Employees remain tools

Or so says Alain de Botton in the latest issue of Five Dials. De Botton is posing as the Agony Uncle to respond to a banker (Max, London) who is anxious about the effects of the recession. He dispassionately dissects the relationship between employer and employed. 

This is de Botton’s wonderfully long and understated concluding sentence:

Whatever camaraderie may build up between employer and employed, whatever good-will workers may display and however many years they may have devoted to an organisation, whatever apparent security they may enjoy (symbolised, for example, by taxi accounts and get-well cards after accidents), they must live with the knowledge and attendant anxiety that their jobs are not guaranteed – and that they themselves are a means to profit, and certainly never an end.

So basically, Max from London – a) don’t make the mistake of thinking your company will ever put your welfare before its own, and b) we’re all in the same boat, so find solace in that.

(Except that Alain de Botton isn’t in the same boat. I work for the company founded by his father, which in 1999 he sold for £420 million. So I guess he’s not had to worry about becoming a dispensible workhorse. But that’s not his fault.)

I love reading his stuff and would recommend a read of the essay in Five Dials.

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