From the earliest works of Frederick Taylor and Henry Ford have come the idea that workers are like cog in a machine necessary for the workplace to remain and be sustained in a highly functional state. Many writers have scorned the cold, unfeeling, and bureaucratic metaphor of the complex machine, some of these ideas stemming from Marxism and other areas. Even those, who have not become upset at the idea of the worker as a part of a machine, have abandoned this metaphor and expanded on the idea of the player in the game that is business.
Though the use of the idea of team and play is widely used, the machine metaphor is just as fitting with the advances seen in modern technology. As an employee in Human Resources, I feel like both a part of a larger machine and a team player. I imagine the efficiency that our office would have if we could achieve the fluidity of a professional racing team or the speed of a car engine. For this reason, I look at my duties as being part of a racing team that must keep the race car in optimum shape to achieve a win.
When the motor of our car is optimal, along with tires, sufficient gas, and the like, we work well together and we can move down the technological highway with ease. Fred Taylor wrote in The Principles of Scientific Management that “whenever an American workman plays baseball, or the English workman plays cricket, it is safe to say that he strains every nerve to secure victory for his side”. He goes on to point out however, that the same person will only work as little as possible and not strain him or herself like the person would at a contest.
For this reason, the idea of healthy competition should be a part of my working environment and we should all “race” to be as quick as we can be, instead of lagging and “cruising” along in the vehicle that is our jobs. Though when looking at the information compiled by researchers on competition and conflict, the machine and the competition as part of the metaphor, become negative. Max Weber was one such thinker, who made clear how bureaucracy, though rational and functional could become unfeeling and cold.
In the analogy of a machine, this would be the cold hard steel and the unfriendly relationships that may develop on while working to be competitive with the machine. The interrelated parts of the machine or the racecar have just as much to do with the tangible items needed to make the car run at it’s optimum, just as the interrelated members of the race team need to learn to work together efficiently. Many times work is rushed and disagreements hinder the race.
In Human Resources, for example, it is easy to feel unfriendly and disconnected from co-workers and just as when a bolt or a screw may become disconnected on a car, this disconnect can cause multiple problems. Only when all parties work together and find ways to connect even though the technology that is needed in the workplace may be cold and detached (such as e-mail and faxes), can the race team continue to assemble and maintain the car.
Though there may be bumps in the road to the finish line, it is essential to remember that there will be pit stops to relax and to slow down momentarily and to embrace the team and the tools in a less disconnected fashion. Life itself is a race, a good work team is a good race team, the work completed is like the shining motor that is capable of taking an organization to the finish. But, sometimes with the coldness and previous issues discussed comes the issue of one person feeling as if they are the driver and others feeling as if he or she is taking too much credit.
I see this very many times, when one at my job feels like they are not appreciated or valued, they may even go as far as to sabotage the machine from within. This would be the equivalent of a race team not only having to worry about outperforming another team, but having to worry about the integrity and commitment of their own members. This is similar to revolt that is warned of by thinkers, such as Karl Marx and Georg Lukacs, they believed that if one class was oppressed than they would revolt.
In this machine that is so highly technological, bureaucratic, and sometimes cold, revolt from within much be reviewed as a possibility. This would be a car crash or at the least, a breakdown In closing, my career in Human Resources can easily be related to the positives and negatives related to the machine metaphor. When we work well, we work efficiently, fast, and walk away from the race feeling like winners. When we do not work well, we begin losing essential parts and the tools and the team begin to become disconnected.
At the very worst, there is too much competition and jealousy and sabotage of the vehicle may occur, causing a crash or a momentary breakdown of the race team and the car. For that time, until repairs are made, we must sit out the race and risk losing to our competition, who can be any other organization that works in the same area as we do. Our team must know our purpose, our place, and have the will to win the race over the long haul.