Why do you work?

A conversation with a friend and colleague today highlighted this question. 

We were discussing some of the organisational, financial and policy changes going through the company and I made a commonly cynical and flippant remark of “well, I’m here because my mortgages need me to be” to which he replied “If I was the owner of the company or indeed your manager, I wouldnot be happy with that answer”

I see his point. I do. Ideally, people should want to go to work for lofty and noble reasons. People should feel that tthey want to go into a place of employment to be productive, to spend their days doing something they’re good at because people need their skills and in so doing, provides the worker with a sense of achievement and purpose.

However, I honestly think that thia attitude is one that is waning from the workforce and is almost at a point where one can say that it is almost unreasonable to expect it from an employee. There are a number of reasons for this decline and change. Lifestyle, technology and a failure to provide a sense of loyalty and importance to employees are part of this downfall. 

The western world has seen a great deal of changes over the last century and in particular the last 70 years. Since the 1950s the ability to purchase goods previously only available to the few has created a “mass affluence”.

This ever growing surge of mass produced consumption has produced a double edged sword, initially freeing people from additional hours of toil to achieve tasks around the home to creating a life filled with desire to gain further maffluence. Hobbies are cheaper and easily partake, weekend lifestyles can be purchased. All of this brought about the phrase “work to live, do not live to work”.

The labour movement tried to instill this as part of our very fabric of society with the eight hour day – 8 hours of work with 8 hours of rest and 8 hours of play. The last 30 years has seen the resurrection of the ruling class with the mantra that capatalism creates a free and self correctimng market and that this is why “greed is good”.

Yet the very nature of this share market dividend profit based business model is what is eroding the very human workforce that is meant to be servicing the needs of the engine beneath the glossy financial reports and quarterly press releases. When corporations treat employees not as a member of the team, but an asset that is to be trimmed, cut and re-shaped for extreme efficiencies that fails to take into consideration the very lives of those workers, then what pride can an employee feel in coming into work for a cold, calculating spreadsheet?

It is becoming common for corporations to reduce the permanent staff numbers in favour of contract, part time and even casual staff instead. There are a great range of reasons provided for such moves, usually covered by a report on efficiencies, cost reductions and competiveness – all summed up with a decimal fraction on a spreadsheet.

The concept of corporate loyalty to its employees is almost laughably naive to even mention anymore. Yet corporations demand that employees provide more and more to keep things afloat.

Give up those little yearly awards, those long service acknowledgements, end of year parties, tissues, coffee and tea bags in the break rooms, subsidised communications, training budgets, stationary, rubbish bins and cleaning services. Official policies now state that two hours a day or ten hours a week of overtime is considered part of the normal expectations of the work week and will not be compensated as either paid or for time off in lieue. 

A degredation of the eight hour working day, removal of soft benefits, lowered recognitions, a commonly trending tendency to fail to give payrises commiserate with CPI let alone as a cash reward for outstanding efforts. This is what employees are seeing as the norm. 

It is all well and good to explain that by cutting off the end of year party two employees have kept their jobs – but when all of these cuts appear to affect the workers and not management then resentment builds and morality drops. 

If management are eating their own dog food, then that needs to be reflected and advertised. If staff are being asked to cut wages, then management too, must do the same.

If a corporation is doing it hard, then it needs to reinvest in itself to survive. Ensuring shareholders get an extra 2c a share in dividends does not achieve this.

So, why do people work? Because they need to.

They need to pay bills that are ever increasing because of that need by utility firms to meet ever increasing profit margins. They need to maintain rent and mortgage payments (which are practically identical these days) because caves are no longer available or part of an expensive niche gated community. They need to purchase health insurance because the constant degredation of tax payments by the wealthiest has eroded the ability to maintain their costs. Education is no longer free. Food prices have risen through the proverbial roof.

Even if one wanted to give up the rat race and live the so-called simple life as a self-sustaining hermit on their own patch of earth … that earth and the taxes it incurs are often far too much for most to afford even thinking about.

So, am I wrong? 

Am I just a cynical, curmudgeonly, delusioned and jaded socialist? Do I put too much value on the worker nad their entitlements? Do I fail to understand and praise capitalism?

Why do you work?

[Reposted from xntrek]

One thought on “Why do you work?”

  1. Totally agree. Corporations show no concern for their employees, why on earth should we do any different?

    Management by spreadsheet is a trend that appeared in the 80s under the guise of ‘efficiency’ and ‘cost savings’. What it has meant is that managers are selected by their ability to make a spreadsheet show the required numbers. Not for any other thing. This is why management theory of the last 30 years has said that a manager can move anywhere and work in any industry equally. That idea is complete nonsense to anybody with some experience.

    What is true is that accountants can work equally in any industry. They dont need to know anything about what the company does, how it does it, who are good and bad employees and what makes a good manager. They just need numbers to crunch.

    So what happens when managers are selected for ability to crunch numbers to please their bosses? You get sleazy politicians in every management role. They neither know nor care what employees do as long as they dont cause trouble and meet the numbers. They can only select other slimy beancounters as good managers, because that’s all they know.

    So after 30 years of this nonsense we have a generation of middle and upper managers who are utterly disconnected from the business. Who do not see employees or coworkers. Only costs to be reduced so they get a bonus.

    They aren’t taking the cuts with everyone else, they’re being given bonuses to make the spreadsheet give the right numbers.

    Put the accountants back in the back office and let real leaders run the show once more. They’ve had their chance and shown what a terrible world they want to live in.

    Accountants are their to make the plans of leaders a reality. Not the other way around.

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