A round of applause

WINZ again. My favourite people in the whole wide world. This time, it’s a practice that they have had for at least four years, possibly longer. The over-the-top celebration following a client (client? Really? It’s not like you can take your business elsewhere if you’re not happy with the service) getting a job.

When a WINZ client gets a job, they often need to go into WINZ – to get a grant to get work clothes, or to wrap up their benefit (doing this over the phone is a dangerous path to take). So they’re there telling their case manager that they’ve got a job, and the case manager is all happy and supportive and it feels really good. Any business remaining is wrapped up as quickly as possible – getting rid of a client is done with far more alacrity than helping them in their time of need – and the client goes to leave. All is well in their world.

All of a sudden, their case manager gets out an old school bell or a hooter of some description. Sounding this gets all the case managers on their feet to applaud the client’s achievement.

What. How embarrassing can you get? Remember at school, when you’d won some award and you had to stand up in assembly, and it was the most embarrassing thing in your week? Imagine this, but in a place that had systematically shamed you for as long as you had been dealing with them. Who made you feel worthless and crappy for daring to need their help. And imagine it in the middle of a room of strangers that you know are suffering the way you once were and who see your success as an almost impossible dream at times. In a way, it’s a tool for shaming them some more – look, that dude managed to get a job, why don’t you get off your arse and do the same?

The displays are patronising – the last time you got a round of fake applause like that, it was in school, and we’re not schoolkids any more. An adult doesn’t need false adulation, particularly not from the ones that have shamed them for so long. It’s condescending – yay you got a job! Well done you! Collect your certificate and mini chocolate bar at the door! (and don’t come back through it, or we’ll treat you just as poorly as we did before)

Walking through that office to a round of applause from a bunch of people that don’t actually give a shit about your achievement is often done head-down and blushing. It’s not a celebration for the jobseeker. It’s a professional celebration of another one off the books.

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