Re: Like long hours?

Subject: Re: Like long hours?
From: "Richard G. Combs" <richard -dot- combs -at- voyanttech -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 7 Aug 2002 16:26:48 -0600

Bruce Byfield wrote:

> Richard G. Combs wrote:
> >An employer has no choice except to trade money for the labor needed to
> >the company operating. But an employee has the power of deciding who gets
> >his/her labor. As a result, employers often feel the need to keep their
> >valued employees happy because they are nervous about the difficulty and
> >expense of replacing them.
> >
> You're oversimplifying.

Well, you did it first. :-) The paragraph you quoted exactly parallels your
paragraph beginning "An employee has no choice..." If we didn't both
simplify (the prefix "over" is a value judgment), we'd have to crank out
400-page books on this topic instead of messages to the list.

> Yes, an employer is constrained by the need to exchange money for labor.
> However, an employer has considerable power in exercising that
> constraint. <snip> In bad economic times, an employer's power becomes
> even stronger than usual.

Sometimes it's a buyers' market, sometimes a sellers'. So what else is new?

> By contrast, although not be completely powerless, an employee has far
> less power of choice. An employer may decide against making the exchange
> (that is, not to fill a position), but an employee needs to make the
> exchange to survive.

An employee needs to make *an* exchange, not *the* exchange.

> An employer may decide with whom to make the
> exchange, but an employee can only agree to the offer of an exchange.

What a curiously passive employee this is! My own experience belies this (as
does yours, based on your previous posts). As a worker, I can decide not
only to which employers I offer my labor, but what kind of labor and in
which field.

I (like most workers) actually have much more flexibility than the typical
employer. I have a number of skills (or can acquire new ones), while the
employer typically has a specific, inflexible need. If there are no openings
for tech writers at the moment, I can take a position as, say, a framing
carpenter (given the Denver housing market, I can pick and choose among such
positions). The pay will be lower, but it'll pay the mortgage until the
techwriting market improves. Contrariwise, the employer who needs a C++
programmer can't substitute a carpenter, even if the carpenter would be
willing to work cheap. :-)

> True, in good economic times, an employee may have a choice of more than
> one offer, but that's usually not the norm.

Yes, it is. It doesn't appear that way because most workers stop looking as
soon as they find an opportunity (or two or three) that looks suitable.
Therefore, the other opportunities that they _could_ have uncovered by
continuing to look aren't visible. Nonetheless, all those undiscovered
opportunities help to shape the market (and thus affect the wage and working
conditions offered at the discovered opportunities).

> Nor, in the long run, does
> the employee have the choice of turning down every offer.

Nor, in the long run, does the employer have the choice of turning down
every applicant. In fact, a worker with a good cushion of savings can be far
more picky than a manager facing a deadline, a contract obligation, or
expensive idle resources.

> Neither employers nor employees have absolute power. But, within the
> constraints of their circumstances, an employer has relatively more
> power. If that isn't so, why are there so many rules governing how
> employers treat employees, and so few governing how employees treat
> employers?

Umm, maybe because there are far more workers than employers, and the people
making those rules tend to be chosen by majority vote? ;-)

> I simply observe this fact. I'm not suggesting that employers are
> naturally evil because of it, nor that anything an employee does is
> right because of it. But I do suggest that seeing the relation in its
> full complexity is more useful than distorting it with

Bruce, you see the workers' side in its full complexity -- the constraints
of family and mortgage, the pressure of bills, the tough decisions. But you
see the employers' side only in caricature -- some Catbert imperiously
picking and choosing from among a crowd of hat-in-hand supplicants --
without acknowledging the constraints, pressure, and tough decisions on that
side of the equation.

This is unfair to both. It dehumanizes managers and entrepreneurs. And, it
damages the workers who come to believe that they're passive and
powerless -- helpless flotsam at the mercy of the economic storm swirling
around them.

"It's my opinion, and it's very true."

Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Voyant Technologies, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT voyanttechDOTcom
rgcombs AT freeDASHmarketDOTnet

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