the weight of standards at work

The book. What is the reason for this feeling, so widespread today, of a growing brutalization of social relations? Where does the disillusioned observation come from of not being able to give priority to what we hold to be important and of ceaselessly giving in to secondary, even derisory, constraints? In Ethics of ordinary practice (Pocket), Pierre-Olivier Monteil underlines the need to personalize relationships at work as in everyday life. He gives advice to managers and company employees in search of efficiency and meaning.

To understand the restriction of our room for maneuver, which leaves us to a world of automatisms and functionalities, the doctor of political philosophy and researcher associated with the Ricœur Fund questions the proliferation of rules, standards and procedures of all kinds. A phenomenon, considers the author, to denounce and contain. “It multiplies the situations in which we find ourselves caught up in behaviors without soul, which we carry out for the sole reason that they are obligatory and without always having the conviction that they are appropriate. This is the case for an incalculable number of professional acts. “

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The problem is not the norm as such, but its pathologies. Its proliferation infantilizes and dissuades inventiveness and responsibility. Its benign translation is provided by the lamplighter of the Little Prince, from Saint-Exupéry who, to respect the instructions, spends his time lighting and extinguishing his lantern.

The author, who teaches applied ethics at Paris-Dauphine-PSL University, ESCP Business School and Sorbonne-University, also points to the problem of the conception and formalization of power in work organizations. Formal obedience to an external authority dries up the energy and inventiveness of informal know-how. Rationalizing everything is therefore an illusion.

Ethics, trust, creativity

The book invites management to be more courageous, leaving more freedom to the team, instead of struggling to dictate its work. Imposing the meaning of activity from the outside by focusing on extrinsic motivations such as salary, career, power or prestige attached to the task, is not to take into account the intrinsic motivations provided by the activity in itself and which pass through ethics and values, solidarity and trust, autonomy and creativity.

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While the merchant model leads “To depersonalize the relationship by focusing attention on the goods exchanged rather than on the people in the process of exchanging”, the work promotes a more considered use of standards, a more measured use of technical means, and a more acute conviction of the limits of market logic.

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