I often wonder how much time in traditional jobs are people there less to do the work, but more to fill in a “slot”. Now, I’m not saying people in jobs don’t work…but rather, how much of their working time is defined by the needs of others, of organizations rather than the task of work itself. I say this reflecting on my own past work. I was hired by a place because my background matched perfectly what they wanted me to do which they thought would take 2 years. So I left my older employer, got a fairly big raise, and looked at the task they wanted me to do….and it was nowhere near 2 years work. Not even close. It took me awhile to realize that no one there had really thought through what a software project would take. They weren’t programmers…far, far, far more hardware oriented folks. When I took the time to sit through and code what they needed (in a tiny, tiny closet filled with hardware racks, air conditioning vents to keep the hardware from frying, 1 Monitor, no phone, barely room for one chair, set in the midst of a titanic industrial environment)
4 months later….I was done. What a mistake! At first my bosses didn’t believe that I could finish a ’2 year task’ in 4 months…..this involved me ever-so-politely pointing out to them they had no idea how software projects are designed, which, after a time sunk in. When I asked ‘what now?” they said, “We’ll figure it out.” Weeks later they had not. More weeks went by. My coworkers resented me not working on their hardware projects and only dimly grasped that I knew absolutely nothing about their hardware and they had zero patience/willingness for teaching me. So I sat. And sat. And sat some more. People thought I was being clever to get a check and do nothing. I hated it. Every attempt I made to try and break out of my rabbit cage was discouraged with flamethrowers. ‘No. Sit. We’ll get back to you’ When I made a huge list of the software projects that could have been done…just by me…my boss looked at me like I wanted to re-enact the Manhattan Project on his budget. No. Sit.
Eventually, I quit. Today, I probably would have cashed the checks and laughed at the Fools Employing Me, but back then I just hadn’t reached Schadenmaturity. I could sure use the cash now.
Think this an isolated case? That capitalism would weed out such companies? I have dozens, literally dozens of such stories from folks, from failed companies and still prospering ones. Get a few drinks in me and I have stories about a yacht club(!) that was conned into a computer that the NSA could use to crack codes…and the Potemkin staff they hired for a set of bizarre set of reasons, none of which were around the machine they bought.
I apologize for the long screed. How does this connect to EOW? That’s easy. More, and more and more of work can’t afford this kind of nonsense, within companies and without. No one wants to really say what they feel: Companies frequently make people unproductive. As the responsibility gets push on us, we’ll develop more of a sense that the reward will move downward as well. It may not, but that’s what we feel should be the case, and the more we feel that way the more we will be trying to make it happen. Companies have, for a long time, berated “inefficient” employees; this will turn on the companies themselves when people really embrace their awareness of how effective they are compared to the organizations they are with. You know better what makes you work at your best more than your boss does.