Do employers sometimes view their workers disparagingly? And do employees sometimes feel their dignity challenged? According to a new scholarly review of ‘Dilbert’ cartoon strips, the answer is sometimes ‘Yes’. Professor Elizabeth Doherty at the Saint Joseph’s University’s Haub School of Business analysed the content of the strips to determine what the author might be saying (intentionally or not) about the dignity of humans at work. It became apparent that the managers who featured in the strips, for example The Pointy-Haired Boss (pictured above courtesy Wikpedia) often appeared to view their subordinates as ‘exploitable commodities’ – sometimes threatening them, with abuse. “This research makes evident the potential value of an aesthetics/comic arts perspective to understand and address issues concerning human behavior in the workplace.” explains the professor.
‘Joking Aside, Insights to Employee Dignity in “Dilbert” Cartoons: The Value of Comic Art in Understanding the Employer–Employee Relationship’ is published in Journal of Management Inquiry, November 15, 2010. and can be purchased (by non-subscribers) for US$32.00.