by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
For a large cohort of Americans, our workplaces are our principal communities — where we find friends, common interests, absorbing challenges, even meaning and purpose. Some of us are our best selves when we’re on the job. There’s an editor at the city desk of my former employer the New York Post whose shift starts at 1 p.m. He shows up at 9 a.m. for the purpose of drinking coffee and cracking jokes and amusing everyone. Also he likes the work. Even on the sitcom The Office, with its exaggerated slate of the regrettable and awkward, an assortment of odd ducks somehow came to feel something like a community, maybe even a family.
This isn’t sentimentality; the business sphere forces us to cooperate with one another, even if it doesn’t come naturally at first. We reach out across various barriers not because that’s our inclination but because that’s how the job gets done. The marketplace brings us together and then it steers us to behave. It’s more true now than ever, with the Yelpification of American business: Treat a customer badly, and your reputation may be permanently damaged. Treat an employee badly, and the next one may cost you more.