Anyone who’s seen American Psycho knows corporate culture has a way of dehumanizing people. This has led many to turn to satire as a means of demonstrating the occasionally problematic mindset of those involved. Similar to American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman, Easton Blake is a character who sets out to shed light on the dangerous tendencies and counterproductive attitudes corporate structures can produce. WellWell recently spoke to Blake’s creator and the author of How to Behave like a Human Being: A Guidebook for the Corporate Sociopath, on big business’s all too frequent dehumanizing nature.
Easton Blake is a pseudonym, correct?
Yes, it’s not my actual name. I spent the last 10 years working in a corporate environment and still do and it’s a little bit heavy, so I have to be careful and try to remain anonymous.
Did that allow you freedom in the writing process?
Absolutely. I wrote this book just based on a lot of the experiences and personalities I’ve come across working in the corporate world. I used a pseudonym because it left me room to be able to really delve into sort of the satirical and darker aspects of a lot of the kind of stereotypical aggressive personalities that I’ve come across in the business world.
When did you start to become disillusioned with the corporate structure? Was there any inciting incident that bred the concept of the book or was it something that just developed over time?
I’d say it was an accumulation of events. And people. Yes, there are definitely those personalities that you work with in a corporate atmosphere who are a bit more aggressive and seemingly emotionless as others and ironically enough, those tend to be the most successful people you work with. And the most efficient, at least when it comes to accomplishing tasks at work.
How to Behave like a Human Being: A Guidebook for the Corporate Sociopath is a satirical reflection on this corporate design. What are the mental drawbacks of a lifestyle like that?
They’re significant, especially when it comes to one’s emotional health and ability to maintain healthy relationships. I can say from experience that people who are the more aggressive and cold blooded these people tend to be, the more likely their personal lives are in shambles. While being aggressive, competitive and unsympathetic can be helpful professionally, it’s nearly impossible to keep that from bleeding into your personal life. I’ve had many associates who were performing well at work and vanquishing opponents but experiencing a lot of difficulty at home, especially with families and children.
Lack of a healthy work/life balance is a theme throughout the book. Do you believe that it’s worth the professional success to sacrifice personal life?
In my opinion, absolutely not. there’s a great line in the Bible that says, “What is it worth,” meaning wealth, “if you lose your soul” and I’m a big believer in that. These are not happy people. Easton Blake, that character, is not a happy person. They’re angry, endlessly unsatisfied and only trying to pursue more money and more success. That’s why I have a portion of the book where I talk about running for the White House.
It’s that personality type I’m referring to that a lot of people are familiar with in the corporate world, someone who’s never happy, never satisfied and never feels like they have enough. So it’s definitely not worth it because you spend your life constantly feeling inadequate and that inadequacy motivates much the anger and cutthroat competitiveness you see in the corporate world.
What creates a person like that? Is it the societal pressure to succeed or do some just get caught up in the competitive nature of the system?
I think it’s a bit of both, especially in America with how important money is in terms of status. Now there’s also social media pressure where everyone is pretending to be someone they’re not, that probably plays a part. But the competitive nature of the corporate structure absolutely plays a primary role. It’s very cyclical because you’ll come into a job as a person low on the totem pole and you’re just confused. You’re hazed, abused and treated poorly so I think it engenders a lot of resentment and this motivation to succeed at all costs. The ego is a very powerful thing. It’s really at play in the business world.
While these issues aren’t singular to America, it’s certainly most apparent here. Why do you think we as a country are in this position? How do other countries avoid this type of corporate attitude?
It’s a good question. If you look at the European approach towards work, it’s much more balanced in my opinion. Some would argue it’s too lax but I don’t take that perspective. Rest is really encouraged in Europe, as are spending time with your children, significant leave for parents and parenting. I’m not sure why we’re so obsessed with money and power in America. Maybe it has to do with us being such a powerful country. I think the American DNA is incredibly adventurous. Many of us come from people who left everything to try to succeed and so I think that remains within us. This amazing work ethic and yearning for more but that’s something that should be checked every now and then.
What is the benefit of writing about a topic like this through a satirical lens versus a more straightforward and serious exposition?
For me, it was a bit cathartic because I’ve come across these people and worked with them. The reality is that while they believe that they sort of built this façade and people can’t see through it and admire them for it, it’s usually it’s not true. They’re more often despised and mocked, certainly feared but also mocked. That’s where the humor and satire comes in because it’s all just so absurd and it was fun to release some of it. On the other hand, I think all of us have a bit of that character inside, especially when we’re competing in a corporate environment. It builds within us. It’s just the nature of the beast.
Given that you are still in the corporate world, do you struggle at all attributing to this system?
I definitely do struggle, and I think this really comes up when you make friends with people that you’re working and competing with. It’s a very difficult balance. I pride myself on actually trying to develop relationships with people professionally and to be as honest as possible. So I’m not in a place where I need to get out of the corporate environment, certainly as long as I can continue writing books like this, it helps me maintain some sanity.
About Easton Blake
Easton Blake lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with his wife and children, whose sole purpose is to make him appear normal and to help him improve his bottom line.