I know this is going to sound a bit off the wall but why does the working world so resemble a 17th century royal court? Recently I have been reading a fascinating book about Catherine the Great and have been intrigued by the strange parallels I see in the court life then and the work life of today.
Here are some of the similarities that have stood out to me:
1.Your standing, wealth and prosperity hinge on whether the boss/king likes you
I have come to notice in the working world it really doesn’t matter how much you produce if you have a bad attitude and are not well liked by the boss then you are going nowhere. The most productive worker is not as valuable as the one whose company the boss enjoys. This may sound cynical but we can all think of a job where this is the truth. (If not just watch the movie Office Space.)
No one likes to be around a negative nelly even if they work hard. Kings (and Queen) were even less tolerant of negativity and a bad attitude. Often times the negative individual would find themselves removed from court, have their status and lands diminished or be locked away in a tower or goo log somewhere. (Work equivalent to the boiler room.)
2. Gossip is the main language spoken.
Like royal court gossip is done by everyone from the lowest in court to the king or queen themselves. Gossip could land you in a heap of trouble, take out your enemies or (much like Anne Boylen) become the favorite of the king or queen. In the work setting gossip runs a mock in much the same way. Everyone knows who is with whom, who is stealing a promotion and who is getting the axe. Most gossip is half-truths and lies but in the royal court as well as the workplace unfortunately many decisions have some basis in gossip.
3. The environment can be unpredictable
Just ask the employees of Enron. In the office environment mergers, bankruptcy’s and poor management can create and unstable environment in any business. In the royal court poor decisions made by the monarchy can bankrupt a country. Likewise, alliances, royal succession and wars have a dramatic effect on court life. Countries such as Prussia who where once strong can disappear during these types of events. Just as companies who seemed thriving and prosperous one year cease to exist a few years later.
4. Those at the top flourish while those at the bottom toil.
This is a fairly new discussion in business terms. It is the idea that CEO make an average of 1,000 times more then their lowest paid employee and do not produce at the level to warrant such an income disparity. Whether this is the case or not, most upper management employees do make much more then those at the bottom.
This becomes very bad news in the public sector where the money spent is not from a product produced but from taxpayers. So the lavish trips, expensive offices and misuse of money is even more of an egregious offense. You can parallel this with the causes that lead to the French revolution. The French nobility and court spent lavishly and extravagantly while their subject were left to handle heavy taxes and food shortages.
5. A rejection of how thing have always been done may lead to new ideas
One thing to note is not addressed in this parallel and that is America and the Entrepreneur. In American their is not monarchy. Sure there is still gossip and rumor. There is public unrest and poor decision making. But just as America grow out of the desire to leave the King of England behind to form a different government. We have the ability to leave the gossip, favoritism, poor environment and toil of our current job behind. Yes, it takes guts, innovation and hard work but just as America was build out of a distain for nobility. Thriving businesses have been built upon the idea of doing things different, smarter and better then the company’s before them had.
What is your take on this theory? Am I way of base or do you see similarities as well. Please share your thoughts and opinions with me.