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Do you hate your work?

Reggie Perrin: Workplace disatisfaction is nothing new

Jobs aren’t ideal for most of us, but they’re our number one moneymaker. It’s counter-productive to hate work when it mostly has to be endured.

Besides, the alternatives – extreme early retirement, starting your own business, or death – all have downsides.

For some reason, however, more and more people seem to be finding the very nature of modern work intellectually intolerable.

Is this due to the changing reality of work? Or is it due to the growing post-Boomer-era feeling of self-empowerment – and dare I say self-entitlement?

Why you hate work

I’ve been having this very discussion over on Monevator reader ermine’s excellent blog. In Digital Taylorism – Why our Jobs are Getting Worse he writes:

When I started work at my current company as a lowly grunt Assistant Engineer, I had the authority to fill in a purchase requisition for up to £500 without higher level authorisation, and that was about right for the level of work. It wasn’t generally abused, either.

Now I have to get authorisation from the next level up simply to buy a rail ticket, and that next level has to get the okay and a reference number from some other part of Business Operations. I don’t know what you have to do to buy pens and paperclips these days.

He goes on to explain that he used to find software development a creative process, but now finds it as rigid as any production line. He quotes a Guardian article that itself quotes an academic paper on the subject:

[From now on] “permission to think” will be “restricted to a relatively small group of knowledge workers in the UK”.

The rest will be turned into routine and farmed off to regional offices in eastern Europe or India.

Ermine’s post follows a coherent and consistent line on his blog – modern life is rubbish, it’s increasingly justifiable to hate work, and he’s determined to get out.

It’s well worth a read.

Work was never all that for most people

It’s my contention though that work was mostly always rubbish for the educated classes, and that it’s only nostalgia that causes people to believe otherwise.

As for the ‘working classes’, only a fool would want to die at 50 after three decades working underground in a pit, or to sew buttons onto jeans in a factory all day.

I understand the sense of community that went with those jobs, but even that was a corollary of a far tighter social straitjacket than any modern workplace will lock you into.

The music changes, the technology too, but young and idealistic people keep getting older, and in my view that’s why people hanker for a crummier past.

As I commented to ermine:

In my view, you’re really describing how big corporate companies were a fun place to work 20-30 years ago, but aren’t now.

But these days the bright jobs are in start-ups or finance or working for yourself.

The old days, whether tugging at Mr Mainwaring’s forelock or working down a pit or being a shop girl in Woolworths, were no fun.

At least you don’t die at 50 of coal dust inhalation now if you’re a bloke down a pit, or have to put up with the boss calling you a ‘silly girl’ between pinching your bum in the typing pool.

Graduating to office politics

Another mistake when comparing then and now is to believe the hype about education and social mobility.

The small number of 50- to 60-somethings who were educated in the grammar school system after passing their 11+ and who went on to university were cut from entirely different intellectual cloth to the great mass of the near-50% of students that now enjoy higher education.

That’s not to disparage people trying to better themselves – it’s a statistical fact.

All students from across the eras were not created equally. The 11+ passer was the elite achiever of his (or more rarely her) generation – the equivalent of today’s multiple A* student who aspires to earn a fortune in law or The City or medicine. And if anything, those that climbed out of the comprehensive school system were even brighter.

It’s therefore madness to compare the average earnings of that small number of graduates from 30-50 years ago with the vast body of graduates today and to be surprised at their declining average fortunes, when the talent pool is so different.

Similarly, it’s dangerous to conclude jobs are getting worse because lots of graduates find themselves doing rote tasks once employed.

Plenty of people graduating now would have been in the typing pool or junior bookkeepers or the equivalent 30 years ago. They wouldn’t have moved along the same escalator of progress enjoyed by the educational elite that dominates the chattering classes. They wouldn’t have been thinking much in their jobs 40 years ago – and they’d have had to call the boss ‘Sir’ and wear a suit in summer, and beg the bank manager for a mortgage and a lot of other restrictions, too.

The problem is fairly average students have been sold the lie that they can do and be anything they want. The average wage in an average office that awaits them is a big comedown for the thousands who graduate with degrees in theater, music technology, photography, or marine biology.

Besides, post-Industrial Revolution progress has been about taking something done by specialists or artisans and finding a way to do it using less skilled operators and machines so it can be mass-replicated at a lower price.

Those bemoaning how much software engineering or surveying have become routine tasks perhaps don’t realize that it’s financial engineering and architecture – or even interior design – that are attracting the truly smart thinkers today.

If we’d stood in the way of this trend, we’d still be buying woolen waistcoats for a month’s wages and darning them two decades later.

(Just ask your nearest Luddite).

The 1970s: Just as easy to hate work (and your boss)

Of course, as I discovered when I challenged the strange draw of sweatshop manufacturing or the equally perverse hatred of free trade, the idea that our jobs are getting worse is probably too deeply embedded in the popular imagination to be easily assuaged.

People forget the downsides of yesteryear – the numbing computer-less record keeping, the drab offices, the strict hours, the routine bullying and sexism, the choking paternalism (and cigarette smoke!), the one-company-or-you’re-out career paths, the lack of Facebook at your desk – to focus on today’s vague existential problems, which are a lack of self-fulfillment or intellectual stimulation.

But even these woes are nothing new.

One of the best TV sitcoms ever was The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. Adapted from a novel of the same name, it was all about a middle-aged, middle manager’s inability to find happiness at Sunshine Deserts – a bland corporation on a featureless trading estate on the edge of the commuter belt.

Not only was the hero Reggie driven deranged by those supposedly halcyon bygone days – when the format was updated in 2009 it didn’t really work, because the new Reginald Perrin was free to flirt with his female co-workers, play with email, and work from home.

As for the non-spiritual annoyances – the overly enthusiastic upstarts, and the boss promoted beyond his competence – they were just the same as ever.

The hollow middle-classes

I’m not dismissing anyone’s views about work out of hand, and there is certainly a discussion to be had here.

Even The Economist has been on the case, citing a study called Job Polarisation in Europe that purportedly shows the middle-class being hollowed out:

In the 1970s and 1980s employment in quintessentially middle-skilled, middle-income occupations—salespeople, bank clerks, secretaries, machine operators and factory supervisors—grew faster than that in lower-skilled jobs.

But around the early 1990s, something changed. Labour markets across the rich countries shifted from a world where people’s job and wage prospects were directly related to their skill levels. Instead, with only a few exceptions, employment in middle-class jobs began to decline as a share of the total while the share of both low- and high-skilled jobs rose.

On the face of it this backs up the critics’ case, but I’d need to dig a lot deeper into the research before I accepted the conclusion that IT has replaced swathes of back office middle class jobs, to the detriment of that cadre of employees.

I don’t deny computers have had this affect (I saw my father do it at company after company, like some Grim Reaper of the CPU-powered Apocalypse) but I don’t accept the outcome was bad.

While they may have had some prestige to them, most jobs replaced by computers were routine. Moreover, the introduction of IT enabled more people to do more interesting stuff – witness, for example, the huge explosion in magazines and newspapers in the 1980s that occurred once desktop publishing had freed writers and designers from the tyranny of the typesetter and the print shop.

This benefit is reflected in the hollowing out study, which shows higher earners making up a greater total share of hours worked. I’d say this was due to people moving up the food chain, in refutation of the dumbed-down work hypothesis.

As for the also-increasing total hours of lower-earning work that’s seemingly come at the expense of middle-class incomes, well yes, there’s no doubting call centers and retail have replaced some rungs on the corporate ladder, but as I’ve argued those lost jobs were hardly great, anyway.

There could be other trends at play, too, like more women entering the workforce but choosing to take on less intense employment in the service sector, and so swelling the total lower-paid hours worked.

By all means hate work, but…

I’m the last person to defend most jobs and office work as anything but a means to an end. I’d like financial freedom to choose exactly what work I do, and I see the attractions of retiring early (even though I’ll likely always do something gainful on the side).

But what I do dispute is that work has got worse. On the contrary, I think for most people it’s got better.

Today’s office drones are fretting about their meaningless roles while booking holidays on LastMinute, chatting on first-name terms to the CEO in the kitchen, and listening to Lady Gaga on their iPods. They can hardly imagine the strictures of yesteryear.

No era is perfect, but I’d rather be a cubicle slave now than a ’60s office drone.

Readers, what do you think? Am I – against all odds – an excessively sunny optimist? Please let us know where you think work is going in the comments.

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{ 19 comments… add one }
  • 1 Ian September 15, 2010, 5:11 pm

    “As for the also-increasing total hours of lower-earning work that’s seemingly come at the expense of middle-class incomes, well yes, there’s no doubting call centers and retail have replaced some rungs on the corporate ladder, but as I’ve argued those lost jobs were hardly great, anyway.”

    The jobs may not have been great but they were, at least, a job.

    The worry I’ve got is that the jobs being lost now are never going to come back.
    The public sector is shedding workers and, I fear, consigning them to life on the dole. Life actually meaning life.

    The private sector isn’t hiring in sufficient numbers. It’s automating and offshoring jobs and has been for years.

    People start going on about the Luddites.
    The difference is the computer and robot are very different beasts to an automated seed drill. The seed drill can do one repetitive job. It can’t do anything else.
    Computers can be programmed to do *any* repetitive task.

    People say the private sector will innovate to create jobs. Perhaps. But it’ll be a Vietnamese or Indian doing that job, not a Brit.

    I now understand why Labour created loads of “non-jobs” from 1997 onwards. The private sector was making its own efficiency savings to maximise profit. Replacing British workers with machines and cheap foreign labour.
    Labour stepped in and created jobs for the redundant people.

    With the ConDem cuts the newly-redundant workers in tedious jobs, public or private sector, may never work again.

  • 2 Salis Grano September 15, 2010, 6:09 pm

    I tend to agree. It’s human nature to look back and see the better bits. Conversely, the nastier bits of today are always very much with us and cannot be avoided. Consequently, they loom larger in our consciousness than perhaps they should on an objective analysis.

    Ultimately, though, complaining about the here and now, without a plan of action, although sometimes useful and beneficial as a safety-valve, is rather pointless. We are where we are. Times change and we must change with them. -SG
    .-= Salis Grano on: Woe- woe and thrice woe =-.

  • 3 ermine September 15, 2010, 6:19 pm

    You’ve set out your stall well here 🙂 I think we both have a point. There are some things peculiar to me that may make me view things more negatively now. One is simple time passing, the starry-eyed 21-year old entering work for the first time is different from the crabby old git within 10 years of nominal retirement age for my job. Then I had no capital and it all to play for, whereas now I’ve probably got about as much capital wealth as I need. I am on the final approach, and I don’t really need to work due to doing many of the PF things you advocate here.

    Acknowledged there were plenty of crap manual jobs in the past. I do, however, challenge “for most people it [work] has got better”. For starters there’s less of it about in the UK, we have far higher unemployment than we used to, when we factor in all those who have given up looking. The criteria of what counts as unemployed have been changed a few times so it is hard to compare historically, but simply reading books set in the 1950s and 60s shows casual jobs were plentiful and easy to get – quit one on Friday and you’d get another on Monday.

    As you indicated, this did wonders for the dynamic culture of the time, though I am too young to have directly experienced it:

    the revolution in art, culture, tolerance, and opportunity that happened in the 1960s occurred because bright people could drop out.

    There were plenty of McJobs to clock into half-asleep while you were being a part-time hippy

    I’ve only been unemployed once, for 6 months at the start of my career, but it was a bloody awful dispiriting experience. The increased experience of non-work should be included in your analysis of what work is like now. Particularly for the young, there is a lot of temporary contract work rather than permanent jobs, much job insecurity and a dearth of full-time jobs, leastways in Suffolk it seems to be the case; perhaps that is better in the Smoke.

    The fundamental problem with work now is that the balance between capital and labour is skewed ever more in favour of capital. I think it is because capital accumulates as well as the increasing mobility of capital – either way the biggest companies are far bigger that they used to be, hence the too big to fail issues as well as production moving to the lowest wage country. That dramatically reduces things like job security, really big companies can play whole nations off against each other. Most people seem to want to live a pretty standard life – grow up, go to school, start work, find love, have kids, buy a house, pursue interests etc. An average blue-collar job enabled my Dad to do all that.

    Now you either do very very well indeed, or for most people you have poor job security, they have to give the issue of finding and keeping work so much attention you come home frazzled and slump in front of the telly.

    Globally, however, you may well have a point. I’m not well-travelled enough to know, but I would imagine the average Chinese worker is better off now that their parents generation was. Integrated over the whole world work may well be better now. Global companies and finance are acting as a great leveller. However, the corollary of that is that Western standards of living must fall as other people’s rises. Even if we ignore resource crunches, pollution and climate change, wage arbitrage will bring the developing world’s wages up and the Western world’s wages down in real terms, until they are roughly equalised.
    .-= ermine on: saving electricity at home =-.

  • 4 Carol@inthetrenches September 15, 2010, 9:17 pm

    I’ve pretty much always enjoyed my working life. Yes, there have been ups and downs. Maybe the difference is in my mind I always leave quitting as an option. If I’m having an excessively bad day I ask myself “Is it bad enough to quit?” If the answer is no I get back to it and trust that tomorrow will be better. If the answer is yes I either immediately start looking for a new job or walk in with my notice, depending on the severity.

    To think that we have to continually go to a job we hate dismisses the freedom we all have. If that is because of financial obligations or fears then it’s time to deal with the personal finance issues. Yes, in past generations they did not have the mobility we do today and had to stick it out. Life’s too short to spend 40 hours a week (or more) doing something you hate.
    .-= Carol@inthetrenches on: US poverty on track to post record gain in 2009 – Yahoo! News =-.

  • 5 Andrea Toochin September 16, 2010, 12:22 am

    Overall, I agree with you. The generation of people 30 and under seem to not appreciate jobs that grant them a 401k, health insurance most will rarely take advantage of, and a decent regular salary. I believe technology is the bane and boon of contemporary society. We all have the ability to develop our creative talents, or lack thereof, and broadcast work virtually, but modernity and “progress” does not necessarily mean all get to love going to work. Perhaps it is an American notion that everyone should be “happy” all the time. Still, we are also dealing with pension-less times, high interest, and dangerous ways to achieve instant gratification, such as Internet and credit cards, to start. Overall, the youth don’t appreciate much for very long but they are also dealing with more pressure to “succeed,” more dangers and less stable infrastructure, be that banks or roads. Where in the past getting married, being another forgettable office drone, buying a home and having kids was success, now we are often expected to get higher ed degrees, launch companies, and work and raise kids. In any case, if we’re simply talking cubicles, I too would much rather take my current cell than one in Mad Men-like times. Still, it’s worth noting, the ass pinch has simply been replaced–with breast glaring.

  • 6 Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom September 16, 2010, 4:20 pm

    Being a former recipient of ass-pinching back in the early ’80’s, I don’t think it was a bad time to work. There was a certain comfort in the paternalistic culture, even as my 21 y.o. self re-did a spreadsheet for the 40th time for my 50 y.o. boss. But back then, we weren’t (or I wasn’t) taught to question authority that much either. Even going into the sweatshop of the CA articling world wasn’t seen as that terrible – but there was a noticeable difference between that time period and the mid-90’s – where co’s like that started to pay OT, cut back on hours and giving fringe benefits that were unheard of prior to that. But I don’t recall us all whinging about it either – and there certainly wasn’t a public platform in the form of blogs and FB etc. to find like-minded whiners either.

    What’s going to happen in the future? I’m not sure, but I think those of us who are the cusp of the Boomer / Gen X generations (born between 1960-1970) are in a great position to leverage our experience, work ethic and ability to get the job done into meaningful jobs that bypass the bureaucracy (in the right environment). On a personal level, these last few years have provided the most exciting opportunities where I’ve found employers have respected my desire to have some kind of balance in life, yet be able to have challenging, meaningful work as well.

    Having been a manager of quite a lot of Gen Y’s, I found many of them frustrating to deal with. The phrase ‘suck it up princess’ comes to mind. Occasionally – very occasionally (maybe 10% of them?), the originality was there, but the work ethic was lacking across the board. Many of them have found themselves laid off – calling me for a reference in the last couple of years and totally bewildered as to what happened. Reality is harsh.
    .-= Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom on: The price of a fulfilling life and frugality burnout =-.

  • 7 Carol@inthetrenches September 17, 2010, 5:24 am

    Andrea, I had to laugh at your breast glaring comment but I have to say that people would not glare so much if the women were not wearing skintight low cut blouses to work. In the 80s we would have gotten sent home for being so unprofessional. When you stand in front of a mirror and bend down and can see down your own shirt than everybody at work can also. I doubt that this is where the article was intended to go but ladies if you want to be treated like a professional than you have to dress like one.
    .-= Carol@inthetrenches on: US poverty on track to post record gain in 2009 – Yahoo! News =-.

  • 8 The Investor September 17, 2010, 1:25 pm

    Thanks for all the excellent comments, everyone!

    @Carol – I have to agree. Physical touching is clearly beyond the pale, and you can make a strong case against verbal commentary, but it’s too much to ask men to turn off 1 million years of evolution in the office and not to look. I fairly regularly visit an office where half the girls dress like Parisian hookers from the 1950s. That is genuinely not an exaggeration – we’re talking micro-skirts, fishnet stockings, shiny knee high boots etc. These are educated women doing proper jobs (well, media jobs 😉 ). I don’t have a problem with it, unless they start to be surprised or worse indignant that it provokes male interest!

    @Jacq – Fabulous comments, and chimes with my own experiences. Well, I find originality/smart thinking much more than 10% of the time – maybe 30% – but it’s too often outweighed by their ‘what are you doing for me?’ attitude. They seem to take an employer as the next step of their academic career, rather than at the point where they start paying back (for their mutual benefit, of course).

    @Andrea – Yes, you’re right, the young face much more pressure to achieve beyond mere drone-dom. I’ve just bought an interesting book on this, actually: The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life Makes it Hard to be Happy

    @ermine – Well done on pulling up the McJobs post. Yes, okay, I definitely concede the labour market now lacks that flexibility, and I’m sure it’s detrimental to society. But I’d still maintain those pick-up and put-down jobs weren’t better than today’s. I’m pretty sure they were worse. But I’ve said my 1,700 words enough, so would rather hear more reader views (and yours! 🙂 ).

    @Salis – Yes, and I suppose the converse is true, also… I am perhaps over-egging the benefits of today’s work environment, compared to the past. It is impossible to be objective.

    @Ian – Thanks for your perspective, even though I don’t agree with it. The fact is automation and off-shoring is nothing new, at all. You have to explain why the world got richer for the past 100 years (or even the past 50, with computers in full-flight) if you’re going to win that argument with me I’m afraid. Demographics and our middling educational system, and excessive benefits that accidentally trap people in poverty are more real issues for the UK.

  • 9 ermine September 18, 2010, 11:36 am

    > You have to explain why the world got richer for the past 100 years

    I hate to sound like a cracked record on this, but the key word is oil. Stored energy, equivalent to you having the work of about 60 human slaves working for you. There’s a school of thought that is of the opinion that the increase in human oil consumption per capita will decline fairly shortly. All discussion of free trade presupposes that won’t happen…
    .-= ermine on: what I think has gone wrong with work =-.

  • 10 Kate September 18, 2010, 12:18 pm

    You make a great case, I nearly told myself to get on with work and stop complaining 😉 I actually enjoy my “job” on the whole.

    “The problem is fairly average students have been sold the lie that they can do and be anything they want.”

    Is it a lie? Absolutely, our expectations are sky high now. Although, isn’t that a survival instinct, and a driver for evolution? A greater percentage of our population are now contenders for achieving their dreams, and those dreams are bigger because we are more savvy about what is possible.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about working conditions being better than ever before. However, I think that it’s human nature to not be happy with our jobs and industries. What makes us human after all, is the desire to improve and evolve.

  • 11 The Investor September 18, 2010, 12:36 pm

    @ermine – Hmm, but of course we actually did use real slaves for hundreds of years… the end of slavery didn’t mean the end of US agriculture, because other energy inputs took its place. Much of the replacement was coal, which was extensively used throughout the West from the Industrial Revolution until the 1950s (there are still plenty of people alive who shoveled coal on trains or ships). Similarly, something will take the place of oil.

    I don’t deny fossil fuels have had a massive impact, nor that replacing them is non-trivial. I definitely believe it’s possible, however. When I last looked plenty of alternative energy seemed to become viable over $100 a barrel, and nearly all of it over $150 a barrel. These are big numbers, but they’re not $1,000 a barrel or the equivalent that the doomsters imply.

    That’s not even to take into account the rate of progress. For instance, Photo-Voltaic technology is improving at Moore’s Law rates. Our children could be painting the stuff onto their Wimpey Homes.

    Don’t write off human ingenuity, or the lessons of history, that’s my modest suggestion. (On that note, the real problem isn’t that free trade or globalization hasn’t made us richer, it’s that abundant and reckless consumption and breeding has trashed the planet. That’s the big problem. I don’t claim there’s a viable solution to the collapse of the biosphere! 🙁 ).

  • 12 OldPro September 18, 2010, 2:17 pm

    Couldn’t agree more on the matter of women at work, Investor…

    My Yahoo Hot News is currently inflicting this PC nonsense on innocent web surfers like yours truly…

    http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/Ines-Sainz-female-reporter-New-York-Jets-NFL-091410?GT1=39002

    So she goes into a locker room of half-naked men and some of them react in a manly, locker room fashion? The dual standard / Orwellian double-thinking of this is unfathomable.

    She dresses at games like this:

    http://www.photopost.com/photopost/ines2.html

    I’d want to speak to manager of the football team if his alpha man warriors *didn’t* give her some catcalls in the longer room… Ridiculous!

  • 13 ermine September 20, 2010, 3:10 am

    The problem with energy is scale and liquid fuels for transportation – most of the alternatives are diffuse. David McKay’s analytical and yet accessible research Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air indicates we can’t achieve our current usage rate in Britain, and worldwide the population numbers don’t add up. The world will never achieve UK per capita energy usage unless the population drops. That’s the difference between running on energy income as opposed to energy capital.

    Solar PV gives you 20W/m2. An awful lot of Britain is going to have to glint blue with solar panels for that to work… The input limitation is 100W/m2 if you could achieve 100% effciency, Moore’s Law isn’t going to trump the first law of thermodynamics so that sets an upper limit to available energy from PV.

    We probably can maintain an industrial society in the UK post-oil. But compared to now it will be a lot poorer in material terms. With intelligence, good education and shared common values we could make it as far better society too, but all the pointers I see are towards the bread and circuses end.

    @OldPro – don’t see what your issue is with Yahoo Hot News. She looks pretty hot to me 😉
    .-= ermine on: what I think has gone wrong with work =-.

  • 14 Macs September 24, 2010, 1:27 pm

    “The input limitation is 100W/m2 if you could achieve 100% effciency”

    Not to be picky, ermine, but that’s a factor of ten too low – even in the UK peak insolation is approx 1kW/m2 – though I agree with the thrust of your argument. To get where we need to with renewables we should have set off twenty years ago.

    Moore’s Law may work for computing, but for PV it is over-optimistic, notwithstanding a hard limit at the top – 100% efficiency. We can probably see 20% efficiency with the best PV technologies currently available.

    The main trouble we have with some of our current problems is that the solutions are unthinkable. Given the best possible outcomes for renewables, we are still, over a period of a few decades, facing a severely energy-constrained economy. For my part I see that coming back towards low-tech, localism and low-energy. In such a situation there will be more work for those more gifted in the muscular than the cerebral department. Our huge energy subsidy, to which we’ve become so accustomed most treat it as an entitlement, has led us to a place far deflected from the mean. Any subsequent reversion is bound to be painful, and as humans tend to do, we are collectively failing (or even refusing) to adapt.

    And now I think I’m going over to Yahoo Hot News to see what all the fuss is about 😉

  • 15 Jaded March 23, 2011, 10:06 pm

    The way I see it as an American, the only reason that they allow us to go on face book, or make regular connections with the CEO’s of the company is that they realize the way their company is functioning is through their lower level associates and the only way to keep their slaves in check is by furthering the illusion that each associate matters when in fact and behind closed doors they do whatever they please so long as it makes them money. They want lower level associates to believe they can make a difference, but put forth the effort and find out just how little you a core associate matters. Every decision made within any company is based soley on whether or not the company in question will make or lose money this doesn’t leave any room for true associate satisfaction. The bottom line for companies is they dont give a shit about the associates unless they are required to. The associates mean little more than a nut or bolt in a well oiled machine. When I worked in corporate management very close to the highest level CEO’s I learned that its all about playing the corporate game. They dont give two shits about the lower level associates but they pacify them by making them think they care and by allowing certain distractions such as Facebook in between calls, firstly this is not allowed in most call center environments because it would effect productivity, but those who do allow it, do so because they know the job is so stressful that they must allow some kind of enjoyable activity. Many companies in call center oriented states such as arizona do not care if you are happy or not, they do not offer benefits so that you can get insurance to cope with the stresses and depression involved in working in that type of environment. Honestly, i dont think id want to live in the 60’s or 70’s with the problems you mentioned above, but that is no comfort whatsoever to the daily misery experienced working dead end jobs. Moreover I cannot count the number of people who finished school and now work at macdonalds. It all seems like bullshit to me, and the only people winning are the rich fat cats at the top of the chain. They all know that in order to stay rich fat cats, they need to keep their slaves in order, and the only way to keep their slaves in order is to keep them chasing the proverbial Carrot.

    In short YES i freaking HATE work. That is because there is no reward if you spend MOST of your time working just to barely be able to afford to survive, thats not life, and id rather die than do this till im old, I already feel old. Life should not be about this hopeless loop of work sleep work sleep wonder if life is worth living etc, drone be the machine work sleep shit drink coffee repeat.

  • 16 Gary March 26, 2011, 1:07 pm

    In all fairness when I started my current job of working in a call centre, I absolutely hated it, and would do anything possible to get out of working!

    One of my problems has always been I want to work for myself, and therefore I resent working for other people, especially in a role where I have no opinion or creative input! The problem is that I’m in a vicious circle. I need to work for other people to make money to be able to set things up on my own!

    Having been there around 15 months now I’ve decided I need to make the most of it whilst I’m there because if I keep moping around then I’m only shooting myself in the foot by not being in positions for promotions and pay rises!

    In all fairness with jobs in general you get out of them what you put in!

  • 17 Simon June 28, 2011, 9:01 pm

    While there are valid points here, I think the angle is tilted very much to one side of the argument.

    This article is more of the ‘if you don’t like it, sod off elsewhere’ line of reasoning. The trouble is there isn’t so much of an elsewhere these days.
    One major issue not addressed is the recent (last 30yr) phenomenon of exponentially increasing income & wealth inequality.

    While the writer makes the valid point that if everyone expects to achieve a top job there are going to be lots of disappointed people, in the past at least some of those disappointed people would have been able to achieve middling heights and perhaps some job satisfaction along with it.

    While workers in lowest tier jobs no doubt have had their lot improved with better working conditions, the middle tier have been forced to increase productivity year on year while all the wealth generated goes to the top echelon. They have received nothing in return for their efforts and have seen their status and pay slide in relation to their peers of old. I think that is what they find depressing, and I don’t blame them. ‘Quit moaning and find another job on the slippery slope’ isn’t going to help. Restoring income (and thus wealth) equality will; and it’s proven to better for economies as a whole too.

  • 18 Simon June 28, 2011, 9:55 pm

    Perhaps I was a little overly critical in my previous post, the writer admits he is merely stimulating debate after all, and before I give the wrong impression I do think this is a great website – well done!

  • 19 theFIREstarter November 19, 2014, 8:34 am

    Bit late to the party on this one! Some of the views might be tainted with the fact that the economy seems a lot better nowadays so there may be more and higher paying work about than when the article was written, although surely this puts paid to a lot of the negative views anyway? 😉

    Great article. I do agree that a lot of people’s issues with office work nowadays (if you have a job in the first place!) are kinda whiny, existential ones, including my own.

    The great thing is there is much more opportunity to set up your own business (online costs are next to nothing, etc…) and also go down the freelancing route or something similar. Contracting rates nowadays seem to be extremely high and should allow most people to only have to work 6 months of the year if they are not spendthrifts.

    All of this precludes the fact that you are enterprising, bright, hard working and intelligent, or at least some combination of the above. The jobs that are going/gone are seemingly the ones for people who used to just get into a company and coast for 40 years. I am sure many of these types of jobs are still available, but is this really a bad thing and something for people to moan about. I realise I am aligning myself with the “if you don’t like it then bugger off” line of reasoning here, but if the job market is forcing people to be more resourceful, productive, and improve themselves then I am all for that, as long as the gains are used sensibly and not just to consume more for those that do end up getting the higher paid jobs (e.g. retire early or work less hours, freeing up more work for others, who have also upped their game)

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