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Is 007 really a model employee?

12 July 2018

Martin Parker, Professor of Organisational Studies at the Department of Management, makes the case.

As the academic year is coming to a close, staff and students alike will be looking forward to a well-earned break. Many of our students will also be spending the summer on a placement or internship, boosting career prospects and learning valuable skills that will stand them in good stead in the workplace. Martin Parker, Professor of Organisational Studies, presents us with a model employee – an unlikely one, at first sight. He says:

Cartoons, pop songs and film all tend to show management as evil, organisations as places which crush the soul, and work as something to be escaped from. Even in shows which present work that we are supposed to admire – doctors, firefighters, the police – there is corruption and conspiracy, which mean that the bosses can rarely be trusted.

You might think that the stories about the most famous secret agent in the world would conform to this pattern. But they don’t.

It is easy to forget that the James Bond novels (and films) are about work. They contain realistic signed and dated memos and appendices and they often begin with corridors and offices. We learn that Bond is paid £1,500 a year, “the salary of a Principal Officer in the Civil Service”, as well as an extra £1,000 tax free. A modest salary in today’s money. He goes on missions two or three times a year and has office hours between ten and six.

But Bond is different from many of the spies and detectives who follow him from the late 1960s onwards. In the novels he very rarely makes any criticism of his employers, and the threats he deals with are all external to his organisation – the fictional Soviet counterintelligence agency SMERSH and sinister crime group SPECTRE. Though Bond does begin to change as the films go on, in the novels and short stories published between 1953 and 1966 he is a model employee.

Read Professor Martin Parker’s full blog post, published in The Conversation.

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