The organisation’s total grip on the human being

Total access. Result: individual drama, existential distress

Total access. Result: individual drama, existential distress

So, these are some of the phenomena of organisations reaching out to the »whole« human being. The whole human being, that means total. Total means completely, absolutely. Total also means without exception, through and through, all the way through, one hundred per cent, totally, completely, without residue, fully and completely, all, overall … The whole human being is not whole in the sense of sound or with‐​itself, but is completely taken over by blurred boundaries, hyper‐​inclusion, the ideology(s) of change. Characteristics are the volatility and insecurity of existence, marked by upheavals, instability, fluidity, high pressure to perform, lack of orientation, place and time, loneliness, fear of insignificance, blurring of the self and identity. This goes hand in hand with the need for comfort, support, calm, stability, orientation, self‐development …

Easily, the phenomena described here lead to a dangerous »surrender of the spirit/​mind« and a »drama of individuality«. The personal dilemma is, on the one hand, to follow the promises of »meaning‐​oriented work« and, on the other hand, to increasingly no longer provide meaning in life for oneself. It also consists in accepting the psychological‐​social‐​spiritual offers of the organisation and, analogous to finding meaning, no longer taking care of one’s own mental, social, and physical needs. Both are taken away by the organisation. Both are consumed.

This is the deeper reason why the organisations offer exactly this, why they make the effort with the feel‐​good managers: they know that there is a need for meaning. They know the emotional, social, and spiritual (transcendental) needs of the employees. They know about the blurred boundaries. But the organisations find themselves in the paradox of triggering the dilemma described above through their total access to people. They react to a reality that they themselves have created. At the same time, they recognise that there is great potential in people‐​oriented offerings to be effective, well‐​being and lucrative organisations.

The problem: the response to this is strategic thinking – trying to alleviate the symptoms on a purely psychological‐​physical level. So self‐​optimisation, individually and as a team, becomes a purely formal act of organisational development, as does commitment to the common cause. Since the common cause and the associated feeling of »we« is not necessarily also one’s own, since the compulsion to surrender to the demands of the organisation qua self‐​optimisation does not really coincide with the shaping of one’s own life, the working person transcendentally runs into the emptiness.

Feeling good in a team, being affirmed by colleagues for one’s performance, organising one’s (private) free time together, determining the course together – these are certainly possibilities of a cooperative and participative organisational culture. However, by substituting purpose, vision, mission, and commitment as existential dimensions of an organisation for its own personal creation of meaning, they take away precisely the space that is necessary for this. So, the actual existential questions from within remain unanswered. The result is an inner emptiness, an existential vacuum. This explains why, despite offers that create meaning, feel‐​good programmes and promises of fulfilment, the motivation of employees seems so strangely undirected and undetermined. Or, in the case of excessive idealisation of organisational goals and misjudgement of their own actual importance for the organisation, they leave an impression of exaggerated and fanatical commitment.

In this way, they create a kind of perpetual motion machine that contributes to the maintenance of the organisation and, to a large extent, of the workforce, but not to the alleviation of the actual, i. e. existential, need. It seems understandable that the organisation cannot and does not want to answer the existential needs of the employees. As a rule, that is not its purpose. Instead, however, it consistently resorts to a reductionist, instrumental and ultimately totalitarian understanding of the human being. The functioning of social interaction, the psycho‐​physical needs of the individual and the conspicuous psychodynamics are taken into consideration – and depending on the diagnosis, reinforced or eradicated.