

The benefit of being axed from a mushroom management company is that some people do see the light and get real.

Often, however, the light is so glaring that rather than investing in a good pair of sunglasses and running as fast as their mushroom stalks can allow them to, a lot of laid off mushrooms will quickly seek out another mushroom management company in order to shield them from the harsh reality of their existence.

Perhaps Bettina has a point after all.

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