Monday, October 17, 2022

Work doesn't love you back

 Is it any wonder the message at large is that young people are lazy and don't want to work?


I don't make any secret of my age - I turned 59 this year. What that means in the context of this post is I was raised and came of age during a time when the workplace was sold as a second family and loyalty to work was something expected, as an unwritten, uncompensated requirement of employment. 

Despite the erosion of worker protections (this was the era of the slow disappearance of pensions as a new benefit and the abrupt loss of pensions to already retired workers), the message was still couched in the language of mutual obligation. "Take care of the company and the company will take care of you."

Things were starting to change in small ways and in certain occupations by the time I was in my late 20s. I distinctly remember a conversation with my sister - 7 years my senior and working as an accountant in one of the big firms - where she was appalled that I would leave a job after a mere year or two. Her exact words: "no one is going to hire you with that resume."

Well, there were distinct differences in the world of health care and as a newly minted physical therapist in the late 1980, I was in high demand, practically at any hospital in the nation. Still, the notion of your colleagues as a second family was definitely encouraged and as a young single person, I did spend a lot of time after work socializing with my work mates. And many friendships were forged along the way. 

However, there is an insidious undertone to this work-as-family theme: it places management in a kind of loco parentis, or at least as the authority figure with all of the subtle and not so subtle power imbalances that exist in family constellations. 

In truth, management does not consider the worker (except in exceedingly rare cases) as family. The worker - and this can be at any level, in any profession (ask me how I know...) - is simply a number on a spreadsheet and is completely exchangeable and expendable. 

These are the lessons I have been slowly learning from my children's generation. They have a much more realistic view of work and its place in a life. They see through the con, which definitely doesn't serve management/ownership. Is it any wonder the message at large is that young people are lazy and don't want to work? My 20-something children work and work hard, as do their friends. They are just better equipped to understand that work is purely transactional: their labor in exchange for fair recompense. 

Theoretically, you could work as a highly technical and highly skilled professional for many decades at the same employer, have a national reputation in your field, be lauded by your colleagues and professional organizations, have commendations from your employer regarding your exemplary contributions to the institution and none of it matters when it becomes convenient or expedient for the employer to sever your employment. 

Work. Does. Not. Love. You. Back.

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  1. Especially if you're in a service field, like teaching.

  2. Agreed. Exactly. So many people in my generation are doing one of two things... Option one, opting to strike out into riskier fields that they love rather than build a career that relies on a secure job, because nothing is secure. (It's a conscious choice-- if we're going to going to be insecure regardless, we might as well be happy while doing it.) Or path two, those who don't choose their work for love of the job are very firm that work is a means to the life they want to live... work is not their life. Both options make more sense to me then pledging my loyalty to a place where I am valued an item on a budget spreadsheet first and a human second.