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Our assumptions about work and workers

Written By: - Date published: 9:30 am, June 23rd, 2015 - 51 comments
Categories: business, feminism, jobs, sexism, workers' rights - Tags: , , , , ,

Originally posted at Boots Theory.

Yesterday I posted about sexist discrimination in the workplace, and noted:

So there’s the gendered, identity-politics side of the argument. But there’s a slightly broader set of assumptions in play, around work and workers, regardless of gender – and my thoughts on that got a liiiiittle bit long, so tune in tomorrow.

And here it is! Am I not a beneficent goddess?

We make a lot of assumptions about the nature of work, and our – really, employers’ – expectations of workers. You see the sharp end when people refuse to hire women because of course they’ll have kids and of course this will be a massive drain on the business.

But those memes are just the sexist subset of assumptions we make about work and workers. And those assumptions hurt us – workers, society, and business.

(I will note a lot of this post focuses on pretty middle-class notions of work – permanent/fulltime/office-based, and this does not nearly cover all types of work and workplaces.)

Workers are “an investment” as opposed to “people”

A common complaint from employers who want to be allowed not to hire women is that they’re the sexist pigs real victims here. It goes, “I put all that time and money into training someone, then they leave and I don’t get any benefit from it!” Or “it’s too hard to train someone else up when women go on maternity leave!” Or “why should I pay women equally if they’re not going to stick around?”

As I covered yesterday, this “logic” doesn’t fly. Men aren’t guaranteed to “stick around” either – welcome to the generations Y and Millennial, who don’t plan on stepping straight from school into a life-long career with one employer.

Plus, you’re paying people for the work they’re doing now, not the promise of future work – unless you own an American sports franchise and are in the habit of signing people to ten-year contracts.

Besides, what’s the problem with having multiple people who are skilled and equipped to do your work? Heck, if someone goes on parental leave and you train up someone new and awesome to do the job, you have more options, don’t you?

The parent doesn’t want their job back – you’re covered, and don’t need to panic about handover. They’re both so productive you expand the team – isn’t growth a good thing? Or they agree to job-share, and now you’ve got back-up if one takes sick leave – whether it’s for their children or not!

Maybe the new person goes off to another great job, upskills even further, and comes back some day to add even more value – because they remember how you gave them a chance.

Actually, workers are an investment. Treat them well, develop their skills, and long-term you’ll reap the rewards. The real problem is that a lot of employers are just bad at investing.

All jobs must be 40-hours-a-week and flexibility is too difficult

This isn’t just about women, and it’s not just about parents. I know plenty of childless dudes who are night owls. They’d love to do their eight hours from 5pm to 2am, or work Sunday to Thursday, or ten hours/four days a week. Or work 35 hours. Or 20 or 30 as a job-share.

They’d be happier, healthier, and way more productive. The financial benefits would be huge. The social benefits in terms of job creation, prosperity, health, community would be revolutionary – and happy, prosperous societies are good for business too.

But a lot of us in desk jobs are churning out 8 hours a day, Monday to Friday … if we’re lucky. When the boss is putting in 60+ hours, there’s pressure to stay longer. When you’re billing in 6-minute increments, taking a full lunch hour means wasting 50 billable units every week.

Then there’s management anxiety. How many managers say “I need you to be in the office when I’m in the office” or “I need you to look busy when the senior manager comes around”? Or freak out because you leave at 4:55 to get a quicker bus home?

The assumption is that workers are inherently lazy (that’s why we have to force people off the dole) and won’t do good work without someone standing over them. Or anything which isn’t “core work” (a great rightwing “bureaucracy busting” meme) is a waste of resources – god forbid you stop for a cup of tea and the Five Minute Quiz to refresh your mind and build relationships with your co-workers.

We’re all meant to be lean mean cogs in the machine, individuals competing against each other, so there’s the assumption that sharing jobs and knowledge is a bad thing. After all, if Jo and I share a client list, and I work Monday-Wednesday and Jo works Thursday-Saturday, Jo might steal all the credit and get a bigger bonus!

Or, not pitted against each other, we could both be relaxed and fulfilled, we could juggle days if one of us (or our kids!) got sick and our clients would get great service. I’m sure there’s money to be made in that somewhere …

Managing people is haaaaaaaaaard

This always gets me, as a unionist. The myth that it’s too difficult to manage people’s performance, which is why bosses like Peter Talley need the power of summary dismissal without appeal.

I’ve never been a people-manager. But I’ve had good ones, and terrible ones. The good ones did bizarre things like sit down, set goals, and check in regularly to see how I was going. The bad ones were “too busy” to have regular meetings which usually resulted in some workers (funnily enough, not the parents) doing poor jobs and others burning themselves out to get the work done without seeing much reward. Guess which teams had higher churn?

The quality of management in New Zealand workplaces is poor, and this affects productivity (which is the only thing that matters.) There could be many reasons for this. In my experience the worst managers were expected to do a lot of “front line” work, and were terribly managed themselves, always putting out fires with no time to actually manage.

Sometimes you wonder if self-preservation is at work. If some organisations stopped managing-by-crisis and took the time to develop the best ways to get results and how their resources should be deployed to support that, I suspect some bosses would find they were part of the problem, not the solution.

So instead of addressing the big issues, they jump to the quick and dirty solutions: firing people at will. Paying workers off in exchange for not taking annual leave or sick leave. Refusing to hire women.

And that’s how we get back to sexism, work and parenting. It’s so much easier to write off an entire gender group as “bad investments” than to really, fundamentally change how work works in New Zealand. It’s so much simpler to say “you have kids in daycare, you’ll take too many sick days” than negotiate flexible work hours or job-sharing.

I’ll end with a great irony: you know how daycares are “hotbeds of sickness”? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we, as a society, do not support parents, of any gender, to be at home with their sick children. If you have to be at this meeting and your partner cannot miss another day this month and both your parents are still working and little Jimmy has the sniffles, little Jimmy goes to daycare. The other kids at daycare get sick. Their parents get sick.

And that’s just great for profit and productivity.

51 comments on “Our assumptions about work and workers”

  1. Tracey 1

    In Romania they have a saying

    “I pretend to work for my boss and he pretends to pay me”

  2. millsy 2

    “This isn’t just about women, and it’s not just about parents. I know plenty of childless dudes who are night owls. They’d love to do their eight hours from 5pm to 2am, or work Sunday to Thursday, or ten hours/four days a week. Or work 35 hours. Or 20 or 30 as a job-share.”

    I really cannot understand why employers expect workers to be flexible, but cannot seem to bend themselves. For example in retail and hospitality. They seem to expect their workers to work 6-7 day weeks, where they could get part time workers in to do the weekends, giving regular workers the weekend off.

    And another thing, probably not relevant. I really hate it when I suggest something, it gets pooh-poohed, and then a couple of years later it gets implemented and management give themselves the credit for it.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      I really hate it when I suggest something, it gets pooh-poohed, and then a couple of years later it gets implemented and management give themselves the credit for it.

      Yep, seen that happen before and the manager that ‘suggested’ it gets a huge bonus. Meanwhile the person who’s idea it actually was just had their IP stolen and got nothing for it and knows it. And then the useless managers wonder why the workers don’t have any ideas.

      • In Vino 2.1.1

        Agreed. The irony made me smile at first, but you are right – it is actually a sad commentary on human nature, rather than amusing. And the managers promote the evil side of human nature.

    • Charles 2.2

      ” I really hate it when I suggest something, it gets pooh-poohed, and then a couple of years later it gets implemented and management give themselves the credit for it.”

      It’s relevent, it shows how far ahead of the curve you are. If people listened to people like you, instead of conferring with their own limitations and restrictive self-enforced cultures, your suggestions might drive a workforce new places in a tenth of the time it would otherwise take. The solution is the same as all other “why doesn’t his happen” scenarios.

  3. shorts 3

    I think the biggest assumption all articles like this opinion piece and the regular ones in the herald et al is the authors think we all work in medium to large companies. I can’t think of any article I’ve ever read in NZ that once got close to my various many places of work, except in broad terms (badly managed or some such thing)

    Saying that I’d love to have a more flexible work environment, I spend (waste) over ten hours a week on a bus so I can sit in front of a computer… when I could be doing the same at home… nor do I need to be doing so during ‘normal’ office hours cause its what I do that counts not when it is done blah blah blah

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      I can’t think of any article I’ve ever read in NZ that once got close to my various many places of work, except in broad terms (badly managed or some such thing)

      Then write one. I’m sure that the authors here would love to put it up as a guest post.

    • Charles 3.2

      Then write your story for us. Geez, what do you want a paper invitation? Open mike, do it, I’ll read it.

    • I guess you didn’t make it to paragraph 5 where I noted

      (I will note a lot of this post focuses on pretty middle-class notions of work – permanent/fulltime/office-based, and this does not nearly cover all types of work and workplaces.)

      And I myself “spend over ten hours a week on a bus” to get to my “job in front of a computer” … so I can very much sympathise with your situation.

    • b waghorn 3.4

      “”I spend (waste) over ten hours a week on a bus so I can sit in front of a computer…””
      He he I step out the door and I’m at work.

  4. Hateatea 4

    I have mostly been an employee or self employed (or unemployed) but I did have one job where I had an assistant. What I discovered then was that I ‘managed’ that assistant as I wish that I were managed in that work and other workplaces. I budgeted time for a pre-work catch up on what was urgent, any issues arising from the previous day, what was in the in tray etc. As we had different break times I did the same thing on a smaller scale post lunch. If the PTB had an amendment to the process we worked through it together so our training and understanding, or not, was the same. I tried to remember that there is no ‘i’ in team. We were, I think, a cohesive small team within a larger, less cohesive work unit.

    What I learned over my working life is that few people receive training to assist them in their management role and only the really good ones actively seek it out for themselves.

    As you posit, investment in an organisation’s employees, whether entry level or senior management, is an investment that pays off in productivity, in the ‘culture” of the workplace and the willingness to go the extra mile in a crisis or when there is a colleague off sick. Rewarding effort need not be a pay increase but may be a voucher for a night out for the employee and partner, an extra long lunch break or ‘mental health’ day, or an planned for, earlier finish to ensure better access to public transport.

    As workers we can play our part too in suggesting alternative and flexible ways of improving work satisfaction, if the culture of the company allows for this but also when site agreements or collective bargains are being negotiated.

    As I have aged, my priorities have changed. While an appropriate financial reward for effort is still important, so is the ability to schedule leave to be at the birth of a mokopuna or other significant family events. It is pleasant to have the occasional longer lunch with work colleagues, old friends or one’s partner. A good employer recognises these needs, makes provision for them, even encourages staff to schedule them.

    Of course, like you, my working life has been mostly spent in offices where flexibility could have always occurred but seldom did but the employer that I always look back on with the most fondness was the one who sometimes put his head round the door at three o’clock on a Friday and said ‘I am off now. When you have finished what you are doing, go home and we will pick up on Monday’. I was fortunate indeed but the message that he sent was that if he could leave early on a Friday, it was fair that I could do the same. I felt valued and repaid that with my loyalty and enthusiasm for the work I did.

    How we look at work as workers, senior staff and employers needn’t be tied to the minimums proscribed by legislation and collective agreements but a living, vibrant relationship that sees every employee and manager as a valued and valuable part of a cohesive unit. How we achieve this utopian workplace is down to each and every person who earns their living there, not just the ‘bosses’ but it is more likely to be possible if it is the goal of everyone.

    Maybe I will live long enough for us to be working towards that model of workplace relationships instead of the exploitative model currently encouraged by our politicians and their business funders, maybe I won’t, but I am feeling more hopeful that if we have the dialogue and we all take some responsibility, that we may turn workplace conditions and remuneration to something more equitable than at present. (Today is a good day!)

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      +1

      Maybe I will live long enough for us to be working towards that model of workplace relationships instead of the exploitative model currently encouraged by our politicians and their business funders…

      I’m thinking we were getting there back in the days of compulsory unionism. Canning that and going back to the failed exploitative model in the 1980s has put us back decades.

    • Tracey 4.2

      Well said, thanks

  5. Lanthanide 5

    It goes, “I put all that time and money into training someone, then they leave and I don’t get any benefit from it!” Or “it’s too hard to train someone else up when women go on maternity leave!” Or “why should I pay women equally if they’re not going to stick around?”

    As I covered yesterday, this “logic” doesn’t fly. Men aren’t guaranteed to “stick around” either – welcome to the generations Y and Millennial, who don’t plan on stepping straight from school into a life-long career with one employer.

    No, men aren’t guaranteed to “stick around” more-so than women are. But on the balance of probabilities, women are more likely to want to take parental leave, or work part-time, than men. That is simply reality, and you’re living in la-la land if you think employers won’t take reality into account when choosing a candidate. Now you can rail against how unfair this is and how the world should be – and I fully support that cause – but trying to deny how the world *is*, is foolhardly.

    Plus, you’re paying people for the work they’re doing now, not the promise of future work

    Which again, is denying reality. If when you were hired for a full-time job, you were hired for a 1 year contract, then it would be quite clear that the employer expected you to be there for a year. In the absence of this, the employer would naturally anticipate for you to stick around longer than that time period. They make judgements about how long you as a job candidate are to stick around. One of the biggest aspects of this is of course your job history – someone who has a history of short stints of employment is clearly much more risky to take on if you are in fact looking for someone to stay for a reasonable length of time. Employers also ask questions like “where do you see yourself in 5 years time” to gauge a candidates intentions. Clearly discrimination on age and sex are illegal, but you’ll generally have a hard time proving this, so of course they are factors that go into the hiring mix (I would say that my company however shows no signs of ageism or sexism in our hiring practices at all).

    But other than the above, I agree with everything else in this post.

    • Tracey 5.1

      “but trying to deny how the world *is*, is foolhardly.”

      but trying to change the world is worthy

    • Charles 5.2

      Your first paragraph suggests that what exists now always existed and can’t be changed. Which is false, because what exists now came from earlier developments and continues to change. There is no “is”, as far as the World is concerned. We may not see change as it happens, only in hindsight. Not every day will be punctuated by something dramatic like the birth of capitalism. I imagine that if you were living on a distant farm, the Corn Laws of 16-whenever would’ve taken a few years to trickle out to your pastoral world and changes to lifestyle and operations would have taken even longer and all during that time they were saying to themselves, “Yep, this is it, this is the way the World is”.

      Your second paragraph claims that what happened in the past will happen verbatim in the future. Which contradicts your first claim. It’s pretty much the argument I have with CVs and employer mindset in general. It is nothing but assumption that a person who worked at a café, for instance, will always work in hospitality; or that career changees don’t exist, or that personal circumstances don’t exist. Using your claims, our work environments would lose employees, never gain enough to grow and stop producing. Since that isn’t the case, the words coming out of employers mouths about what methods they using to hire, has no relation to the methods they are using.

      Being able to not see the future, or more specifically, be unable to announce your future intention with certainty, shuts intuitives and honest people out of the workplace. The job of employer culture then becomes to encourage employees to get real good at lying and deny the changes inherent in life.

      • Lanthanide 5.2.1

        “Your first paragraph suggests that what exists now always existed and can’t be changed.”

        No, it’s simply acknowledging how things are at the moment. If you’re denying the present exists, well, I think you need to get your head read.

        “Your second paragraph claims that what happened in the past will happen verbatim in the future.”

        It does nothing of the sort. It says that people will use all the evidence available to them when they are trying to make an important business decision. Some of the evidence is the employee’s past record of employment. Whether or not the business makes the correct decision based on that evidence is completely irrelevant to the point I am making – that businesses will use all available information when making an important decision.

        “Using your claims, our work environments would lose employees, never gain enough to grow and stop producing.”

        You mean, using your weird strawman view of my claims, which are nothing like what I actually said.

        “Being able to not see the future, or more specifically, be unable to announce your future intention with certainty, shuts intuitives and honest people out of the workplace. ”

        Yes, but that’s life. The company that takes a risk on someone who has a ‘spotty’ work history might turn out to be hiring the absolute best person they possibly could have to fill the role. Another company may not want to take that risk, and so pass on the candidate and miss out. Similarly, employers are not (wholly) responsible for the career goals and aspirations of their employees. If you want to flit from job to job without considering the long-term implications, then that is your fault to make and it’s not right to expect employers to bend over backwards to help you.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.3

      In the absence of this, the employer would naturally anticipate for you to stick around longer than that time period.

      Why? They’re the ones who wanted a flexible labour market. They shouldn’t now be complaining that they got what they wanted.

    • The “balance of probabilities” is a terrible reason to justify discriminating against an entire group of people.

      And there’s a big difference between hiring someone on a fixed-term contract (even though I’ve seen plenty of cases where someone is hired fixed-term with the knowledge they won’t stick it out, and not because of pregnancy) and a permanent role.

      I’d love to know where you’ve worked that the boss has said “Look, your current skills and performance are only worth [$x] a year, but we’re so sure you’ll stick around and improve that we’re going to pay you [$x + $5000] a year from day one.”

      As I also noted in the post, any employer who’s hiring people in 2015 assuming they’ll be around more than two or three years anyway is kidding themselves.

      • Lanthanide 5.4.1

        “The “balance of probabilities” is a terrible reason to justify discriminating against an entire group of people.”

        It may be a terrible reason, but if it pays off for the business, then it was worth it, wasn’t it? Business (generally) don’t make decisions because they want to be horrible social citizens, they make decisions that will improve the long-term profitability of their business, with the information they have on hand at the time.

        “I’d love to know where you’ve worked that the boss has said “Look, your current skills and performance are only worth [$x] a year, but we’re so sure you’ll stick around and improve that we’re going to pay you [$x + $5000] a year from day one.””

        Like I said, if a company thinks it is important enough to hire people who won’t be leaving in the near future, there are questions they can ask in their interview process, and also things on the CV they can check to greatly increase their chances of hiring someone that will stick around. Furthermore, paying someone up-front extra money to make them stay doesn’t make sense. Giving them annual payrises or other benefits for long-service however makes perfect sense.

        “As I also noted in the post, any employer who’s hiring people in 2015 assuming they’ll be around more than two or three years anyway is kidding themselves.’

        That entirely depends on the employer and the industry. My company has very low staff turnover (and it is also quite difficult to fill vacancies in the technical roles). In the last several years out of about 15 “Gen Y” technical hires, 1 left to go on an OE after a little over a year, and another left after ~2 years to move cities to live with his girlfriend (who was earning significantly more than he was).

        • “If it pays off for the business” is a massive assumption. How well did making assumptions about women’s sick leave work out for Alasdair Thompson, do you recall?

          • Lanthanide 5.4.1.1.1

            I did say “if”.

            Once again, businesses make the best decisions they can, given the information they have available.

            • Mike S 5.4.1.1.1.1

              I agree with Lanthanide. The first priority and obligation for a business is to its shareholders. It exists to make a profit for those shareholders and that is (in the vast majority of cases) the only reason it exists. (That doesn’t mean I like or agree with this, or that I don’t think this needs to change, but that is the way it currently is) In the USA, a company is bound by law to put profit for its shareholders above all else.

              If statistical data exists or even on the balance of probabilities which shows it is more profitable (or less costly) to hire someone of a certain gender or age then that is what the business will do. A business doesn’t have any legal obligation to try and close any gender employment or pay gaps, otherwise those problems wouldn’t exist. It doesn’t have morals or a conscience. We need to somehow change things so the first and highest priority is not profit to shareholders. Productivity has doubled in the last 40 years yet wages have remained stagnant instead of going up with productivity. This is because shareholders have taken all of the extra gains from productivity increases for themselves. This needs to be regulated somehow.

              I think it is the policymakers, who set the rules and regulations under which a business operates are the ones who have to take responsibility. The business simply operates to maximize profits within the legal and operating framework set for it by policymakers. We allowed the policymakers to give a company all of the legal rights and protections that individuals have (a company is defined as a person in legal terms) yet they have none of the attached moral or ethical obligations. So you can’t blame a company for acting out of self interest with disregard for anything else. That is what they were designed to do and that is what they have been legally allowed to do.

              Maybe we should have something like they used to have in the states, a corporate charter. Then, I believe a corporation was given a charter or license to operate and it was only renewed if the company could show how it had benefited society in the previous charter period. If it couldn’t show this then it was out of business.

              • Descendant Of Sssmith

                Nah if they were maximising profit for it’s shareholders they wouldn’t pay themselves such big salaries. It’s not like they need them.

                And we’ve seen enough fraudulent behaviour from those running many of our businesses to know that often those highly paid managers are taking the profit for themselves.

  6. ianmac 6

    Ross was a manager of a fruit packing factory. He instigated a flat management structure for the 30 on the staff. Every staff member was invited to problem solving meetings and solutions agreed to and trialed for a set period then reviewed. From the floor sweeper to the accountant each felt valued, almost no staff turnover, and a relaxed enthusiastic workforce who went the extra mile.

    I suggested to Ross that soon they would not need a manager at all.

    • Lanthanide 6.1

      “I suggested to Ross that soon they would not need a manager at all.”

      Hopefully they won’t take your advice, because employee oversight from a purely HR perspective is still required. The day-to-day decision making can quite easily be covered by a collective group, but there needs to be oversight of annual leave / sick leave and individual performance, both for disciplinary and monitoring purposes, as well as promotion purposes.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1

        Oh, FFS. Many cooperatives manage bloody well without managers. So, no, a business doesn’t need employee oversight from a purely HR perspective. That just sounds an excuse to maintain unneeded and unwanted bureaucracy.

        • Lanthanide 6.1.1.1

          Someone *has* to fulfill those roles in a business. Generally it’s better if a few individuals are doing these roles for multiple people – it’s both more efficient and more accurate because that individual has a clear picture of what is going on with the work and life of the person they’re in charge of.

          I suppose there’s no reason it couldn’t be made to work in a co-operative, with the right processes in place.

          But anyway, saying “we can all make decisions about how work gets done, therefore we don’t need managers at all” is missing the other responsibility that managers have with regards to HR stuff. That’s all my comment was saying.

          • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1.1.1

            Someone *has* to fulfill those roles in a business.

            Not necessarily.

            it’s both more efficient and more accurate because that individual has a clear picture of what is going on with the work and life of the person they’re in charge of.

            BS. I haven’t come across a manager at any time in the last 30 years of being in the workforce that knew anything about those under them.

            But anyway, saying “we can all make decisions about how work gets done, therefore we don’t need managers at all” is missing the other responsibility that managers have with regards to HR stuff.

            And more BS and it’s BS because of this:

            I suppose there’s no reason it couldn’t be made to work in a co-operative, with the right processes in place.

            The right processes in place so that discussions happen, everyone’s voice is heard and everyone has an equal say in the decision removes the need for managers. Sure, you’ll probably still need administrators but not managers.

            • TheContrarian 6.1.1.1.1.1

              “BS. I haven’t come across a manager at any time in the last 30 years of being in the workforce that knew anything about those under them.”

              In my ~20 years of work-life I haven’t ever worked in a place where the manager didn’t know anything about their staff.

              • Descendant Of Sssmith

                Really.

                I remember one boss who after working for him for 12 months asked me when I was going back to my old branch – he was on the panel who appointed me to his.

                Another boss who looked me over for a job cause he thought I was due to retire soon. I was 49.

                Another boss who asked me if I was OK after my wife left me. She hadn’t he thought I was someone else.

                In all three cases I worked in a work site of no more than 25.

                Those conversations were seriously embarrassing.

                I’ve had good bosses too though and they were much appreciated.

          • The lost sheep 6.1.1.1.2

            “No committee ever ran a boat.”
            Traditional Nautical Wisdom.

            • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1.1.2.1

              Traditional BS in defence of dictatorship you mean.

              We’re a) not talking about a boat and b) we actually do want a better society that we just don’t get from dictatorships.

              • The lost sheep

                So if you look at human society both past and present Draco, you see non-hierarchical collective organization being more successful and therefore more common than Hierarchical structures?

                • Weepus beard

                  Oh, those wasted years you and your family erroneously voted for the socially responsible Left. You have told us you have finally awakened from your lazy Labour slumber and now blink wide-eyed before John Key’s every man for himself shake-up of socio-political policy.

                  Don’t you wish you could take those wasted years and wasted votes back?

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Well, we see better societies from those that have a more social outlook. They do tend to be sustainable as well which is more than can be said about capitalist ones so in that respect we can say that they’re more successful as well.

                  As for more of them. Well, all societies have tended to start out as rather social with little or no hierarchy and the hierarchy came later. And it’s also that hierarchy that destroyed those societies as it’s presently destroying ours.

  7. Hateatea 7

    Two things:
    Firstly, Stephanie, I commend you on the thought and effort that you have put into writing these posts. It is stimulating to think about the lessons learned from the past and present and how changes to what works less well or consolidation and refinement of what works well might be made.

    Secondly, I recognise that the current employment climate encourages unions to focus on fighting to retain existing conditions rather than advocating for more radical, site relevant, flexible options for workers but I took your piece to also be about ‘dreaming alternative options’.

    Thank you for providing the platform.

  8. Draco T Bastard 8

    Men aren’t guaranteed to “stick around” either – welcome to the generations Y and Millennial, who don’t plan on stepping straight from school into a life-long career with one employer.

    That’s got nothing to do with Gen Y or Millennial and everything to do with the ‘free-labour market’ that employers have been wanting since forever. People are free to come and go as they please. Of course, the employers were always looking at it more in the way that they’d be able to hire and fire as the pleased with thought of the consequences to those who’s lives would be thrown into chaos by their greed.

    When the boss is putting in 60+ hours, there’s pressure to stay longer.

    The boss doing 60+ hours is an idiot. Firstly, they’re of the opinion that only they can do the work and secondly they’re working themselves to death.

    Really, if you’re the boss and you’re doing more than 40 hours per week hire somebody else to take some of the weight up. You’ll be doing yourself and the business a favour.

    How many managers say “I need you to be in the office when I’m in the office” or “I need you to look busy when the senior manager comes around”?

    Oh, god, used to get the latter one of those when I was at McDs as a manager. It was ‘Oh, noes, it’s the big boss – quick, look busy’. The point that they seemed to miss was that looking busy stood out like dogs balls and that just doing your job actually looks better as instead of running around in a panic obviously not achieving anything you’re quietly getting on with the job as well as having a social life with those you’re working with.

    I suspect some bosses would find they were part of the problem, not the solution.

    I’m pretty sure that that would be much of the problem actually. People getting jobs above their level of competence that then compensate by being even more authoritarian.

    • Lanthanide 8.1

      My bf was previously working 50+ hour weeks. Then his work pissed him off, so he stopped. Miraculously, the world hasn’t collapsed around him and no one really noticed.

  9. Tom Gould 9

    “Great for profit and productivity”? What nonsense. The writer seems to assume that jobs and work just appear out of nowhere and employers have limitless resources to cater for any and every individual employee need as if business is all some kind of socialist nirvana dreamland where money grows on trees and everyone is kind and honest and gets along. No wonder the Tories have been in charge for 40 out of the last 60 years.

    • Well that’s just a silly set of wild exaggerations. Feel free to comment on the actual subject of the post, instead of spewing rightwing memes, any time you like.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.2

      The writer seems to assume that jobs and work just appear out of nowhere and employers have limitless resources to cater for any and every individual employee need…

      Well, you know, that’s what we’ve been told over the last thirty plus years of neo-liberalism.

      Sure, neo0beralism is a have but I’m actually sure that businesses can be that flexible. The reason why they’re not seems to be because of the incompetence of the managers/owners.

    • Mike S 9.3

      And isn’t it hilarious that economic growth (as measured) is much worse under National governments as opposed to the corresponding Labour governments. If you want better economic growth Tom, then the last 60 years don’t lie, vote Labour.

  10. As we slide down the dunny why spend time talking about which loo cleaner we prefer?
    The unions are hooked on increasing productivity under conditions of deteriorating profits globally and increasing competition between corporates.
    Facing a crisis of falling profits, they insist that workers pay for their crisis.
    One of the methods is defining workers who are a poor risk in returning a profit as under- or unemployable. Casualisation and zero hours is the result
    Women as a long-term section of the floating reserve army of labour in capitalist society, are shunted off to float again.
    Labour as the party for the reform of capitalism is now the party of conning workers to accept declining living standards.
    This is pretty much a law of capital accumulation, so if you want gender equality you have to get rid of the system.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      nah lets just moan about gender equity, keep exactly the same political economic system, and pretend tinkering a bit here and there around the edges as the whole game slides off a cliff is a productive past time

      [Stephanie: I’ve got a better idea, let’s leave snide, trolling comments on other people’s posts to remind them that sexism isn’t just for the workplace – it’s for the leftwing movement too!

      I appreciate you have a massive chip on your shoulder about anyone who comments about issues you don’t think are important, CV, but you’ve been warned before for blatantly making shit up about my political positions.

      It’s always so disappointing to see leftwing people dismiss the specific oppressions faced by an entire class of workers just because you aren’t one of them.]

  11. Ad 11

    I so agree with this post, particularly from one who leads a large professional service delivery team.
    When I acquire new staff members, they already have many years of experience, significant qualifications, and are a particular breed for dealing with tricky, often difficult people.

    To retain them, I need to not just pay them well.

    I need to:
    – praise them regularly for their good work
    – understand their lives to a reasonable degree
    – train them with great conferences
    – integrate them into the wider business so that they are great internal advocates for their clients
    – etc etc

    … because I know that finding new staff as good as them will be very hard, replacing them takes ages, and their productivity as a person and as a collective really matters to me personally and professionally (it’s how I am measured).

    This makes me highly motivated to listen to what their lives need from me. That’s the way I keep them and their incredibly valuable productivity.

  12. Reddelusion 12

    Stephanie I hear your point off view and with a daughter I have become more attune to the things you comment on, I however do think Paul has a point it can be really difficult aligning employee interest with business interest There a many stakeholders who make up s business, in essence a nexus of contracts, often you can’t always align employee objectives with other conflicting business objectives and you need to make a second best decision for the good of the business and every ones employment and security, a decesion that may go against the self interest of one employee(s) that from a one on one or silo point of view looks unfair,

  13. ropata 13

    this is why i am contracting these days, i had a gutful of managers treating me like scum and acting as if they controlled me. maybe it was all in my head but freelancing is a million times better. i work harder than ever but i am responsible for my own success or otherwise. there are too many pointy haired bosses around who talk up workplace culture and say the workplace is like family, but when it comes to pay review time suddenly the budget is really tight. then a few months later the company reports record profits and the managers get mega bonuses

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