Between Retro- and Neo-Taylorism: A Brief Review of “Severance” on AppleTV+

The dystopian workplace TV series “Severance”, which has been described as a mixture of “Lost” and “The Office” and was nominated for 14 (!) Emmy Awards, offers a lot of reflection for anyone interested in organization and management. Having finished the show’s first season comprising 9 one-hour episodes, let me offer some observations in this blog post (which is based on a Twitter thread).

Let’s start with the Retro-Tayloristic premise and setting: the basic idea of the “severance procedure”, which separates employee’s non-work memories from work memories, describes the ultimate wet dream of Tayloristic management scholars and professionals. Taylor’s “Scientific Management” treats organizations as machines and workers as tools that ought to follow formalized operational procedures to the letter. Management’s task is to develop, measure, optimize and control these procedures. This is exactly what the severance procedure promises to offer: workers able to solely focus on work tasks they do not (need to) understand without any personal and extra-organizational interference or distraction.

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