David Liknaitzky

David Liknaitzky (PhD in Philosophy, 2022) ‘In Search of Just, Humanised Work: Overcoming Workplace Oppression and Rethinking Leadership to Create the Conditions for Human Flourishing at Work’

Organisations have evolved historically such that, in some instances, it has become the norm to treat employees in ways that would otherwise not be tolerated (or, at least, far less tolerated) in the broader society. Indeed, oppressive relationships of domination and subordination, and arbitrary subjection of employees to restraint of freedom, coercion, victimisation, humiliation, exploitation and manipulation, while not universally the norm, are nonetheless widespread across many organisations, often with employees subject to such treatment having little recourse to redress.

I will analyse the ways in which such practices are wrongful and, for the most part, harmful, and will make the case that organisations, as intentionally created moral agents, are culpable and accountable for such practices. I argue against the concept of work as disutility or a ‘necessary evil’ that people should endure as an instrumental means of securing a living. I also argue against the ‘workplace exceptionalism’ that seeks to justify oppressive conditions and practices at work and that places human flourishing outside of the work domain. Rather, I make the claims that work is a primary good for those who undertake it and that organisations are obligated to actively counter harmful conditions and practices in the workplace. More controversially, I argue that organisations should provide (wherever possible, and far more than is currently the norm) for the goods of individual autonomy and human flourishing at work.

If work is a domain in which people dedicate a major portion of their time, energy and commitment, there is every reason to expect that this domain should provide the conditions, possibilities and opportunities for them to conduct their work in ways that will enable them to satisfy the needs and access the goods that are meaningful to them. Living a full human life should apply in the work domain as much as in other domains of life. Thus, there is a need to rethink the nature of organisations and leadership, such that what it is to be essentially human is valued and protected in the workplace.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Holly Lawford-Smith, Associate Professor Karen Jones, Professor Justin Oakley (Monash)