Thinking Your Way Through a Labyrinth of Contemporary Issues

“For the good of the company”: The cliché used to Justify Almost Anything

Angel and devil on shoulder

Give or take, most corporate companies will revert at some point to the old mantra ‘for the good of the company’. This statement is often brought in when there are looming job cuts, severe disciplinary action for minor offences or letting work overtake an employee’s life. The problem with this statement is, where does ‘for the good of the company’ as an argument, end? Is it when thousands of jobs are lost at a company as is regularly reported in the news and other forms of media? Is it when probation periods become akin to a gauntlet of fear? Is it when the circumstance behind a decision lies in a numbers game and not a moral one? Is it when zero-contract hours become an acceptable part of the working environment? The main concern extends beyond workers’ working conditions.

At an extreme, where do we end up in society when the ‘for the good of the company’ argument is continually banded around like candyfloss? The famous Millgram experiment of 1963 potentially shed light on this. The test itself proved that many people in society are prepared to carry on with acts as extreme as barbarism when ordered to do so. The experiment shed light on Nazi Germany. What started as ‘for the good of the German Nation’ soon turned in to one of the most appalling feats in human history. Soldier’s obeying commands that would have previously been morally unacceptable soon did when the consequences of not doing so were severe.   While reading this you may be thinking that this is extreme even in our society, however one must ask ‘is it impossible to think that little steps in this morally tenuous direction can lead eventually to bigger ones? Unlikely in the near future but in the distant future the unthinkable could be possible. The ‘for the good of the company’ argument is a dangerous precedent to set.

As a worker since the age of sixteen I have been fortunate to meet people who, up to a certain point, turned down promotions on the premise that they would not ‘sell their soul’. Unfortunately I have also met many people who have been willing to go to extreme lengths merely for the promise of a slightly higher salary. Nevertheless we know where we are currently at in the UK with the ‘for the good of the company’ argument.   In the UK like in many other countries, capitalism has created a situation where the opportunity for people to lose their jobs has never been easier. It has also created a situation where it is easy to lose your job under the guise of the ‘for the good of the company’ argument. Many people may argue that the economic crash of 2008 was largely to blame for people losing their respective jobs. While this is true in some instances, employers have been able to take advantage of the situation in many ways. One way of taking advantage currently being deployed is the ‘for the good of the company’ argument, making job cuts and any other ‘necessary’ measures to ensure profits are kept up and redundancies being treat as ‘just nature taking its course’.

While there isn’t anything wrong with being ambitious and career driven, ask yourself this ‘am I really prepared to go to such extremes if required?’ Walking away from a job is often unrealistic but being willing to do nearly anything ‘for the good of the company’ is a dangerous precedent to set. In the UK we are lucky to have some limitations on capitalist bosses and we still have a basis of workers’ rights, this we owe to the struggles of previous generations such as the Diggers, the Levellers, the Luddites, the Chartists, the trade unionists and many other famous working people who stood up against the unacceptable. They fought for fairness, justice and representation and that is something to be proud of. We should remember these struggles now, more than ever. For the time, globally, we seem to be the lucky ones! However, it is not inevitable that this situation will last for ever.

Oliver Wilson, (2015)


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