Tag Archives: work

Work the Bottom Before You Work the Top

1 Oct

My father was an engineer who spent his life working for Bethlehem Mines, the mining subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel. He was a chemical engineer who was in charge of process design for coal cleaning plants, the plants that separated impurities from raw coal so that the clean coal could be used to make coke for heating blast furnaces.

In a word, he was a “suit.” Though he generally wore dress slacks and a sport coat to work rather than a suite. And he often wore a bow tie rather than a long one. A real bow tie, one of those where you had to tie the knot yourself.

Still, his job required that he go down into coal mines on a regular basis. I’m not sure just why this was, that is, I don’t know why he had to see where and how the coal was mined in order to clean it. But he did.

And that means he knew, first hand, that working in a coal mine was nasty, dirty work, and dangerous. On many occasions he told me that a man shouldn’t be given managerial responsibility for coal mines unless that man had had experience working in a coal mine.

That seems like a good principle to me. It’s not so much that working on the coalface down in a mine gives you knowledge you need in order to turn a profit but that working the coalface was necessary to secure empathy for the men who put their lives at risking working that kind of job year after year, and decade after decade.

Managers should be stewards, not simply of profits, but of the workers under their control.

An exercise to the reader: generalize the principle beyond coal mining.


The Wrong Lesson From Detroit’s Bankruptcy – NYTimes.com

12 Aug

When I was growing up in Gary, Ind., nearly a quarter of American workers were employed in the manufacturing sector. There were plenty of jobs at the time that paid well enough for a single breadwinner, working one job, to fulfill the American dream for his family of four. He could earn a living on the sweat of his brow, afford to send his children to college and even see them rise to the professional class.

This is important, very important. It SHOULD NOT take 80 hours of work per week (a full-time job for each parent) to support a family. Families need more nurturing, and, frankly, most jobs destroy the soul.

via The Wrong Lesson From Detroit’s Bankruptcy – NYTimes.com.

For 20-Somethings, Ambition at a Cost – NYTimes.com

4 Mar

Smells like indentured servitude:

The recession has been no friend to entry-level positions, where hundreds of applicants vie for unpaid internships at which they are expected to be on call with iPhone in hand, tweeting for and representing their company at all hours.

“We need to hire a 22-22-22,” one new-media manager was overheard saying recently, meaning a 22-year-old willing to work 22-hour days for $22,000 a year.

via For 20-Somethings, Ambition at a Cost – NYTimes.com.

No-Vacation Nation: Why Don’t Americans Know How to Take a Break? – Derek Thompson – The Atlantic

6 Aug

The science of productivity is pretty clear that anything from a coffee break to a two-week vacation can make us better workers by replenishing our energy and attention and allowing our brains to make new connections that are obscured in the daily grind. Even at companies that offer vacation time (the vast majority of them), Americans often don’t take advantage. We like working, or at least we’re so afraid of not working that we deny ourselves breaks that might, paradoxically, make us more productive in the long term. Are we crazy?

Yes, we’re crazy. And it’s killing us and making us kill the world. We have to learn to chill the eff out.

via No-Vacation Nation: Why Don’t Americans Know How to Take a Break? – Derek Thompson – The Atlantic.

Are We Addicted to Gadgets or Indentured to Work? – Alexis Madrigal – The Atlantic

24 Jul

Just why are we so addicted to work? Is that addiction another aspect of the psycho-cultural dynamic that allows us to deny climate change and that keeps us from throwing the Republicrats out?

The upper middle class (i.e. the NYT reader) is WORKING MORE HOURS and having to stay more connected TO WORK than ever before. This is a problem with the way we approach labor, not our devices. Our devices enabled employers to make their employees work 24/7, but it is our strange American political and cultural systems that have allowed them to do so.

And worse, when Richtel blames the gadgets themselves, he channels the anxiety and anger that people feel about 24/7 work into a different and defanged fear over their gadgets. The only possible answer becomes, “Put your gadget down,” not “Organize politically and in civil society to change our collective relationship to work.”

Imagine if 19th-century factory workers blamed the clock for the length of their work days. The answer to the horrible working conditions of the late 19th century was not to smash the clocks or the steam engines! The solution was to organize and fight for your right to a 40-hour week and paid vacations.

via Are We Addicted to Gadgets or Indentured to Work? – Alexis Madrigal – The Atlantic.

To Achieve Work-Family Balance, Americans Have to Work Less | The Nation

10 Jul

It seems the summer heat is making us think about how to escape work. Tim Kreider’s New York Timesop-ed on our overly busy lives made a huge splash, while Mitt Romney himself came out sort of for vacations for all. Meanwhile, the controversy continues to swirl over Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article about why women “can’t have it all,” meaning that they still struggle to balance family and career. What do these topics have to do with each other? Everything. If we truly want improved work-family balance for American families—mothers and fathers alike—then we have to address the fact that Americans are overworked. We have to work less. Period.

We work too long, for too little, and don’t have time for nurturing one another.

via To Achieve Work-Family Balance, Americans Have to Work Less | The Nation.

Work Less, Live Better

9 Jul

The single most important thing we can do to reduce our ecological footprint is

Work less
Consume less
Produce less
And live more

Ninety percent of all the junk that we make ends up in land fills just six weeks after it’s been made. We’ve become a world of landfill fillers.

–Conrad Schmidt, Work Less Party