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Infantile Treatment of Adults at the Workplace

I wrote my dissertation on this topic, and do you know what was the best part? An HR Director asked me why I was interested in this topic. I looked at her and asked, "Aren't you interested in your people's experiences?" Apparently not.

I was interested in that topic because of the way people are treated. We have games, playtime, slides, ice cream etc. When I looked at the characteristics of infantilisation, I was like; This is us! This is what is happening to us at work.

Infantilisation is a pattern of behaviour in which the person in charge treats competent adults in a childlike manner. This is often due to the authority figure’s inability to tolerate, manage or control age-appropriate behaviour and growth toward independence.

The main characteristics:

  • Disregard Boundaries - We are a family slogan

  • Refusal to Acknowledge the Child as a Fully Separate Person - Everyone is treated, developed, fed, and prescribed the same motivational/engagement intervention.

  • Dominance - Corporate structure

  • Restriction of an individual's or group's autonomy - Restrictive policies, such as accommodation policies, denying people their legal right to consume alcohol.

  • Gaslighting - There are many examples of corporate gaslighting, such as agendas like, well-being, diversity, sustainability, investing in people, and the family & care narrative.

The list is long and somewhat complicated. But what is not complex to notice is their impact on the workforce:

  • Severe self-doubt

  • Decision-making anxiety

  • Extreme lack of confidence

  • Loss of sense of self-identity

  • Unable to commit

  • Not having a direction in life

  • Learned helplessness

  • Limited self-governance

  • Permission-seeking behaviour

  • Parent-like control

  • Regressed sense of responsibility

  • Systematic invasion of privacy

Now tell me you haven't experienced any of these at work. You can't say it.

Examining employees’ experiences, especially in the context of infantilisation, is important to improve employee welfare and organisational health. Halting psychological fulfilment is detrimental not only to individuals but also to organisations. The workforce becomes more dependent and less competent and often experiences challenges in maintaining healthy personal and work boundaries.

Read more on how corporate practices infantilise adults and change them:

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