Those over a certain age in the dreaded private sector will have noticed a change in how the workplace operates with regards to managerial relations. The days of hands-on management and management by walking around are done. Instead, it is management from beyond the veil. Managers, no matter how junior their rank, seek to avoid anything that looks like confrontation with their direct reports, so they avoid as much personal interaction as possible, preferring things like e-mail.
This is how we get things like firing people by e-mail or even text message. The people making the decisions not only seek to avoid firing the employee in person, but they also remove the person from the equation entirely. Instead, it is a robot controlled by the company that informs the digital expression of the employee. Someone in human resources then discontinues the character from the simulation. The point is to avoid anything the resembles human interaction.
Look a little closer and what you see in the workplace is a technological layer forming up between management and the staff. The people in positions with impressive titles fear anything resembling pushback so what is forming up between them is a technological and organizational callus. It shields both sides from the human necessity of management and staff interaction, replacing it with a technological interface that allows both sides to interact with that interface.
When Rachel from the training department is putting together the latest sermon on diversity, she will never have to stand in front of a room full of humans and deliver the sermon and see the faces of the people receiving it. She uses a piece of software her company purchased for qualitatively managing the diversity initiative. One combination of commands produces reports for management. Another result is some black guy with an X in his name running a workshop in the breakroom.
One result of this is that the presumed common morality is baked into a system, often a software system, rather than the heads and hearts of people. The latest lecture about the importance of safety is not based on collective agreement but the dashboards from the safety software and the posters that decorate the breakroom. No one asks why we need to make sure our coworkers feel safe from heteronormative body shaming as there is no one to ask. The claim comes from the ether.
This is not just a private sector phenomenon. This disease of the impersonal has infected all parts of the managerial system. Politicians used to have townhall meetings with their constituents where they would field questions. If they bother doing this at all these days, it is a rigged room with plants asking fake questions. Instead, politicians have someone interact with their voters through social media. Their Twitter is an avatar of a person who is now just an avatar.
The media has been sucked into this as well. On the one hand, no one in the media dares ask a party member a tough question. That could put the media person in bad odor with the party. Of course, the party member is not interested in confrontation either, so she avoids anyone who might ask tough questions. The exception is those on the outs with the party, but even there the fear of confrontation is keeping all but the dullest media hacks from interacting with people like Trump.
Another driver of this depersonalization of the managerial class is the feminization that we see throughout society. Males expect confrontation, then some sort of agreement with a clear winner, typically the man in charge. Women prefer consensus, especially if it facilitates endless gossip and intrigue. This is why homosexual males decorate the upper reaches of the management class. They love drama. Combined with male intellect, they thrive in the new girl powered world.
Logically, you cannot have consensus if people are disagreeing with one another so the goal is to avoid situations where people can disagree. This is the benefit of that technological callus between management and staff. There can be no disagreement because the morality of every situation has been decided by the system. If you are unhappy with the result you need to reconcile yourself with the system, not take it up with your boss, who would prefer to never see you.
In a large company, the result is a vast disconnect between what the people in charge think about the company and what the staff thinks about the company. A very modern phenomenon is management asking for systems that can help them monitor the “wellness” of their staff as they use other software systems. Imagine the accounting system doing a wellness check before you can enter invoices. This is only possible in a world stripped of anything resembling humanity.
At scale, you end up with a culture that looks like what space aliens imagine culture is like among the humans they detected with their scanners. How is it possible that a real human created an account on Twitter called “safety” from which they post about the magical and imaginary world of online safety? What is an “open, accurate, and safe political discourse”? The answer is it is approved content transmitted and enforced through the interface of technology.
That is the final driver of the depersonalization process. Marx observed that once the moral questions are resolved, politics no longer exist. The trouble is the only way to settle the moral questions is through debate and conflict. By removing normal human interaction, you remove all avenues of debate and conflict. That leaves management to slip their moral claims into the systems they now use to run the world. Again, who can argue with the software that controls your life?
In this way, the censorship we are seeing is part of a larger process of baking managerial morality into the system. The people on the “safety” committee are not banning you personally from the platform. They are just following the rules of the system and you broke the rules. It is all right there in the terms of service, which change as frequently as the constitution on Manor Farm. If you think there was an error, click the link in your suspension notice and fill out an appeal.
The problem, something you see in the dreaded private sector, is that someone has to be in charge and the rules have to make sense. The reason the “good boss” spends time talking with staff is he wants to make sure the rules make sense, but also make sure the rules make sense. The former is about the staff understanding why the rules exist and the latter is about the rules coordinating the combined efforts of the staff toward the goals of the company.
In a world where everyone deals with every through the interface, this is not only impossible, but it would undermine the system. Software and management systems can never be viewed as moral agents. No matter how high management stacks these things between themselves and their direct reports, they will still hear those questions that are integral to human organization. Why are we doing this? Who says we have to do what we are doing this way? Who made this decision?
The how and the why are the only things that matter in human organization, with the former resting on the answer to the latter. Managerialism seeks to elide this reality by slipping the why into the how via process. The process becomes an interface to prevent anyone from asking someone in charge the why questions. That could lead to the scariest question of all, the “who decided this” question. Managerialism is all about avoiding the answer to that question.
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