Stress up, Pay stagnant: Is modern white-collar work now “inhumane?”

In a single word? Yes.

But we can parse this out a little bit more here.

Some numbers for you (people like data, right?)

This is from an article entitled “The Workplace Is Killing People And Nobody Cares:”

Job engagement, according to Gallup, is low. Distrust in management, according to the Edelman trust index, is high. Job satisfaction, according to the Conference Board, is low and has been in continual decline. The gig economy is growing, economic insecurity is growing, and wage growth overall has stagnated. Fewer people are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance than in the past, according to Kaiser Foundation surveys. And a strikingly high percentage of people, even those covered by insurance, say they forgo treatment and medications because of cost issues.

Yep, yep, yep, and … yep.

Some more ideas to consider

Just a few, and I swear I’m not intending to make you depressed here:

The “inhumane” element

Used to work with this kid back at ESPN. He moved to California, got a new job, and got laid off pretty fast. (It wasn’t a good fit.)

This kid ends up in about a 36-month job search. I’ve been in decently-long job searches, although nothing close to three years. Can you imagine what a three-year job search is like? So much bullshit. So many absolutely pointless LinkedIn messages that you think could become something … and they become absolutely nothing. Canned email after canned email. Rejections with no reason.

All the while this is happening, you need money. You want to eat. You want to pay bills. As a man, you’re thinking “I’m not a provider.” (He was married, yes.) It’s completely demoralizing and inhumane.

Ah, “inhumane.” Here’s a quote from that Stanford article up top:

I look out at the workplace and I see stress, layoffs, longer hours, work-family conflict, enormous amounts of economic insecurity. I see a workplace that has become shockingly inhumane.

So why did this happen?

Couple of reasons:

Money: Always follow the money to figure anything out in a capitalism. People at the top want more money, so they stiff people down the chain — while demanding more work from them to generate more money. It’s a brutal cycle.

Digital tools: Made things cheaper to run and automate out humans. Also, paradoxically, it’s more shit to manage for the remaining employees. So now companies can (a) pay you less and (b) force you to check 12 platforms a day just to do your fucking job, which increases stress.

People seen as interchangeable: Maybe this is because of the demise of unions. I dunno. Thing is, people don’t matter to businesses. If they did, “people” wouldn’t be the domain of HR. Executives don’t give a flying fucknut about HR. It doesn’t make money. They don’t want HR in the big meetings, the ones they tell their wives about in vague hopes of getting laid that night. Anything HR owns isn’t relevant to the big dogs. That means people are not.

Horrible management: We still train people from a 1911 playbook, then wonder why management isn’t improving despite all the craptastic Entrepreneur articles being social-shared all week. Bad managers create a lot of this mess described above.

What can we do?

The market is already doing it — it’s called the Gig Economy, which is going to be 40% of everything in a few years.

The problem: the Gig Economy isn’t protected in terms of taxes, insurance, other safety nets. That’s a challenge. We’ll probably be very slow to solve it.

Within companies? Very little can be done. Mindfulness apps? Go fuck yourself. Transparent cultures? Feces on a windshield. That’s all buzzwords and bullshit vomit. It doesn’t actually happen.

If you wanted to make work more humane — move it away from being described as “chimp rape,” in other words — you’d need a completely new approach to:

  • How you manage
  • Incentives
  • Who matters in terms of money/returns
  • Decision-making
  • Priorities
  • A dozen or more other concepts

Work is all about now now now and tasks to most people. These concepts aren’t tasks. They are huge elephants that need to be moved. Workplaces aren’t good at doing that. We all get overwhelmed with the tasks — which, AH-HA, stresses us out. So in the process of trying to be better, we just get more stressed. Does it ever end, y’all?

Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money:

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