May 1 reflection 2020 on the rise of entrepreneurial management in the community environment and its consequences
The mechanisms specific to entrepreneurial management seem to plague the community environment that seemed to us not so long ago by and for the community, but also sheltered from the entrepreneurial ideology. This is at least the case in several harm reduction organizations in Montreal or in large clubs such as Accueil Bonneau and large shelters..
I. A language game
First, a whole new discourse takes the place of ordinary language, the language of « sir madam everyone » which reflected the authentic and popular character of this environment. Since then, workers hear terms that were until recently unknown. The words « governance », « management decision », « profitability of our practices », « statistics », « Accountability », « financial planning and strategy »,« philanthropy », "Internal investigation" flowed into the mouths of certain organizational departments. The latter borrow the discourse of public funders where managerial management has long taken possession of the state institutions that they are above all., but also the Centraides of this world. But these funding rules imposed by the state and the foundations that make the subsidies very difficult to obtain, oblige the organizations to flirt with the private. We want to make our missions social sexy so that money is attracted there. Managers will thus play entrepreneurs to sell their mission. Play their game, it is certainly using their language, but also use their advertising methods. In the Montreal metro, right next to a Calvin Klein ad, organizations In the street, Rézo or the Father's House will seek to attract the attention of the public so that they buy a conscience by giving them funds. In other words, we sell good conscience : « If you give, you do your part for the most vulnerable ». This good conscience is a product like any other : when we buy it, we are relieved for a while.
Hear me well : the problem is not to talk about your cause or to ask for funds,
but to use the same language and the same methods as private companies to achieve this end. By consciously playing (or sometimes despite themselves) the game of private enterprise, organizations lose some of their community spirit.
II. Mental load
Who does not feel completely insignificant and of little use in the face of accounts imposed from everywhere ? In addition to advocating an entrepreneurial language, funders impose such rigid criteria on organizations that there is no room for your own creativity. Here, we can no longer be satisfied with accompanying, we must also count, to justify, reports.
Harm reduction workers know a thing or two about it. Each intervention must be monitored and sent to the Montreal Regional Public Health Department. : initials, Date of Birth, gender identity and neighborhood where the person lives are information requested just before noting the prevention material that has been distributed and the type of intervention carried out. Some, some of these workers are also called upon to write as detailed reports as possible to renew funding every year. So, their use depends on their own ability to make clear and precise the qualitative and quantitative data collected during the last year.
In addition to the feeling of helplessness inherent in caregivers and peer helpers who are returning from a difficult day, the latter carry with them the marks left by the stories of suffering of people encountered at work. These brands come to mind randomly : « I hope it is correct »« have I been too direct with her », « is she in danger tonight », « will he do an O.D ? »« did I support him well », « I should have said that instead of that». These questions and worries are the tasks we bring home after work. These are nothing less than externalities specific to the helping relationship.
In short, the mental load follows them everywhere and is added to the sometimes disproportionate expectations of donors. We wish these workers to have enough psychotropic drugs and alcohol to clear their minds when they come back home, because beyond
feeling of helplessness and questions that eat into the mind, there are the worries of ordinary people's lives.
On the issue of accountability, these directorates can always defend themselves by saying that they have no other choice but to respect these criteria imposed by the donors. Except that the temptation is too strong and the general maxim « power corrupts » does not ignore the community environment. Relations between management teams and floor teams are blackened by this tendency to use tools specific to the private enterprise. One of these tools is the disciplinary notice used to reprimand, correct employee behavior and it is used more and more in the circles I mentioned in the introduction. In a harm reduction resource in the center-south, management will use a computerized register to monitor the entries of its employees in order to distribute disciplinary notices to those who arrive a few minutes late.
A few streets away, workers are threatened by telling them that they expose themselves to sanctions if protocols related to Covid-19 are not followed. The role of a threat is to bind the person who uses it to the person who receives it, which leaves the latter waiting to suffer retaliation. Finally, what characterizes this tool, it is that it does not allow an egalitarian dialogue which is nevertheless an essential part of human relations in the community environment. On Punit, bar point.
A second tool is the employee file.. The latter seems at first glance harmless, but it allows management to document a wide range of information on workers and possibly use it to identify those who are likely to lack loyalty to the organization. We compile all kinds of data ranging from what is in your CV to your actions or behaviors. The annual assessment is an example of what has been compiled on you…
IV. Clinical support
So much energy is put on the appearance of organizations and their respective reputations that
this is done to the detriment of support and clinical support for work teams. We will see an organization director and coordinators systematically trivialize what workers are experiencing : « You have to have your shell to work here », « the user must be in pain for him to physically attack you », « you have to get used to it, our users are men, it's normal that you do cruiser», are phrases that have been heard several times in a big box of Montreal. Here, the user is the customer and he is the king. Of course, the quality of services (term specific to entrepreneurial discourse by the way ...) is important, but it should not be done unconditionally. Those who are on the ground know it : health, the safety and clinical support of workers is essential for assistance to be quality. Sadly, more and more emphasis is placed on image and customer service rather than on the needs of community workers.
« Anyway, we will change you when you get burnt », « we are cannon fodder », are speeches that I have heard from several desperate comrades.. But still, in front of all kinds of psychological or physical violence experienced on the floor, we will offer less and less clinical support on the pretext that it is an individual responsibility to take care of oneself, to have a clean lifestyle. Sometimes, supervisions are offered by coordinations, but considering the rise of managerial management, we are more and more fearful and fearful to reveal ourselves to our « frames ». Formerly, proximity to coordination and management made it possible to report to them the difficulties encountered at work, but reality is changing and there is little space to express what we feel and experience on a daily basis.
V. A new class of manager
What most violently embodies managerial management in organizations is precisely the absence of management and certain coordination on the work floor which certainly has negative consequences on the support provided to workers. We don't see them less and less. Busy filling out funding requests, flirt with the business community, to take stock, compile data in employee files or talk to the media about such social issue, they now embody « a new class of community managers » will see one of my comrades.
It is appropriate here to quote the analysis of another comrade on this new emerging class in the community :
And this new class of managers is not fleeting, rather it tends to grow bigger and become the norm. Why? On the one hand, because the current method of funding organizations increases the administrative and managerial "needs" of organizations. Rather than funding the mission and therefore trusting floor workers to adapt services as needed, we have been financing piecemeal for years, therefore to the project. This obviously leads to the famous precariousness experienced by many comrades, but it also has the perverse effect that it feeds these management "needs". In this way, we end up with organizations where the number of executives is disproportionate to the number of interveners. And this class of managers, frankly useless to the real needs of the field, may well complain softly about this bureaucratic system, she takes advantage all the same.
WE. What to do ?
Faced with this dramatic situation for the community sector, workers also appropriate a discourse. However, this speech is more political. They realize that their organization leadership does not share « their class interests » and that it is necessary « s’organiser ». But the battle will be fought on two fronts. In the first place, it is necessary « Wrestle » against funders and their contempt for community workers, which is expressed through the crumbs they give to organizations. Secondly, it is necessary « resist » managerial management in our boxes by getting organized and claiming better working conditions, but also the self-management of our environments. Finally, this political discourse must be accompanied by collective and political actions.
And if for this very special May Day, banners were dropped all over the city to signify our resistance to this ideological change in the community ? It would already be a start !
And you, do you have any other ideas of resistance ?
A social worker inspired by numerous discussions with his comrades