As businesses continue becoming more and more diverse, competition is becoming one of the defining ideals at the workplace. In a bid to make the competitive business arena more favorable for the organization, policy and decision makers are focusing on the unrestricted deployment of workplace resources, including employees, in order to optimize the economic performance this idea of unrestricted deployment of resources to beat competition is referred to as neoliberalism by sociologists. Like any other workplace practice, this impacts the employees and the organization of work in various ways. Neoliberal ideologies at the workplace affect the way the status quo is maintained, and the assumptions that neoliberalism makes affect the organization at the individual and competitive levels. This paper addresses the assumptions made by neoliberalism, and also analyzes how such assumptions shape the organization of employees and the workplace in general.
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Neoliberalism has hit the market and organizational arena with a wave for the last several decades. Like any other new practice, the ideology came with the promise of diversified market forces, simplified ways of carrying out business, and better outputs as a result. According to Cruz (2016), Neoliberalism hit the market with the promise of creating strong sentimental attachments to the workplace/business enterprise. This, proponents of the ideology said, would ensure that the employees became more loyal and committed to the course of the organization. Neoliberalism aims at utilizing the intangible aspects of the employee such as emotions and creativity to bring out the best. Due to the inclination towards having the best brains for the workplace, neoliberalism has been accused of causing discrimination.
Simply put, neoliberalism is a philosophy stating that the primary goal of a society is its economic growth, the ideal form of an organization is the one aimed at making profit, and that economic freedom is the primary freedom (Crowley and Hodson, 2014). The concept aims at the promotion of free market forces and privatization of business entities with the sole idea of making any business enterprise more profitable. Some of the assumptions made by neoliberals have been shown to favor some character traits at the workplace, while penalizing others. One of the primary assumptions of this ideology is that consumers and investors always seek to make the best of choices, and that accurate information will always be freely distributed in a free market. Crowley and Hodson (2014), state that neoliberalism/unrestricted market concept seem to be efficient tools in the allocation of resources and optimization of economic outcomes for organizations, individual employees, and nations. The consequence of this assumption is that many organizations have fallen to this trick and failed terribly. This is because most individuals and organizations are after profits and they would hide critical information so as to earn. Neoliberalism has therefore led to failures in the market.
Another assumption made by proponents of neoliberal ideologies is that the market is an efficient web of systems that work efficiently to determine fair prices. In the end, the deregulation of markets benefits people by the promotion of market value. According to Bolton and Knut (2013), such an ideology has left the employees and organizations to compete in a market that experiences inconsistencies every now and then. This assumption leads to monopoly and may lead to the exploitation of employees as organizations seek to make more profit. Crowley and Hodson argue that companies are at the liberty of making the types of employees they want because the law does not hold them captive (2014). Due to neoliberalism, many companies have opted to do away with the ‘non-performing’ employees. This is driven by the desire to make more profits than the other organizations that a company competes with (Gallup, 2013). The fear of the ever-watching eye of the supervisors prevents employees from moving around the organization for fear that they may labeled ‘non-performing.’ The employees therefore fail to grow their professional skills because the policies at the workplace seem to be discriminatory. Although proponents of this ideology suggest that the employee is at the liberty to work without the bother of underperforming co-workers, no one is ever too sure that they perform well (Kallerberg, 2013). As a result, workers are ever gripped with fear, at the expense of the company which will be quite unproductive.
Emotional commitment to the organization is always an advantage to the organization, and social ties contribute positively to the success of an organization. Unfortunately, the neoliberal workplace lacks solidarity because everybody is concerned with how much profit they can reap from a situation as compared to their competition (Wilson, Roscigno, and Matt, 2013). This scenario has been promoted by the assumption that neoliberalism has been accepted by most countries and organizations over the intervention of Keynesian economics. Most organizations have chosen to apply neoliberalism in a rigorous way, and in this way they have killed the social connection that should exist between employees in an organization.
Different enterprises cannot make solidarity moves to oppose some decisions, because there is deregulation in the market. This has resulted in a consistent deterioration in the quality of work of employees. In the wake of neoliberal work practices, every employee in an organization works towards bettering themselves so that they may be retained at the expense of the others. In this way, there would never be commitment to the employer (Thomson, 2013). Abasement, lower pay, and insecurity at the workplace have led most of the organizations to work in private entities than work in government organizations that continually lead to conflicts rather than cohesion. A workplace thrives because of the quality of information passed among the employees and staff. When some employees in organizations promoting neoliberal ideologies get beneficial information, they prefer to keep it to themselves rather than share.
Neoliberalism posits that the comparison of private organizations and government owned entities on the basis of the drive for profits and the results of competition in will always produce favorable results for the consumers in private organizations than in government ones. This assumption has the impact of an influx of employees into private organizations, at the expense of government-owned ones. This has resulted, even in the private organizations where people want to work, in a tossing of problems here and there. Employees (including managers) prefer to move a problem form department to the other, rather than solve it, no one would want to be held accountable for a decision that was made and it did not go well with the organization (Crowley and Hodson, 2013). This is in the interest of preserving an individual’s productivity. Well, it would be safe to state that neoliberal ideologies have contributed to individualism, and in this way, a loss of glamor that comes with teamwork.
Neoliberalism assumes that a global economy without the intervention of government policies will lead to increased prosperity all over the world. According to Thomson, neoliberalists always prefer this form of business control in the sense that they will be able to retain what they make in the form of profits (2013). This assumption gives employees and organizations a sense of security that is not lasting. Due to the constant evaluations at the workplace, employees have lost their autonomy and have been left to depend on external norms that are ever shifting. As earlier pointed out, the desire to become more competitive at the workplace has continued to spur more people to become dependent on others. Some employees bully their colleagues to help them work so that their evaluations will read better. As a result of this, the workplace is marred with incompetent workers who pose as if they know all the work processes and ethics. Such scenarios have resulted in a serious damage to an individual’s self-respect. When a worker is bullied, they tend to look down upon themselves, and they may not be useful to the work process.
Neoliberalism is a dominant socio-economic paradigm in most communities, and the society has a lot of impacts on the people it churns out to work in the various organizations. According to Crowley and Hodson (2014), workers in neoliberal organizations are often exhausted. They expend a lot of energy trying to achieve goals that needed more employees to implement. This is because the desire to retain the job even after others are retrenched is so much that one prefers to spend every ounce of energy so as to be retained in the employment system. In neoliberal organizations, the employer (boss) is seen as the ultimate authority (Vidal, 2013; Williams, 2013). The employees have to follow what the authority states, no matter whether it seems logical or not. Workplace ethics have been ignored and rules bended just to favor the senior employees, at the expense of the juniors.
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According to Patrick (2013), neoliberal policies seemed attractive until trade unions started complaining that there was commodification of labor. Neoliberalism makes the individual believe that success at the workplace, in academics, and in real life is a matter of choice and individual effort. While this may be true in the sense that a person has the liberty to choose what they want, it is often illusive because with the oppressive rules in organizations, people cannot determine their levels of success. Organizations overstretch the abilities of their employees, sometimes humiliating them and making them to lose their self-worth. While it is the failure of the system to even conduct training o what the employee is expected to do, a “failed” is often guilty and left unable to carry out any professional responsibility. Simply, neoliberalism is notorious of devaluing employees and making their freedom powerless. Neoliberalism states that the employee is at freewill to choose their happiness, but they are often too exhausted to be happy.
The assumption that greater freedom from government regulation would translate to greater choices for organizations and employees has been a great hoax. Whereas the first proponents of these practices would have wished to see a more prosperous workplace, it has turned out to be the other way round, sadly. The behaviors of organizations that promote neoliberal policies have led to a consistent decline in job quality. When employees cannot withstand the pressure mounted on them by the organizations, they prefer to quit (Gallup, 2013). Successful organizations are associated with strong peer ties, sometimes with peer training. The adoption of the tough neoliberal policies leads peers to want to accumulate more knowledge without dispensing it to others (Vidal, 2013). The scenario may lead to high employee turnover rates, cases of depression, and even negative emotions such as hatred amongst the employees. Neoliberalism is simply pointing people to succeed, at whatever cost. Due to this insistence on success, there has been a reported loss of morals and ethics. Corruption in organizations has become the order of the day; all in a bid to retain workplace positions.
Neoliberalism has led organizations to have a myopic view of events, and in that way lead to the squandering of resources in search of profits. Crowley and Hodson (2014) state that organizations sacrifice the potential capacities and contributions of workers to gain short term profits at the expense of sustained efforts and long term investments that could help the organization becoming more competitive in the future. While deregulation by governments may seal the loopholes that the organization has for losing money to unscrupulous government practices, it also opens an internal door for the same. Due to the management looking at employees as commodities that can be used and discarded at will, the commitment to looking at the employees’ welfare is lowered. An organization would prefer to hire another employee if a current one falls sick, rather than supporting them to gain better healthcare. What such a workplace practice promotes is lack of trust, loss of emotional attachment to the organization, and a continuous thirst for a better place to work from.
Well, the neoliberal practices may seem to be all loss for both the employee and the organization, but they have a positive aspect for the company. Crowley and Hodson (2014) state that neoliberalism maximizes shareholder value at the expense of organizational outcomes. The maximization on shareholder value results in a quick short term profitability while avoiding the long and treacherous path of product development and improvement. This is simply writing off the future of the organization by its management because a shareholder can attach themselves in another organization if it seems to offer better incentives. By assuming that market crashes and distortions are a result of the government interventions, organizations overlook the potential of internal forces to bring them down. Perhaps, the impacts seen on the work organization stem from the unwillingness of workers to continue working in an environment that does not give them value for the energy they expend.
In conclusion, it is important to note that neoliberalism has fascinated many organizations in the world, despite the fact that it seems to offer fleeting happiness and profitability. The ideology has led to the commodification of labor to such an extent that money is valued more than the employee’s wellbeing. Among the many impacts mentioned in this paper, neoliberalism has also resulted in the sabotage of procedures, work avoidance, poor leadership, lack of job satisfaction, and poor organizational outcomes. By adopting the neoliberal ideas at the workplace, managements continue to diminish the value of the worker. Organizations can, however, choose to value the employees for better financial organizational outcomes.
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