What do people aspire to in the workplace? Is it not typically to first make a living (earn a salary), then try to make a good impression (especially on senior management) and then the higher aspiration to make progress to the next level of income and status? There is of course nothing odd or negative about career path development. The idea that, as a young adult, one needs to start somewhere, learn from experience and grow one’s competence and value, makes good sense.

However, somewhere along the way important questions need to be asked: how much of myself have I compromised for the sake of a monthly salary and the possibility to increase it? How narrow has my vision become over time? What important perspectives on life have I been missing in my pursuit of recognition, success and more money? Do I still know what excites me, what I am passionate about, and if so, to what extent I am living it? Am I even aware of the psychological effort it takes to suppress feelings of misalignment between my core being and my work?

Sure, it is not as if everybody is unhappy in the modern workplace, but the often narrow path of corporate life has a way of sucking the life out of people. More often than not it leads to the complete loss of any aspiration – particularly when another promotion seems unlikely. What initially was an opportunity to be creative, learn new things and one’s own capabilities, has become nothing more than a job – a necessary evil to survive and hopefully do enjoyable things in one’s free time – an outlook that is far removed from the spark and passion when skills and experience are allowed to blossom.

Over time bureaucracy and office politics become some people’s forte whereas others despise it and are so frustrated that they give up trying to be more efficient and productive. As the freedom to make decisions becomes limited and individual creativity discouraged – if not in words, then in the organisational culture – the mechanisms to control increase. As many who are caught up in the brutal bureaucratic machine testify, they end up spending a ridiculous amount of time completing various scorecards, timesheets and other reports that are forced on them. If it was the case that employees receive constructive feedback based on the reports, they would not object to the practice. However, in most cases, feedback is non-existent. The practice is not only experienced as a loss of productive time, but hugely discouraging and interrupting to the work-flow. To use common sense, it seems, is to be naïve and disrespectful to the designers and implementers of the control systems, rules and procedures. What everybody knows is true, cannot be said for fear of victimisation: huge effort and lots of money is put into one change initiative after the other with very little progress to show for it and at times even clear regression.

It is sad, but true, that money increasingly is the ultimate controller of the mind-set and behaviour of people at both the higher and lower layers of the organisational hierarchy, particularly in business. For those at higher levels it is the measurement of their success or failure as they compete for the top spot. Every aspect of work is translated into monetary value which becomes the decisive factor in  assessments and decision making, many times to the detriment of more sustainable growth or solutions and the general health of the organisation.  At lower levels the fear of losing the security of a monthly salary keep any thoughts to challenge the status quo at bay.