|Microsoft's new CEO as of February 2014 is Satya Nadella. He replaced|
Steve Ballmer who has gone onto retirement with the many billions of
dollars he earned in his lifetime as Bill Gates' partner in crime.
Although the news has reported on layoffs from big companies before, this one struck me as particularly telling because it's the first time in my life that I was tuned into the stock market. Here's what I discovered: while everything else was essentially down across the board in a broad sell off across all sectors because of the Boeing 777 that got shot down near the Russian border (killing 295 people) and instilling anxiety in everyone (including myself), Microsoft was up over a percentage point. In other words, stockholders were celebrating what is perceived to be a good management move...celebrating "party style" to the tune of around a million dollars for every employee thus axed from the roster (when you factor in shareholder value). Deplorable? Well that's capitalism.
So why do I find this particularly telling/revolting? Well my career is in government. I assist clients who are in the federal vocational rehabilitation program; in other words I help the unemployed find jobs. I work with professionals at Workforce Services and Vocational Rehabilitation counselors who all strive to do the same thing: to find people jobs so that they can have stability in their lives. It's a part of the American dream, right? But here's the thing: I think we're all deluding ourselves because jobs (now more than ever) are hard to find, however, work is readily available. So what's the difference between a job and work? Well that gulf is huge and believe me, I'd rather have the former than the latter. Allow me to elaborate.
I was raised to believe that a steady job with a stable employer is what I should strive for and my dad thought that if I worked hard, I could accomplish this goal just like he did (and he was right). However, I thank my lucky stars that this happened because I know many people that aren't/weren't so lucky. I think my archaic notions of a steady job and a stable employer are an endangered species. It has become irrelevant thanks to a new reality wrought by globalization, technology, and a culture where stability has given way to rapid unpredictable change.
The new workforce has more similarities to The Hunger Games than it does to the archaic view of what myself and my parents might call "a job." Companies now hire for tours of duty where you are expected to churn out results at a grueling pace. Every day one spends in this new reality you are forced into the role of a pit fighter who must go to battle against others in order to see who gets/deserves a job tomorrow. To pick on Microsoft once more, here's the message you can read between the lines in that now infamous memo that axed so many jobs from the ledger of the Seattle-based "job creator":
"You have no right to keep a job any longer than we can profit from your efforts."In fact, the message could be even harsher as all an employer needs to axe you is a perception of underperformance (whether or not it can even be proved). This rings particularly true in a "right to work" state such as Utah.
Inevitably, all of this leads me to seek answers for questions that continuously fill my head regarding our society (and I'm afraid I won't like the answers). What happens to older workers? It's a scientific fact that older workers are not as productive as younger ones because the brain is succumbing to age. Is there no security for old folks? Does loyalty to a company account for nothing anymore? And what about talent? No matter how talented you are, there is always someone better out there. There is always someone brighter and faster. If that person comes along and wants your job, does that mean you need to find work again? Moving costs money and destroys wealth. Always having to start over someplace becomes harder and harder as people get older. And what about the people who were never very bright to begin with? Are they just screwed from the get go and sentenced to a life of scrubbing toilets and living paycheck to paycheck?
Sometimes I wish I'd been born a few decades earlier, in simpler times, when jobs were plentiful and the U.S. was all about helping each other, about community, and no one was poor or grotesquely rich. But if wishes were fishes the sea would be full, right?