Sunday, August 23, 2015

August 23 2015 Productive—but not productive enough.




I have always regarded morale as being particularly important if you want to get the best out of people. Napoleon, who had some experience in this matter—and a pretty good track record, until he met his Waterloo—commented:

The moral is to the physical as three to one.

He probably did not say it in English.

Yet, strangely enough, the American Business Model—subject to notable exceptions—doesn’t seem to consider job satisfaction as being that important. And vacations are regarded as downright irresponsible—or even worse: French… 

Generalizing to excess to make a point, its members regard any and all improvements to working conditions as akin to communism, regard trade unions as being on a par with ISIS, squeeze pay as one would a lemon, and regard job security as a truly hilarious concept. 

Good grief, the law that allows employers to fire workers arbitrarily—and normally without notice or compensation—is called THE RIGHT TO WORK ACT, and is all the rage in the Southern states. Who ever said businessmen don’t have a sense of humor!

Could both Napoleon and I be wrong! Judas Priest! What a thought.

Clearly people will work—even if their job satisfaction is virtually non-existent (slavery has proved that point fairly conclusively—as has military conscription) but I would have thought that people would work better if they were more content with working conditions.

Working better should result in being more productive—and productivity is how the game is scored. Right now, it is not increasing the way it used to in the U.S. It sucks.

Here, I don’t mean just pay—important though that is—but a whole host of other matters including how you are treated (which is one of the most important things).

High pay and a bad boss do not happiness make (not a Napoleonic quote).

If I sound tentative in writing about all this, it is because I don’t have definitive proof that well-treated workers work better. It has been my experience, and it is my opinion—but I don’t have the data at hand to back it up (more is the pity).

Nonetheless, it is my theory that the discord between capital and labor, that is such a feature of the U.S., is a major reason for America’s economic decline.

I regard it as a huge, enormous, critical, nightmare of a problem—that, as normal, is receiving no attention.

It’s a cultural thing with very deep roots—and racism is certainly a factor. But whereas Europe, and much of the rest of the world, have largely come to terms with the idea that treating workers reasonably well is little more than commonsense, and an all round good thing, U.S. management seems to prefer an authoritarian approach with fear being the primary motivator.

Social concern seems to be missing from the U.S. management gene pool to a truly remarkable extent—and the ultra-rich have more than enough clout to see that legislation gives American management the right to treat workers in the most peremptory fashion.

They proved that by gutting American manufacturing and exporting the jobs by the millions over the last quarter century, and they continue to prove it by blocking constructive reform, and a policy of paying as many workers as possible as badly as possible.

Nonetheless, I had thought that high tech workers were an exception, and largely treated quite well (if one ignores major efforts by major corporations like Microsoft to import less expensive foreign workers—and a few other similar dubious and illegal practices like conspiring not to poach each other’s talent).

Then I ran across the following.

Read and go figure!

The story is from TIME.

Good pay and perks aren’t turning that frown upside-down

Sure, tech workers are paid well—with some enjoying six-figure starting salaries—and they’re on the receiving end of plush perks.

But according to a new survey, they’re incredibly unhappy.

Start-up Tiny Pulse, which monitors employee attitudes through weekly surveys, asked 5,000 workers in the tech space—software engineers, developers, and anyone else involved in the technology infrastructure of their workplace—about their job experience, and compared those answers to responses from workers outside the tech sector.

The results showed that tech workers are less happy that most.

Only 19% of tech worker respondents gave a strongly positive answer when asked how happy they are on the job.tinypulse tech worker happinessTheir answers to other similar questions were just as dour.

When asked how valued they feel at work, 17% of tech workers gave a nine or 10 on the 10-point scale (among non-tech workers, 22% did). Half of workers outside the tech space said their promotion and career path is clear to them. But for tech employees, that number is 36%. Forty-seven percent of tech workers say they have strong relationships with their coworkers, compared to 56% among workers overall.

These figures point to a disconnect between tech workers and their company, and they seem to support the hypothesis that the grueling workplace described in The New York Times‘ story about Amazon is widespread. But as Fortune reported on Tuesday, unhappiness or dissatisfaction at work doesn’t necessarily prevent workers from being productive.

The Fortune story is interesting—and it well worth a read—but the underlying issue is not whether workers are productive, but whether they are as productive and innovative as they could be.

The difference is on the margin—and is critical. The evidence here, based upon the fact that the U.S. is being outcompeted in sector after sector by countries paying better and giving their workers more rights and job security, is that the American approach is just not delivering.

Some corporations excel, but the overall decline continues.


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