A non-negotiable feature of Disneyland's 2008 contract with Unite Local 11 -- which represents the laundry workers who clean linens from the resort's hotels and restaurants -- was a new "work-tracking" system that used "gamification" to display realtime signals about each worker's productivity on public leaderboards, colorcoded with the slowest workers' names in red, as well as color-coding indicators on individual machines to indicate whether they were underperforming.
The workers called this system "the electronic whip" and they say that it had the intended effect of speeding up their work -- at the expense of bitter fighting between workers (in a workplace that had a decades-long reputation for being a good and pleasant place to work) and a sharp increase in on-the-job injuries.
Disneyland has been the site of intense union organizing, a pushback that was triggered by a decades-long ratcheting-down of real wages and working conditions.
While this whip was cracking, the workers sped up. ‘We saw a higher incidence of injuries,’ Topete said. ‘Several people were injured on the job.’ The formerly collegial environment degenerated into a race. The laundry workers competed with each other, and got upset when coworkers couldn’t keep up. People started skipping bathroom breaks. Pregnant workers fell behind. ‘The scoreboard incentivises competition,’ said Topete. ‘Our human competitiveness, whatever makes us like games, whatever keeps us wanting to win, it’s a similar thing that was happening. Even if you didn’t want to.’
The dark side of gamifying work [Vincent Gabrielle/Aeon]
(Image: Cryteria, CC-BY)
Smarter people than me have pointed out that "work-life balance" says the quiet part out loud, implicitly confirming that you stop living when you're at work. Miles Matrix's Dungeons and Deadlines makes all this much realer with acerbic wit and rockin' chiptunes. My spouse left me after five turns. (via Four Short Links)
The China Law Blog (previously) is one of my favorite sources of insight into the secret workings of the businesses that produce the majority of the world's daily-use goods.
About five years ago, I was trying to get a bunch of Big Tech companies to take the right side of an urgent online civil rights fight, and I called an old friend who was very senior at one of the biggest tech companies in the world; they told me that it wasn't going to […]
Whether you own or rent your place, insurance on that home is a necessary hassle – but a new tech-driven company called Lemonade is starting to show that while it might indeed be a necessity, it doesn’t have to be a hassle. Here’s the way insurance typically works: You pay premiums and hope an accident never happens. […]
Bad news: Your brain reaches its peak performance sometime before you turn 26, and it’s all downhill from there. Good news: At any age, training with brain exercises has big-time benefits. Better news? The Ultimate Memory Mastery Bundle hooks you up with 20 hours of proven psychology and neuroscience techniques to boost your brain and […]
Admit it…even having a pocket knife within reach at a moment’s notice makes you feel a little like James Bond, right? Like, if you run up against a locked vault or a sinister superweapon, all you’d need are a couple of hand-held tools to diffuse the whole situation and save the world. Look, we don’t […]