Category Archive 'Jerry Toner'

06 Feb 2015

Learning Modern Management Techniques From Roman Slavery

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Jerry Toner, Director of Classical Studies at Churchill College, University of Cambridge and the author of The Roman Guide to Slave Management: A Treatise by Nobleman Marcus Sidonius Falx, argues that modern managers can draw lessons from the methods used by Ancient Roman masters to get the best service from their slaves.

Owning slaves and employing staff are in a simple sense a million miles apart. A comparison of the two is going to provoke, but similarities do exist. It is an uncomfortable truth that both slave owners and corporations want to extract the maximum possible value from their human assets, without exhausting them or provoking rebellion or escape. At a deep level, managing others always involves finding solutions to the age-old problems of assessing people from limited information, then incentivising, disciplining and rewarding them, to finally being rid of them. However much we might prefer to disguise the harsher side of wage-slavery behind a rhetoric of friendly teamwork, we could benefit from some straightforward Roman honesty. Everyone knew where they [sic] stood then – even if, sometimes, that was in the line for crucifixion.

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