Work: Perks are a placation pacifier

Ted Bauer
2 min readMar 3, 2022

In response to an older Medium post I wrote, an online friend of mine responded with this:

The idea of corporate culture has been hijacked by well-meaning people who don’t have a clue about building a successful business. Unfortunately, that move has been enabled by CEOs who use parties and perks as a pacifier to keep the kids placated. The result is people confusing an excellent culture focused exclusively on making employees happy with a culture of excellence focused on making the business successful.

That would be accurate, IMHO.

A couple of days ago in a Stowe Boyd “workfutures” post — which is usually pretty good except he views Derek Thompson as some kind of demigod — you’ve got this:

In fact, the organisations that trumpeted their shared values most loudly were the ones whose cultures were most toxic to innovation, agility, and adaptiveness.

This ought to be no surprise, given how many high profile organisations singularly fail to live up to their supposed values.

But the myth of culture as shared values persists.

None of this should really be a surprise to anyone at this point. The way that white-collar (“knowledge”) work works in most places is pretty simple: there is a crew of people at the top in terms of financial rewards and decision-making, and their lives essentially become beholden to elements around relevance, control, and status. We focus too much on race and gender these days, but these people tend to be overwhelmingly white and male, and surrounded by a very specific breed of man who wants the same things they have. What happens is the existing power core advances the same people and methodology as themselves, and as a result, nothing ever truly changes inside organizations. All the woke discussions we have end up performative. Culture doesn’t change because culture isn’t supposed to change; the people at the top like the “culture” the way it is. When they offer perks, the perks are a pacifier and that’s it. The perks are meant to distract you from “Oh, I gave 70 hours of my life to this thing recently and all the rewards are going to six guys who are already insanely rich.”

Perks are a distraction. A pacifier. Just respect me and let me grow.


Ted Bauer

Mostly write about work, leadership, friendship, masculinity, male infertility, and some other stuff along the way. It's a pleasure to be here.