Vermin to be slaughtered

Screenshot of story

As I slowly recover from the mysterious viral fever, an interesting juxtaposition of advertising and news story (pictured) caught my eye today.

Staff are leaving Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s office in “droves” — that’s one of those newspaper-only words, like “wed” as a verb instead of “married”, isn’t it! But are they really “vermin to be slaughtered”?

Over the last couple of years I’ve become increasingly concerned about the unhealthiness of modern Australian work practices. There’s so much focus on short-term “productivity” and false urgency, on quantity over quality, and so little respect for people as actual humans. Now the world financial crisis looms — yes, chickens, it really is as bad as the Great Depression. The danger is that employers will turn up the pressure to be “productive”, meaning “working harder”, instead of working smarter.

How business managers respond to the challenge will reveal much of their character as human beings.

7 Replies to “Vermin to be slaughtered”

  1. Yes, how we work is increasingly becoming an interest of mine. I find observing behaviour at my workplace a fascinating thing.

    However, the Fairfax story about staff turnover is lazy. They quote numbers and then make assertions without bothering to even try and support them. Typical of the “Nouveau Fairfax”…

    P.S Your unsubtle tagging did not go un-noticed 😛

  2. @Snarky Platypus: Oh the “unsubtle tagging” was because I was originally going to mention your Twitter comments about trying for a 4-day working week and 37signals’ success with same — as well as my own failed attempt to have one. I decided to drop that angle and just get the post online, but forgot to remove the tag. You’re not that special.

  3. No, I’m not special, but there have been other instances of interesting tagging in the past…

    The 4 day working week thing will require a bit more thought, but I think it will be something I want to work towards. We’ll see — a lot of things floating around in my head at the moment about which direction in life I want to take.

  4. I got a lecture on work ethics (brought on by ringing up at 5.30a.m. to say I was sick/contagious and would rather not come to work at 6.30a.m) from one of the managers where I work. After ranting about my inconsiderateness and telling me I should have rung at 3.30a.m. because I know she’s awake then (I doubt anyone replacing me would be though), this manager said something to the tune of, “I don’t know what your work ethic is Sasha, but I’ll tell you what mine is. Mine is work, work, work and that’s it.”

    That pretty much sums up all the issues I’ve had with Australian managers in the nearly three years I’ve been working here — they want you to turn up on time, shut up, put your head down, and work, work, work. Don’t question anything, don’t attempt to change the status quo, don’t bother using your brain.

  5. @Tempyra: In my now-somewhat-notorious post Jason Calacanis and the Evil Cult of the Internet Start-up, I wrote:

    Using the term “work ethic” to describe driving (or seducing) people into appallingly long work hours to the neglect of family and community and even self is disgusting.

    That manager, who ranted at you when you were sick, who complained that you were being inconsiderate to them and then used the word “ethic” to defend their actions is nothing more than a selfish hypocrite. They are a filth-stain upon the planet’s surface.

  6. @Stilgherrian

    I’m not even sure if this particular ‘manager’ was ever introspective enough to recognise hypocrisy or selfishness; I think she was just being reactionary – driven by fear and paranoia. So many people are at work aren’t they?

    I have a very mercenary approach to working nowadays – I rent my time and the necessary amount of effort to complete the job to my satisfaction in exchange for my pay. That’s it. When I’m at work I treat people in accordance with the standards that I set for the rest of my life.

    Thanks for the link to your other post, I found it really quite interesting. Have you seen Jason Calacanis’ “120% Solution” post yet?

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