work

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Fleshbots.

[E]mployers now “demand a workforce that can think, talk, feel, and pick stuff up like humans—but with as few needs outside of work as robots. They insist their workers amputate the messy human bits of themselves—family, hunger, thirst, emotions, the need to make rent, sickness, fatigue, boredom, depression, traffic.” The results are “cyborg jobs,” and they account […] for almost half of the American workforce. The hidden moments of reclaimed freedom that make any job bearable are being discovered and wiped out by bosses everywhere: That trick you used to use to slow down the machine won’t work anymore; or that window of 23 minutes when you knew your boss couldn’t watch you is vanishing. Whatever little piece of humanity survived in these fragments dies with them.

Gabriel Winant on the ratchet.

This, incidentally, is why I’m extremely skeptical of Bernie Sanders-style oldskool “full employment” socialism.

We shouldn’t be aiming for full employment; we should be aiming for no employment, for a post-employment world.

2020-01-22T09:18:13+11:0019th May, 2020|Tags: work|

Hustle porn.

A YC founder once said to me that he found little correlation between the success of a YC company and how hard their founders worked. That is to say, among a group of smart, ambitious entrepreneurs who were all already working pretty hard, the factors that made the biggest difference were things like timing, strategy, and relationships. Which is why Reddit cofounder-turned-venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian now warns against the “utter bullshit” of this so-called hustle porn mentality.

There’s something especially insidious about higher-ups using their own extreme work habits as a model for their staff. I’m a big believer of leading by example, but most leaders have a support system and resources that allow them to recuperate from their hard work. They live close to the office, get frequent massages, have healthy food made for them, have really good childcare, personal assistants, and much more. That’s how they stay sane and avoid burnout.

But many of their employees don’t have the same benefits. And so after working 80 or 100 hours a week for months or years at a time, they burn out. And maybe they did productive work for a time, but they pay for it with their mental and physical health.

Jason Shen on hours.

Remember, kids! Burning everyone out working for capital is the number one way of reducing the general population’s ability to participate actively in democracy!

2020-01-24T07:46:03+11:0024th January, 2020|Tags: culture, work|

Kafkynchian.

Just as the American employment picture became more dystopian around the turn of the millennium, so too have books on careers divested themselves of the optimism of [Richard Bolles’s 1970 book, What Color Is Your] Parachute. Or so it seems to me. For example, in 2007, Stanford professor Robert Sutton wrote a little book about creating civil workplaces and gave it a memorable title — The No Asshole Rule. It was, he says in the introduction, at least in part inspired by his personal experiences. As he puts it, he wished to find ways of avoiding “the petty but relentless nastiness that pervades much of academic life.” (After that book became a bestseller, he found, as he notes in his 2017 book, The Asshole Survival Guide, that he suddenly went from being known within academia as a scholar of the psychology of business and management to international recognition as “the Asshole Guy” — that is an expert on the bullies and jerks who abound in office settings.) Another perennially popular title (also from 2007), Timothy Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek caters to disillusioned workers who have ceased to believe that there is any hospitable workplace. It jettisons the idea of work as vocation, and instead encourages people to spend as little time and energy as possible earning a paycheck.

The whole world of career books, then, seems to reflect a sense among readers that a “dream job” is not a realistic goal.

Rachel Paige King on work.

2019-09-03T11:53:12+10:0029th December, 2019|Tags: business, culture, work|

It’s not “humane” resources…

If employers judged HR departments by their ability to prevent sexual harassment, most would have gotten a failing grade long ago. What HR is actually responsible for—one of the central ways the department “adds value” to a company—is serving as the first line of defense against a sexual-harassment lawsuit. These two goals are clearly aligned, but if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that you can achieve the latter without doing much of anything at all about the former.

Caitlin Flanagan on HR.

My main dealing with HR were in a previous job where I was bullied, in an organization with a known and endemic sexist bullying problem.1 It became pretty clear pretty quickly that the company was more interested in protecting itself than doing anything about my abusers—one of which had been with the company for decades—which is why I left the organization after a mere eight months…

  1. And from which, honestly, I got off lightly; some years later I spoke to another woman who’d left the same company after her bullying got some bad coworkers were showing up to her house at night to harass her. []
2019-08-07T09:12:05+10:007th December, 2019|Tags: culture, cw: harassment, work|

“Just leave.”

In a forthcoming book this spring, the philosopher Elizabeth Anderson has advanced a critique of “private government,” the concept used to express the power wielded by large corporations in the labor market. For many workers, the force that most actively restricts their liberty is not government regulations but their employer’s rules; even gig economy laborers such as Uber drivers, who unlike traditional employees have the flexibility to set their own hours, risk being put out of a job for committing relatively innocuous sins such as canceling too many rides, driving with a car other than the one registered to you, or complaining about Uber on social media. There is little doubt that modern technology allows employers enhanced surveillance power, but hypothetically, the voluntary nature of employment should limit the abuse of this power; mistreated workers can always exercise their right to “exit” the employment relationship and get another job.

This works great if you’re a superstar athlete or hotshot coder; employers need you as much as you need them, and you can always take your talents to South Beach and/or Facebook (they’re hiring!). But contemporary conditions make simply up and quitting unfeasible for a significant slice of the population — namely, those who are already the most vulnerable. If you need a job as a condition of probation, or if your visa is tied to your employer, or if you’re an immigrant working without documentation, “exit” is impossible without imprisonment or exile. Even the average low-income worker might not have the savings to ride out a short gap in employment without getting evicted or going hungry. The frictions in the employment marketplace force many of us to put up with terrible treatment by giving bosses the leverage that knows that we can’t afford to just walk out.

Kevin Munger on whose rules.

This is the book being referenced, incidentally, and it is totally going on the GoodReads wishlist

2019-12-18T09:52:33+11:0024th September, 2019|Tags: culture, work|

Ubiquitous, tedious, inscrutable.

So my Baby’s First Graduate Rotation when I first started working was in the team that ran my organisation’s SAP install. If you’ve never done backend corporate logistics and/or HR work, you may have never even heard of this beast, but even if you haven’t heard of it, it’s definitely heard of you

2019-04-08T09:08:14+10:0023rd September, 2019|Tags: culture, tech, work|

Open plan offices are still garbage.

So asides from reducing productivity, open plan offices also apparently reduce face-to-face collaboration, which is literally the one thing they’re supposed to increase.

Technically, I currently work in an open plan office, but it’s small and there’s usually not more than about six of us here at any one time (the impacts of “open plans” start to kick in at about eight-to-twelve). Whenever I have to go on client site and end up in the middle of a floor of a hundred, I’m once again reminded why I do not miss it…1

  1. Incidentally, I once left a job because they were going to take away my office and put me out on the floor of an open plan layout. And, okay. That wasn’t the sole reason, but I was in a management role and the idea of having to manage staff without having an office they could walk into and shut the door on? No. So much no. []
2018-11-29T08:12:35+11:0018th April, 2019|Tags: work|

Clean desk policies suck.

And very specifically clean desk policies, not clear desk policies (which are about not leaving sensitive materials unsecured). Basically, not allowing workers control over their desk spaces is noticeably bad for productivity. Like, on orders of “having to hire more staff” levels of bad.

See also: Everyone Hates Hotdesking.

2017-11-16T11:29:29+11:004th November, 2017|Tags: work|