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Workplace: the Company Man by Ellen Goodman

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When someone spends all of their time at work, they start losing human characteristics like social skills, becoming unhealthy, and creating distance between family and friends. In “The Company Man” the author, Ellen Goodman, is correct when she argues that people in the workforce should learn to not work their lives away.

Goodman insinuates that the man is lacking specific human components, such as empathy and a community of interests. For instance, when Goodman states that the company man “worked himself to death, finally and precisely, at 3:00 A.M. Sunday morning” she is stating his death as more of a fact than a loss. By doing this, she is making his death seem less personal and therefore less human. The author also displays him as less of a human by rarely calling him by his name, Phil, but calling him the company man. This illustrates that the more time he spent at work, he became less of a father, husband, friend, and more of just an employee.

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In the essay, the author goes on to explain how the more he worked the less he saw his family. When a company friend told his wife at the funeral “I know how much you will miss him” she responded with “I already have” . The wife had “given up trying to compete with his work years ago” and his work had put distance between the two, so she didn’t know the man they were burying enough to miss him. His work didn’t just put distance between him and his wife, but between his kids as well. His oldest son “went around the neighborhood researching his father, asking the neighbors what he was like” a “day and a half before the funeral” . Whenever he and his daughter were alone “they had nothing to say to each other” because it was like they were strangers and not family . The company man, spent so much time at work to provide for his family that no one in his family knew who he was.

The author also explains how even though it is shown that his death was caused by a lack of self-care because of work his acquaintances, family, and the company will not change when it comes to their workload. For instance, even though his “acquaintances knew it instantly [that] he was a perfect Type A, a workaholic” they wouldn’t change their own lives because they only “thought for five or ten minutes about the way they lived” . They won’t be changing much about their own lives based on how long they thought about it, five to ten minutes, then they moved on with their day. Goodman presents another example “the afternoon of the funeral” when the company president asked three men “‘who’s been working the hardest?’”. The company was not concerned that they had lost a good employee their main priority would be to replace him, not mourn, because to the company, Phil was just someone who brought in revenue. The author also makes a case that creates a pattern within the family by talking about his eldest son’s occupation. Phil’s eldest “is a hard-working executive in a manufacturing firm”, hardworking is the term they used when talking about Phil so it is only safe to assume that his son is following down the same path that he went down, creating a negative cycle.

In conclusion, Goldman’s thesis, that people in the workforce should learn to not work their lives away is encapsulated in her essay, “The Company Man”. She proved her point with multiple arguments such as the worker will create distance between their families and friends, start lacking necessary human qualities, and creates a harmful cycle for everyone involved in the worker’s life.

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