Archives

Careers and Cheap Furniture - Some Assembly Required

I read a lot of great material from numerous technical blogs every single week. Sometimes I am stirred enough to comment on them, but only rarely am I inspired to blog about something I read on another blog. Steve Jones’ recent editorial is one of those. To summarize:

I think it’s important for management to provide a good example for workers in a company. They need to show that not only are workers not easily replaceable “resources”, but that they are also appreciated and respected.

Snip

Building a team, building teamwork, and creating the synergies from people working together is hard. It takes an investment, and it doesn’t come from company meetings that preach some vision statement. It comes from truly interacting with your employees, showing them respect, and helping them march with you towards a common goal.

How the workplace should work.

Let me first say that Steve Jones is right, and I respect him a great deal. Respect, loyalty, and teamwork should be very important in today’s workplace and it behooves employers to remember that. It would be nice to be able to work for one company for decades and retire happily. However, even if employers should behave this way, many do not.

What does this have to do with cheap furniture?

Code for food.

Don't be this guy.

Bad economic times tend to strip the veneer from these relationships and the ugly reality of particle board shows through. When economic times get tough, your employment options tend to decrease. If the employee has less options and opportunity, the employer simply doesn’t need to treat them as well in terms of pay and other benefits. Employers often act accordingly. This isn’t evil, it’s just human nature. While in a perfect and just world employers would respect employees, pay them fairly, and treat them with dignity; we unfortunately must live in the real world.

A couple of “M2M friends” of mine learned this the hard way recently. One is being laid off from his current employer for 5 days at a time. Why only 5 days at a time? Well, if you are laid off more than 5, unemployment benefits are due. The other admin had to take a pay cut or lose his job as well. Not every employee at his company had to endure a pay cut however.

These experiences are likely to become more typical in the era of The Disposable Worker.

YOU KNOW AMERICAN WORKERS ARE IN BAD SHAPE WHEN A LOW-PAYING, NO-BENEFITS JOB IS CONSIDERED A SWEET DEAL. THEIR SITUATION ISN’T LIKELY TO IMPROVE SOON; SOME ECONOMISTS PREDICT IT WILL BE YEARS, NOT MONTHS, BEFORE EMPLOYEES REGAIN ANY SEMBLANCE OF BARGAINING POWER. THAT’S BECAUSE THIS RECESSION’S UNUSUAL FEROCITY HAS ACCELERATED TRENDS—INCLUDING OFFSHORING, AUTOMATION, THE DECLINE OF LABOR UNIONS’ INFLUENCE, NEW MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES, AND REGULATORY CHANGES—THAT ALREADY HAD BEEN ERODING WORKERS’ ECONOMIC STANDING.

DIMINISHING JOB SECURITY IS ALSO WIDENING THE GAP BETWEEN THE HIGHEST- AND LOWEST-PAID WORKERS. AT THE TOP, PEOPLE WITH SOUGHT-AFTER SKILLS CAN EARN MORE BY JUMPING FROM ASSIGNMENT TO ASSIGNMENT THAN THEY CAN BY STICKING WITH ONE COMPANY. BUT FOR THE LEAST EDUCATED, WHO HAVE NO SPECIAL SKILLS TO SELL, THE NEW DEAL FOR LABOR OFFERS NOTHING BUT DOWNSIDE.

What can I do about it? I don’t want to be cheap furniture.

People in general, and employers in particular, will only treat you as well as they have to. Therefore, the only way to protect yourself from mistreatment is to increase your value as an employee. Increased value, and for that matter visibility, will counter balance the loss of options due to a terrible economy. Do you really think that Paul Randal, Mike Hotek, Brent Ozar, or for that matter Steve Jones worry about their jobs? No, they have opportunities galore. When approaching someone of this caliber, you don’t interview them as much as they interview you. There will always be a job for any of these guys as long as they stay sharp, which is why they are above “mistreatment.”

So, what should you do about it? Run twice as fast. Learn, blog, network, anything to increase your value and visibility. Expanding your skill set and networking are truly the only security any of us have in a recessive economy.

2 comments to Careers and Cheap Furniture – Some Assembly Required

  • Great points made. Nowadays the more the agile and knowledgeable a worker is, the more valuable they are (kind of a DUH statement, I know). In this economy people are being asked to do so much more than ever before and with the advent of social networking education is out there in droves so there shouldn’t be an excuse to not be able to learn what you want. It basically comes down to the worker and if they’re motivated enough to go that extra mile to better themselves rather than be stagnant and just fill the status quo (sp?).

  • Just before I came to work for Quest, I was turned down for a job. During the interview, the interviewing DBA asked me how I’d build a SQL Server monitoring system. I said I wouldn’t – I’d write a check to a vendor. No sense in reinventing the wheel when my time costs money too, and vendors have built great monitoring tools. That escalated into a philosophical discussion, and the DBA said he wouldn’t hire anyone who wouldn’t build his own tools. (facepalm)

    You’re totally right about visibility, though. Building your visibility is about the only surefire way these days to insure your income.

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>