The Great Resignation rolls on, with an ever-shrinking number of competent people shouldering an ever-growing load of the work to be done. If you’ve noticed that everything seems a little less generous or efficient than it used to be, it’s because fewer and fewer people are willing to work for abysmal wages, long hours, and dehumanizing treatment.
What I can’t figure out is why employers have not woken up to the reality of this situation: if you’re facing massive labor shortages, the only solution is to offer more money and/or benefits to employees. Granted, some employers have caught on, and are offering higher hourly wages and more flexibility. I also recognize that some employers, especially smaller companies, simply can’t afford to pay more than they already are.
Still, I can’t help but notice employers are obstinately trying to get one over on their few remaining employees, trapped in thickets of corporate bureaucracy and New Speak that refuses to acknowledge the shifting tides of the labor market. Often their stringent leave policies stay on the books but go unenforced.
For example, a friend of mine works at a big box hardware store in a tony suburb of Charleston, South Carolina. She informs me that the store’s policy is that missing work without notice twice is grounds for immediate dismissal, but the policy is no longer enforced because the story is already so short-staffed, they can’t afford to fire employees for playing hooky.
The problem is that the employees who do show up to work bear the strain of their absent colleagues, and the corporate management shrugs its shoulders.
It may be that we’re entering a phase where large retailers and other companies will simply have to stop providing all services to all people. My same friend told me how the store stays open until 10 PM, but there are virtually no employees at that hour. I suspect the thinking is, “we have to be accessible to customers for as long possible; if we don’t our competitors will.” Yet the same store doesn’t open up its pro contractor’s desk on Saturdays or after 5 PM on weekdays, so that doesn’t necessarily track.
Large companies aren’t exactly known for their logical consistency, but it seems that many workers are getting fed up with the lack of it. Of course, employees aren’t off the hook, either: we have all encountered plenty of braindead or discourteous store employees that turn shopping for a wing nut into a baffling ordeal.
Regardless, our attitudes about work are certainly changing, in some ways for the better, in some ways for the worse. It’s probably good that we’re not ceaseless strivers competing against Bill from Accounting for The Big Promotion. But we need to reiterate the idea that work is ennobling for its own sake—and hiring managers and their ilk need to treat their employees as human beings.
With that, here is 26 May 2022’s “TBT: Disincentives to Work“:
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