I have a friend who works in finance. She’s got a job that is tremendously detailed. She spends long days, especially during tax time, from before the sun comes up to when the sun goes down concentrating on numbers, numbers, and more numbers. I was surprised when I recently found out that to help herself concentrate a doctor prescribed her an ADHD drug. She likes it. She says it helps her stay focused in this highly tedious micro detail oriented job.
The challenge here is that I know my friend. I know she’s not hyperactive. She does not have a hyperactive bone in her body. I take that back, she may get a bit riled up if the Patriots are playing, but other than that she’s very sedentary and has an above average ability to focus. For her, for her daily activities, she’s about as properly matched as a worker can be. So why is there the need for the medicine? I think it’s the changing nature of the work. As our organizational systems become more and more complicated – to wit there is no better example of this than anything related to corporate finance and taxes – the job of managing those systems becomes more complicated. A complicated job becomes the purview of the professional who is trained to manage complex systems.
This is where we have a huge collision of issues related to the professional world and basic humanity. We have the ever present drive to increased productivity. This ultimately results in long hours of work by single individuals who have responsibilities that have been shouldered in decades past by an entire staff of people. But it’s now no longer a staff, it’s one person and an automated ledger. So not only do we have the automation that the professional has to be an expert on, they have to be the one person who is also the tax specialist. That same person has to be the software specialist. They also need to be the corporate regulation specialist. It’s all the same person. They have resources, but it’s not a team, the department gets smaller and smaller until: Enter the department of one, or the professional individual contributor.
Currently much of my research and writing in my long form writing project (book) has to do with how many of the constructs in modern society are specifically created for and designed around the needs of the modern industrial age. These elements include everything from suburbia to the very concept of retirement. It hadn’t occurred to me that much of the maladies that have been identified and even the billions we spend on medicines can be directly traced to the needs of the industrial age. In this example she is pulled in several different directions, and yet she has to focus on intensely complicated tasks.
Over the years I’ve read that ADD and or ADHD is really a desirable biological imperative from an evolutionary standpoint. It stands to reason that when you are a hunter / gatherer it’s good to be able to be hypersensitive to any to a rustle in the trees. This would help to be aware of the passing predator or not miss the opportunity of potential prey. By having a mind that’s attuned to quickly refocus on important events around them humanity had a better chance at survival. Clearly that is not the case for the professional employee of today.
So maybe this prescription isn’t a bad thing, it’s like soma from Huxley’s Brave New World. The perfect drug for a workforce in need. Except it’s not perfect. Use and misuse of the drug includes a tremendous amount of risk for a whole host of problems. They include addiction, crashes, increased chance of strokes and heart attacks, not to mention potential psychiatric side effects. All this risk so my friend can focus on getting one more ledger reconciled.
Corporate charts of accounts and electronic ledgers need to be reconciled and not everyone can do it. It takes a trained professional to do it right. The question is should we push our professionals so hard that a seasoned and mid-career accountant needs to be medicated with intense prescription drugs just to better meet the demands of their job? This question is so distressing it’s giving me a headache.
I wonder if there is something I can take for that.