For all human history, the conditions of people were dire. Today people might be stuck in an office in their "best year", but people in the past had to toil all day to barely scrape by and didn't even have that many years to live.
It's only now that we live these comfortable lives with houses, heating, electricity, technology and a sea of information at our fingertips. These things all exist and keep functioning because people work.
And yet some think that "society has gone wrong", as if the past was paradise.
Work has been a human universal through history. There is surely an argument to be made about the fact that now we are so productive that we might not need to work as much as we had to.
At the same time I think we should be grateful that we live in the best life conditions ever seen by humanity.
Despite technology allowing us to work less, we work more. Yes we should be grateful of technological advancement, but too many people are unnecessarily depressed and suicidal, and it doesn't have to be this way.
Also, the idea of the high-leisure hunter gatherer is false. This is ideology masquerading as archaeology/history, and it confirms the biases of people who have genuine criticisms of modern life. http://quillette.com/2017/12/16/romanticizing-hunter-gathere...
It's only after you remove every modern convenience and distraction that you begin to appreciate how important these slow, repetitive, indoor tasks were to human psychology. They allowed one to make good use of their time indoors while distracting from the crushing boredom of having nothing to do and affording time to socialize with family and neighbours.
Now, I'm not saying this is an idyllic lifestyle. It was certainly one of the factors that drove so many people to the squalor of early industrial cities where they might be poor, filthy, and poisoned but at least they had light, drink, and entertainment. But I think it's important to point out that our ancestors managed to get by with a great deal less than we do today while still finding comfort and fulfillment and potentially expending much less effort and suffering a great deal less stress than we experience. It's something to think about at least.
How do we measure this? I've been less well off in the past, having to spend more time doing chores like that, and not having a 9-5 job filling up that part of my day. Compared to now - working more, but with more money - I was more stressed and less fulfilled and very aware of all the effort I was expending because I couldn't afford all the conveniences I would've wanted.
It was not a bit of both. It was work. Yes, they could chat while doing some easy repetitive tasks, the same way as worker in work now chat while doing repetitive tasks. However, this was not low effort hobby you do whenever you feel like and can take random amount of time. It was work that needed to be done whether you feel like it or not. And preferably fast while keeping quality, because there was a lot of work like that. It also had to be done whether you are nine month pregnant or not and whether baby wake you up at night or not.
I don't know why you think it was supposed to be slow work. That makes sense only insofar you see and treat it as a hobby instead of as actual task that needs to be done, because you need result of it.
Fun fact: washing cloth without washing machine took whole day once a week. It was physically hard tiring work that required you to beat the thing to beat the mess out of it in cold water. If you want meat (which they definitely did not ate often), you gotta kill chicken. And clean it. Again, messy work that takes a lot of time.
Edit: 100% support a focus on archaeology. There's some really cool stuff waiting to be uncovered, like the new LIDAR findings in South America. Still, it's absurd to think that ancient hunter-gatherers lived in bliss, except when natural conditions were exceptionally good (not worth the consequences of droughts).
I've also gone hiking in the mountains in California. Been on the beach in Italy. Walked around in the center of Munich.
As a 14th century peasant I probably never even knew those places existed.
I can also get pain medication if I have a headache. I can go to a doctor to fix my broken bones if I happen to get one. Oh, and the likelihood of dying of a random infection or chicken pox is exceedingly low.
Is is worth spending more time in a nice, warm, comfortable office to be able to do all of those things? Hell yes. Is it all shits and giggles all the time? Of course not.
For all that we have issues with a culture where people check work emails at home and are otherwise on-call, we've moved remarkably far from a culture where work was truly pervasive, where it formed the backdrop of everything else.
All of which is to say that both the quality, as you point out, and the purity of our recreation have improved quite a lot. Counting up a nebulous "time off" value seems to seriously misunderstand the changes in how we live.
Sounding pretty attractive to me right now.
Realistically I also like to live in a nice house, do have to (well, by choice obviously) take care of three kids and like to enjoy a luxury here and there.
That takes money. I have tried multiple times to build my own companies, but sadly haven't been successful in that.
So that's for the travel argument.
As for the headache medication argument - I have that only because thousands of people have spent a lot of time in offices and labs developing those drugs and treatments.
Personally, my work mostly revolves around making wind turbines more efficient at producing energy by helping with data analysis. I also like to think that's my small way of offsetting the environmental damage I do by travelling. It's probably not enough, but still. something. So yeah, I'd say spending time at the office correlates quite nicely.
So yes, it does correlate.
The reason we have all these advances that increase our quality of life is because generations have worked their ass off to build them
Or, that everyone who works hard reaps the rewards, ignoring the ever-increasing disparity in compensation?
But the only thing I'm saying is to not over romanticise the past. The life of a 14 century peasant was not good compared to mine.
I also realise that a lot of the comforts I enjoy are because lots of people spent time in boring offices before me. The article sounds quite dismissive of that.
I'm forever grateful and do my part to help. Nobody owes me a good life.
We should always strive to improve, but the article had the tone of "oh look how bad everything is" while implying that it hasn't always been like that. Things are far better now in almost any quantifiable measure than they have ever been in human history. Not enough people talk about that.
None. How many do you know?
And it's nice that 14th century peasants didn't work much, but as the article you linked to says, that happened to be a time of particularly high wages because the Black Death greatly reduced the supply of labor. In other words, it was not at all representative of the general lifestyle of a peasant.
That's not quite true. Farming is heavy, all day long work during sowing and harvest seasons, but other than these, which take a few weeks out of a year, it's not all that much work really. Keeping animals on the other hand requires some work every day (taking them in and out of the pasture, milking, cleaning sheds etc), but it's not all day long, it's really on the order of 1-2 hours a day.
Keep in mind also that for most of the history, farmers didn't really have all that much land to farm, and each farmer would work on much smaller plot than he and his family was physically able to. The reason for this is really Malthusian. If there's excess food, you have population growth, which makes you hit the carrying capacity only in a handful of generations. Look at American colonies for example. After they were founded, the population grew mostly through natural growth, further immigration being relatively unimportant -- foreign born population rarely exceeded 10%. Yet the population increased 20-fold in only 100 years.
This means that throughout most of the history, the farmer parents only had barely enough land to sustain themselves and 2 children -- only 2 children of each parent reproduced on average, otherwise you'd have population growth, which meant war or famine (or both). The farmer didn't have a lot of farming to do, because he just didn't have enough land to plow and sow.
If you are European, talk to some old people who grew up farming. My mother grew up on a farm in Eastern Europe, and her village only got electricity in early 1980s. When I talk to her, or my grandparents, or their neighbors, and I ask them if the life was poor back then, and what was the thing they needed the most, everyone always says that they had too little land. In America it was of course much different, for obvious reasons.
My father-in-law grew up on a very small farm in Poland. I know from my wife that when she would visit her uncle (who inherited the farm) in the summer, they would work long, hard days. I'll ask my father-in-law about winters. Something tells me there was plenty of work to be done in the winter as well.
He said that winters are definitely less work than summers, but that means that work days are more like 10 hours instead of 14. He said they still have to tend to the animals (milk cows, feed chickens, feed and cleanup after cows, horses and pigs), gather firewood, pump water from the well, clear snow, etc. Plus they do stuff that they simply don’t have time for in the summer. Repair things, spin wool and hemp, pluck geese for down, etc.
That being said, when he was growing up in Eastern Poland, 7 years of school were mandatory and he said basically all families adhered to this requirement. This indicates that there was some level of surplus generated by this lifestyle, because children become pretty useful by 5-6 years old, so having them spend 7 years being non-productive at school is a big deal.
They were also dead by 35.
When you do manual work outdoors, there is a sort of physical element that allows you to get "in the zone" and it really feels like true work. But for white collar tasks like accounting, programming, and filing papers, there's not as often a moment for meditation or getting "in the zone". And there's something much more alienating about doing comfortable work that is held up, not because of the winter frost, but because of some corporate inefficiency.
Likewise, blue collar assembly-line labor, in which your entire day is spent building a single part for a huge machine, is much the same. The carpenter can feel delighted from finishing an entire chair, and a weaver might enjoy seeing many completed baskets, but the factory worker never knows rest, never knows any satisfaction, because the modern species of work never ends.
"Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Genesis 3:18-19)
An annoying aspect of software is that it takes a life of its own. It is never done, but there are feature requests, bugs, and updates.
You make a table, and that is it. It's done. Sure, you have to clean it, but mostly it will last a while until it breaks down.
I’m working on a SaaS service that does one thing really well, and I think it’s pretty close to being done. The code is very solid, and I rarely see any bugs or error reports (thanks to React, Immutable.js, and Flow.) The infrastructure is autoscaling and requires very little maintenance (thanks to convox.)
There’s always more features and integrations I could add, but I’m getting enough customers without them. It will require some ongoing work (e.g. updates for security vulnerabilities), but I’m not too interesting in trying to turn my table into a house. I'd rather follow the Unix philosophy and build a lot of very nice tables.
Take, for example, Crusader Kings II, a game released in 2012 that's still getting DLC and free patches subsidized by DLC sales to this day.
And there's also this infographic about day-one DLC that's been going around for a few years now: http://www.extremetech.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/DLCWor...
If you hear someone sing in an office it's because they're either crazy or have been fired.
But there is also something to be said in favor of repetitive, low-qualification work. It frees the mind while you're doing it: you can think about something else, or even, yes, sing -- and most importantly, it doesn't follow you home.
Modern mid-level office jobs where you're constantly tethered to the company, at all hours and even during "holidays" (if you can get any) are the worst of the worst.
Between all that garbage and a commute which was a little too long & dangerous for my mental health, I quit.
To make ends meet, I ended up cleaning offices much like the ones I previously worked in. No one cares if I'm a few minutes late, as long as the work gets done. My goals are literally visible and easily measurable. When I'm done, I'm done, and as you say, I don't take my work home. People universally appreciate what I'm doing and tend to smile at me. I can confirm I have spare brain cycles for new ideas, as well. I definitely think people benefit from having some kind of tangible, repetitive work like this in their lives.
Yeah, the pay sucks, and I'm still trying to find that holy grail of a 'good developer job', but I am doing it on my terms now. In the mean time, my day to day life is significantly happier and more manageable. Sometimes, if the office is empty, I even sing.
Often people forget the mental stress modern work places on us. I remember my Dad working hours but he was tired from physical exhaustion and not mental. He didn't have email or messaging that would distract him from a weekend of relaxation.
I was addicted to checking my email every once in a while and found my mind switching to thinking about work instead of enjoying the moment. Thankfully I broke that habit.
Today, I try and impress this upon other people who do this.
The mind and the body are meant to be worked together.
I think that jobs like programming which minimize physical movement and maximize mental work are unnatural.
I've worked as a programmer, but before that I worked farm labour.
My meals and my sleep have never been as good as those days when I did a full day on the farm, feeding animals, milking cows and taking in the hay.
This isn't strictly due to modern agriculture, either. Poor timing/freak weather events in the past wouldn't just cause farmers to lose their livelihood, it would also mean there was a very real risk of starvation. While losing your job and comfortable livelihood can certainly be stressful, there seem to be quite a few people who believe that work in the past wasn't just as, if not more, stressful.
The passage can be read her for anyone interested.
Do you guys in America even know how it is in Sweden for example? We don't have this competitive culture, and companies are trying hard to make their employees feel good at work. Nobody really works full 8 hours at big companies and nobody is stressed very much. Bosses never blame anyone directly for anything since it's not allowed, culture wise. People are very relaxed.
When I read about American culture, it seems insane.
I think you're quite correct that it's insane, but you can also view it through the lens of class war. There are some people in charge who have an unthinkable amount of capital, and they would like it to be this way everywhere.
'Culture' is led by leaders. Company culture comes from the top down. If you had a company leader who earnestly thought hunting down and murdering workers in rival companies was the best way to be a company, AND he was allowed to pursue that unregulated and unrestrained, you'd see a 'culture' straight out of the darkest cyberpunk because others would play copycat and it'd become the new normal. You'd have to deal with it on its own terms.
Of course it's insane, and of course it's killing people: in a sense that's a feature. This is the operating system on which we run. There's only workarounds, or changing the OS out from under the 'culture' it produces.
EDIT: To be more precise: typically ~20 days in the summer and additional ~5-15 days in the winter. Averages by country, Sweden 26 days: https://www.europeandataportal.eu/en/highlights/which-countr...
34 days (minimum?) when you include the 16 paid public holidays such as Christmas, New Year, Easter, Midsummer: https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/countries-with-the-most-...
I'm a consultant and work roughly 35h/w in Sweden. I often find this a bit too much, given that the work I do is disconnected from anything "real". Sure, my clients are always happy and I do fun things, but my family and friends is what's real.
I truly believe we should automate everything and let humans decide by themselves if they feel like working. If not, something like UBI should exist.
That's said, I will point out that most people posting on this site are in desirable enough roles that US work culture is a choice, not a requirement, even when you're living in the US. It just seems to be a choice that most don't consider.
I could easily find a position which makes 25% salary than my current position. Instead I took one where I never work more than 40hrs, where I have essentially 7 weeks PTO starting and it'll go up if I stay here long-term.
My quality of life is fantastic and I still make more than enough for a very nice lifestyle (and proper retirement/long-term goal savings).
I'm sure I could live even more luxuriously or retire a couple years sooner if I made even more money, but I don't think that would be remotely worth what I get by not going that route. Not to mention the people who just die or develop debilitating ailments before they ever really get to enjoy that retirement.
Sounds lovely, though.
The promise of the modern society was that everyone being "equal", we would all become aristocrats. In fact we all became slaves.
(And of course, hunters gatherers lived, to the best of our knowledge, in classless groups where each individual worked very little each day).
1. Working outside (as mentioned) just doesn't compare with office job, i.e. it provides physical exercise, fresh air, being close to nature/animals. Now we're simulating all these things with gyms/vacations/zoos (I think the quality of such simulation is out of question?)
2. Work had to be done with your family, now there is no simulation for this in our society at all. And I would guess it was much better option than running as fast as we can (as most corporate people do) at 6:00PM, away from these annoying faces :)
Has nothing to do with the OP's comment, and it attempts to shift the conversation to justification.
>For all human history, the conditions of people were dire. Today people might be stuck in an office in their "best year", but people in the past had to toil all day to barely scrape by and didn't even have that many years to live.
Again, why are you doing this?
>It's only now that we live these comfortable lives with houses, heating, electricity, technology and a sea of information at our fingertips. These things all exist and keep functioning because people work.
Who is arguing against work in general? The article and the OP are discussing working conditions. Work doesn't have to be torture. America has a very unhealthy relationship with the idea of work and what it means. No pain no gain, right?
>And yet some think that "society has gone wrong", as if the past was paradise.
In the last 40-50 years, American society has taken some significant steps backwards, and the workers have felt it. If you're comparing conditions to hundreds or thousands of years ago, why? What is your goal?
>Work has been a human universal through history. There is surely an argument to be made about the fact that now we are so productive that we might not need to work as much as we had to.
You finally brushed against the point in your penultimate paragraph.
In the past work and exercise were nearly identical, now work looks something like sitting in a desk all day under fluorescent light.
Nutrition was once a result of simply eating what was available, but now has changed to a daily fight, something that requires constant effort and discipline in order to maintain as we are completely bombarded by those that seek to exploit our instinctive responses.
We've traded these and other things for safety, comfort, and reproductive success.
However, they are a predator. Look at mice or other small creatures, and you realize their entire existence is the search for food.
Though if we weren't so damn focused on having so much crap maybe a few of those animals would still be around.
- If I want meat, I perform task X
- If I want heat, I perform task X
- If I want cothes, I perform task X
In previous generations (more recent than you might assume) many of these desired outcomes had totally different tasks.
Its also a false dichotomy that things are work _OR_ play. Many things are a blend of Work/Play/Hobby or more simply just "living".
It would have been an evolutionary advantage to be interested in and inclined to perform various types of tasks for early humans. Modern work suppresses this human need. This is why we have hobbies and people are depressed.
More "free" time to watch Netflix may not be the pinnacle happiness and fulfillment. This is not to suggest that life was "easy" in the past.
Between 1950 and 1980, the average wage of the lower 90% of the economy rose by 75%. Between 1980 and 2010, it rose by 1%. And during 1980 to 2010 we experienced the introduction of computers into the workplace. Average worker productivity skyrocketed at an absurd rate. Yet, every penny of that advancement and more was scalped by employers and shareholders. People are not being greedy in expecting more. They are intuitively sensing that they are being exploited more and more heavily every single year. No increase in productivity is ever reflected in increased earnings or free time or anything like that.
The notion of the New Deal was that 1 person working only 40 hours a week should be paid enough that they could raise an entire family on it comfortably. Do you think that could be done today? No, it couldn't. If you've got a couple kids, and you only have 1 40 hour job providing the income you are completely boned. You're poor. We have been racing backwards, and we have gained literally nothing for it.
What metrics did you use to determine this, other than life expectancy? A zoo animal may have a longer life expectancy, but a free animal arguably leads a more satisfying life according to their nature.
Something is definitely wrong.
No. There's been societies based on slavery or indentured servitude and industrial societies treating workers much like slaves and there's been also almost idyllic, often agrarian, societies far removed from war, exploitation and hunger.
Furthermore, given the incredible amount of energy and natural resources that the average person in rich countries is consuming we should all be living happy and meaningful lives and work one our per week.
We should instead ask the difficult question - why are even the richest societies so unhappy?
My understanding of primitive agrarian societies are that they have hard work, hard lives, poor diet, and a population that is generally at the edge of starvation. (In good times, population grows. In bad times...) You might want to read Guns, Germs and Steel as an example of a reference backing this view up. Or read through random snippets of history like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_of_1315%E2%80%931... and get a sense for the very real struggles that people faced.
"Pre-industrial workers had a shorter workweek than today's"
Whilst preindustrial societies did see variable subsistence, the floor tended to be higher than today (Clark's introduction, available online, notes that the poorest people who've ever lived, live now, and in great numbers), and cycles tended to be long-term -- decades or centuries, not years. Whilst life expectancy at birth was low, from age of majority it was generally far less abbreviated. Disease was far more prevalent in cities (London was a net population sink well into the 19h century), and major instances of famine and plague something experienced perhaps only by occasional generations within an area, though wth mortality rates from 10-90% (far more typically in the 10-30% range).
You're familiar with Laurie Garrett's wwork on healthxare, and the fact that 85% of mortality decline since 1850 materially predates modern medical practice, including antibiotics, vaccines, and organ transsplants. The
Conquest of Pestilence in New York City chart highlights this:
And wars exist also, and especially, among tribes.
Growing food without modern technologies, fertilizers and pesticides was also an extremely hard job. It’s not like growing tomatoes in your back garden.
I saw footage of a gazelle being hunted by a cheetah. My reflexive thought is -- how unimaginably horrible. Here is an animal which is evolved specifically to hunt you down and kill you. And every moment you spend trying to live is a moment lived in fear of this awful creature. What a life! My horror does not even compare to the horror of this life.
But, watching the gazelle slalom and jump with incredible precision and grace, there is another thought: that the gazelle was also born to run. It uses its God given abilities to the absolute maximum possible extent. During the chase, it is in a state of complete flow, more complete than any Olympic athlete could ever hope for. The sheer concentration required, the exertion, the split-second decision-making required to avoid getting caught. To master this state is to escape the predator, and it must feel incredible to outrun a cheetah. Incredible in a way that is impossible for a human living a modern lifestyle to fathom.
To fail means to die, of course, and that cannot feel good to a gazelle. But it's just death. We all die anyway. Human beings, gazelle, cheetahs. It is a simple fact that you will die.
So, then, whose life is better? The gazelle's, whose time is spent performing in the most integrated and pure way possible? Or the human's?
The human's life, which is spent doing activities its body was not designed for, in social situations his brain is not built for, eating things his stomach was not designed for? And then, we die. Just like the gazelle.
Interesting to think about for sure. I myself have no option — synthetic insulin keeps me alive.
Perhaps a higher-dimensional being would also see some beauty in our life that we cannot comprehend currently - like the gazelle can't comprehend it's Olympic flow, a human can't comprehend the long-term beauty of how they toil and work against the odds.
> whose life is better?
If by better you mean, which being feels more emotion/happiness/satisfaction, it's an open question. But if better implies more progress and safety/longevity, then humans it is.
If you attempt to quantify life in such terms you may run into issues, our longevity is meager when compared to a giant tortoise or a simple koi fish, for all of our progress and the safety it grants us we still succumb to the same fate, we still suffer and all of our works are washed away by rain and time.
This is a popular assertion about animals, but I've yet to see someone prove it.
Also we shouldn't overestimate how self aware the average human is.
Much of our lives are lived in a disconnected fog, disconnected from our bodies, our feelings and our minds.
But, watching the cheetah cut off its prey and pounce with incredible precision and grace, there is another thought: that the cheetah was also born to eat. It uses its God given abilities to the absolute maximum possible extent. During the chase, it is in a state of complete flow, more complete than any Olympic athlete could ever hope for. The sheer concentration required, the exertion, the split-second decision-making required to avoid dying of hunger. To master this state is to capture the prey, and it must feel incredible to finally catch a gazelle. Incredible in a way that is impossible for a human living a modern lifestyle to fathom.
To fail means to die, of course, and that cannot feel good to a cheetah. But it's just death. We all die anyway. Human beings, cheetah, gazelles. It is a simple fact that you will die.
There are millions and millions of people out there in their 20s and 30s who work part time and do whatever they want with the other time, because that provides "enough" money for the life they want to live.
I personally work roughly 50% time. I work a few years, then a quit and do whatever I want for a few years. Right now I'm driving around Africa, have not gone to work since mid-2015, it's fantastic.
My brother just built a house and had his first child with his wife. He works 4 days a week, looking to get down to 3. When his wife goes back to work she will work 3, maybe only two. They don't have a lot of money, but they have "enough" for the life they want and they spend a lot of time surfing, walking on the beach etc. They're both early 30s.
Right. and what happens when they get old? how will they ever be able to retire?
It's sort of like most people turning their noses when someone (used to; now it's different) said they were starting a business: "Oh, well what happens when you fail and can't get a job? How will you ever be able to live then?" People find a way and it sounds like the people the poster was referencing, know themselves well enough to make their decisions. While on the other hand, comparing people to the "norm" many times comes from someone who doesn't know themselves and their wants well (or ignores them), and uses the norm as their gauge for "success," or what have you. For a subset of people, retirement isn't something they want or even need. One of the sentiments I hear often from those still working in older age, "What, retire? Now? I've been working my entire life, what the hell am I gonna do in retirement besides die?" or "60 years of doing shit I didn't want, so I could enjoy 15 doing only the things my body allows now."
Life's short. If you want to do things, do them. The only reason you don't is because you live in fear. There will always be drawbacks to going against the status quo, but that's the price you pay to get what you want.
Because they are currently living on not a whole lot, they are not going to need a whole lot in retirement either, because they will be accustomed to having less money.
Before you get all uppity about healthcare costs, just remember there is only one developed country on the entire planet where anyone would even think about that. They don't live in it.
As a reference point, I was reading a very detailed write-up of what a single person would spend in retirement per year, and it was more than double what I was living on working full-time as a Software Engineer.
Food and water can be quite cheap: the grocery stores are filled with healthy foods you can get for less than 1$ per lb in most of the US: corn, whole wheat flour, bananas, apples, grapes, onions, beans, rolled oats, etc.
The biggest problem with living cheaply is Housing, Healthcare and Tax. for the most part these are mandated by the gov regulations to be really expensive. Once those are solved, we'll be able to live quite cost effectively. I've seen some people get around that by living in a camper van, traveling the world - not for everyone, i know. But, the tiny house movement shows us we can get a tiny house for just 20K.
What you are suggesting would lead to a generation that saves more and consumes less.
When GDP seems to be the only success metric that matters, I often wonder if such education is omitted intentionally.
So taxation on a massive scale doesn't work. The problem isn't that the super rich are too wealthy. The problem is life is too expensive for most people. That's the problem we should try to address. In order to do that you'd have to reduce the cost of housing and healthcare.
Funny how that importance is never 'serving people the best way', and is always 'thousands of times more powerful and wealthy than you could even imagine and consuming the blood of young servants in order to live forever'. With some of the most successful Silicon Valley capitalists, the latter is literally true: consuming the blood of the young in hopes of living longer.
I'm not sure how much more on-the-nose it can even get. It's kind of nice to see these things openly talked about. It's legitimate to ask, "This is possible, indeed is happening. Is this good?"
I myself, went to the cheapest college in my area, even though I could have gotten into a far more expensive/prestigious college. I chose not to because I knew it would put me a great economic disadvantage to have so much debt. Software engineering careers and many other careers don't always benefit from more prestigious schools.
If more people shopped for colleges based on price then maybe universities will start competing on price and we can finally see them planning ways to make college cheaper instead of adding yet another good for nothing expensive wing to the campus.
"I am so dedicated to my work that I willingly turn my home and outside-of-work life into the smallest possible monastic box, using less resources than the average Joe. Plus I'm so classy that it's a beautiful box, and it can't be cluttered by bourgeois garbage because my experience outside work is a stark void and doesn't generate things that would require space."
Whoa, that looks good on your performance review. All you need to add is 'and I'm never there because I work all the time. The only person who sees my house is Merry Maids, and they only have to send one person with featherdusters all over her. She twirls, and that's her job done for the week' ;)
Also see, the resurgence of Hookworm in Lowndes Al.
How many musicians do you know that play in clubs? Most are working two restaurant jobs, renting a room, and scraping money together to buy strings, just for the chance to entertain a crowd for little or no pay.
It's all perspective, really.
Don’t forget your commute. And you’ll still need your wife to get the kids to school and pick them up. Hope you earn enough for that and she’s happy st home. And you should help out with dinner and the lunches and homework. And when you get the kids to bed it’s 8 and you’re exhausted.
Enjoy your weekend.
I really wish part time work was more of a thing in this industry...
I could argue that $25k/year is still very high compared to my experience, but I have no idea how much daycare, healthcare and education cost in the US. It probably makes no sense to compare costs to a country where I would earn over double my current income...
Yes, kids require a lot of things that cost money and a lot of time from the parents. Yes, they make you significantly less productive at work when something is wrong. Yes, life is much easier without kids.
But having and raising children is literally one of the most natural things to want to do with your life. A culture that views children mostly as inconveniences is a sick culture.
Modern society literally worships children, so you don't have to worry.
Or, as George Carlin puts it, "bunch of diaper sniffers."
"Natural" is not good. Life in nature is nasty, brutish, and short.
Some other things that aren't natural include eyeglasses, prosthetic limbs, vaccines, antibiotics, air conditioning, cooked food, and electronics.
I worship artifice, and I find the idea that natural things are laudable to be repugnant in every possible way.
I'm also a proud trans woman, and that's sure as hell not natural either. I utterly detest nature.
All of those artificial things you praise came about through the intense study of nature.
We can learn from nature and appreciate its great beauty without being a slave to it.
But true, I didn't add in family.
Can you share your story? How did you make it?
I always wanted my own business as I saw it as a route to mental and financial freedom. I was under no false impressions of the difficulty involved as I've seen my family struggle (and prosper) while running their own businesses.
Anyway, I started by building a little product on the side whilst working. I sold the product to a few hedge funds and investment bank divisions that I could get into via my contacts (both from university and work). That little product turned into this: https://osrec.co.uk/products/heavymetl and provides good recurring income.
I then put together a SaaS product for bookkeeping/accounting/invoicing: https://usebx.com/app . It was rather well received, and we even got a few corporate clients to sign up. We're working on version 2, which I think will be even better! We tend to pick up customers that have become irritated by quickbooks/Xero/Sage.
Then there's the consulting piece, which is ongoing. We basically help institutions get out of sticky tech situations that your average developer might struggle with without specific financial regulation knowledge. E.g. helping an investment bank prove that their implementation of a data store for financial greeks is in accordance with BCBS239. Not easy to do unless you know the regs, and can suggest ways in which they can become compliant if they are not.
Random tips that I picked up along the way:
- Tenacity and passion are important
- A healthy bank balance is important, primarily to keep anxiety away
- Don't ever appear desperate for business. Big turn off for a client.
- A well defined product sells better than a poorly defined one
- A good product sells better than a bad one (i.e. don't believe the ship rubbish early mantra - it does have its place, however, if you are going into a mature market, users want something good and reliable first time or they bail)
- Build things often and well. Don't be lazy with quality control. Have the guts to build without a framework! It can really bolster your technical prowess.
- Be nice to people. A friendly interaction has often turned into business.
- Be assertive with difficult clients. Often this applies to the non-techy clients that come out with sarcastic remarks such as "you charged us £50k for pressing a few buttons. Why can't we have XYZ as well as ABC?" or "I thought this was included in the original contract?". Make it clear to them that if they don't see the value in the service or can't deal straightforwardly, then we don't need them as a client. They soon come around, when they have to go back to their manual error-prone ways.
So that's it, in a nutshell! Sorry if I rambled. All the best :)
Pay: A little less. But I'm working about half the hours. I've had time to start a little side company and to work on another I'm most of the way through, as well as explore other maybe-careers (photography, videography, audio) without impacting my cash flow. I spend a little less money, but some of that is willing: I'm not at work, I don't have to pay $10 for lunch, I can make a small salad. I've had no trouble keeping up my retirement accounts. If I retire.
Stress: much lighter overall, but the occasional terror-spike. Finding work is challenging, and there have been dry spots that made me very antsy, but I enjoy it, and the company I do most of my work through is good at keeping me busy without having to spend my time on sales. I'm moving in with my girlfriend, and that'll just about halve my expenses while placing me in a much more convenient/walkable area, so this should go down further. (She is sometimes a little miffed that I work so little. But I cook, and I cook pretty well, and I'm paying rent, so.)
If you have an in-demand skillset, you can do very well. For me, it's devops, but it's devops informed with the way that I've done everything else in a tech group, from web and mobile to databases, so I'm not approaching it either from a sysadmin point of view or some dogmatic Agile-esque one, and I can help in a lot of ways.
Also, shameless plug: i'm always willing to chat with new prospective clients. ;) Email's in my profile.
The part about a big tech company being a stressful environment isn't the thing that surprised me, but rather people's responses to how they react to either being on the receiving side of the stress, and management's failure to respond to this or even try to talk about it.
The thing that bugs me the most about the entire situation is that most of the stress that seems to exist, mostly exists because of people who have no idea what they're doing, make decisions they have no business making. Then you have engineers that either come from cultures that are high in agreeableness, or they've never been very assertive themselves and just accept these decisions, thinking it's a situation of "if I don't do this I'm going to get fired".
Most of the people I work with don't even consider the option of just taking an extended period of time off to prevent being burned out because they're basically tied to their employment due to work visas (you guessed it, Indian and Chinese workers) and a lot of them are trying to support family back home. So even leaving their job and taking extended time off isn't a viable option.
Don't even get me started on how I've seen people's physical and mental health completely deteriorate. I know lots of people in my organization that are extremely depressed and wouldn't even be the least bit surprised if I heard they ate a bullet tomorrow.
This whole industry has just motivated me to work to achieve financial independence/early retirement as soon as I can just so I never have to think about working with incompetent people in my life again, or at least, have the financial freedom to cut those relationships once they do arise. It sucks because I know I'll be working on tech related projects for the rest of my life, but I have to ignore the desire to work on things that will actually make a difference so that I can build up that nest egg to have the financial freedom and peace of mind to actually pursue it.
If anything what was once intention for one person, turns into style/culture/rationalizations for many others. Let me try to turn the abstraction into an example. Have you ever heard a manager say about someone who works very very hard, "(S)he is passionate about technology"? My favorite one in the world is, "This is a startup, what do you expect." "This is a startup, if you want a 9 to 5 this is not the place for you."
As an older but still young enough (I hope) techie, I've learned to see that the platitudes and promises, the myth about changing the world or bullying about working hard (because what you describe reminds me of bullying) affects YOUNG PEOPLE the most.
And those young people, maybe a small percentage will make a lot of money at a young age. I know a few and I'm not even in Silicon Valley. Many others will piss their 20's away working long hours and drown their livers with company-sponsored drinks.
I know it's hard, but I think you have a responsibility to step in when you see things like this.
I've been severely depressed before, and if someone, even if I didn't know them very well, had done something to indicate that they knew what I was going through, it would have helped. Sometimes people who are suicidal are convinced that if they did eat a bullet tomorrow, no one would care.
I've started the conversation with the peers that I know well at this point and have encouraged them to start looking after their own mental+physical health, seeking treatment/help, because frankly, no one in my org's management chain cares about the consequences they have on others' wellbeing.
What sort of frightens me is that the more I look around me the more I realize that a lot of people seem to be having issues with mental health and stress - some are just better at hiding it than others.
People stop taking advantage when you stop letting them. More than you might expect actually respect it. I don’t think this way of working has hurt my career progression, and it’s certainly done wonders for my mental health.
I've had to fight numerous battles with my boss, along the lines of, "I don't care who scheduled the meeting, I already have plans tonight, and it's not reasonable to make me change them with no notice."
This mentality has turned out to be (a) well worth it for my marriage, and (b) not actually a big deal in the scheme of things.
I find the fact that you even feel you need to include this part disgusting. I'm paid for 40 hours a week. You are not required to pay me overtime. You do not get a second extra of my time
I am salaried, and they do pay me well, so I'm willing to work more than 40 hours from time to time, when schedules are tight.
I think that for me, my criteria for being OK with more-than-40 are probably something like:
(0) it had better not be that much more than 40,
(1) it had better not be an exception, not the rule, and
(2) it had better be something I can plan for, so I'm not jerking around my family/friends.
If I can generally set my own hours, and you give me a ton of vacation time, pay me well, and give me other good incentives just for working there, I'm much more likely to put in a few extra hours every now and then if something comes up.
> I don’t think this way of working has hurt my career progression
I am sure it has helped.
The "if you give them an inch they'll take a mile" philosophy applies. My wife tends to try and accommodate, and it has meant she isn't respected in her current position.
Meanwhile, same company, I've made it clear that I have boundaries. I may allow some time after my usual working hours; if I do, I will leave early/arrive late the next day. I'm not putting in over 40 hours, and -I- get to determine when my schedule changes.
And, perversely, it's led to greater recognition, promotion, etc. The fact I act like I am in control leads people to believe I am, and should be given, control.
Europe certainly has a better model here than the US (more vacation, unemployment benefits), but there's room for improvement (eg. basic income).
Personally I left my office job in NYC about 4 months ago and have been traveling for the last 2 months (in South America). Being here and meeting other travelers (especially European), digital nomads, etc. has really made me realize how toxic American rat race work culture is. One Colombian I met who spent time living in the U.S. summed it up the best - Americans only seem to think about money.
Now I know some of you will say "but Colombia is poorer than us!" That may be the case, but it doesn't dispute the fact that our culture has become toxic - money/work obsessed, 2 weeks/year vacation, usurious amounts of student loan debt, etc.
If you need an example of a country with a bit more sense - I met a 28 year old Finnish guy here in Colombia in the middle of a multi-month vacation. His job back in Finland? Working in the deli section of a supermarket selling sausages. Completely blew my mind. If he were born in America and in the same occupation, he would probably not have the time or money for a 2 month international vacation. I've got friends the same age in professional occupations (eg. economist for the government) forgoing vacations until they pay back their 6-8% interest student loans. Europe in general has a much healthier attitude when it comes to work/life balance than America. Though on the bright side, at least we have it better than Asia (minus the student loan and healthcare part).
Makes you wonder why are there more Europeans moving to the US than the other way around.
I'm doing a bit of consulting with a startup at the moment, and one of our team members recently disappeared off on vacation. Good for him, I thought. Two days later, he popped back up on the company slack, working away from his tropical beach.
To be clear, this is not a case of digital nomadding. This is 10 days of vacation time that they somehow guilted him into throwing away after he had actually flown halfway around the world.
20 years ago, there was an expectation that when you left the office, you were unreachable except in an emergency. I don't see any hint of that expectation anymore. It's a combination of employers with serious boundary issues, and empoloyees fearing the ramifications of pushing back.
You really need to stand up for yourself these days. But at least I've found that if you do so, it generally works.
I am an H1B from India working for the American subsidiary of an India company. For a short period of time, I was put on a project that was created by some other team and finally abandoned by the customer. Then, 1-2 years later, new customer management decided to bring the project back to life. Only thing was the new management didn't know it was still in prototype stage. They tried to go to market with it, only to find issues.
Unfortunately for me, when this customer approached my company, I was free and I got assigned to this project. I did what they asked to. It was only for a month of so. Then, I heard nothing from this customer for a couple of months. Then they showed up again asking me to make some changes, that lasted for 1-2 weeks. It repeated once or twice again. Then I never heard from them.
2 years passed by after I worked on this project for the first time. I must have worked on and off for 2 months total in this so far. I went to India on a 40 day vacation for my brother's and my marriage. I get an email from the manager who handles this customer that this customer has come back again and they want me to work. I tried to work from India as much as I could. But this manager insisted on me cancelling my vacation. Finally, he escalated to my actual manager's boss's boss, saying that I have to cancel my honeymoon. I was scared of loosing my visa, so I ended my cancelling my honeymoon. Since my brother and I got married within the same month, we had our honeymoon's planned together. So he also had to cancel.
The day I got the email from the manager asking me to cancel my honeymoon, I stayed in room for the whole day. I was incredibly stressed and miserable.
I was never the same person after this. I lost all my interest in work and my company. I will resign within 1 or 2 months and leave US altogether. There is a good chance I will regret it later, but it has become too much for me to handle.
My reasoning is that in a couple of months max I'll have another job. A better paid job, with a sensible schedule (not this ridiculous 2 hour lunch stop), with a sensible dress code and standard ways to do things. While the people that made me feel bad today will be, no doubt, in exactly the same trouble that they're today because they don't know any better and they don't listen.
Don't leave the US for that bad experience. Do leave if you feel that you'll be better off in your country for other reasons, but not because of an awful person. Do you want to feel all your life that a single idiot ruined your life plans?
How much time do you need to stay in that company to keep your visa? From your story it seems that you've been there for four years. If it isn't much more than a year more, resist. Pretend indifference or, even better, feel it. Make plans for what you'll do when you can change jobs. Get support from your wife and family. And trust yourself.
You can. Get rid of your phone. Most of us don't have a job that actually requires a phone, and it's really as matter of your work willing to take advantage of the fact that most of you won't push back when pressed. You can take advantage of the fact that they won't pay for you to carry a phone.
I finally got rid of my phone about a month ago. Started off deleting all the apps, stopped carrying it. Finally, took a roofing hammer and smashed it to bits. I may purchase a pay-as-you-go "brick" and leave it in the trunk of my car for emergencies, but otherwise I will never have an internet connected device that I carry on me at all times. It's needless for most of us.
You can talk about how convenient it is to have things like Maps at all times, and to be sure that is convenient. Just requires a little forethought and planning. Don't give into the FOMO, smash your phone.
The beautiful thing about that is it makes it difficult, but not impossible, to reach me. No one on my project has my number. They know who does. That person knows to respect my time. They also know I don't always pick up.
So there's multiple levels of filtering that means that if it arrives, it arrives as a voicemail, and is something so important it requires attention ASAP, -and- is something that can't be addressed by someone else (since if it is, it'll be faster to find someone who can figure it out than to reach me). So it's a very small class of problems that actually get through, and they're usually the ones I -do- care about.
I was probably checking it more for the first month to be honest, but after breaking my own and others expectations of a swift reply I find it much easier to respond at my leisure.
Edit: communication at work is expected over internal IM and email, and my previous solution was to not give out my number. I feel this works better.
After all, if I'm 3 hours late responding and it was dire I would have been contacted via other means.
Perhaps a middle ground is having a dedicated work phone, and then turning that off when you are not on the clock and not rostered to be on call.
I was amazed that I wasn't bothered once. The no release thing leading up to the vacation was a huge saver I think. Thats not to say I haven't been fucked by this company. I worked all day December 30th (Saturday I think) and a half day on NYE this year. But in general things I've put in like only doing releases on Tuesday to keep them far away from the weekend and only doing system patches once per month outside of super critical things (Meltdown and Spectre) have saved me. Again though I still get fucked on occasion.
But I mostly fuck myself into working either because I feel pressured by the sheer weight of ever building tasks and bugs or because there is something fun I want to try in our application, generally performance optimizations make me happy and give me a sense of accomplishment. I can be found doing those some early Saturday mornings before getting on with my day.
From what I've seen, in a sample size of three commercial workplaces with software projects, I think it varies from person to person and company to company.
At my current enterprisey gig, my perception is that some of my colleagues are very poor at setting boundaries with work, especially in terms of signing out of the team's slack after hours. This isn't forced by the environment, it's people choosing to remain plugged in. Some of my other colleagues are much better at setting boundaries. I managed to last about 1.5 years in my role before checking my work email or work slack outside of business hours.
In previous gigs at a small company I've seen far worse culture in terms of crunch time to hit project milestones or close deals, but also fairly positive leadership at times from the CEO telling people to go home.
You want to work for a company where people signing in to company slack/Skype when they are meant to be on leave are kindly but firmly hounded by colleagues and management to disconnect and go actually have their holiday.
Maybe I am sort of fresh in the workforce (3 yrs) but I just don't allow this - if I am not in the office I don't work. I don't have slack on my phone or whatever and I have strict boundaries working 9-5. Does it become worse when I have more exp?
But most of this is self-inflicted via tacitly accepting and reinforcing cultural norms that don't actually need to be followed. I've yet to work at a place that attempted to abuse my boundaries once I made it clear I respected them. I.e., "Didn't you see that email I sent last night?" "I did when I got in today", they now know I don't check email after hours. No one wants to 'officially' say "You should have no work life balance; we expect you to be on call 24/7", so just making it clear that you won't voluntarily do it, and will presume that you are always truly off the clock when not at work, means they tacitly accept it.
I keep weird hours due to working remotely and across time zones, and I do encourage people to contact me by phone for anything time-sensitive when I'm offline. But that almost never happens, people are usually OK with waiting until I get back online to answer their queries.
Some form of this is more the rule than the exception on my team, because the people who don't work remotely still have lives (pick up the kids, avoid the rush-hour traffic, whatever) -- and also have to be flexible about their hours due to the multiple time zones.
This includes people with 1 to 25+ years experience FWIW. So I wouldn't worry about it, if you want to have a strict 9-5 boundary you can find good places to work (just not on anything mission-critical). If you prefer to work 40 hours a week on some other reasonable schedule, you can also find good places to work.
I once had a colleague who worked a very strict 9-5 and could have been called in an emergency but we all understood it would have to be a REAL emergency before we bothered that guy. He did a great job and everyone respected him, despite his being probably the only guy in the building keeping such a rigid schedule.
It's painful to watch. Glad to hear you're not falling for it.
This is commonplace in Europe. Vacation is vacation, and largely this is respected.
For full time roles, they DO have 23 to 25 days vacation minimum, unlike that evil PTO of 15 days (or worse, unlimited vacation) where you have to cancel your honeymoon if you get the flu that year.
Getting on calls at 8pm (due to time zone different), emails on the weekend, work travel on bank holidays, etc.
A thousand times this. Very few of the lessons my parents taught me apply in the corporate world. Be honest and straight with people, assume good intent, take responsibility, etc.
All that behavior will do is paint you as naive. Sure there's room for honesty and responsibility, but only when used appropriately (strategically). Strikes me as acutely inhumane every time my career is rewarded for suppressing those behaviors.
I am not even allowed to tell a candidate (another human being that probably NEEDS a paycheck) why I didn't hire them and what they can do to improve their viability.
Just because the company has discarded this person it also means I must discard them as well? It kills me every time, but I NEED my paycheck more than I prefer to help my fellow human.
Companies didn't create these policies arbitrarily and unprovoked. They became necessary because of some people who took advantage of the legal system to get settlements. It's in the company's best interest to protect itself from frivolous lawsuits, so it's better to be safe than sorry.
Which isn't to say that there aren't people who actually are discriminated against, but in this example it's not a company "discarding" someone as much as it is covering its bases.
He didn't win, but we still had lawyer costs and what not. It is not an overblown fear at all.
I think the real problem is that people today are on an economic treadmill. That need to survive economically is what make people willing to put up with all the other things.
Something like 27% of the country could retire by 45 if they were willing to make the sacrifices necessary.
Given that we are on a status treadmill with legally created artificial scarcity -- well, I still don't think it should be that hard, but apparently it is.
It would take some hard evidence for me, the unemployed or in the less powerful position, to really make a go of proving I wasn't hired because of some discrimination.
The fear of blackballing on the employee side for many things and the fear of lawsuits (which, when you sign on at employer, typically includes some language about arbitration these days) on the employer side are overblown, I agree, and makes everyone cut throat.
I want to make enough to pay for rent, food, and have some time off to chill. Your company wants to stay and business and make money. Let's make a deal that benefits us both.
I thought that it was the other way around. You need to have always ready the reasons why a candidate has been rejected and give them on request. Otherwise, they can sue you as your reasons are not clean and transparent.
But, I guess that this depends on the country's laws.
Conversely, one company I worked for did have us provide candidates thorough feedback, though that was only for those who didn't pass from a code challenge to an interview. Perhaps the hiring managers have them feedback, I'm not sure.
PS: the code challenge we gave was carefully put together so as to both be reasonably quick to complete for a skilled developer, but be vague enough in requirements to not have a single answer that could be copy-pasted from a Google search. For anyone who didn't pass, I'd typically write two to three pages, focused entirely on objective metrics, and online resources for further learning should the candidate choose to apply again in the future. We didn't use it as a binary yes / no test, but to inform the discussion we would have in the in-person interview assuming the candidate had a sufficient level of skill.
"We found someone more qualified. Thank you for your interest."
Then you aren't doing it right. There is something exceedingly shocking about a brutal bluntness. Master this and you will forever change your perspective on job interviews, relationships, marriage, and leadership. You will know when you really nail it because people will begin to describe you as articulate or eloquent.
Honesty is highly valued, which is counter-intuitive to perceptions of the corporate work culture where kindness is the most highly valued interpersonal quality. How can you be brutally honest if honesty often hurts peoples' feelings? Be confident and frame your remarks with a dose of empathy. People don't like having their feelings trampled upon, but they generally prefer that to little white lies.
> but only when used appropriately (strategically).
Epic fail. Always be honest and direct with people. If there is some policy preventing the most direct and appropriate answer then don't respond at all. People are generally good at discerning when you are tap-dancing or spinning your wheels (cowardly bullshit).
> but I NEED my paycheck more than
Once you have allowed your ethics to be compromised the blood is in the water. This is a natural stress that other people will detect as a deception and a weakness. You are compromised and available for manipulation. You are a puppet. If a job makes me feel that insecure, like the last one, I will leave and go work somewhere else.
I'm doing that in my current company and I feel it will get me fired (which I don't mind that much). When asked why my development tasks are taking so long, I'm honestly pointing out the myriad of architecture/design and infrastructure/CI/CD fuckups I have to spend time dealing with every day (I work in a major bank). Of course, people responsible for setting up things this way are still running things, and don't want to hear about consequences of their previous decisions.
If the product is crap in production everybody will be harmed, but at least you might have a get out of jail card. When I have pulled this in the past it serves as a forcing function for decision makers to revisit their poorly conceived decisions. For some reason it is so much easier to make bad decisions and order the consequences of such across an organization than it is to simply own it.
Honesty is not bullying and if someone's idea of honesty is that, then that someone is likely a dick.
Honesty is not about unleashing ones negative emotions on other people, but geek culture tend to equate the two and then proceed from there.
Really? I've never heard that. Can you give some examples? Preferably ones that seem harmless but could go wrong. I guess providing such examples is my job but I'm too tiered, so help me out.
All actions can backfire, I remember an old friend getting reamed out by his friend he'd given a computer to, when the hard drive failed, for not providing enough free maintainence. Given!
I had a friendship nearly end when I repaired a friend's computer. Something else went wrong a week later and he just assumed it must have been something I did.
A generous uncle of mine is forever finding that temporary favors like free rent are bitterly resented when withdrawn. People ain't all nice all the time.
Benefiting someone is not the same as pleasing them; psychopaths and narcissists please others, but the rest of us like to mix in a little benefiting-but-not-necessarily-pleasing now and then. Otherwise, the world just falls apart.
The eight-man expedition was pinned down in a ferocious blizzard high on K2, waiting to make an assault on the summit, when a team member named Art Gilkey developed thrombophlebitis, a life-threatening altitude-induced blood clot. Realizing that they would have to get Gilkey down immediately to have any hope of saving him, Schoening and the others started lowering him down the mountain’s steep Abruzzi Ridge as the storm raged. At 25,000 feet, a climber named George Bell slipped and pulled four others off with him. Reflexively wrapping the rope around his shoulders and ice ax, Schoening somehow managed to single-handedly hold on to Gilkey and simultaneously arrest the slide of the five falling climbers without being pulled off the mountain himself. One of the more incredible feats in the annals of mountaineering, it was known forever after simply as The Belay.*''
Jon Krakauer wrote that in Into thin air
A person flagging down help on the side of the road. Are they going to do something while you're in a vulnerable position changing a tire?
Most any interactions where "help" is more than verbal information transfer usually lead to situations where the helping party is put into a position of vulnerability. To help someone is to literally "go out on a limb" i.e. put yourself in a precarious position.
These are all extreme examples, but I think the parent post example (not giving feedback b/c of liability issues) is cut from the same cloth.
Businesses take liability risks day in & day out. For some, the calculus concludes that (practically) selfless gestures, like giving applicants feedback, aren't worth that risk. That, imo, is a shame.
There have been at least 2-3 different murderers who have used that technique in my local area within the last 5 years alone.It's just so wrong that I can't even wrap my head around it.
As a consequence, I was able to provide detailed feedback every time I rejected a candidate, for example, without even thinking of the legal consequences.
It doesn't hurt me why you didn't select me.
You didn't think I would fit in culturally. Ok, no worries.
You didn't think I knew enough of what you wanted to know. Ok, no worries.
You didn't like the way I was dressed. Ok, no worries.
You weren't really hiring but were just testing the waters. Ok, probably won't apply again but no worries.
I’ve been sued and served with human rights complaints for firing a sleeping employee (I wasn’t checking on the sleep/wake status of employees not in protected classes) and for allegedly terminating an employee because of their protected substance abuse issues.
It’s an incredibly time consuming, expensive and stressful process.
Medical conditions give you certain protections for good reason -- otherwise employers would just fire employees with cancer to keep insurance rates down.
99/100 these things are good, but it takes a couple of jerks to make life miserable for all.
Because the US has very severe issues related to racism, sexism, ageism and many other types of discrimination. So the laws are much tighter, which results in extreme caution and risk aversion on the part of employers.
>you fall and slip in a supermarket? Lawsuit!
You fall and slip in a supermarket, due to a careless employee and now you owe hundred of thousands in medical bills. Some executive somewhere realized it was easier to extract that cash from a corporation than putting some person deep in debt.
Secondly, I believe America's relationship with race/sex/age discrimination goes a lot deeper than most countries, despite the fact we are younger.
When I needed back surgery a few years later, I attracted the attention of my insurer’s subrogation team, who tried on several occasions to get me to state that I was in a car accident during the burrito incident.
You get hurt in a big way, your insurer will make you sue.
It feels so pleasant, yet strange, after having taken it for granted that I'll just get a templated rejection letter based on interview experiences in the US.
This means no going out for drinks to make a deal, no business lunch to brainstorm, no meeting on the golf course to pitch your plan. Not even a discussion of confidential matters in the private office of one or the other.
Liability as in the more that you have said, the more likely it is that a lawsuit will be filed based on a misunderstanding of what you did say.
It doesn't matter how unlikely the lawsuit is to win on the merits. Fighting in court and discovery both bring costs and distractions that institutions would prefer to avoid.
I did not know this existed.
Thanks, learn something new everyday.
Bafflingly to think about...
I really like interview questions that have binary results. If you can do X, you can do this job. That way if a candidate fails, they pretty much know why they failed. They couldn't do X. It's not always possible to phrase questions like that, but when I can, I do.
"All that behavior will do is paint you as naive. Sure there's room for honesty and responsibility, but only when used appropriately (strategically). Strikes me as acutely inhumane every time my career is rewarded for suppressing those behaviors."
The corporate world is only a reflection of the society that makes it up. There are plenty of people who are dishonest and manipulative. There is no real way to "fix" the corporate world.
Ergo there are only two ways to fix it, both of them only involving yourself:
I see a number of comments here opining that the current workforce health crisis is driven by a "money is happiness" society.
You know what money buys you in this case? Freedom. The freedom to act how you wish and not care about this game.
Once you are free from that, it is a matter of perspective:
"The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it. This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship.
That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing."
- "This is Water", David Foster Wallace
I think they should have given you a personality test before giving you HR responsibilities. I'm not trying to disparage you, but you seem not particularly suited to that job.
The myth of equal contactual relationship between employer/employee is painful to see turned into a helpful platitude of the genre "if you don't like it, find somewhere else."
The older I get, the more apparent it becomes that most of my peers and friends have lived extremely "privileged" lives solely based on the freedom of choice that they've had over certain aspects of life. In most cases the source of the privilege is a combination of well educated guardians and money.
I find when talking to these people, they can never seem to fathom why someone can't just simply "get out" of a situation like this, or don't seem to understand what it could possibly be about their upbringing that lets them see the world this way or gives them a certain advantage. A lot of them seem to just see this privilege as a scalar value that just corresponds to a net worth, rather than seeing it as this incredibly powerful resource that can seed safety, well-being, knowledge, personal skills, mental stability, ... the list goes on.
However, if you stay in a job that is killing you in any kind of fashion, health, mental, emotional or spiritual, then you are staying for the wrong reasons.
There is always some kind of work available, even if you have to move to get it that will be better for you than what you may be in now. If you are in a horrible high tech job paying great money but it is killing you, then you may be better off riding the back of a garbage truck or cleaning the local municipal toilets.
Too many people fall into the trap that they have to stay in a soul-killing job because they have to pay the mortgage, the school bills, etc, etc,etc.
You don't have to do this and if more people actually bit the bullet and left, the reputation of those businesses would filter out into the broader community. As long as more people don't stand up and challenge the wrongness of these systems then they will continue to perpetrate.
The older I get, I have more and more peers and friends who are from all walks of life and at every socio-economic level. All face problems of some sort or another. It is a matter of what and how you do things. There are many situations that are extremely difficult to "get out" of. But you can, if you are willing to look beyond where you are and seek help. It is just that people don't seem able to do this.
When I first read the words "Fear is the mind-killer" in the Frank Herbert novel Dune, it struck me as having significance in everyday life. People fear many things. This fear stops them from moving forward. There is a solution to this fear, but for many people that solution is more troublesome for them than the fears they face, because it means giving up a lot of things (individual to each person) that they hold dear to themselves.
Seeking and knowing Jesus Christ is that way, but on His terms not ours. He never promised easy times or prosperity in the here and now. He did promised freedom and peace of mind in the troubles of the day. But of course, for those who rely on their own capabilities and knowledge such words are of little meaning and no effect.
They don't all have it uniformly bad in all areas in exactly the same way, and there is no shame looking for something that better matches your ethics, personality, productive style of working, etc. Don't stay at a place you know is wrong longer than you need to for being called "naive".
> "if you don't like it, find somewhere else."
>> don't give your best efforts to the place you're at
> "It kills me every time, but I NEED my paycheck more than I prefer to help my fellow human."
What's killing you here? "It" is your decision to comply. A more active phrasing might be "I kill me every time I choose to comply with management's requests..."
Also, it sounds like you chose to believe, if only by accident, that money is a human need. This is false...we simply have cultures around the world where asking our community for support is not considered acceptable. Again, this is a lie. If you ask enough people for help, you'll eventually find someone willing. There's more than enough of everything to go around, especially money.
But ultimately, it all comes back to money. That's the rub, isn't it? Whether it's your or someone else's, "money makes the world go round".
Could it be because it's harder for some to imagine the end of the species than the end/evolution of capitalism?