Monday, September 10, 2007
The End Has Come
This blog has come to an end - certainly at least for the time being. Writing about the world of the cubicle and the heedless rich bastards who push its inhabitants around has become too demoralizing to continue. Nor, to be honest, do I really feel a sense of solidarity with my fellow white collar workers. My peer group, such as it is, is so widely caricatured as the epitome of mediocrity that it is impossible for anyone with any pride or ambition to identify with it. My natural impulse is to step away from the crowd, turn my back on the injustices and indignities imposed on us by our wealthy overlords - for indeed these appear to be inevitable - and simply cultivate my own garden.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Vacation In Ireland
Tomorrow I leave for a fortnight of fun (or at least what I hope will be fun) in Ireland - one week in Dublin, and another in Donegal. Posts to The White Collar Warrior will cease until after Labor Day, but I can't even think about my trip without having my imagination sullied by thoughts of lost business opportunities and corporate annoyances. The pilots of Aer Lingus intend to strike on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, and I sure hope the strike does not extend much beyond that. Otherwise I'll be trapped on the Emerald Isle. Aer Lingus, like all other airlines, is no doubt raking in the cash by underpaying and overworking its employees, and cutting costs at their customers' inconvenience. I also think back to when my father's last remaining paternal uncle passed away in Donegal 35 years ago. This elderly gentleman was a bachelor, and my father inherited his farm as the sole surviving heir. My father, an academic, was nonplussed by this legacy and immediately fumbled it like a hot potato into the mitts of the next relative in line. Me, I'm a wily if embittered veteran of the business world, and I know that if I had inherited a piece of property in a prime resort area, I would have turned it into a B&B or at the very least sold it to the developers of a golf course. Alas, I will never have such a chance. Such are the breaks for the perennial white collar drone...
Thursday, August 16, 2007
A Rustic Ode To Cube Farms (Or A Rant, Take Your Pick)
Here is a well-written "op ed" piece in The Korea Times by a white collar worker of Indian descent. That should give you an indication of the subject's international nature - which is cube farms, a phenomenon we have worldwide. The author laments how, in the old days in India when office floors were open spaces, colleagues would gather to discuss "football and cricket matches" - but all that started to change in the late 80's, as it did elsewhere, to the familiar expanse of cubicles known by its inventor, Robert Propst, as the Action Office. He believes that cubicles, intended to boost productivity, have atomized office workers, converting the bantering communities of old to a sea of isolates sitting in their cubes with earphones clapped to their heads. Our world has shrunk to the scale of our cubicles, he says, over which we imagine we have complete dominion. There's nothing new here, but I thought it was a good read - and it certainly underscores the universality of what one might call "the white collar condition".
"Cube Farms" from The Korea Times
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Would You Fire This Man?
Here are a couple of articles about the value of eccentric (or even obnoxious) but highly capable "employees" whose implications are somewhat ambiguous. The Boston Globe presents us with the following scenario, in which an "employee" who while "having made major contributions to the team in the past, and while brilliant and witty, he's moody to the point that he misses work and might be manic-depressive. He's also fat, speaks with a bit of a lisp, is a heavy drinker and something of a loose canon, expressing with gusto radical views, some offensive to minorities." The article asks what you would do with such an individual, then concludes that most managers would consider him a liability and give me the heave-ho. It turns out they would end up firing Winston Churchill.
Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal article which inspired the Globe article discusses the crackdown on executive behavior - which is not really employee behavior. It critiques the recent move to cashier those high-level managers who are delinquent in sexual, financial or criminal ways. The fact is, a lot of these executives are bosses, and dismissing them for bad behavior would be in the same spirit as the monitoring of executive compensation. The point is that you should want to out the abuses of the big boys at the top, and to let them know they won't be tolerated - not to let them get away with hijinks that betray their employees, their shareholders or the reputations of the companies they represent. Some folks, of course, think otherwise. Winston Churchill himself was a boss, and what's good enough for him should be good enough for Dennis Kozlowski and Donald Trump. Right? It is part of the libertarian mindset that the peccadillos of "geniuses" should be not only tolerated but indulged, and this attitude has wrought havoc with the American economy and the morale of the average worker. The overweening greed of top executives is one eccentricity they share more than any other.
The sobriquet of "genius" is generally applied by inference. If you are on top, you got there because you were a "genius". Although the recent indulgence of corporate kingpins has been very generous, it runs side by side with an entirely different trend. Mere "employees", because they are "employees", cannot be "geniuses" by virtue of their humble status, and their quirks need not be tolerated in any way, shape or form. In fact, the more we forgive the wayward behavior of boardroom "geniuses", the more we worship rank for its own sake, and the less likely we are to indulge mere workers no matter how brilliant they might be. Perhaps even the act of allowing yourself to be bossed around by someone else forever robs you of "genius" potential despite your IQ. If you happen to think you've got what it takes, you might just be better off working for yourself.
"Eccentric geniuses worth the trouble they cause" from The Boston Globe
"Personal boundaries shrink as companies punish bad behavior" originally from The Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
A Scottish survey found that "some" workers check their email inboxes up to 40 times an hour, leaving them "tired and frustrated - as well as unproductive." Women are more prone to this practice than men, and it is apparently driven by a sense of obligation to answer emails promptly. Psychologists urge victims of this malaise to, in essence, "lighten up" and not take the onslaught of emails too seriously. They ask, "How many of those e-mails that you send need to go exactly right now? Probably very, very few indeed." Only 38 percent of the 200 respondents to the survey "felt relaxed enough" to wait a day before answering emails, causing one expert to opine, "E-mail is the thing that now causes the most problems in our working lives... It's an amazing tool but it's got out of hand." The simplest solution is not to check your email so often - but that advice may be lost on those of us who have become email addicts. For us, reading and answering email is not just an obligation - it's a drug.
(As a sidenote, one wonders whether the survey responses were solicited by email - in which case those most compelled to answer promptly would have been vastly overrepresented among the respondents.)
"Workers 'stressed out' by e-mails" from BBC News
Monday, August 13, 2007
40 Hour Work Week Reconsidered
According to an online survey of 10,000 American workers, the average white collar worker wastes 2.09 hours a day. Surfing the Internet was their top time-wasting activity - as in, for instance, answering that survey. Other time wasters included "socializing, conducting personal business, spacing out, running errands, making phone calls, applying for jobs, and arriving late or leaving early." The survey concluded that all this dawdling costs American companies $759 billion a year.
However, as the article at the link below admits, the weekly demands of most salaried jobs can be completed in considerably less than 40 hours a week. Although it seems to me that employees may need to be at work, or at least available to their employers, on a daily basis - even seven days a week and around the clock in many cases - they may not need to spend all that much time actually working. It is possible that corporations, using flex-time and rotating schedules, could save a considerable amount of money by allowing their employees to work 30 hour weeks. This might put less strain on corporate resources and infrastructure, and a far higher percentage of employees' time at work could be committed to their jobs. Just as improved technology has allowed corporations as a whole have become more productive, it has allowed their employees to become more productive as individuals. If they are not allowed to reap the rewards of expanded responsibility and a commensurate increase in income, they should at least be allowed to cash in the profit of a few extra hours a day which they could then devote to family, friends, personal fulfillment and - yes - even earning a little money elsewhere on their own time.
"Is it time to reinvent the 40-hour workweek?" from HeraldNet (Everett, Washington)
Friday, August 10, 2007
Bad Bosses Ascend
According to a recent survey, one way to get ahead in business is to make your subordinates miserable. Reuters reports that "almost two-thirds of the 240 participants in an online survey said the local workplace tyrant was either never censured or was promoted for [his or her] domineering ways." This result, which may not be surprising to many of us, nonetheless unsettled the survey's authors, who said "The fact that 64.2 percent of the respondents indicated that either nothing at all or something positive happened to the bad leader is rather remarkable -- remarkably disturbing". The authors blamed senior managers for condoning such "bad leaders", and "advocated immediate intervention by industry chiefs to stop fledgling office authoritarians from rising up the ranks."
Yeah, methinks, when pigs fly... Oh, wait, they do!
"Bad bosses get promoted, not punished?" from Reuters