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According to Richard Sennett, people are working in conditions where they have to cope with layering, flexibility among other new concepts. Jobs in the ‘New Economy’ offer new opportunities that can satisfy a worker’s needs but which cause oppression, physical and emotional disorientation to them. Employees offer loyalty and commitment while they lose values and personal traits that are necessary in the society. The first aim of this paper is to analyse and make a decision whether the modern way of working is too difficult to get a life. The second aim is to define and outline the issues that Sennett considers as the leading causes of corrosion of employee character. The third aim is to analyse what Sennett means by the corrosion of character and the precarious worker. The fourth aim is to analyse the causes and consequences of such work in the modern corporate world with particular focus upon the employees.
Analyse and make a decision whether the modern way of working is too difficult to get a life
According Richard Sennett, Mr. Enrico, a worker he had come to know, had worked in a downtown office building for twenty years mopping floors and cleaning toilets. Although he did not complain, Enrico did have the hope of living the American Dream. The main reason why he continued to work was to serve his family including bringing-up Rico, his son. It took Enrico fifteen years to save enough money to buy a house in a suburb neighbouring Boston. At the same time, in 1970, Rico’s mother was also working in a dry-cleaning plant in order to manage to save enough college fees for Rico. This means that the parents could not afford them luxurious parties and vacations. Additionally, they could not enjoy various benefits such as medical cover and luxuries such as vacations and parties. Therefore, the modern way of working made it difficult for them to enjoy a middle class life (Richard Sennett: on the personal consequences of work in the new economy 1999).
Rico had problems keeping his business stable. He was going to start a consulting firm. This kind of business required him to be involved in a lot of networking; he had to respond to every call and follow every acquaintance. He had to follow and fit into other people’s schedules. This nature of business made Rico feel like he was losing control. This is because he felt like he was losing power in his job. On the other hand, this kind of life had made Rico and his wife Jeannette to lose many friendships. Rico, just like his father felt that the demands of his job interfered with his achievement of his goals. This is because the couple’s schedules were very tight and they were more occupied with retaining their businesses than with personal relationships. This means that their children did not get to enjoy a lot of time with their parents either. The life of the modern businessman involves looking for the right business ventures that can beat the ordinary businesses. Therefore, there is little time to attend parties and vacations. Additionally, the amount of money that a young and modern economy business man gets is insufficient to cater for luxuries. Therefore, most of the upcoming businessmen and graduates only get enough cash to cater for their basic needs. This means that the modern way of working is too difficult to get a life (Richard Sennett: on the personal consequences of work in the new economy 1999).
The second aim is to define and outline the issues that Sennett considers as the leading causes of corrosion of employee character
According to Richard Sennett the “No long term” work terminology is one of the leading causes of corrosion of employee character. This means that a modern worker no longer has to work for many years in the same career like it used to happen in the traditional times. Today’s young graduates deploy their skills in various fields within a very short period of time. Sennett (1999, p. 43) claims that “one can switch jobs at least eleven times while working and change his or her skill base at least three times during the active years of employment”. This kind of trend is shifting the meaning that has been placed to work. Additionally, companies are outsourcing services and employing people on contract basis. These new working methodologies have reduced the value that is placed over the employee. Employees are seen to be working for money only. They do not seem to enjoy offering service and they can work tirelessly to get a well paying job. This has made many employers to lose the value of employees and they overwork them instead. With the recession and competition in place, companies try to cut their operating costs by downsizing and conducting lay-offs. Others employ people on contract basis and outsource their services to cheaper service providers. Such business practices help businesses to achieve high profits in the short-run. As a result, employees are forced to offer optimum services in order to ensure that they meet their own needs as well the needs of their employers. They end up having little money to take part in social and personal development activities. Therefore “No long term” motto has resulted to corrosion of character (The New York Times 2012).
Sennett (1999, p. 57) argues that that “people are hungry for [change]”. The market is driven by consumer needs like never before. Therefore, there have been many changes that demand that things be done differently. “Impatient capital”, decentralization and control have been blamed as the main cause of this changing market trend. This is because they have caused the need for rapid return especially in the institutional sector. For example, in the last fifteen years, the British and American stock markets exchanges have dropped rapidly by 60 percent. This has been caused by the nineteenth century capitalism that led to the fall of the stock market and irrational corporate investments as well as wild changes in the business cycle. In order to control the situation, the old economies and corporations established strong unions and mergers in order to create stability. However, this move was short-lived because the modern economies have greed to achieve high profits within the shortest period and method possible. Therefore, organizations no longer follow the bureaucratic layers that have hindered them from being flexible. Companies are more flexible to change rules and hierarchies. This has made it easy for them to undertake unclear promotions and dismissals. Rules and structures are frequently being adjusted to meet the needs of the management. Therefore, hunger for change has caused corrosion of character. Issues of trust can start arising due to corrosion of character (Sennett 1999, p. 79).
Sennett also argues that introduction of flextime in order to accommodate the role of women in the working environment has caused corrosion of character. This is because such a move has forced women to combine work and parenting. Therefore, female employees are allowed some time to work part time and the rest of the time they go to attend to family affairs. However, provision of flexible time to some workers creates anxiety among the full time workers. This is because the full time workers feel as if they are losing control over the workers that are at home. Flextime can be controlling on workers because the part time workers are required to phone the office for updates. Additionally, it can cause fraud especially if employees are able to access company information from the comfort of their homes (Sennett 1999, p. 79).
The third aim is to analyse what Sennett means by the corrosion of character and the precarious worker
According to Sennett, corrosion of character refers to the working conditions in the “New Economy” and the consequences that they have on the social life of workers. According to him, the new concepts of flexibility, flextime, capitalism and de-layering present new opportunities that create self-fulfilment to employees. However, these events and circumstances cause oppression and disorientation to the modern employees. Additionally, such steps undermine the emotional and psychological state of the workers. As employees are required to express loyalty and commitment, their values are still wanted in the society. The modern businesses keep employees very occupied to an extent that they have little time to cater for their personal affairs. Therefore, one ends up assisting a business in achieving its objectives while personal development remains at stand still. Employees that have to phone their places of work in order keep abreast with the company’s operations can use business information for their personal illegal benefits. Sennett blames information technology on the trends in the “New Economy”. According to Sennett, a precarious worker is one who is unstable socially and psychologically. The character of such a worker is dependent on the demands of the employer. Therefore, he or she spends most of the time doing the only thing that can earn him income. However, since companies want to cut costs, workers end-up earning what they do not deserve. They also engage in odd jobs in order to maintain their lifestyle and meet their basic needs (Natarajan 2003).
The fourth aim is to analyse the causes and consequences of such work in the modern corporate world with particular focus upon the employees
Inflexibility: This occurs when organizations fail to support the efforts and contributions of the employees. Such a move can cause obsolescence in the organization as well as inability to compete with other businesses in the industry. Inflexibility can also make a company fail to accomplish its goals. Such goals can be productive to the company, however, when an organization is inflexible there are no development strategies and this means that ideas are never developed. An inflexible organization can cause employees to have character corrosion because they fail to establish their personal goals. They tend emulate their employers. They fear undertaking new ventures because they are not used to making risky decisions at the place of work (Bass 2013).
Competitive advantage: companies are always looking for means of reducing their operating costs. Downsizing and restructuring is one of the methods. This means that companies are left with few employees who are expected to deliver quality services. Cost cutting has also made companies to reduce the benefits that it gives to employees. Such employees usually have very little time and money to spend on luxurious vacations and trips. This step can reduce employee morale as well as productivity because employees do not feel motivated enough to produce at the optimum. As organizations strive to remain competitive, they end-up losing the respect that employees have upon them (Bass 2013).
Entering into a partnership or merger: when companies are getting absorbed or purchased, employees can get laid off as the company starts adjusting to new leaders and operations. This can place pressure on the existing employees to hand over their activities to the upcoming employees. This can mean employees having to spend a huge amount of time in the office. As a result, employees can experience emotional and psychological disorientation (Bass 2013).
According to Richard Sennett, the “New Economy” has created new opportunities to employees. However, it causes oppression as well as corrosion of employee character. Some of the factors that Sennett considers as the leading causes of corrosion of employee character is the terminology of “No long term” in the corporate world and the hunger for change. Sennett also argues that introduction of flextime in order to accommodate the role of women has caused corrosion of employee character. The paper has also analysed the concept of corrosion of employee character and the precarious worker. Competitive advantage, inflexibility and the need to engage in business partnerships can cause companies to engage in activities that can lead to corrosion of employee character as well.
Bass, B 2013, Signs & Symptoms of the Lack of Coordination in an Organization, viewed 16 April 2013,
Natarajan, S 2003, Richard Sennett: The Corrosion of Character. The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, viewed 16 April 2013,
Richard Sennett: on the personal consequences of work in the new economy 1999, viewed 16 April 2013,
Sennett, R 1999, The Corrosion of Character. The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism. Norton.
The New York Times: The Corrosion of Character. The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism 2012, viewed 16 April 2013,