There's a reason why they say that 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions': often it's those with the best of intentions who will do you the worst harm. You will recognise them by the amount of time and effort they invest in showcasing their Moral Code that they want you to adopt but oddly enough have no actual examples of the good things they've done. This also applies to jobs and employers. Ask not whether your employer has won awards for being an 'investor in people,' whatever that means, but whether the people you have to work with on a daily basis have high standards of personal integrity. There's no such thing as 'institutional good intentions' or institutional bad intentions for that matter. The boilerplate of good intentions issued by employers these days in their fancy corporate policies has generally achieved new heights of preposterousness, almost as if the intention is simply to signal virtue rather than to convince anybody of the truth of their words.
Employers are simply responding to their many legal obligations designed to make things easier and better for their workforce, especially those who might be struggling with various challenges that make it difficult for them to focus on...well, work. Anti-discrimination laws to help those suffering from discrimination. Whistleblowing laws to help those who want to expose wrongdoing without being made to suffer for it. Family-friendly laws to help those who want time off to look after their suffering and neglected children. Unfair dismissal laws to make sure nobody is unfairly separated from their job. The list goes on. You will find your employer's intentions in relation to all these legal obligations in some carefully drafted policy full of extravagant promises: 'your wellbeing is our highest priority'. If you are older than the age of about 5, you should approach such policies with a grown up degree of scepticism.
The be-nice-to-everyone legal framework, and the boilerplate that enshrines your plastic rights into corporate policy, together lull everyone into a false sense of confidence, complacency and general warm fuzzy feelings. It's almost like a scam. "Everything will be fine," they muse, "because the law has all the bases covered and the policies are clear."
Unfortunately it is not long before disaster strikes. A bewildered employee is left high and dry, wondering what just happened, because they've been unfairly dismissed, they've been punished for whistleblowing, and no, they can't have time off to go and feed the little ones languishing at home.
This is nobody's fault. When it all goes belly up that is not a sign that the employer had the wrong idea or the wrong intentions. The main problem is that the employer is...well, an employer. There are other things on the employer's mind in addition to the pressing problem of how to be nice to everyone and make sure that all the workers are well looked after. Other things such as how to run a successful business [editor: this is not as easy as you'd think]. So, even though employers will say that they are Investors in People and that the Welfare of their Workers is their Highest Priority, there's no way on earth that could be true.
With the best will in the world, there's too much going on, and the organization simply follows its own logic regardless of the rhetoric it is spinning. If you live in a capitalist society, you can be very sure that there is an internal logic in any enterprise according to which your private individual wellbeing cannot possibly be the employer's highest priority.
The organization is like a huge pre-programmed robot, that will keep on marching to the beat of its own drum. To understand this it may be helpful to draw an analogy, as has been astutely observed in the context of big banks trying to get into the bitcoin game:
This insight applies generally to how organisations function. Everyone is playing their part correctly and everybody has exactly the intentions they're supposed to have, and nobody is trying to do the wrong thing or trying to crush anybody else. There is no malice or intention to hurt anyone. But there's a fatal design feature built into the system, because the organization is orchestrated to function exactly the way it's functioning. Cue all the litigants making their way to the courts to complain about various things that went wrong in the workplace, and thereby to achieve nothing other than to line their lawyers' pockets with fees.
People get very surprised by this, when they discover that their malleable plastic rights are not worth the plastic they were forged with. "Oh no!" they cry. "We need more laws to make sure this never happens again!" Then they go to law, to fight for 'justice' and to ensure that 'nobody ever has to suffer the way I've suffered'. Oh dear. If only we could fix things that way, by piling more and more laws on top of everyone and checking that everybody's intentions are of the very best quality. Meanwhile, out in the real world, life will continue to carry on as it always has. Best gird your loins and get on with it.
Scholar, Writer, Friend