Employees love to criticize their leaders for viewing and treating them as a means to an end.
There are thousands of online reviews of companies whose former team members file complaints like, this company is just using its people to make profits!
Meanwhile, the executive team is thinking to themselves, well, yeah, welcome to capitalism.
Because the whole idea of labor has instrumental value, not intrinsic value. Work is a utility. It’s not desirable in and of itself. Most people are only using work to help them get closer to their goals.
The paycheck underwrites their lives. It’s fuel for living. One of many levers they pull to generate fulfillment.
Why else would people rationalize putting up with heroic amounts of workplace bullshit on a daily basis?
And so, let’s not sanctimoniously pretend and naively protest that we’re the innocent ones here, and all the leaders at the top are evil.
We may claim that being treated as a means to an end is a foreign concept to us, but aren’t we all just treating our jobs as a means to an ends?
It reminds me of the sarcastic trope, I’m not doing this for my health.
That’s actually a perfect explanation for why we work.
It’s for our health.
Because in the capitalistic system, not working means no income, nobody to talk to all day, and nothing to do with ourselves. Try being healthy without those three things.
I’ve been in that exact situation multiple times in my career, and it’s dreadful. During my depressive and lonely bouts of unemployment, being viewed and treated as a means to an end would have been a fucking godsend.
I would have given my left testicle to be objectified by a corporate master, if that meant having somewhere to go, something to do all day, and a paycheck at the end of the week to make me feel like I was providing for my family.
Leonard Cohen, the late great poet and songwriter, characterized this admission beautifully in his poem about a thousand kisses:
You treated me like a piece of meat, but you’d have to be a man to know how good that feels.
Considering we have millions of people in this country who are unemployed, each of us should be sick with sweet gratitude and thanking our lucky stars that we have the privilege of being treated like pieces of meat.
Let’s get over ourselves and accept the fact that the system will use us, and so, we’re going to use it right back.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How are you using work as an instrument for something more meaningful?