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Dreaming of cockaigne: individual fantasies of the perfect workplace


  • Cunha, Miguel Pina e


The literature on organizations is replete with deal-type-theories. Most of them take the whole organization as their level of analysis and study the ideal organization from an objective and macro point of view (e.g. the bureaucracy). Less is known, however, about what the ideal organization might look life from the employees, micro, and subjective point of view. There are theories available about this ideal site, but most of them describe particular spots (e.g. motivation, satisfaction) from an objectivist point of view. Inspired by the medieval myth of the Land of Cockaigne, immortalised in Bruegel The Elders 1567 painting, this paper presents an empirical study of the perfect workplace, according to the subjective perspective of the individual employee. Seventy-seven subjects from a single organization were interviewed. The only question they were asked was Please, imagine the perfect workplace. It can be different from any organization you may have known until now. Can you please describe how it looks? Results suggest that most people define the ideal workplace in reference to their current organization. As such, the ideal is an improvement of the real. This suggests that, at work, people have difficulty in imagining Big Rock Candy Mountains. The implications of the apparent prevalence of the reality principle over the pleasure principle are discussed, and their impacts for both the theory and practice of managerial psychology are presented.

Suggested Citation

  • Cunha, Miguel Pina e, 2002. "Dreaming of cockaigne: individual fantasies of the perfect workplace," FEUNL Working Paper Series wp414, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Economia.
  • Handle: RePEc:unl:unlfep:wp414

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