Can you see the courtly rituals still at work in our organisations and management?


The annual review: where I come before your throne (well, desk) and you tell me two things: you own me, and I’m insufficient.

Peter Block

Human resources, or dealing with the King?


Our organisations and workplaces still draw, for better or worse, from the rich heritage of royalty.

This has huge implications for innovation and shaping a better future

I’m going to talk about seeing a doctor, a GP, in the UK.

Let me be clear that I think primary care is under-resourced, overlooked, under attack and the most important point of intervention in our health and care system.

This is not an attack on doctors — it is painting a picture of how royal thinking creeps into so much of our ‘modern’ world.


To see, my doctor, I have to:

  • call his servants (my regular doctor is a bloke, but this isn’t about gender)
  • call back again during one of the times when appointments are made available
  • be offered an appointment within his schedule
  • attend in good time
  • present the proper papers to his gatekeepers
  • attend his pleasure and availability with the other plebs in the waiting room

(As Lou Reed sang about another purveyor of medication, ‘he’s never early, he’s always late. First thing you learn is that you always gotta wait’)

  • be called
  • approach the audience chamber
  • knock upon it, be granted entrance
  • be asked to take my place upon the secondary seat before his throne.

He has the computer — the source of all power — the best chair — and the uniform.

And if I’m lucky, there’s the quick conspiratorial flash of recognition when he sees that I represent up to eleven minutes of his day of communication with someone who also behaves according to middle class, higher educated norms.


What are the implications of this near-perfect play-through of a Commoner petitioning to see Royalty?

Where else does this seep into organisations and work?

2 thoughts on “Can you see the courtly rituals still at work in our organisations and management?

  1. Interesting and revealing comment about our strange social and organisational rituals that are based on genuflection and deference. These are some of the many socially constructed roles that we are schooled in, and which we understand at a really fundamental level. There are many more. With reference particularly to health services the old analysis by Talcott Parsons (The sick role) and Ervin Goffman (Asylums and becoming a patient) are still helpful and relevant. Why is it, I ask myself, do I still behave like my mum did in the presence of a doctor? Yes doctor, no doctor, thank you doctor! I dont normally behave in this way.

    Liked by 1 person

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