The Sixty Hour Weeks of the Leisure Class
A typical excuse for widening income inequality is that the ‘job creators’ actually work oh so much harder than the ‘job takers’. That while the latter simply leave work at 4 or 5 PM, the former are just getting started and in fact routinely put in 50-70 hour workweeks. Now I hasten to add that there are certainly people who work month in and month out 60-100 hours a week. I have a very talented and successful young relative that has earned six figure salaries since his 20s doing exactly that. But he works in the heavy transportation sector (trains and trucking) and everyone from top executives to over the road truckers do tend to put in long hours.
My question is more for New York, London and Frankfurt based financial professionals, the traders that boast that they could just take our measly jobs and do them better, faster, with two hands tied behind their backs, who don’t even have time for bathroom breaks because they are focused like lasers on their terminals. You know the guys who kill what they eat and eat what they kill. To them I have to ask: who exactly is keeping those restaurants, craft cocktail bars, and racket ball courts busy? Exactly how do you fit in time to keep your golf game up? To spend that week at Vail? Or to accept your bosses invitation to spend a weekend at his place in the Hamptons? How does your BOSS find the time to actually enjoy that yacht? His ski trips to St. Moritz? Who exactly is is that is keeping business humming at Ruth’s Christ Steak House? Who is the customer base at all those golf resorts The Donald is building and marketing? Okay that is not just one question.
When Thorstein Veblen wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) there was certainly a lot of controversy about his thesis, but little I think about the existence of a Leisure Class in the Gilded Age. American Millionaires and British Aristocrats alike entertained on a lavish scale, frequented higher end resorts like Monte Carlo, perhaps maintained stables of polo ponies, played golf, sailed on yachts and all without even a hint of a pretense that they were working the same 70 hour weeks typical of miners and farmers who were producing their wealth. Indeed the whole point of being wealthy for most of this class was precisely to be able to pursue Leisure Class activities and lifestyles.
And I would argue that this is still true in the New Gilded Age. The wealthy and particularly the ultra-wealthy of our day are still enjoying that same range of leisure activities and that same level of excess consumption but in some respect seem oddly ashamed of it all. Which is why they ‘explain’ that “I worked hard for my money, I worked hours that you moochers never dreamed of, etc, etc”. Which doesn’t explain how they found time to maintain a Plus 2 handicap.
I bring this up of course in the context of JEB explaining that the key to 4% GDP growth is just people working more hours. With the unstated addition “like me and the rest of the job creators”. Well I want to call bullshit. The idea that the 1% on average just work harder than everyone else is belied by the fact that they even have yachts and weekend homes in the Hamptons and bottle clubs and third homes at Aspen and Vail.
When they say they work 60 to 100 hours per week, they don’t mean they themselves. They mean they, those people who work for them. It is all in the definition of “they”.
No Jerry I really believe that they count time spent on the golf course, in two hour lunches and in extended boozy three hour steak dinners as ‘working’ because after all they are talking business and cutting deals.
If you are a 1%er or even more a 0.01%er and spend some part of every minute you are awake (and most of those that you are asleep) thinking about some way of scoring the next nickel or billion then by your lights your are ‘working’ all the while.
After all it is not much different than the working mental world of the typical gambler, or junkie, or mafia wiseguy, every second of every day you are working your way to the next bet, or hit, or strong arm deal. Gamblers, junkies and mafia guys don’t have days off. Not if they are the real deal.
At any given second is The Donald Trumping or Humping? With or without his young model/wife du jour? And would at this point he know the difference?
Some people like to talk about the ‘Bush Crime Family’, others speculate on whether Kennedy patriarch Joseph was ‘bootlegger’ or ‘businessman’. Well at some level of success those distinctions become meaningless. After all we are comfortable calling any number of major luminaries of the Gilded Age ‘Robber Barons’.
If you are someone like Leland Stanford in 1890 and have the Governor and both Senators of two or three western States in the pockets of you and your fellow railroad owners are any of you actually criminals?
The original ‘Robber Barons’ or ‘Raubritter’ were typically minor nobility enfranchised by the Holy Roman Emperor to collect tolls on the Rhine and other rivers.
Criminals? or simple Servants of the Emperor? Well that depended on the degree of control at any given time. And whether the local, regional and national cops were in your pockets at any given time.
I only have one little quibble: It’s poloponies. Just ask Ed Norton. https://youtu.be/Vcronr9aF04
Thanks Nanute! Ed made it all so clear!
I just wonder: do you have to be a monopolist to own poloponies? And is the music at matches always polyphonic harmony played by a philharmonic? How hegemonic!
Jeb is another who thought he hit a triple after finding he was on 3rd base except he did not work for it. His dad did.
Webb – to get to the 1% you had to have made a minimum of $200k (SSA data for 2013).
I assure you that everyone on Wall Street that earns $200k+ is working a minimum of 60 hours a week.
You write about the 0.01%. According to SSA there were a total of 19,000 Americans who made it to the 0.01% club in 2013. A good number of those people play ball for a living, many others are actors. (Judge Judy makes $30m a year!)
Floyd Mayweather Jr. (boxing): $300 million
Manny Pacquiao (boxing): $160 million
LeBron James (basketball): $64.8 million
Kevin Durant (basketball): $54.1 million
Phil Mickelson (golf): $50.8 million
Tiger Woods (golf): $50.6 million
Kobe Bryant (basketball): $49.5 million
Ben Roethlisberger (football): $48.9 million
Lewis Hamilton (racing): $39 million
Ndamukong Suh (football): $38.6 million
Jon Lester (baseball): $34.1 million
Derrick Rose (basketball): $33.9 million
The SSA data:
Too low in your estimate of the 1%. Try ~$500,000 to be a part of the 1% http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/numbers/displayatab.cfm?DocID=3996&topic2ID=150&topic3ID=162&DocTypeID=1 of which there are ~ 1.4 million. Those making > $1 million number ~450,000. Those making > $2 million number 166,000 http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/numbers/displayatab.cfm?DocID=3286&topic2ID=150&topic3ID=164&DocTypeID=1 and are where the 1 tenth of 1% start.
The background to this is what Piketty calls the destruction of the Rentier class in the C20th and the rise of what he calls the ‘supermanagers’. There was an important shift in the mid-late C20th in Anglo-American countries when the richy richies began to draw more and more of their income from salaries and less from living off capital income.
What ‘really happened’, of course, is that the managers of corporations were effectively bought off by shareholders, and encouraged to run corporations in the exclusive interest of shareholders whilst treating workers like disposable fixed costs. For which they were very lavishly compensated.
These so-called supermanagers spend a lot of hours on the job. But I suspect you’re right that most of it is spent being pampered on first-class flights, entertaining at the golf course, and so on. The real ‘work’ they do is to cannibalize their companies in the interests of the shareholders.
I get the 60 hour a week Wall Street guys, but how many weeks a year? As Bruce said, someone is buying steaks at Ruth Chris.
EM – I can only speak for myself, but I believe I was not much different than most. I worked on WS for 27 years.
I took at most 2 weeks during that period. I was required to leave phone #s etc were I could be contacted. There was never a VaCa that I was not sucked into hours on a conference call about something.
I loved Saturdays. That was the only day off for me. The Asian markets start to open on Sunday afternoon. The calls from the market makers in HK, Singapore and Sydney stated at noon. My family hated this interruption. So I was six days a week. I usually got in a 8 and left at 6. Often had dinners with clients so would end up with 14 hrs doing biz. Almost every night my phone rang.
There was a time that I traveled a bunch. Long trips to Europe and Asia and LA. For about a year I had the following schedule at least once a month.
I worked in NYC from 8-6. Took the 9pm BA to Heathrow. Arrived London at 7AM, went to hotel, showered and went of to my office in town for another 10 hours. Then went to a dinner and then to a fitful sleep. The follow morning I woke at 5 and took the 8am Concorde back to NYC. The Concorde landed in NY at 7am and I went straight to my NY office for another 10 hr day.
And yes, when given the chance I partied hard.
And would you have traded your life for the many Americans who work two jobs that total more than 60 hours a week? Hey, I did the same thing for the companies I owned in terms of hours. But the parties and the rewards made up for it(not to mention retiring at 57).
I laugh at these WS guys who think they had(or have) it hard.
They should try working in a plant in Juarez, MX. Arrive at the plant at 7ish, work with the people there to resolve the same issues over and over again, grab some lunch in the plant, leave the plant at 6PM and head to the border, pay the toll to cross over the bridge, spend an hour waiting to get past US customs, go to dinner, and crash in the HI Express. Start the same routine the next day. Then fly home on Friday and fly back on Sunday.
During the past twenty or so years selling high line cars I met many very wealthy people. One percenters and their betters. The cars were frequently more than $100,000. Some as high as $500,000. So I got to know lots of those who are rich and famous. Not a one ever implied an extraordinary number of work hours was at the root of their financial success. The smaller their fortune and income the more likely were they to put in longer hours, especially if they were owners of truly small, but profitable businesses. Their inclination to put in more hours was tempered by their reluctance to pay someone else to do the work. Of course if people were paid $100,000 for a one hour speaking gig I would expect them to look for more hours of work. At $15 an hour the efficiencies of more hours begin to slide and those still working become embittered and hostile.
One more thing. The Bush family fortune was minted long before George H. W. came on the scene. The Bush family was wealthy through their positions in the investment community and their close ties to other families that were similarly “employed.” That wealth was compounded by the original H. W., from St. Louis I think, whose daughter married Prescott Bush and cemented ties between wealthy and wealthier.
Go downtown in Manhattan on any week day evening or night. What stands out is that the commercial buildings where one would expect to find those long hour, wealthy workers are dark and quiet. There’s nary a soul to be found, other than the cleaning staff.
Wiki Samuel Prescott Bush
Just to note that the Bushes were associated with the Rockefellers and Harrimans even before Sam. P.’s son Prescott married into the Walker family. Meaning that George W Bush’s GRANDFATHER was born not even on Third base but cruising into Home. Money finds money.
Can’t tell you how many opportunities I had to use my favorite line at my old club back east when guys started talking about how long they worked; what a bitch it was to travel into NYC: etc.; as they also talked about their golf game and decided which Four Star restaurant they were going to next Saturday.
“Get off the cross, we need the wood.”
My pay is good and I am upper 10%; but, it wears on you and I am close to being done. My last trip I came back from Mexico late on a Friday night due to flight delays. Saturday I was fine and just tired. Sunday I woke up with all of the little spots and blood blisters from ITP. Monday I went into the ER and diagnose myself for them so they would not waste time. Stress and too many hours brought it on. Three weeks later an a huge bill and I was out. Funny question asked of me was whether I had traveled to Africa.
Don’t play golf so I guess I would be a bore!
Plenty of six figure earners work their asses off. Not all but plenty. My ire and ridicule is mostly reserved for the eight figure earners with nine and ten digit net worths who believe that the two orders of magnitude compensation they get even over the mid-level of their management team is just due to hard work and talent.
As it they really work 100 times harder than Run. And 500 times harder than that guy on the factory floor.
(Donald Trump was famously dubbed “a short fingered vulgarian” by Spy in 1988. Not I think because he worked his fingers to the bone.)
The factory floor people work harder than I do (and did) and are exposed to more hazards than I have been; although at Parker Hannifin in DesPlaines, IL, they used to keep 55 gallon drums open to the air of a part cleaner which was basically benzene. You could clean your tie with that stuff. As a young manager I was exposed to it from time to time and they worked next to it breathing it in constantly in a machine plant without air conditioning. The stuff evaporated in the air over time. Combine that with the chrome plating we did of piston rods and it was not the most environmentally safe place to be.
It made me wonder what really screwed up my blood. Drinking benzene tainted water at Camp Lejeune in the sixties and seventies or being exposed to this at Parker. My point? Moving the age upwards for Social Security or Medicare is a death sentence for those who have worked in plants and have been exposed to hazards and the physical work which wears on your body. Let those wealthy Senators and the Koch Bros, etc. do it for a while.
Not that I am complaining, I live a good life and have much to be grateful for starting off in life from where I did.
I do not disagree about the numbers of six figure earners that work their ass off, but I will say that the % of those earners that do so is a lot less than the those in the 80-90% bracket and on down the line.
Oh yes I agree totally. Just throwing some props Run’s way and to my young relative.
Who finally woke up to the fact that he could go months on end without ever seeing his son awake. He still does very well and works hard but increasingly orients his mental life around his kids and the world outside work.
As to the difference between the 80% and the 40%. Well a lot depends on your experience of what ‘work’ is. Because all types can be tiring just in different ways.
I worked ten years at a job that had me on my feet serving customers at a Building and Zoning Permit counter for seven+ hours a day. At the end of the day I was tired and mostly just wanted to sit (preferably in a quiet establishment that served cold beverages). But among our team of eight I was the most tech-savvy and so often got detailed to various web design and office automation teams. And some of that was actually hard work and important and at the end of our meetings I would feel tired. But a different kind of tired given that I had just spent the last hour or two sitting in a comfortable chair shooting the shit while having coffee and donuts free for the taking on the table. That is my ‘work’ in those meetings was uncomfortably close to what my team members called ‘breaks’. Except they had to buy their own coffee.
And pretty much that is how most everyone above my pay level spent most of their days. Sitting at their desks working or sitting around a conference table working. Or going to meetings and conventions in other cities where they would sit around tables or in auditoriums while gorging on donuts in between.
Plus you can flip that around. After all my job was in a heated and air-conditioned building where the heaviest lift was these 20 lb map books. Most of my friends at the time were in the building trades and often enough in the hardest physical trades: sheet rocking, roofing, cement work. These guys (and a couple of women too) would have laughed if I complained about my work week. To them it hardly would have seemed work at all.
So I try not to be too judgmental about anyone in the 99%. As long as they are not actively whining about how hard their jobs is. Because it is all work. On the other hand I have nothing but contempt for those people who glory in punching down at people who actually do bust their hump every hour of every day doing the kind of work that wrecks your back and knees. Which is mostly not any office worker ever.
I used to be US civil servant in weapon system buying commands.
A lot of time was spent in meetings BSing the contractors and receiving the same only more well schooled BS from them. I would spend 13 hours a weeks on average making reasons for support contractors to charge hours blithering about how to fix the same issue as last year.
On our side even after forty years of reforms and commissions the government folks had no idea what should be done, and had less support if what made sense confused the colonels. Which everything confused the colonels.
Our side had no process, the contractors had jobs to create, and so made things up to justify charging hours.
Then around 1996 the Soviets evaporated, seems the CIA was making up threats to a large discrepancy over reality, sort of like today.
So, they cut government guys, I was Vietnam era vet so looked forward to the useless non vets going. Did not happen. What they did was keep the weak, incentives for the strong to go out and join support contracts.
Support contractors do government employees work, but do not have a management engineer rating their pay scale.
Long story short: lots of hours so the US can have 60% the military at 110% the cost of the Vietnam force structure.
But lots of folks in that system [with the other discretionary stuff waste is near10% of GDP] working long hours…….
I recall a professor of management years ago observing: if you work too many hours the root cause is ineptitude or someone is exploiting you.
I think there are two points being missed here:
one is that just being “at work” is work. often a kind of hell, the more hellish the less that there is to actually “do.” or the more meaningless it is.
many middle managers are useless and they know it. they make life hell for their “workers” just to prove that they are needed “keeping the workers working.” or just because that’s the way primates act when they can get away with it.
the other thing is the “i work harder than my employees” is NOT something that “the rich” say to themselves. they say it to YOU, and they say it to the small businessmen who DO work many hours. that way the businessmen and wannabees will think they and the rich are in it together defending their property from the worthless hordes.
i’m pretty sure most people would rather work than be idle. and in any normal economy… that is not bureaucratic… the workers know the shirkers and they don’t like them much. i don’t think the shirkers like themselves much. they may do it because they hate the boss even more.
You went and did it – got me started on Jack Welch again. He is quoted as saying somewhere (maybe to Business Week), “Anyone who can’t do their job in the morning and play golf in the afternoon is not a good executive,” or something like that. All the highest-level managers under him had to be golfers. A story which he was very proud of was when he played with Greg Norman and beat him by two strokes (shooting a 69 – on his private course).
While working in the mornings he got GE out of motor/generators, computers,and the internet; destroyed our turbine department; turned us into a financial-services company, just in time for the financial crisis; and saddled us with “Six Sigma”, “Least Effective Person” (stack-ranking) and other useless bureaucratic time-wasters. I wish he had spent more time playing golf.
Well from bitter experience I am not at all sure that “most people would rather work than be idle”. I have too many counterexamples. A lot depends on how you are able to spend your idle time.
I worked ten years in a County Building Department that would have validated most peoples worst beliefs about “lazy bureaucrats”. We had two very senior technical administrators, each with almost thirty years on the job, who invariably and very visibly showed up for work EVERY day 15 minutes before starting time. And then EVERY day simply went for coffee only to show up again mid-morning. My own manager never really seemed that busy, and in fact in a later re-org his position disappeared and nobody seemed to know the difference. On the other hand he was ALWAYS at our morning team meeting which started PRECISELY at 8AM and would tap his watch if any of US came in three minutes late.
But really nobody cared much. Because unlike most of the rest of County Government our budget was funded out of fees that we charged for permits and development applications. And as long as times were good then who cared. And in the years from 1996 to 2006 our County enjoyed a massive building and development boom. (Things went to shit after I left/was forced out, not because I was particularly essential but because the 2007-8 crash wiped out those sweet fee revenues).
And this isn’t confined to local government, or to the military (where I also put in time) or higher education (ditto), cartoons like Dilbert and TV shows like The Office don’t come out of nowhere. The rules really do tend to be different in the world of suits, white collars and pink collars than they do in the land of blue collars and company uniforms.
I am not saying there are not hard workers who believe in delivering value for money. I like to flatter myself that I am in fact an exemplar of that. But probably wouldn’t appreciate you actually polling my former co-workers on that. Cause when it comes to work ethic I suspect that most people are spiritual residents of Lake Woebegon: where everyone is above average.
Ilsm – That professor left out an important consideration. He said to you:
“I recall a professor of management years ago observing:
if you work too many hours the root cause is ineptitude
or someone is exploiting you.”
It makes a great deal of difference when you have an incentive. On Wall Street (in my time) you got paid a bonus equal to 5% of what you made for your employer. Make a mil, you get to keep an extra $50k. Make $10m and you get a half mil. Make $100m and you have “walk away” money to show for it.
A lot of time spent “working” isn’t really work. A lot of time is spent chatting with coworkers, travelling on “business trips”, wasted in meetings, etc.
The amount of solid work being done might not even amount to 75% of the time spent “at work”.
Welcome to AB. Interesting blog http://stockmarketvaluation.org/ , you have there.
probably i said it all pretty badly. most jobs people would rather be home watching TV (even). but if you have to be at work, it’s better to have something to do than to have to pretend to be working.
i say “most jobs” but then i don’t know most jobs, only those i saw.
so i’ll try to say it better: most people would rather be working, but not necessarily at work.
i would scream and kill myself if i had to play golf or stand around cocktail parties pretending to like potential bosses and potential customers.
and the money would have to be awfully good before i could put in a whole week making “money” without doing anything useful.
are you talking about the bosses or about the workers.
or both. you should be. it is a simple fact of human neurons that people cannot “work” every minute of an eight hour day.
even slave labor cannot put out a constant amount of work per hour or work per minute except at a pretty low level. something both the slaves and the overseers figure out. fact is you can take a slave and make him work until he drops… and he will. or you can take four guys and tell them you need four times as much work done by the end of the day as that slave could do working constantly all day. then leave them alone. the four guys will goof off , get the job done by two and take the rest of the afternoon off.
some bosses haven’t figured this out yet. of course this kind of boss thinks HE is working all day. he isn’t.
fact is, as a boss he hasn’t done any work at all. lots of owners of businesses and middle managers (and their bosses) haven’t got a clue how to organize and motivate work.
I had a thought about raising the retirement age.
Instead they should just cut the incentive for working longer by fixing the retirement benefit at the monthly level you would have gotten if you retired at age sixty five.
if you like your job and are making more money than you would from SS, there is no reason to quit. But neither is there any reason for the government to raise your monthly benefit so your total lifetime benefit is held actuarily constant.
SS is insurance. If you don’t need it and don’t want it at 65, fine. keep working. Chances are you are one of those who will live longer than average, so you will get your “lost” benefits back simply by living longer and collecting them on the back end. Or maybe not.
I can see all the money is everything people going crazy figuring out how much money they are “losing” by not retiring at 65, even though their working income is three or more times higher than the retirement benefit.
We reviewed BF Skinner, whose daughter was our age, and raised in the glass cage!
It matter if you’re the black dealer who gets lucky.
I have “retired” several times in the past 15 years. Benefit of a military pension, with health care covered so I could tell the boss off and be gone.
Consistent reason for trying to retire; bored, paid too much for the little challenge I was faced with, or the job was going dormant for a year due to schedule problems and they wanted me “around” with pay for when it came up in 13 months”…..
Consistent reason for coming back, that cell phone in my pocket while I was at the wood pile cutting ringing with a “six month” contract, and boredom.
Now that OCO is drying up the cell phone don’t ring!
Which is cool with me.
No more sixty hour weeks because the meetings overrun and give sense “go dooze”.
When I was young, ignorant and thought I was doing a job (we still had the CIA scares of the “soviets”) I went to the kids’ games…….
Fortunately for me I was out of the corporate world before Six Sigma entered the picture.
However, my wife is still in that world and considers Six Sigma the biggest waste of time in the history of business. And that is the nicest thing she can say about it.
When I think of 60 hour weeks, I think of my sister in law, who held four part time jobs, and probably still does. She worked at Target, at a clothing store, did home care for elderly people, and some house cleaning gigs. Between jobs she put in 1-2 hours a day travel time between these jobs. She’s in her late fifties now, and tells me she is sacking away every penny she can because none of these 60 hours pays her a dime of pension.
After my mother died, Tammy had to make an appointment with me to find an hour between her jobs where we could have a coffee, grieve and reminisce. As I recall, the first free time she could find was six days after we spoke.
Yet the right wing says people are living longer, should work longer, or perhaps even never retire. The way they treat my sister in law, it looks like she will never retire, but not because of that living-longer thing.
But Bruce the math is there.
If 80 percent of us work about 40 hours, by adding 2 to that we can produce 4.4 percent more and then our bosses will give us 4.4 percent raises, and GDP will go up by 4.4 percent. And we can do it again next year.
Fortunately for Jeb!, we won’t even get to 60 hours by the end of his second term.
it occurs to me that i have made the mistake of generalizing from my own experiences.
i had forgotten about that lab with the benzene fumes.
my point would still be that workers like to work, but they don’t like to be abused…or wasted. bosses who abuse their workers think that workers are lazy. fact is that if you structure a job so the workers are abused or wasted the workers will become “lazy.”
ilsm: i once knew more than i wanted to about b.f.skinner. it wasn’t a glass cage, but i still wondered how the kid turned out. i always think of skinner when i see harvard at the center of much of the world’s evil.
and noni: i would not want anyone to think i was in favor of raising the retirement age. i was just putting up an idea for those who think “we are living longer so it’s “obvious” the retirement age should be raised.
“obvious” usually means “i haven’t bothered to try to think about this.”
also, it was offered as a “compromise” for those in a big hurry to compromise by hurting someone else. their idea seems to be that “as the defenders of justice.. we will compromise by letting you execute 20 innocent people and you compromise by not executing 40 of them. fair?”
on the other hand, has a perfect understanding of management math.
[what in the world is six sigma?]
Arne you are right, that is just arithmetic. In fact I suggest we call it Godlman Sachs Arithmetic
Goldman Sachs limits intern hours, urging them to ‘be interesting’
Goldman Sachs and other employers are trying to make life easier for young employees by curbing excessive hours worked.
Note that you can read through this entire article without getting one second of belief that the author is writing with tongue-in-cheek and/or sees anything but benevolence from the corporate overlords here.
Because I guess this is exactly what labor fought for all those years – the 17 hour work day and the 27 day work month.
Dale, never would I accuse you of wanting to raise the retirement age. But our Canadian Prime Minister did so, sliding it to 67 to take effect on people currently under 55 (I think.)
To me, of course, this is bait-and-switch fraud and until such time as employers are lining up to hire us oldies, and until anti-aging treatments take a great leap forwards, so that our joints, brains and energy levels don’t desert us after age 60, the only case to be made for increasing retirement age is “too expensive to put them to pasture, let’s call the knacker instead.”
we didn’t raise the retirement age. We simply raise the age to receive full SS benefits.
Noni “knacker” sounds so harsh. Whereas ‘Solyent Green’ is truly a people product to enhance productivity.
And Dale you don’t want to know about Six Sigma. Basically it takes a theoretical metric for error elimination and proposes that given correct oversight by trained management you can impose that on actual production workers.
It’s magic. Just that I am not sure whether is should be characterized as ‘black magic’ or simple ‘voodoo’. Because oddly people are not machines. Unless of course you find some way to steal their souls away and reprogram them with the appropriate algorithms. And for the up and coming strivers in management you can actually get Six Sigma Certification for both your managers and your factory. For the low low price of God knows how much money paid to consultants and ‘trainers’.
JEB and PGP approved.
Back in the late 80s, the “continuous improvement” came to our workplace. And at first glimpse, I saw it was pernicious nonsense.
By definition, it meant that the workforce would always be functioning below expectations. Even the Olympic “faster, higher, stronger” mantra only coaxes a few milliseconds of improvement per year out of world class athletes at the peak of their youth and health, who do nothing else but hone that performance.
Oddly, at the same time as this continuous improvement thing was happening, they cut support for training and changed the criteria for upgrading to a higher pay rate for improved performance. Oh, and froze our wages for a few years.
I am not sure who they thought they were fooling with their rah rah motivational talks, but it wasn’t any of us. Thank god they couldn’t tap our pensions…
Jerry I can’t tell if you are kidding or not. I hope so.
That is the same kind of logic that says:
“Hey we didn’t cut health insurance, we just raised the deductible to $20,000” “Oh you only make $23,000? Too bad, maybe you will get lucky and get cancer and this will really pay off for you!!!”
An increase in FRA doesn’t or at least hasn’t changed the date of eligibility for early retirement. But people can and do talk about raising that from 62 in conjuction with taking FRA to 69 or 70. Plus any increase in FRA results in benefit cuts propagating backwards to early retirees to keep the system actuarially ‘fair’. Works out to be about an 8% cut.
So the same deal as above. Sure you can still retire at 62, too bad your check won’t cover your rent and groceries. Heck there are always food programs at the Salvation Army and discount lunches at the Senior Center!” Good luck! And write it you get part time work under the earnings threshold that would require offsets from your SocSec check!!”
Webb – You write about summer interns at Goldman. You do understand that this is a 6 week effort for college students, most of whom are in their junior year. So the bulk of them are about 21.
They work their asses of for this stint. It’s not much different than boot-camp for the military, or the 24/7 life of a resident Dr.
Not all survive this (same for the military and the Drs.) But for those that do an opportunity is then available. They might get a job at GS.
With bonus, that guarantees a minimum of $150k for that college grad a year later. The average income at GS is now $500k. Many make millions a year.
Want to make money and have a very interesting life? Sign up for the GS boot-camp. If you survive you will be making $3m a year before you are 30. It will be tough to get through, but if you make it, you will be set for life.
Webb thinks a summer internship at GS is prison. I understand that he would rather work 35 hrs for the County and two weeks of VaCa, but I’m surprised that he can’t understand why someone else would look at an opportunity like this as a chance of a lifetime.
Opportunity only knocks once or twice in a lifetime. When it does knock, don’t fail to answer.
I’m disappointed by the shallowness and political correctness of this discussion from top economic views and opinions .As the band is playing musical chairs the ship is sinking. Does it matter if you get a chair or not if the ship sinks?…I want a balanced trade agenda and a wealth tax agenda and the border closed agenda. I want to talk about how we can turn our economy around and who has the best ideas and leadership capabilities to do this. I’m sick and tired of pandering while our economy and country sinks further into debt every year. Who can turn the ship around is what is important to me…Just my two cents.
“Basically it takes a theoretical metric for error elimination and proposes that given correct oversight by trained management you can impose that on actual production workers.”
And therein lies the rub. The “trained management” is the key. What almost always happens is they are not trained in putting together the procedures for the group they are working with. So they just apply the same old procedures regardless of the individual requirements of the task.
Krasting I went to Boot Camp and then spent a couple years working on two deployed Navy vessels. And spent a good deal of time sleep deprived because of a system that overlapped work days, watches, night time refueling and various emergency, security and combat drills in a way that had most of us putting in average 17 hour days and to be lucky if we had Sunday afternoon off at sea.
But nobody in my chain of command would have had the brass balls to congratulate themselves publicly by telling the press that they had graciously suggested that we work ‘just’ 17 hours a day. And in doing so had done us some kind of favor.
Look if you believe it is a valuable life experience for college juniors to work for six weeks or more at 17 hours a day while taking off a couple of days during that period then fine. But for fuck’s sake don’t pat yourself on the back as a boss for being benevolent in granting those seven hours off or for telling those interns that they can use that time to broaden themselves and become ‘interesting”.
And besides what is the point of all this? If not to habituate future workers to 60 hour weeks so that their bosses can enjoy their OWN leisure time?
I know why the military uses sleep deprivation in Boot Camp. Part of it is just to tear down civilians and then build up soldiers and sailors who will obey orders first and think second. But the bigger picture is that if things ever really blow up into a hot war your ass might actually be on the literal firing line at sea or in the field by 24 or 36 hours at a time fighting and dying. You know like the Battle of the Coral Sea or Pork Chop Hill.
But this is no reason to let the would be General MacArthurs of Wall Street treat civilian peace-time employees like they are the last holdouts at the Battle of Bastogne. I mean even in the military and even in the middle of combat you get rotated to the rear for some rest from time to time, you are not expected to fight 24/7 for the whole duration of the campaign or even battle. (And the units that do, like the 101st Airborne at Bastogne at least get Presidential Medals and become legends).
Look if kids want to voluntarily become automatons and work themselves near to death just to get a golden ticket on Wall Street then fine. I mean if you want to sell your soul there is usually a Devil around the corner willing to buy. But don’t try to sell that hellish system as being some sort of exemplar of virtue for everyone else. As EMichael said above “Get off the cross, we need the wood”.
well, back in the nineties we had “team training.”
since anything was better than the status quo, i embraced it despite the hokum, while older, wiser hands, held their noses.
the old guys were right. after the “team training” nothing changed except management had a new set of catchwords to hang their old stupidities on.
thanks for “the rest of the story” re Goldman interns. nice to think of those young people making 3 million a year. and what have they done for me lately?
meanwhile, we had a version of the same “opportunity of a lifetime” back in the early sixties. went to work for the then-days version of Walmart. We got to work our eight hours, and then spend an hour or so off clock to, you know, clean up and get ready for tomorrow. We took this because after all it was such a good opportunity to have a job and not risk the character degradation that comes from living on the dole.
glad to see you recognize the Devil
but you are missing the point: they get to work these sixty hour weeks so they can tell themselves and the world they work(ed) harder than you while they are screwing the Aunt Millies.
by the way
i worked my 16 – 20 hour days both when i worked for myself and when i worked for the (gasp) highway division, working overnight so the motoring public would have new roads magically appear without those annoying “under construction” signs.
and yes, the work was physically demanding, intellectually difficult, and dangerous.
those guys leaning on their shovels are waiting for you to get out of their way so they can go back out into the road and give you another twenty years of mind-free driving pleasure.
Sigh. When I worked the Building Permit Counter we typically had hour and a half wait times in our lobby, mostly for people who had actual applications to submit. But we were also expected to field phone calls during slack times. Which mostly came around right about “never”. So calls backed up and got ignored and periodically my boss would just throw the call sheets away because the logged calls were three and four days old.
Naturally enough citizens that had legitimate questions that should have taken two minutes to get answered complained bitterly that the County never returned their calls. Because we didn’t. And so periodically the powers that be figured out that something had to be done. So about every year we would shut the whole counter down for two days, thus leaving ALL customers in the lurch, and be sent for Telephone Training. As if the problem was our people skills while answering calls as opposed to the fact that we never had time to answer the calls in the first place.
What is worse is that of all the Customer Service and Team Training that I attended when I could have been, you know, working alongside my team serving customers, the number of them taught by instructors who had actually spent time on the front lines was approximately zero. No instead these trainers had learned all THEIR customer service skills by attending training. A daisy chain of ineptitude. But not cheap, oh no.
Near as I can tell 95% of all that front line team training biz is pure grift. You go to some third rate college and major in Communications or something and take a course in Business Relations and BOOM you are ready to fix work teams who have been on the job for years.
At least MBA’s have to take two semesters of calculus before they inflict their idiocy on the real world, that should weed out some of the real wankers. But I just got off a two year program in Business and judging by the standard textbooks used and the instructors I encountered most of these programs are real life of examples of “Those who can do. Those who can’t teach. And Those who can’t do either give assessment tests that assign everyone to one of four boxes in a grid.”
On highway crews.
I never worked heavy labor. Because I knew I couldn’t do more than half an hour of the kind of dirt and cement work typically required without being crippled up for the day. People who work heavy labor, and I have known a bunch, often have to take turns in the hole, or stop and take a breather, because sometimes it is work that no human being can do straight through for eight hours. Because a lot of people couldn’t do it for eight minutes.
And even the ‘easy’ jobs are hard. Like flagging. Try standing on your feet for eight hours a day walking around with a heavy sign in heat and rain while swearing at asshole drivers who love to gun their cars by those ‘lazy’ workers just standing around. Plus there is probably no job more enjoyable than standing downwind of an asphalt mixer on a 92 degree day – not.. Especially for maybe $10/hr.
I was being facetious.
(Thanks Jerry, thought so – B)
ah, yes. i see we are on the same side of the class war after all.
best story i ever heard about the difference between the classes came from a member of the upper class. being so, he was made an officer and sent to the front in WWI. shortly after his arrival he noticed he could hear the jerrys talking in their trenches not very far away. he suggested to his sergeant (not upper class) that they just toss a few grenades over into the german trench, they being so close and all.
sergeant says “ee can do as ‘ee likes. but ‘e’ll get sommat back, see.”
officer’s name was C.S.Lewis, , though a member of the officer class he was fortunately no fool.
“while the latter simply leave work at 4 or 5 PM…”
Important to keep in mind: often the “latter” are heading out at 5pm for Job No. 2. Many working people can’t afford the luxury of working a paltry 40hrs./wk.
Hey Leo, welcome. As first time commenter yours went to moderation automatically. But you are good to go from here on out.
Also excellent point on that second job.
“continuous improvement” …By definition, it meant that the workforce would always be functioning below expectations.
Not my experience. We often came to market before processes were settled. Continuous improvement meant expectations were always increasing, but it was reasonable. (of course, we were nowhere near six sigma.)
Six Sigma has become a way of having a third party certify that you know what you are doing. For an engineer who wants to work for many employers, that can be useful. For those of us who were manufacturing engineers before “Six Sigma” was trademarked, it seems pretty common sense stuff – basically a way for the third party to make money.
Not sure if I agree with you as a black belt holder. This definition:
A “set of statistical methods for systemically analyzing processes to reduce process variation, which are sometimes used to support and guide organizational continual improvement activities.” is closer to the true nature. Even then it only points in a direction and is not absolute. I think I understand what you mean by your comment and can see what you mean by it.
I’d be a lot more willing to buy into the industriousness of the Masters of The Universe except for how often it seems likely to coincide with innovation in thievery, rent extraction or other legalized grift. Is it possible that a great deal of the “working day” for these titans of finance includes wondering how best to evade the regulator, investigator, or auditor?
It’s not difficult to imagine Madoff spending some sleepless nights during his last free decade for example. Wondering when that knock on the door might come. Same thing for the geniuses at the center of the recent LIBOR rigging scams. Foreign exchange manipulators, quasi-legal document fabricators for hire chasing borrowers out of houses, bid rigging energy traders at Enron et al…. Once you acquire the fortune via some (extra-legal or not) quirk of circumstance isn’t it just as likely to require constant vigilance for fear the scheme is unraveled by an unexpected indictment? Documentary feature? Long form best selling tell all memoir?
I get exhausted sometimes imagining the hours the Kochs and the Petersons and their minions are putting in trying to ruin the lives of millions of people. I get a little sobered up realizing they really never will rest. But then I get a little happier imagining that they think they have more to lose.
Why did you get a black belt – to learn something, or to prove you knew it?
HP (or at least my site) deserves its reputation for distaining things it did not invent. We saw no need for 6S because we did not need to certify to anyone else that we knew how to make stuff. It is probably misleading to say it was common sense given that HP had us trained in statistical methods and project management and many other things it thought we could use, but no one there worked on “Six Sigma” projects.
Coberly – some math help?
Wallmart has 2.2m workers and $16.8B of net income in 2014.
How much of the profit is attributable to each worker?
not enough information there to answer the question.
if the info is in the links, won’t help because i don’t do links