HomeTag: 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: , |

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: , , |

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: |

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: |

France bans after-hours emails.

Well. Not quite. It’s more like France has decided that working hours are working hours, and workers aren’t obligated to work outside of them without compensation, and that “work” also includes tasks such as answering or writing emails.

The good news is that enforced work-life balance seems to cause no actual drop in workplace productivity–according to such known bastions of workplace inefficiency as, oh, Volkswagen–which just goes to show how necessary all those “urgent” 3am emails really are…

2017-07-17T07:36:48+10:0021st October, 2017|Tags: |

It is as if you were doing work.

What happens when the AIs come and take away everyone’s mind-numbing white collar data entry jobs? Well, never fear! You too can still enjoy the drudgery of capitalism with this simulator.

2017-09-25T08:21:18+10:002nd October, 2017|Tags: , , |

Fridgeman Returns!

On workplace vigilantes.

Once upon a workplace, I received a parcel and put the small cardboard box it came in in the rubbish bin. This was one of those workplaces with like ten million bins, each for a limited class of rubbish. I put my box in the “recycling” bin, because cardboard. Anyway, I went to lunch, then came back… and found someone had fished the box out of the bin and left it on my desk (it was a parcel, so it literally had my name on it). No note, but I got the message: I had committed the cardinal workplace sin on Using The Wrong Bin. What was the Right Bin? I had no idea. In fact, I still had no idea three years later when I left that job and left the box in my office cupboard because I’d been too scared to try throwing it out a second time.

In that same workplace, some years earlier, there’d been a Your Mothers Don’t Work Here1 fight over dirty dishes in the kitchen. At one point, a Laws of the Kitchen sign appeared that threatened any unwashed dishes left on the sink would be thrown out at the end of the day. The threat was empty, however, and no one was enforcing it. Because I’m usually the first in the office, I decided I’d be the dishes police. Except I didn’t throw anything out; every morning, I’d go wash all the dirty dishes and then hide them at the back of one of the cupboards. For those few brief, beautiful weeks, the kitchen did actually get a little bit cleaner.

It was never going to last. One of the dirty mugs I’d hidden turned out to belong to A Dude who decided to be exempt from the Law of the Kitchen. Upon finding his mug had been removed, as per policy, he flipped the fuck out, demanding to know who’d “stolen” his mug and tearing apart the entire office to find it. I did not, in fact, confess to being the kitchen fairy, though eventually Dude managed to find the stash of dishes and, thus, his mug. The next morning, the threatening sign was gone and, thus, ended the reign of the Mildly Clean Office Kitchen.

There’s just one more thing, though. I did eventually learn who’d fished my box out of the bin; it had been one of the other middle managers. The same one, in fact, who’d put up the original Laws of the Kitchen sign.

The same one the Mug Dude directly reported to.

Office life really is very petty.

  1. … I know. []
2017-07-17T11:47:29+10:0015th July, 2017|Tags: |


I have read a lot of think pieces (by men) about why Remote Work Is The Answer, but I’ve had a lot of conversations with women about the convenience of crying at home, and the physical and emotional distance from micro-(and macro-!)aggressions.

If you’re wondering why remote work is so often wanted by women, my unscientific survey says it’s nothing to do with kids and everything to do with not having to cry in the bathroom, not having to sit next to the guy who just stole your idea in that meeting, not having to eat lunch with that guy who always stares at your breasts.

Cate Huston on distance.

I both hate and love remote work; in short bursts it can be fun, and an interesting exercise in realising just how much unproductive downtime you have in an office. What do you do all day when you don’t have meetings or walk-ups or corridor conversations? Clean the house? Walk the dog? Are you still “at work” if you do? Like, you’re not actually doing work but you wouldn’t be doing work if you were in the office arguing with Tim about the new Suicide Squad film, either.

Longer term, I find remote work very, very isolating; like a lot of adults, most of my (non-family) social contact comes via the office, and going without it can end up in a very lonely place. No one wants to cry at work, but sometimes crying alone, at home, with no one to care is even worse.1

I think it’s common for people who’ve experienced things in the workplace like bullying or harassment to be offered remote working arrangements. I never got that. Well, I mean, I do get it; it’s the easy option, in that it effectively does nothing more than remove the victim from the path of their harasser. But it doesn’t actually deal in any way with the harasser’s behaviour; it’s more like a tacit corporate approval for the victim to start looking for work elsewhere without prying eyes seeing her polishing up her CV.

Maybe things should be reversed; send the bullies to the remote work naughty corner rather than the bullied. If you can’t play nice with other adults in an office all day then you shouldn’t get to be in that office.

That wouldn’t work either, of course (too many people see remote work as a reward, not a punishment), but… hm.

  1. The worst of the worst, of course, is crying at work where everyone sees and no one cares. []
2017-07-17T11:38:56+10:0019th August, 2016|Tags: , |


Campaigning is not succeeding. It’s asking for success, and for power. To campaign is to publicly claim that you are better than the others (usually white men) who want the same job, and that a whole lot of people should work to place you in a more powerful position. In other words, campaigning is a transgressive act for women.

Women often find self-promotion difficult even outside the realm of politics. For example, a 2011 study found that men are four times more likely to ask for raises than their female co-workers. Women are much more likely than men to under-estimate their abilities. When they apply for jobs, they often refuse to even submit a resume unless they’re certain they have 100% of the requisite qualifications. (The qualification threshold for men is only 60%. Think about that the next time you wonder why on Earth Donald Trump thinks he should be president–or, for that matter, when Bernie Sanders insists that his lack of foreign policy experience compared to Clinton’s doesn’t matter, because he has better “judgment.”)

 Articles on women’s workplace behavior are littered with tales of the “confidence gap” and “impostor syndrome”–that is, the recurring belief among high-achieving women that all of their achievements have been somehow accidental and are therefore undeserved. But the rare, lucky women who do manage to apply for higher-level jobs, advocate for fair wages, and feel good about themselves in the meantime may find that the “confidence gap” is less personal neurosis than sadly justified risk assessment. Women who put themselves forward in the same assertive, confident style as men are routinely found pushy, “bitchy,” or unlikable, and professionally penalized for that, too.

Sady Doyle on seeking power.

2017-07-17T11:38:55+10:0020th June, 2016|Tags: , , |

The toxic office.

First, a toxic worker isn’t necessarily a lazy worker. In fact, they tend to be insanely productive, much more so than the average worker.


The second characteristic is a bit more obvious. They tend to have what’s known as high “self-regard” and a lower degree of “other-regardingness.” Or put more simply, they’re selfish. “All things equal, those that are less other-regarding should be more predisposed to toxicity as they do not fully internalize the cost that their behavior imposes on others,” the [study’s] researchers wrote. This characteristic was teased out in the job screening program by asking applicants questions like this one that makes them choose between two statements: “I like to ask about other people’s well-being” or “I let the past stay in the past.” Selecting the first would give them a higher other-regarding score.

Third, the toxic employee also has an tendency to be overconfident of his or her own abilities — a trait believed to lead to unreasonable risk-taking. “Someone that is overconfident believes the expected payoff from engaging in misconduct is higher than someone who is not overconfident, as they believe the likelihood of the better outcome is higher than it really is,” the researchers explained.

Finally, if a person is dead-set on following rules, there may be reason to worry. Even though it seems counterintuitive, Housman and Minor said that those employees who claimed in the questionnaire that rules should always be followed with no exceptions (as opposed to those who said sometimes you have to break rules to do a good job) were the most likely to be terminated for breaking the rules.


The consequences of employing such people can be enormous for a company. The researchers calculated that these workers can cost $12,489 due to the need to replace other workers who leave due to their behavior. That’s an almost two-to-one return as compared to their estimates for what a company gains from a superstar employee in the 1 percent of productivity — an increase in $5,303 in value.

Harvard researchers studied just which coworkers suck the worst.

2018-04-27T13:58:51+10:0014th May, 2016|Tags: |
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