Re: Like long hours?

Subject: Re: Like long hours?
From: Kevin McLauchlan <kmclauchlan -at- chrysalis-its -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 7 Aug 2002 15:29:29 -0400

On Wednesday 07 August 2002 13:46, Bruce Byfield replied to
> > "The Man is out to get me." is a lot easier to
> > understand and handle than "they have something I want,
> > and I have something they want, how can we trade this
> > such that both parties are happy."

> This is where the relation is unequal. An employee has no
> choice except to trade labor for the money to live. But
> an employer has the power of deciding who gets that
> money.As a result, employees often feel the need to
> kowtow to the employer - either because the employer
> actually expects it, or because they are nervous about
> keeping that money coming in.

I disagree. Sauce for goose is also sauce for gander.

There is not just a single "the Employer" in the world.
There are many. The fact that any given employer has the
right (lately infringed a great deal...) to decide which
technical writer will get that employer's money, in return
for technical writing, is counterbalanced by the fact that
the writer is free to seek any of the thousands of other
employers, and to adjust his/her skill-set (or compensation
demands...) in order to be attractive to one of those other

Before you raise the next usual point -- that the worker is
relatively "trapped" by having a family with ties (schools,
friends, church, etc.) and a mortgage, and all that -- I
will counter with:

a) those are investments that were freely chosen, as were
all the relative trade-offs that got the writer/worker into
that position and,

b) the employer is similarly "trapped" in its current
location (thereby being able to select among only a limited
segment of the global labor pool), having chosen to make a
bunch of investments and trade-offs that got the employer
into its current predicament.

In other words, both parties have made choices and would
have to weigh the relative inconvenience to themselves
before they'd pick up and move elsewhere, where grass is

> Decent employers do try to balance their needs against
> those of employees.But they can't do that by pretending
> that their interests and employees' interests overlap
> completely. Nor can they simply ignore the inequality and
> pretend it's not there;

All of life is like that. You make trade-offs based on:

a) what's important to you and what is relatively
unimportant to you and,

b) what you think will happen in your life and in the world
(i.e., an educated guess as to what *will be* important to
you) some years from now.

So do the people -- employers? employees? -- with whom
you are dealing. Sometimes you guess right. Sometimes
you guess wrong.

Please note that the ranks of the employers that you
see today do not include all the businesses that have
failed. It's not all one-sided and cushy for the employers.
You are looking only at the ones who have guessed
correctly, made the right trade-offs and sacrifices, and

> > Therefore, I think a lot of folks ALLOW their employer
> > to run (ruin) their lives. When an individual accepts
> > that he/she has power to control his/her environment
> > and make choices that can better him/herself, he/she
> > can begin to take full control over his/her destiny. In
> > a sense, this strips the power away from anybody around
> > the individual.
> This sounds good, but it ignores the fact that people
> need a job. In good times, people can walk away from a
> bad situation - but, even in good times, many people
> don't have the courage to do so. In bad times, even those
> with courage may think twice.

First, bad times don't last forever.

Second, bad times are generally not across the board.
Usually, it doesn't even register on you unless it's your
current employment sector that is enduring the bad times.
If you have budgeted so that you are not living from
paycheck to paycheck, then you have a buffer and can
stand the risk incurred by moving to another industry where
times are not bad. Similarly, if you have been prudently
living below your means, you can stand a year or two at a
lower salary, with little impact.

If, instead, you have spent the greater part of your adult
life keeping up with the Joneses (barely), then that was
a choice. You traded gratification for security or
flexibility. Why should you be exempted from the
consequences? How is it unfair that you now have a big
mortgage and big car payments and big club fees and
credit-card debt and have thus made yourself feel trapped
in your current employment?
How is that the fault of your employer?

Who gave power to whom?

Remember, when you elected to buy a house, rather than rent,
you knowingly made a trade-off. You decided to put down
roots, rather than remain relatively unencumbered (you also
decided how nice [expensive] a house you were willing to
tie yourself to). If that choice now means that it's more
difficult for you to seek employment in another
state/country/dimension, well you knew that when you signed
the mortgage. If the Carolina tech industry is slumping
while the Washington military systems industry is starving
for writers, you can either move to Washington (maybe
living apart from your family for a year or two, but at
least getting a paycheck) or you can remain unemployed in
Carolina, going boohoo about your troubles with the bank
and that *&%$#@ employer that laid you off.

Now, if the employer were to be dishonest, well that's
another story entirely (Enron, WorldCom, Imclone, Arthur
Anderson....). There, you'd have legitimate gripes about
the employer, and I hope you recover something in your
lawsuit and that the *&^%$# -at- s all go to jail after having
all their assets seized and redistributed to the
victims.... but as I say, that's an entirely different
matter. (It's also infinitely unlikely-- the only
re-distribution of assets will be to lawyers and

> To risk not being able to feed your family or having the
> bank foreclose on you is to have about as much at stake
> as it's possible to have.

See above about the choices you make and how you
need to open your eyes to the implications.

> Very few employees have golden parachutes to solace them
> during unemployment, either.

Depends how valuable they've made themselves [appear] and
how well they negotiated their contracts. So, yes that
usually applies only to executive level employees... people
who have either led convincing lives of undetected crime,
or who have genuinely excelled, taken enormous risks, and
made themselves valuable commodities to whom boards of
directors are willing/eager to offer special packages.

If few writers are able to do that, well we all kinda knew
that when we decided to become writers rather than
high-wire executives. Didn't we?


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Re: Like long hours?: From: Andrew Plato
Re: Like long hours?: From: Bruce Byfield

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