Comte was Right

Auguste Comte asserted that the smallest societal unit was the family, and that the individual was an abstraction. Except, of course, when he was talking about the individual, and how individual development was similar to societal development.

That’s a very fractal thought – and I think that explains a lot of the growing pains that have been occurring at my workplace.

My workplace is, itself, a straddler. It grew up serving the primarily working-class and blue collar downtown area, and now finds itself wanting to woo the “cool kids” out in the suburbs. So we get the facelifts, the new training in customer relations, and so on.

Which is fine – but also alienates the old client base and the old base of workers as well. The article I linked above (which actually conceptualized the whole thing for my wife and got her research started) has a great example:

Here’s the dilemma: You come from a culture in which the boss is the common enemy and you’re expected to be loyal only to your fellow workers. People are not trying to work their way up to own the plumbing outfit in which they sweat. It’s noble enough to hang in there and knock out those rent payments.

Meanwhile, you go to college, then find yourself embarking on a white-collar career, where you are required to pledge allegiance to the firm, not to your coworkers. And success is measured not by the secure stasis and comfortable consistency your parents struggled for, but by constant movement upward, spurred by a class-taught, sleep-robbing dissatisfaction with your current spot on the corporate organizational chart. Stop climbing and you die. And to facilitate this grand journey, you might well have to schmooze a boss and kiss a fanny or two, anathema to your working-class forebears.

Try resolving all that.

And in a Comtean fractal way, it’s not just individuals in my organization that are transitioning, but the entire corporate culture itself. It’s a massive – and mostly unrecognized – shift that is having huge positive and negative effects with morale, customer satisfaction, and employee loyalty. It’s also taking us right out of our niche market and trying to trespass on other corporations. While I’m all for competition, straight up turf wars aren’t fun.

But I hope your weekend is.

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