Why do we defer from 9 to 5? The “master-servant relationship” is a feudal phantom that still haunts today’s workplaces, thanks to English common law. Peter Hall-Jones argues that it’s time to exorcise the old ghoul. The workplace democracy movement aims to do just that, but where do unions fit in? The way they respond to this agenda might well determine their relevance in the workplace of the future.

O2Great_Chain_of_BeingNCE upon a time there was a great chain of being. Up the top was God; down at the bottom were all the inanimate objects[1]. Actually, somewhere beneath all this, below the rocks and lost socks and broken toasters in a kind of hidden underground lair, were the Devil and his minions. As for you and I, we were stationed at different points along the way depending upon our status. Kings were below angels; vassals below lords; apprentices below craftsmen; and wives below husbands. And there wasn’t much point in grizzling about it; all this was divinely ordained so we just had to lump it.

What we now call ‘English common law’ developed out of this medieval compost. Over the centuries, hallowed principles were codified into exacting social rules. Detailed treatises and regulations were drawn up to determine how people on different levels should relate to each other. Some of the central planks that emerged from this work of ages were the parent-child relationship, the husband-wife relationship, the guardian-ward relationship, and (our subject here) the master-servant relationship.

All of this ought to be the stuff of historical footnotes. However, English common law still underpins the legal systems in a large number of countries. The list includes the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Canada, South Africa, Malaysia, Ireland, Australia, Brunei, Pakistan, Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand. To make matters worse, through the process we now call colonialism, several of these feudal relationships leached across cultures and have become a kind of ‘default setting’. In particular, the master-servant relationship sets the general tenor for industrial relations worldwide. Trade arrangements reinforce it further, and it has been quietly hard-wired into international labour law. Perhaps we no longer hold cherubim below seraphim, beetles below ladybirds, or yew trees below olive trees, but our life at work is still very much configured around this medieval template.

trainedThe law relating to employment relationships is based on the traditional “master/servant” relationship. In this relationship, the servant works at the direction of the master and engages in work for the benefit of the master. In return, the master compensates the servant for his or her labors. This traditional relationship of master and servant has evolved into the law of agency…
Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR association[2]

The first thing I tell students when I teach employment law is that it remains rooted in the master-servant relation.
Prof Eric Fink, US law professor and lecturer [3]

If you take a look at case law around the world, including decisions by the ILO, you’ll find innumerable cases where judges have weighed the underlying structures of power in a workplace relationship, and then used this to determine the industrial nature of the conflict. When push comes to shove the master-servant relationship is not just a feature of employment – it actively defines it.

Traditionally, trade unions have tried to make the workplace relationship more fair, rather than challenging the validity of underlying relationships. They have sought better conditions, higher pay, a safer working environment. These are all things that can be won (and have been, often) without affecting lines of power. There have been internal debates about this from time to time, but seldom do working people – the unions’ members – demand anything more than “the same, but better”. In fact the majority of companies that have set aside notions of master and servant have done so for idealistic reasons that hold sway at management level. We will look at this in more detail below.

Workers’ rights (and wrongs)

trumpMost of us take it for granted that we set aside our civil rights when we enter a workplace. It is not just that we exchange our services for a wage – we tacitly descend to a lower order. We might do so unconsciously, or humbly, perhaps even resentfully, but in the back of our minds we know there is no choice. Open defiance invites sanction. We might have our hours cut, our pay docked, miss out on a bonus, or perhaps even lose our job. As a result, few of us openly question “management’s right to manage”. This is true even when we see damage arising from poor decision-making. We are more likely to roll our eyes than express our views openly. From time to time we might question something, but only in so far as we feel we can get away with it. And if things go wrong though some fault of our own, well, we won’t be too surprised to find ourselves scolded like a wayward teenager. We learn to suppress our opinions. Perhaps the most grotesque proof of how deep this lesson runs is that we now speak of “work-life balance”, as if the hours we spend at work were somehow separated out from our allotted span — not even part of our own life anymore. Have we come to accept the master-servant relationship as the natural order of things?  Perhaps, in some kind of secular 21st century way, we still believe it is divinely ordained?

Our shared language embeds the vertical command structure. Above us, our employers are superiors, the upper class, the higher-ups. Their directions “come down from above”, often by way of middle-management folk such as overseers and supervisors. As for us, we are the subordinates (ie lower numbers), the underlings, the lower class. Can you imagine a scenario in which an employee suggested a better way of doing things and the employer refused to take his/her advice… could a charge of “insubordination” be levelled? Of course not – the English language just wouldn’t stand for it!

Rather than a ‘great chain of being’, we frame this structure as a ladder. We “start at the bottom of the ladder” and work out way up. Promotion — “climbing the ladder” — might even lead to us “reaching the top” one day. Needless to say the rungs, like the links in the chain, are fixed. They even have their own proper nouns and pay grades.

The odd thing is that all this deference is extremely out of keeping with the times.

JackStrawOne of the greatest achievements of the baby boom generation is that they helped bring about the end of deference. … We don’t tip the cap and bow the head to authority and the establishment like we used to. We don’t know our place today. Nor do we automatically assume that the doctor, the politician, the preacher, the teacher, or the brand, have the ‘right’ answers.
Jack Straw, speaking as leader of the UK House of Commons [4]

You will note that Mr Straw does not mention employers or managers in his list of professions. Again, it really does appear as if we have come to accept this.

Don’t be deceived! The data on this is fairly clear, as we will see below. However, even when faced with the most outrageous failings at management level, the servants do not cease to serve. They may mutter and grimace and grumble among themselves, they may even go out on strike, but they don’t often stand up and say: “Here, let me do that you ninny”. The explanation is simple. Refusal to carry out an order (aka “lawful instruction”) gives the boss a legal reason to sack us. If we aren’t careful we may not get a reference to use at the next job interview.  Depending where we live, this can mean anything from a season on the dole to poverty or outright starvation.

Let’s refer back to Jack Straw’s list of professions above. Again, look at the assumptions that are inherent in the language. We would never consider it disobedience to ignore our doctor’s advice. Nor must we obey our preacher. In fact, in many countries we can even get away with ignoring our Presidents and Prime Ministers if they get too “bossy” (ie if they start acting like our boss at work). And only in a very few carefully-legislated  circumstances must we do exactly what a police officer tell us. As for teachers, well, okay, we kind of have to obey them, but only when we are kids. If a teacher were to come around to our house in later life and tell us to stop talking to our friends, and to sit up straight and pay more attention, well, we’d just assume the poor thing had gone odd.

Things are different at work. We learn to keep our heads down and our views to ourselves. In doing so, we generally tend to withdraw our goodwill. We turn up in the morning, we put in our hours and collect our pay, but most of us do not make much in the way of discretionary effort. It’s the most prevalent form of industrial action in the world today, a kind of unconscious and undeclared work-to-rule, and yet neither workers nor their unions have a word for it. Employers do. They call it “disengagement”. To employers it is a very big deal, and they have spent almost 20 years lavishing money on research to keep it in check.


This year, employee engagement and culture issues (rose)… to become the No. 1 challenge around the world… An overwhelming 87 percent of respondents believe the issue is “important,” with 50 percent citing the problem as “very important”—double the proportion in last year’s survey. Two-thirds (66 percent) of HR respondents reported that they are updating their engagement and retention strategies…
Deloitte 2015 [5]

Only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, according to Gallup’s new 142-country study on the State of the Global Workplace… The bulk of employees worldwide — 63% — are “not engaged,” meaning they lack motivation and are less likely to invest discretionary effort in organizational goals or outcomes. And 24% are “actively disengaged,” indicating they are unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to coworkers. In rough numbers, this translates into 900 million not engaged and 340 million actively disengaged workers around the globe.
Gallup 2013 [6]

Companies such as Gallup, Mercer, Blessing White and Towers Perrin/Watson have built an entire global edifice around the metrics of (dis)engagement. Back in 2005 Towers Perrin surveyed more than 85,000 workers in large and mid-size companies in 16 countries on four continents. They found just 14% of workers were fully engaged on the job. A quarter of them were actively disengaged. [7] Many other studies paint an equally grim picture of the contemporary workplace. Below we cite a few of these. Most often we cite Gallup’s data – not because we approve of their methodology (that’s a discussion for another day) – but because this makes it a little easier to compare results across countries. (You can read more about Gallup’s methodology here).

United States
The percentage of U.S. workers in 2015 who Gallup considered engaged in their jobs averaged 32%. The majority (50.8%) of employees were “not engaged,” while another 17.2% were “actively disengaged.”
Gallup 2015 [8]

United Kingdom
…17% of employees are engaged, or emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organizations every day. By contrast, 57% are not engaged, and 26% are actively disengaged, or emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive. 
Gallup 2012 [9]

…more than 80% of the country’s employees are less than fully engaged at work.. almost one-fifth of all Russian workers are actively disengaged, meaning they harbor negative feelings about their jobs that prevent them from creating value for their businesses. Instead, they often do more harm than good and hinder Russia’s overall economic performance.
Gallup 2012 [10]

Despite the country’s strong economic growth, only 8% of Indonesian employees are engaged in their jobs, while 15% are actively disengaged.
Gallup 2012 [11]

Nearly one-third of the country’s employees are actively disengaged. Managers play a crucial role in lowering that number. Among Indians who work for an employer, just 9% are engaged.
Gallup 2013 [12]

6% of the people who work for an organization report being engaged at their jobs. In addition, about 26% are flat-out miserable — what Gallup researchers call actively disengaged.
Gallup 2013 [13]

Among Brazilians who work for an employer, 27% are engaged… while just 12% are actively disengaged… The bulk of Brazilian workers are “not engaged,” lacking motivation and simply coasting through the workday.
Gallup 2013 [14]

…67% of Japanese employees are “not engaged” — they pick up a paycheck but aren’t really enthusiastic about their work or their companies… 24% of the total working population in Japan — approximately 15 million people — is actively disengaged, which places the cost per actively disengaged worker at about 1.73 million JPY ($15,500 U.S.) per year.
Gallup 2005 [15]

Right now, only 15% of employees are engaged and 15% are actively disengaged… This actively disengaged group costs the German economy 73 billion to 95 billion euros annually in lost productivity, according to Gallup estimates. Add the damage caused by workers who are not engaged — who put time into their jobs but not energy or passion — and the financial impact jumps to 210 billion to 275 billion euros lost.
Gallup 2015 [16]

South Africa
…actively disengaged employees — those who are the most negative about their jobs and liable to spread that negativity to coworkers — outnumber engaged employees by at least 3-to-1.
South Africa Board for People Practices 2014 [17]

 and… Engaged Not engaged Actively disengaged
Nigeria 12% 65% 23%
Egypt 13% 55% 32%
South Korea 11% 67% 23%
Australia 24% 60% 16%
Sweden 16% 73% 12%
Thailand 14% 84% 2%
Venezuela 18% 60% 22%
France 9% 65% 26%

Gallup 2013  [18]


shruggingThe word pandemic comes to mind.  The numbers above have not been ‘cherry-picked’. You can check this out for yourself by browsing through Gallup’s 2013 report here. They were simply chosen to show the effect is not confined to any particular region, culture or industrial framework.

So, you get the picture. The problem is massive. And long-standing. And expensive. And global. One could wander off into national comparisons (“ooh, Brazil looks relatively good”) but this would be missing the wood for the trees. By far the majority of the world’s workers are disconnected from their jobs. When it comes to the boss’s time, the lights are on but nobody’s home.

Why? There is a huge amount of global data and commentary on this phenomenon and it all points to roughly the same cause. It’s a relationship problem.

It’s not about you, it’s about us

…the leading factor influencing employee engagement is widely accepted to be an employee’s relationship with his or her own direct manager.
Forbes Leadership 2013 [19]

Five of the top ten drivers of disengagement relate to “my manager”… In other words, poor relationships between employees and their managers are a leading cause, if not the leading cause, of employee disengagement.
Blytheco circa 2015 [20]

…if Britain at work was a marriage, it was ‘a marriage under stress, characterised by poor communications and low levels of trust’. Only 38% of employees feel senior managers and directors treat them with respect, and 66% don’t trust them. 
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development 2006 [21]

…65% of Americans say getting rid of their boss would make them happier than a salary increase. “The current situation in the workplace is taking an incredible personal toll on employees—and for organizations it is costing $360 billion a year in lost productivity.”
Forbes 2012 [22]

managementAs you can see above, the HR community, led by analysts from Gallup and the like, lay the blame for disengagement squarely at the feet of bad managers. “Managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units, Gallup estimates… For too long, companies have wasted time, energy, and resources hiring the wrong managers…” Gallup 2014 [23]

It’s a credible argument, if you think about companies one by one. But can so many managers, worldwide, over a whole decade, be such hopeless and unreformable duds? After all, we are talking about most managers, everywhere. And of course we then need to blame their managers, who must be deeply inept for making such poor appointments again and again. Rather than this, let’s consider the idea that both workers and their managers are tied into a relationship that just isn’t tenable in the 21st century. Workers are expected to defer while managers are expected to control. Servants and masters. These expectations underlie the management-selection process and go a long way towards shaping the job description and the performance indicators. If managers aren’t autocratic types before they begin, then they’ll quickly find themselves being shunted in this direction.

No doubt it is easier to personalise the problem, as Gallup & co do. And perhaps it would be uncharitable to point out that blaming individual managers (by the million) creates a huge market for surveying, publications and consultant intervention. But if things were so simple, and with so much capital at stake, wouldn’t we be seeing some kind of evolutionary process at work? We can’t look back far very far, admittedly, but in 2010-2011 the global data showed that 87% of employees worldwide were “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work. In 2015 that figure was unchanged[5]. Of course there were pockets of change, flux, noise and variation, but as Gallup themselves say: “employee engagement has barely budged in well over a decade” [24]. Think of all the managers that have come and gone over this time. All the leadership seminars, head office reshuffles, management shake-ups, performance reviews and H.R. buzzwords… all of this has produced absolutely no measurable difference at all in engagement levels?

Here’s an alternative take on the situation, from Professor Henry Mintzberg of McGill University Management Studies in the USA (2009):  What we call a financial crisis is really at its core a crisis of management, and not just a crisis of management, but a crisis of management culture. …In other words, what you had is a detachment of people who know the business from people who are running the business. [25]

At this point it would be nice to introduce a trade union perspective. Unfortunately, the union movement does not have the resources of Gallup & co, and cannot draw on years of global surveying to quantify the effects of a master-servant regime. What we can do, however, is point to countless studies that show workers are frustrated with the way their voice is being ignored and/or actively dismissed.

wwwOne of the largest such studies ever undertaken was President Clinton’s Commission on the Future of Worker Management Relations (commonly known as the Dunlop Commission). Drawing on this data, Richard Freeman and Joel Rogers wrote What Workers Want?, showing that:
● Only a minority of workers in the USA (10-15%) do not want more collective voice at work;
● Management unwillingness to share power is seen as a major cause for the gap in representation and voice.

The study found that giving workers an opportunity to express their views would raise job satisfaction and increase productivity and profitability. “the U.S. system of workplace governance had failed the country. It had not delivered to American workers the role in firm decision-making that they wanted…”  [26]

Follow-up work looked at the same issue in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (all of whom have legal systems rooted in English common law). It found that very few workers (14%) were satisfied with their current voice at work. Three quarters of them wanted elected workplace committees that discuss issues with management (elected representatives being protected – to some extent – from the application of disciplinary measures). Some saw such committees as a supplement to collective bargaining, others saw it as useful as a stand-alone mechanism. [27]

Jacob Morgan describes the frustration of working people rather well, writing for Forbes magazine: “We all lead “double lives.” We have our personal lives where we can: control the technologies and devices we want to use, build and shape communities, share and collaborate with who we want where we want, easily access information, take out loans on a house and make purchases, and have the freedom and flexibility to live how we want. Then we have our professional lives where we: commute an hour each way, use company sanctioned technology, sit in cubicles, get 200+ emails a day, are not able to effectively communicate and collaborate, operate under a command and control hierarchy, feel like a cog, and need to get approvals for buying a $100 office chair.”
Forbes 2014 [29]

worldbluI think they feel disengaged because they feel like they work in a workplace dictatorship, or because they feel like they work in a traditional command-and-control type of company.
Traci Fenton of WorldBlu (the company behind the world’s most democratic workplaces list) [28]

Command-and-control management

In theory at least, the HR community has long since rejected the ‘command-and-control’ school of management. However, research by the UK Chartered Management Institute suggests workers’ aspirations for voice on the job will not be met anytime soon: “…authoritarian management was one of the most reported common management styles (30%), along with bureaucratic management (45%) and other styles that are characteristic of command-and-control. …Command-and-control management remains, in the 21st century, a disease with no signs of abating. Results from studies over time show a stable if not worsening picture”. [30]

Other studies have linked command-and-control management styles to poor workplace culture, implicating it in the rise of workplace depression, stress and anxiety – problems which are now the primary cause of workplace absence in most OECD countries. Negative effects have also been identified in employee health, job satisfaction and productivity. Academics would say that this is just a correlation, rather proof of causation. And they’d be right. There is a little research in this area, but not nearly enough to establish a clear link. The best I can do is invite you to pay a visit to your closest union office. We may not have the resources to run international surveys, but any union organizer can entertain you for hours with stories of how autocratic managers have wreaked havoc in workplaces, to the detriment of the business as well as the health and well-being of the staff.

James Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist of workplace management and well-being, points to this relationship between work, stress, and health when he says: “if people are in an ongoing work situation that is negative or stressful, they have a higher potential for negative health consequences” [31]. Gallup’s Business Journal puts it another way: “…the quality of the workplace can be linked to serious physical and mental illnesses such as clinical depression and chronic anxiety that can have a significant negative impact on workers’ job performance and on their personal lives… research shows that there is a strong connection between engagement and important individual outcomes, such as employees’ mental health.” [31]

coffeeTime for a break

Let’s pause for a moment to recap. There is a problem – disengagement – which many pundits argue is caused by bad managers. Rather than this, we are suggesting it arises from an archaic power relationship that is embedded in employment. Rather than blaming managers, we should be democratizing the function of leadership. In the meantime, disengagement is taking a huge toll on job satisfaction and productivity. It also seems likely to be affecting health, as well as profit. In other words, hundreds of millions of lives are being affected, and billions of dollars are being lost. This is BIG.

elephantHow are we to find out whether the root cause of disengagement is managers or managers-as-masters? Let’s look to history. The elephant in the middle of the room may have been rendered invisible, but we can tell where it is by the steps we have taken to move around it. The table below contains a selection of the major industrial-relations strategies of the past 100 years, in roughly the order they appeared. You could probably add many more, depending on what country you live in, But I think you will find the general pattern remains unchanged.

Employer-side strategies Worker-side strategies
Scientific management
Motivation theory
Management by objectives
Total quality management
‘Just in Time’
Business process reengineering
Balanced scorecard
Corporate social responsibility
Triple bottom line
Employee re-engagement
Anarchism, nihilism
Business unionism
“Arms-length” collective bargaining
Social partnership
Labor-management cooperation
Workplace democracy

Reading down the employers’ column, one finds a steady shift from control processes to approaches based on values and human relations. Nowadays, the worker must be convinced rather than coerced. You might believe this represents progress, or you might see it as simply pragmatic (ie it simply works better in this day and age). Either way, it is a long way from power sharing.

Reading down the workers’ column, one finds a rather more erratic path. At first there seemed to be a drive towards creating a new order through some process of decisive rupture. However, as time has gone by this shifts towards a quest for access to real and existing levers of power. It would seem that the preference today is to “build a new society within the shell of the old”, rather than tearing things down to start afresh. One thing becomes very clear from looking at the latter part of the right-hand column. Workers want to see power-sharing on the table.

It might be interesting to imagine a case for employee re-engagement though workplace democracy (ie bringing the last item in each of these two columns together). However, this is not a proposal that emerges from any real-world negotiations. Rather, let’s use the two positions to highlight something of an intersection. Employers are seeking to harness workers’ smarts. Workers are seeking more voice. It seems a little odd that we are not starting to hear pennies drop. Why isn’t a new era of social partnership looming on the horizon?

Consider this, from Nordic business gurus Ridderstrale and Nordstrom:
Workers (now) own… the critical means of production. In a modern company 70 to 80% of what people do is now done by way of their intellects. The critical means of production is small, gray, and weighs around 1.3 kilogrammes. It is the human brain. [32]

And this, from Gary Hamel, whom the Wall St Journal has called “the world’s leading expert on business strategy”:
…probably for the first time since the industrial revolution, you can’t build a company that’s fit for the future unless you build a company that’s fit for human beings. And let’s just admit it; management as it has been practiced over the last 100 years has not been very human-friendly. We’re going to have to change that. Yes, for the benefit of performance; yes, for the benefit of shareholders; but most of all we have to change it for the benefit of people who show up every day and devote more of their life to work than anything else. If you can build a company that’s fit for those people, that gets the best out of them… then you will build a company that can thrive in the world ahead. [33]

If they are right, then workers now have real power – they can propel a company into a leading position or drag their feet until it folds. By and large they are doing neither. All they are getting is mixed messages. On the one hand their input is crucial; on the other hand they are denied a voice.

Somewhere in the middle of this contradiction we find the union movement. Do they have a role to play? We will look at this question below, but in the meantime we can get some idea of the trajectory of the labour movement by tracing the increasingly sophisticated response to the master-servant relationship down the right hand column of the table above. Blowing up monarchs and/or chucking a spanner in the works didn’t achieve much. The dictatorship of the proletariat… well, perhaps the less said about that the better. The “one big union” idea certainly hasn’t come to much. Co-operatives have come and gone any number of times. European social partnership brought unions into the equation but is now under house arrest. Labor-management cooperation and partnership generated tentative results (here and there, amid lots of argument), but in the end the anchor didn’t hold when the tide changed.

occupationThe most recent vision — a ‘second coming’ in some countries — is workplace democracy. Among its champions are Michael Moore (here), Noam Chomsky (here), Traci Fenton (here) and Bernie Sanders (here), with some important contributions to the theoretical side from Richard Wolff (here), Paul Bernstein (here), Guy Standing (here), Michael Albert (here), David Schweickart (here), Gar Alperovitz (here) and Seymour Melman (here).

As we have seen above, many workers want this – or steps in this direction. And many unions and management theorists want them to have it – or something similar. However, there is an important distinction to be made. The management theorists want current structures to flourish, with the benefits accruing for the masters. The latter group may choose to share the rewards with their servants, but that decision must be theirs and theirs alone. Working people want something more tangible. They want a voice in governance, as well as production. As one New Zealand unionist put it: “Management is far too important to leave to managers”. [34] It is here, vacillating between the ideas of benevolent dictatorship and democracy, that we are stuck.

The fourth industrial revolution

How is the story being told in the upper echelons? In January 2016 the World Economic Forum met at Davos to launch yet another elite conversation.

We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before… The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.
Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum [35]

What does this tell us about life at the top? In feudal times, of course, the masters were the Kings and Queens, alongside those they favoured. But the first revolution, as described by Schwab above, saw huge power (and wealth) shifted from aristocrats to industrialists. The second revolution saw a deeper shift, this time towards financiers. The third saw the rise of technocrats. Think of the effect Amazon has had on publishing, or Skype on telecommunications, or Google and FaceBook on advertising. According to the WEF, we are now on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution. This differs from the third (and this was controversial at Davos) in “velocity, scope, and systems impact”. The masters who arise from the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be the innovators. These are the folk who will introduce the ‘killer apps’ (as such products are sometimes known) that disrupt whole industries. Think Uber and Airbnb. Schwab calls it “the winner-takes-all economy”.  A successful crowd-funding campaign might be all that stands between a good idea and global market dominance. If the WEF is right, then we are no longer talking about workers being made redundant; this time whole corporations will share their fate.

Schwab’s closing thoughts are classic Davos-speak:

In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails. [35]

Sharing power

Let’s not get too woolly about all this. When we talked about innovators above, we are referring to working people. After all it is they, not their financial backers, who come up with the new technologies. These ‘killer apps’ arise from a combination of creative work, idea sharing, practical support and sheer luck. But what would happen if YOU dreamed up ‘the next big thing’ while you were stuck within the confines of a traditional master-servant relationship? Unless you were rather dim, you would probably seek external support, quit your job and form a start up. The only time you’d take it anywhere near an existing corporation would be if you had the intellectual property very tightly sewn up and were seeking their investment, or scouting out the highest bidder. And you’d be mad if you didn’t take your lawyer along with you.

How might this change if your workplace were democratic? Firstly, if you shared the idea with your colleagues there would be not be a legal entity in the background who was entitled to expropriate it. Open discussion would probably sharpen the idea, and perhaps even expose a few flaws. Then, if it were taken on as a project and developed further, all the benefit would flow back to the enterprise as a whole (including yourself), rather than the owners and directors. You might not get rich as fast, but on the plus side the investment cost and the business risk would be shared as well. Moreover, you would be free to work on the project itself, rather than having to shoulder a series of unfamiliar roles such as forming a company, raising capital, registering patents, employing staff, promotion and administration. Perhaps more importantly, for the rest of us: this wider group would be more likely to consider long-term implications such as the economic, social, environmental and political implications. Now why on Earth would I think that?

The Tragedy of the Commons

The Tragedy of the Commons is a way of framing such discussions. Imagine a small community of herders grazing their cattle on shared land. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll say there are ten herders, each with one cow, and enough grazing to keep ten cows well fed. Now, imagine that one herder decides to buy a second cow. He/she will be better off because they now have two (albeit slightly thinner) cows. However, the community as a whole will share the cost. They cannot all do the same thing because if they do, the shared resource (ie the common land) will become insufficient. Irrespective of such niceties, the more selfish individual will still be better off if they decide to get a third cow. In fact, as a “rational actor” this herder can continue to act selfishly right up to the moment where a tipping point is reached. At some stage everybody’s cows will be going hungry, and the viability of the whole community will be at risk. Only the greedy herder will have benefited along the way. This is a system that systematically rewards selfish behaviour.


If we see the Earth as a shared resource – a common – then this model goes a long way towards explaining our current predicament. The environment provides us with a finite resource. We might argue about how finite it is, and where the limits are, but it is finite. Felling trees in the Amazon may be a great commercial move for a single company, in fact the CEO might even argue that it is their duty to do so, vis a vis the shareholders. But the nett result is that we all step a little closer to the brink. Those gentle souls who patiently recycle all their plastics and/or buy locally-made goods are only extending the deadline, allowing such selfish behaviour to persist a little longer. You can see why its billed as a tragedy.

The obvious solution is to democratise the control of the commons. From that moment on, joint decisions can be made about the use of resources. ie It’s one cow each around here unless we’re all agreed otherwise, right? So what has all this got to do with that killer app you developed a few paragraphs above? The tragedy of the commons shows us that the wider the base of producers involved in decision-making, the more likely they are to consider wider implications. As your democratically-controlled ‘fourth industrial revolution’ enterprise grows, the toll it takes is more likely to be mitigated. This is not wishful thinking, it is common garden altruism. That’s another phenomenon that has been widely studied over the past few decades; in fact it has received even more academic attention than disengagement. Neo-liberal economics doesn’t really have an explanation for it. Hayek thought it was an outmoded tradition; Friedman thought it was irrational[36]. Working people call it solidarity and it is the mainstay of our tradition.

Is democratizing work a pipedream?

You may be tempted to think we are stuck with the master-servant relationship because so many powerful people have a vested interest in protecting it. If so, stop for a moment to consider another vestigial fragment of English common law: the husband-wife relationship. Suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton summed it up rather neatly with the expression:  “The husband and wife are one, and that one is the husband”. In most countries where legislation is derived from common law, rape within marriage was not recognised as a crime until the late 20th century. Wives could not testify against their husbands in court. Their surnames usually disappeared as part of marriage. Even the gender and sexual preferences of both parties were universally proscribed: one had to be male, the other female, and both ‘straight’. The change we have seen over the past three decades is phenomenal. If effect, we have overwritten the medieval text.

The workplace democracy movement seeks something similar for workplaces. The driving force behind this is not individual self-interest — it’s not about higher pay (although fairer would be nice!) — it’s about finding a way of avoiding the tipping point. As the tragedy of the commons plays out on a global scale, resources are being rapidly exhausted and social inequality is growing (the other consequence of the tragedy of the commons). Lines of mutual interest are becoming clearer. Those who put self-interest at the heart of economics (like our selfish herder) had not figured on the ‘externalities’ that are now threatening our entire society. In fact, Margaret Thatcher once famously proclaimed that there was no such thing as society at all.

Furthermore, there is a huge body of evidence showing that enterprises that actively facilitate worker voice perform better. Compare Google with AltaVista (remember them?). Compare US airlines American and Southwest. Compare Semco and Mondragón with any of their competitors. Or look at the success of the companies on the WorldBlu ‘freedom-centered workplaces‘ list. In fact, it would be rather odd if this were not the case. “With an enthusiastic workforce employee turnover can be reduced as much as 80% and performance increased by 25%” [37]. Engaged employees lift performance (as the graph from Gallup shows above) and worker-friendly management practices produce competitive advantage. Few would argue against this, but that does not mean we are all seeking the same rational solution. There is a difference between trying to create a better master-servant relationship (cf benevolent dictatorship) and trying to overthrow such a relationship altogether.

Is this just a matter of degree? Are we talking reform or revolution? What was once an enormous debate on the left seems strangely trivial these days, as if it were all just semantics, posturing and rhetoric. After all, the words reform, democracy and revolution have all been interpreted in so many different ways. Current proponents of workplace democracy include democratic socialists and entrepreneurs, libertarians and socialists, organizational consultants and unionists. They speak of the process as if it were a continuum, or perhaps even a strategy rather than a goal. In his seminal study “Workplace Democratization: Its Internal Dynamics”, Paul Bernstein recommends that we use the word democratization rather than democracy: …in all probability, there is no fixed, single or final state of workplace democracy. The illusion that there is such a fixed form has often led to rigid, unworkable systems. [38]

This interplay between ends and means and goals and ideals has led to recurring problems in cooperatives, as well as socially-concerned enterprises. At what stage does compromise become a sell out? The community-oriented ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s was bought by Unilever in 2000, and almost immediately suffered criticism for resisting unionization efforts. Their 2006 social audit questioned whether the company was: “simply a Unilever marketing operation using the brand’s reputation for social responsibility to promote sales”. Similarly, when The Body Shop became part of L’Oréal, Ethical Consumer magazine reduced its rating from 11 out of 20 to just 2.5. They also urged a boycott over L’Oréal’s links to Nestlé, which has a poor record on global labour rights and a history of testing products on animals. And feel-good employer Google has more than once reverted to standard control mechanisms, as happened when they unilaterally changed the company’s childcare system. The story led the New York Times to conclude: “Judging by what’s transpired… Google is fast becoming just another company.” [39]

What we are seeing here is that without democratization, companies can bounce rapidly from one point to another along the scale of social responsibility. As long as the master-servant relationship remains intact, concessions to the public good can be taken away just as easily as they are granted. In fact, such reverses can be forced upon the masters as well as the servants. Consider the pressures that arise when a company suddenly enters the globalized marketplace. One of the founding fathers of new unionism, Charles Heckscher, provides us with an insider’s view of this frustrating process in AT&T, Lucent, Electricité de France, and the Italian State Railways. Heckscher’s work, like that of Bernstein, is all about the nitty gritty of developing workers’ voice in production. Agents of Change: Crossing the Post-Industrial Divide[40] draws two fundamental his lessons from years of hands-on experience. Firstly, in order to change relationships we need an approach that is broad and involving (he uses the term ‘full engagement’). Secondly, some issues go beyond improving union-management relations and organizational structures. Even in the most promising of scenarios, players can be rendered incapable of reaching agreement by some external pressure that suddenly comes into play. Heckscher’s conclusion? “A deep transformation of the system of stakeholder relations is required — the creation of a system of ‘post-industrial relations’”. Despite four decades of discussion, with so much help from folk like Heckscher and Freeman, we seem no closer to a new unionism for post-industrial society than we were in the 1970s.

Nevertheless, it is clear that workplace democratization is not a pipedream. It can and does happen. The results speak for themselves. However, as long as the master-servant relationship remains in place, democratization can stall or go into reverse. All it takes is a new CEO, a takeover, an intra-union conflict, a change in government, or a simple tweak to the nation’s employment legislation.

Professor Casten van Otter, from Sweden’s National Institute for Working Life, has seen this all too often. He argues that a truly democratic workplace is impossible under the current economic rules: “Within a market economy you can not achieve democracy, only move in a more democratic direction” [41]. He may be right, however the argument smacks of the old reform vs revolution debate. It assumes that the two are somehow distinct; that it is one versus the other; that the democratization of work could not transform the economy. Given sufficient push, it would seem inevitable that it would. How often have we seen economics rewiring politics, and vice versa. Perhaps, at the furthest end of the democratization spectrum, we might allow ourselves just one little pipedream. Perhaps an end to the master-servant relationship might lead to the democratization of economics itself?

The resistance

friedmanSadly, our starting point for building workplace democracy today is just as dire as the one Cady Stanton lampooned above. The company and the employees are one, and that one is the company. How are we to place issues on the table when we are effectively banned from entering the boardroom? The masters are bent over their spreadsheets and most of them have only one indicator on their minds. Milton Friedman formularised the position in the 1970s, without the slightest trace of humour or irony: “There is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits.” Much of what has happened since then shows the danger of this fundamentalist position. Forbes magazine looked at it (admittedly, with the benefit of hindsight) and it gives you some idea of their conclusion that the resulting article was entitled “The Origin Of The World’s Dumbest Idea” (more). Even Friedman’s acolyte, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, was finally forced to admit things are not so simple, although it took the financial crisis of 2008 to make him reconsider. Confronted with the logical conclusion of neoliberal economics, Greenspan confessed that he hadn’t properly considered the importance of ‘externalities’. In economist-speak, externalities means the commons. It’s things like the environment and the future of humanity.

More to the point, in terms of our discussion about masters and servants, ensuring that profits flow in a single direction (as Friedman insisted they should) requires an autocracy. For all of “the Chicago school”‘s talk of freedom and deregulation, neoliberal economics can only function if the master-servant relationship is intact and protected. This is as true for investors today as it was in another age for feudal aristocrats.

Given this, one might expect governments to be (at best) ambivalent about calls for workplace democracy. The reality is more complex — largely because such calls have never really featured as an electoral issue. Nevertheless, there have been all manner of trials and experiments over the past century — on both the left and the right — relocating masters and the servants to different points along the democratic spectrum. Some of these experiments are worthy of (critical!) examination, although we do not have scope for this here. Examples include the workers’ soviets in the early USSR;  anarcho-syndicalism in Spain; self-management in Yugoslavia; union ownership in Israel; co-determination in Germany, Slovenia and Sweden; ‘structure law’ in the Netherlands; employee directors in Norway, Denmark and Austria; European works councils; pairtíocht sóisialta in Ireland; social partnership in South Africa; labor-management cooperation in the USA and autogestión in Argentina.  However, very few of these involved genuinely democratic control over the functions of management. The truth is, in most cases the master servant relationship was either retained intact or reasserted (often brutally) as quickly as possible.

Further to the right of the spectrum, we might consider Margaret Thatcher’s ’employee stock ownership plans’ in the 1970s, which gave workers a (miniscule) financial interest in their work, so long as they could afford to keep the shares. However, there was no real voice or influence attached to the deal. In 2012 George Osborne revisited the idea when he proposed an ’employee-owner’ contract option. This idea sank without a trace when employers showed as little interest as their staff. Little wonder: the deal required workers to trade in their rights regarding unfair dismissal, redundancy, flexible working and time off for training. Another startling example from the right comes from Ronald Reagan, who is on record as saying: “I can’t help but believe that in the future we will see in the United States and throughout the western world an increasing trend toward the next logical step, employee ownership.”[42] Needless to say, the idea went no further.

There are other pockets of resistance we need to consider. Quantitative surveying by Professor of Sociology Ed Collom has identified cross-class support for workplace democracy, but there were interesting differences within classes. For instance, Collom found that union members supported the idea more than non-members. Women, people of colour and lower-paid workers were generally supportive, workers with higher incomes less so. Young entrepreneurs supported the idea more than older managers. Public service workers were supportive, as were professional and technical workers; their managers and supervisors not so much [43].

And then there’s the owners. It would seem to go without saying that the shareholders and capital investors (including managed funds) would oppose moves to democratize work. But again, things are not so simple. Corporate ownership is vested in shares of stock, but more than half of the world’s stock market trading is now carried out by way of digital algorithms. The average time a share is held nowadays is just four months (some argue it is longer, some shorter). What’s wanted is a good return. If the value of an enterprise were to rise through increased productivity following democratization (ie if control of the enterprise were democratized but not ownership – as is the case with SEMCO and many of the enterprises in the WorldBlu list), then it seems likely that the analysts and algorithms would register an increase in value. However, it would also seem likely that a larger share of the profits would be retained for reinvestment in the future and as rewards for the staff. This would increase the enterprise’s long term stability but also reduce returns. It’s anybody’s guess how this would play out. In the case of SEMCO, an investment of $100,000 twenty years ago would have an approximate value of $5 million today (more). The same investment in Whole Foods Market would be worth slightly more than $4 million (more). These are the only two examplars I checked – I will leave it to wiser financial heads than mine to ascertain the extent to which this kind of value growth can be generalised.

The absence of the owners (ie shareholders) from the process of control raises an important question. Who are the masters, and on whose behalf are they exercising control? It would seem that company directors and CEOs are acting as masters by proxy. They have been given a free hand, so long as they can keep short term gains rolling in. This, then, would be the group with the most to lose from the democratization of work. The graph below speaks volumes (more).


In summary, shareholders might gain from the process of workplace democratization, but they are unlikely to be told this, because directors and CEOs are likely to oppose the idea. And governments need not take a position either way.

It’s down to us, then.

villagersIf anyone is going to drive the master-servant ghoul out of the 21st century workplaces, then, it will have to be working people themselves, along with their unions and a rowdy cohort of non-governmental organizations, young activists and free-thinking academics. It helps, I suppose, that we are by far the majority of the world’s population. And that our unions have formed the largest democratic structure in the world[44]. And that we could bring the whole global machine of production and services to a stop if we ever decided to. But where on Earth do we start? That’s the daunting thing – moving from all this wiffly-waffly big picture stuff to the cold, hard reality of life on the job; today, tomorrow, day after day.

What’s your manager like? Statistically speaking, the studies by Gallup & co suggest you won’t have much that is positive to say. And yes, there are managers who treat ‘their’ staff like feckless morons, or incorrigible idlers that would rather see the company drift into receivership than do an honest day’s work. Then there are the MBA-types who care nothing for the business itself, and are only there for as long as it takes to leverage higher pay out of somebody else. And there’s the Michael Scott/David Brent types who do their cringeworthy best to lead through inspiration, rather than standover tactics. Or the laissez-faire types, who would rather preside over chaos rather than allowing any kind of collective voice to develop. Or the micro-managers, the time-servers, the divide-and-rulers, the passive-aggressives, the stealers-of-credit, the players-of-favourites… Wait a minute. Isn’t this starting to sound like some kind of peculiar racism?  Let’s admit that there are also good managers. Perhaps they were colleagues who were promoted because of their knowledge of the business, and have never swallowed the Kool Aid. Or perhaps they are an old friend (as is my case), who offered you work in their small business. Or the servant-leaders — the kind of masters who comes to work determined to help you in any way they can to achieve somebody else’s goals.

Above all else, I would like to suggest that none of this matters, in terms of our argument. It is a diversion. If we continue to personalize workplace problems, blaming managers in the way that Gallup & co encourage us to do, we will always see bad managers as the cause of our woes, rather than the symptom of the deeper problem. The managers are not actually the masters (irrespective of how they think and act). Rather, our concern should be with the CEOs and directors who put them there and continuously define their role. We need to think about management as a function, rather than a group of people. When we look at the success of the ‘recovered factories’ movement in Argentina, we find that workers are very quick to elect leaders. However, they insist that these folk (managers in all but name) are accountable and that they can be recalled. It is not leadership, in itself, that is the problem. Our difficulties arise from a structure that bestows one way authority. And our more immediate problem is acknowledging this, even among ourselves. Blaming the person who is one or two rungs above us simply ignores the ladder. As US unionist Kris Rondeau has put it: Organizing isn’t about the boss, it’s about workers. It’s about their need for some power or influence over their jobs and their lives. So it doesn’t matter if the boss is kind or moderate, benevolent, or vicious… It doesn’t matter what they say or do; this isn’t about them. It’s about us.

What do we want our workplaces to look like? Traci Fenton of WorldBlu calls this the power question: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” In considering this larger agenda, we needn’t be constrained by the traditional conventions of industrial relations. This is not just a question about hourly pay rates, safer conditions and/or redundancy clauses. Imagine you were in control. You have the power. Now, what needs to be changed?

Free speech activist Hal Draper summarised the importance of this challenge in the 1950s: Only by fighting for democratic power do workers educate themselves up to the level of being able to wield that power.

The role for unions

What are the implications of all this for trade/labor unions today? To answer the question properly, we need to consider two problems:
1) Some unions are not democratic
2) Some unions act only for members

With regards the first point, unions in North Korea are very different beasts from those in Germany. The same could be said about unions in the United Arab Emirates versus those in South Korea. In fact we can scarcely even compare unions in Australia, Afghanistan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Iran and the U.S.A. And then of course there are all those variations within countries. In fact there is not even an agreed definition of a union. The International Labour Organisation gets around this problem in its Convention on the Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Right to Organise in 1948 (one of eight conventions that form the core of international labour law) by not using the word union at all. Rather, the ILO convention applies to “organisations” that are: “independent associations of workers, constituted for the purposes of furthering and defending the workers’ interests”.

It’s a useful starting point for our modern context because it allows us to factor in some of the more recent shapes that worker organization have taken, such as the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India, OUR Walmart and the Freelancers’ Union in the USA, or Streetnet (the international alliance of street vendors) and La Via Campesina (the international peasants’ movement). However, it is important that we don’t stop by simply allowing a broader definition. In order to be a union, such an organisation also needs to be democratic. This is the key difference between a union and a labour NGO. In order to join the ITUC, a union centre must be “democratic, independent and representative”. The definition we will use for this discussion, then, is this: “a union is democratic and independent association of workers, constituted for the purposes of furthering and defending the workers’ interests”.

Some interesting things follow. Firstly, as well as admitting new forms of organization, it rules out others. Every country has its pretenders. Some unions are set up by employers – these fail the independence test. Others are run as oligarchies – these fail the democracy test. Still others are controlled by political parties. These fail both tests. Arguments drawing upon national legislation and historical tradition need not feature in this discussion at all. There are unions in China, Russia and the USA. The test is the same. And the only group who can determine whether the criteria are genuinely being met are the members.

Only a union that is genuinely democratic can build voice in the workplace.

Knowing what the members want is not enough, though. Imagine a workplace where membership is only 10% of those eligible to join, or where there are several unions competing bitterly for coverage. How can working people ever hope to see their democratic aspirations advanced in situations such as these?

No matter what definition you apply, the fact is that in most of the anglophone nations, where common law has its strongest purchase, unions still cling on to one of two models: the business unionism model of the 1950s or the traditional collective bargaining model of the 1960s. Members may have nominal control over the union through periodic elections, but IF their views are ever canvassed the subject matter is usually very narrow. What do you think about your rate of pay? Do you suffer from this or that? What could be done to make your working environment safer? How much do you like our union magazine?

Frankly, it is hard to imagine what this kind of union can offer to the process of workplace democratization. In fact some unions even see the agenda as a threat to their income stream. After all, as an organization shifts from one point to another along the spectrum of democratic practice, even where the process is driven by masters, it will naturally develop mechanisms to determine collective views. There will be consultative forums, strategic workshops, job evaluations, organizational reviews… Employees will quite naturally find themselves discussing working conditions and finding ways to make change. Much of what we think of as the traditional role of unions may become subsumed in the general churn of problem-solving. There may even come a point where the union is so undermined that management can close it out of the discussion altogether.

One can see this occurring in Mondragón, a group of worker-owned manufacturing and retail companies with its headquarters in the Basque region of Spain. There, the general rule of thumb is: …employees may be members of a specific trade union on an individual basis, but there is no company-wide union representation. Since the workers are also the owners, the historical role played by trade unions in conventional companies is rendered redundant. [45]

The alternative is for unions to take up the workplace democracy agenda (insofar as their members’ interests and aspirations determine they should) and assist the members through the entire process of building voice and influence. This approach would see unions becoming an integral force in the leadership of democratic companies. More importantly, such unions would also able to work across company lines and organize sectorally and industrially. Given globalization, this would also see them working across national borders.

Those who don’t accept this role will continue to push a narrow labourist agenda. Their influence will decline further, and membership numbers will continue to drain away. In all probability, they will lay the blame for this on bad managers.



Working people want voice. Employers want to harness their smarts. Shareholders don’t care much either way. CEOs are taking advantage of the hiatus to line their own pockets. But democratising work is not just a matter of social justice; we urgently need to save what’s left of the commons. In this article we have argued that all of these problems can be addressed in the same way. The case for workplace democracy could hardly be stronger.

However, we’re stuck. The master-servant relationship, and the entire edifice that is built upon it, is constricting our movement. This is a dilemma that only ‘the servants’ themselves can resolve. They have the objective power to do so, and they have the means. But do they have the organizational ability and the resolve? It is here that we must look to unions. Their reaction, if any, will become clear soon enough, while we survey the growing damage and the global threat we all face.

We can exorcize the master-servant relationship. Look at what we have done to the husband-wife relationship. Doing so will produce commercial benefits as well as social ones. Furthermore, democratization will also bring a social perspective to the function of leadership.

If unions do not take up this agenda, then the workplace democracy movement will continue to be led by NGOs and a few savvy company directors. Logistics will be provided, and limited, by social networks. In the meantime, for most of us, union roles will be slowly subsumed within workplace teams and consultative bodies.
The master-servant relationship will find itself protected beneath another layer of sediment.

One last request

Dear reader, it’s anybody’s guess whether the current global regime is going to wreck everything for all of us, once and for all. If we do pull through it will be because workers and their unions stepped up. If this happens I would like to suggest a final resting place for the corpse of the master-servant relationship. It’s a special place once reserved for malign spirits within the Great Chain of Being. If the ancients were correct, it lies somewhere beneath the inanimate objects. Underneath all the rocks, lost socks and broken toasters.



This is an updated and revised version of an article that was originally published by the New Unionism Network in 2010. Peter Hall-Jones is a developer working in the health and safety industry in New Zealand.



[1]. There were several attempts to codify the great chain of being, perhaps the most widely-accepted being that of St Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica, 1265-1274 A.D. (download – accessed 7 February 2016). The illustration at right is a representation of the chain from Valades, Didacus (Valades, Diego), Rhetorica Christiana, 1579.
[2]. Gusdorf, Myrna for the Society for Human Resource Management, Employment Law— A Learning Module in Six Segments, 2008 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[3]. Private correspondence with the author, July 2008
[4]. This statement is from 2006, cited in WebProNews (download – accessed 7 February 2016). It is a mark of how this non-controversial this ‘end of deference’ analysis was that Straw went on to almost immediately become Lord Chancellor and then Secretary of the State for Justice.
[5]. Brown, David et al for Deloitte, Human Capital Trends, 2015, section 3: Culture and engagement (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[6]. Crabtree, Steve for Gallup, Worldwide, 13% of Employees Are Engaged at Work, 2013 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[7]. Towers Perrin, Global Workforce Study, 2005 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[8]. Adkins, Amy for Gallup, Employee Engagement in U.S. Stagnant in 2015, 2015 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[9]. Flade, Peter for Gallup, Solving the U.K.’s Productivity Problem, 2012, citing Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, 2012 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[10].  Khazagerova, Izabella for Gallup, How Russia Can Boost Economic Productivity and Growth, citing State of the Global Workplace, 2012 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[11]. Gallup, State of the Global Workforce, 2012 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[12]. Crabtree, Steve for Gallup, Disengaged Employees May Be Impeding India’s Growth, 2013
(download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[13] Clifton, Jim for Gallup, China, We Have a Workplace Problem, 2013 (download – accessed 7 February 2016). See also BlessingWhite, Inc, Engagement Highlights for China, 2010 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[14]. Crabtree, Steve and Rios, Jesus, for Gallup, Brazil’s Growth Could Use a Boost, 2013 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[15]. Gallup Business Journal, Grim News for Japan’s Managers, 2005 (download – accessed 7 February 2016). See also Adams, Susan for Forbes, Unhappy Employees Outnumber Happy Ones By Two To One Worldwide, 2013, citing Gallup 2013 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[16]. Nink, Marco for Gallup, Only 15% of Employees in Germany Are Engaged, 2015 (download – accessed 7 February 2016). See also Nink, Marco for Gallup, Employee Disengagement Plagues Germany, 2008 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[17]. South Africa Board for People Practices, citing Gallup 2013, Fact Sheet October 2014 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[18]. Gallup, State of the Global Workforce, 2013. If you would like more national and regional data, along with a narrative that truly captures the dominant “Human Resources” take on the problem of disengagement, you can download the whole report here  (accessed 7 February 2016)
[19]. Lipman, Victor for Forbes magazine, Surprising, Disturbing Facts From The Mother Of All Employee Engagement Surveys, 2013 (download – accessed 6 March 2016)
[20]. Blytheco, What Causes Employee Disengagement?, 2015?  (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[21]. Caulkin, Simon, Observer Business, What sort of boss gives a monkey’s about his staff?, 2007 citing Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2006 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[22]. Forbes, Majority Of Americans Would Rather Fire their Boss Than Get A Raise, 2012 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[23]. Beck, Randall and Harter, Jim for Gallup, Why Great Managers Are So Rare, 2014 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[24]. Mann, Annamarie and Harter, Jim for Gallup Business Journal, The Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis, 2016 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[25]. Cited in Howard, David, Le management est mort! Vive le management!  2009 (download – accessed 6 March 2016)
[26]. Rogers, Joel and Freeman, Richard, What Workers Want, Russell Sage Foundation 2006
[27]. Boxall, Freeman and Haynes, What Workers Say: Employee Voice in the Anglo-American Workplace,  ILR Press 2007
[28]. Fenton, Traci speaking in a radio interview on Dan Mulhern’s Everyday Leadership, WWJAM 2008
[29]. Morgan, Jacob for Forbes Leadership, This Is The Single Greatest Cause Of Employee Disengagement, 2014 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[30]. Humanistic Systems, Recovery from Command-and-Control: A Twelve-Step Program, 2012 (download – accessed 7 February 2016), citing from UK Chartered Management Institute, The Quality of Working Life, 2012 (the full report can be downloaded here)
[31]. Robison, Jennifer for Gallup Business Journal, Disengagement Can Be Really Depressing, 2010 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[32]. Ridderstrale, Jonas and Nordström, Kjell, Funky Business – Talent Makes Capital Dance, Financial Times/Prentice Hall, 2002
[33]. Fortune magazine has called Gary Hamel “the world’s leading expert on business strategy”. The Economist called him “the world’s reigning strategy guru.” Wall Street Journal ranked him #1 among the Top 20 most influential business thinkers. The quote is from 2007, cited in The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century by Stephen Denning, Jossey Bass 2010
[34]. Paul Cochrane, as General Secretary of the NZ Public Service Association, in conversation with the author, 1997
[35]. Schwab, Klaus, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond, 2016 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[36] Hayek https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HhsWHfGRIA&spfreload=10  Friedman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A
[37]. Sirota, David, Mischkind, Louis A. and Meltzer, Michael Irwin, The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want, Wharton School Publishing 2005
[38]. Bernstein, Paul, Workplace Democratization: Its Internal Dynamics, Transaction Books 1980
[39]. Walsh, Fiona for The Guardian, When big business bites, 2008 (download – accessed 7 February 2016)
[40]. Heckscher, Maccoby, Ramirez, and Tixier, Agents of Change: Crossing the Post-Industrial Divide, Oxford University Press 2003
[41]. Casten von Otter, quoted in an interview with Mary Petersson and Anna Spängs in Semco & Freys: A multiple-case study of workplace democracy, 2006 (download – accessed 7 March 2016)
[42]. Gar Alperovitz cites these lines in his book: What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk about the Next American Revolution, Chelsea Green Publishing 2013. Hard to believe? You can watch Reagan deliver the lines himself here (accessed 7/3/16).
[43]. Collom, Ed, Clarifying Cross-Class Support for Workplace Democracy, 2001 (download – accessed 7/3/16). See also Managers and Workers Attitudes to Workplace Democracy, 2003 (download – accessed 7/3/16).
[44]. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) represents 180 million workers in 162 countries and territories and has 333 national affiliates. See http://www.ituc-csi.org/.
[45].  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondrag%C3%B3n_Cooperative_Corporation  (accessed 18/6/16).