Drunk On Power
On this day in 1964, the UK’s first ever drink driving television advertisement aired. Although nobody seemed to know it back then, it would one day be recognised as a major turning point, the moment when drink-driving began to lose its gloss of public acceptability.
Fifty years ago, millions were still routinely downing “one for the road” before swerving home in the car. So despite hundreds dying each year at the hands of drink-drivers, the advertisement’s central message and title still seemed alien.
It was actually aired three years before a legal drink-drive limit was even set, in 1967, with roadside breath tests following a year later.
“Don’t ask a man to drink and drive.”
~ Headline of the first ever UK drink drive campaign advertisement
Since 1967, the message about driving under the influence of alcohol has spread and is now widely accepted. For most people the idea of one for the road has become a social taboo. Over the past 35 years alone there has been a sixfold drop in drink-drive deaths in Britain. People are now aware not only of the death and injuries consequential on drink-driving, but also the social and economic costs too.
The question of deaths and injuries through stress at work has, to date, received much less public attention. Even though there is much research to show that people suffer illness and premature death through such stress. Not to mention the economic costs of lost working days, disengagement whilst at work, and lost productivity through the impact of (dis)stress on knowledge workers’ ability to think clearly.
And one of the key causes of stress, especially in the knowledge-work environment? The power relationship we call “management”. Along with all its trappings.
The power-over relationship we call “management” causes distress. Stress is toxic. It injures and kills people, and silently debilitates them even whilst working. And then there are the social costs – such as depression, violence and alienation – arising from the influence of power-over management on relationships, social norms, self-expression and mental health in the workplace, and from there to society more widely.
How many years will it take before society comes to regard “management” – power-over relationships, hierarchies, tacit violence, and so on – as being a social taboo on a par with the status of drink driving, today? Will that take more or less than another fifty years?
“Don’t ask your loved ones to manage others – everyone has too much to lose.”