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Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Non-Life of the Modern Employee

We like to think as time progresses, things always get better; its that eternal optimism or hope which gets people through their day to day drudgery or any bad patches they may be experiencing.

You know, the Beatles song we constantly allude to where Paul sings "I gotta believe its getting better.. A little better all the time" and where people forget John then chimes in "It can't get much worse.."

But when it comes to the workplace, specifically the relationship between employer-employee and how the worker is treated, are things really 'better'?

And if so, better than what?  
How far back do we compare to find those silver linings that Today is better than Yesterday?   To the 'Mad Men' world of the early 1960's?  Perhaps Charles Dickens' 19th Cent London?   Or maybe the Lord/serf relationship of the Dark Ages??

Now some would argue the technological advancements make the life of an employee far better and easier than ever before..


Let's put aside the fact that every advancement in technology results in computers and machines doing jobs/tasks that humans now without jobs could have been doing if not for Corporate's need to save a buck..

How is an employee's life really 'better'?
Thanks to iPhones, Blackberries and other mobile devices that text, tweet and send/receive emails, the employer can track you down for his/her purposes at any time of the day or night.

Think of it as an invisible slave yoke.

Back in the day of mere landline phones, it was much easier to avoid someone calling to tell you to come in on the weekend or to cancel your vacation, and believe it or not there was a time answering machines cost more than iPods so there was no way to leave messages.

Today not only can an employee not use that excuse but if the company themselves provided the phone, it has a GPS to track where it (and you) is at all times.
Technology means you're spied on constantly.. Every phone call, web page you visit at your desk, every email, text and tweet using company property -- eavesdropped upon and recorded

And every non-technological aspect of your being is controlled as well.

Some employers may not want employees, males in particular with lengthy hair or with facial hair or in the case of both sexes, tattoos/piercings that are visible.
Pretty much all employers want you to wear what they tell you - maybe its professional office attire (shirt & tie) or blouse n' blazer just to answer phones or make photocopies..

Or uniforms like polo shirts which are nothing more than conformist clothing so every employee has no individuality or uniqueness from the neck down.

And of course every employee pretty much is told when to arrive, when to leave, when to have lunch or take a smoking break, where to sit (or stand), what they can/can not have on their desk or cubicle wall and a hundred other mini-controls most are not even conscious of
Thoughts are controlled too..  Can't tell a co-worker he or she is attractive, can't tell an off-color joke.. can't say or do anything that could put the company at risk of a harassment lawsuit.

Not in these overly-sensitive PC times..

And everyone is expendable.

The second you do not make more for your employer or show yourself to be a greater benefit than what the company is paying in salary, you're gone.

Sometimes if outright firing you proves more expensive due to unemployment benefits, they'll just find subtle and effective ways to get you to quit.
And goodness knows how businesses love temps which are the bottom of the bottom and don't have to give them any benefits or special courtesies.

Just put them in front of computer, tell them what to do and toss them aside like a paper cup the first moment they give you any gruff or cost more than their benefit

The really messed up part about all this is how people are so mentally trained to accept their fate.

How many times have you heard a big company firing hundreds or thousands of workers just to save some money (in bad times, its called 'downsizing'; in good times, its called 'restructuring') and others Defending it as 'Well, that's business'?!
So the mindset of the 21st worker is that we all can be tossed aside at any moment for any (or no) reason, finding another job is a lengthy process even in a healthy economy and we understand and willingly concede the employer holds all the cards.

The employer can control your movements, what you say or think (in some professions even when expressed outside work premises), have 24/7 access to you at any time for any reason and can demand you change your off-schedule life at a moment's notice while no obligation to give any courtesy in return.

And if you feel overworked and underpaid and not appreciated, the employer will point out like a scummy snake that its your 'choice' to be here and you can 'choose' to accept the terrible salary of a bad job with no future or not (option B; Eat shit out of a garbage can perhaps?)
That's why we always find it a little bit of parental cruelty toward their children when they keep asking 'what do you want to do when you grow up?  What do you want to become?'

Because pretty much any answer other than 'Be my own boss' or I don't want to work and be like you' and that child's sad destiny is already in motion.

A person who works a 40 hour workweek from his/her 21st birthday up until 65th (if lucky to retire) will have given up 2,200 days (17,600 hours) of their Precious life, freedom and personal independence to an employer.
All that youth and vitality and ability to enjoy sunny cheery days on your own accord

For what?

Green pieces of paper and digital ones and zeroes on a screen minus 15 to 50% to the taxman

Is life Really that much better Today vs 100 or 1,000 years ago?

And will the next generation of worker-bee drones be any happier?