re: the Kelly corporation
Fri, 10 May 1996 22:45:12 +0000

Bob Greene writes inter al.,

>To me corporate constructs seem more like some of the verbiage
>I hear at work, associated with things like Best Practice and
>Quality Assurance. To outsiders they may not mean much, their
>meaning having a corporate (propaganda?) life/purpose.

Corporate constructs are very interesting and important. They tell us
something about the organisation's self-construction, which is often very
much more interesting than the issue, (with respect to which Bob, I feel,
is reacting), of whether the "verbiage" in which the construct is expressed
is actually true (= publicly verifiable, replicable, in accordance with
others' constructions of what's going on) or not.

For example. A private business states in its brochure "We are a People
Company". Clearly, this is no evidence that they do indeed care for their
employees and their customers as human beings rather than as units of
production or consumption respectively; but it is excellent evidence of the
company's self-ascription.

I suppose I'm arguing for the value of understanding the form that
propaganda takes; but, more subtly, I'm also asserting that statements
which sound like propaganda can often reflect a sincere attempt to get
things right for employers and employees.

Just look at the issues raised!
a) Why _this_ particular image (rather than , e.g., "technology-driven", or
"responsible to shareholders"): what choices have key decision-makers,
(always remembering that they're human beings just like you and me, all in
the business of construing their way through life) in the organisation
made, and why?
b) Does the image reflect industry contingencies (it's everyone's flavour
of the month so we'd better follow suit) or a genuine and sincere attempt
at "one more time: how do you motivate employees?", to paraphrase Herzberg.
c) On the one hand, how do flavours of the month emerge and develop; and,
on the other hand, how do you as an employer strike a balance between a
genuine wish to match employees' personal objectives and preferences with
your organisation's objectives and preferencese in an enduring way- and
sheer paternalistic exploitation?

But I sympathise with Bob: it's so bloody irritating to be patronised by
one's employer, whether this is done deliberately in a propagandist way, or
through the employer's ignorance in latching on to the latest flavour of
the month as something valuable, even when it's done with sincerity by that

Kind regards,

Devi Jankowicz