Thursday, April 26, 2012

Working For A Living

Whether or not people like what they do, many of them hate the environment in which they must work. They are forced to spend a massive amount of their lives with people they have no choice but to associate with, suck up to their boss, deal with all the sycophancy, careerism and patronage, and generally live in in environment where they are forced into a cubicle to sit for 8 hours a day ruining their physical health and stare at a computer monitor, ruining their eyesight. And they have probably gone heavily into debt in order to secure this "privilege." The modern workplace is essentially just a continuation of high school, with an elite core at the top who decides who the "in-crowd" and "out-crowd" are based upon a feral understanding of subtle body language signals, physical attractiveness, feigned enthusiasm, elevated mood, and political skills. Is it any wonder people want out? Via LiveScience:

Why It Doesn't Pay to Be Yourself at Work
LONDON — Whether it comes from self-help gurus, popular magazines or parents, the advice sounds the same: Just be yourself.

And while it is true that being authentic is highly correlated with happiness, new research suggests it depends on the context.

"Authenticity correlates strongly with well-being and life satisfaction," said researcher Oliver Robinson Thursday (April 19) here at the British Psychology Society Annual Conference.

But it doesn't really matter at work, he said.

Robinson, of the University of Greenwich, and colleagues at the University of Houston used an online survey to question 533 part-time workers and professionals about where and with whom they were their true selves. For example, they were asked to rate the verity of statements such as "I feel it is more important to be myself than to be popular," and finish sentences like "I disclose my deepest feelings to …"

In general, people reported being most themselves with their romantic partners, followed by friends and parents. They admitted being least themselves in the workplace.
Is Your Job Killing Your Creativity?
New research shows that 80 percent of people in five of the world's largest economies feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth. And nearly two-thirds of people feel creativity is valuable to society. But only one in four of the survey's respondents believe they are living up to their own creative potential. Are we facing a global creativity gap?

Judging by evidence from the workplace, the answer is yes. In a study of 5,000 adults across the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and Japan sponsored by Adobe, a software developer, three out of four  respondents said they are under growing pressure to be productive rather than creative, despite the fact that they are increasingly expected to think creatively on the job.

Across all of the countries surveyed, people said they spend only 25 percent of their time at work creating. Lack of time is seen as the biggest barrier to creativity (47 percent globally, 52 percent in United States).

More than half of those surveyed said that creativity is being stifled by their education systems, and many believe creativity is taken for granted (52 percent globally, 70 percent in the United States).
8 Ways Your Job May be Killing You
How many times have you thought, "This job is going to kill me"? The truth is, you may have been right. For better or worse, a person's job plays a critical role in his or her mental and physical health.

From increased risks of heart disease to longer life spans, the numerous drawbacks or benefits to healththat come with working have been revealed by various studies across the globe.

Here are eight ways your job, including your decision to hold onto it or leave it, affect your health.
Workers Worldwide Itching for a Career Change
It turns out that a majority of workers believe that the grass really is greener somewhere else.  That’s the finding of a new poll, which found that 55 percent of global workers were considering a career change because of the current economic situation. An additional 30 percent of respondents said they would consider a change if they could find a better career.

In the United States, 56 percent of workers were trying to change careers, while in the United Kingdom, 62 percent of workers responded that they were actively trying to switch their career. Slightly more than half of workers in Mexico were also looking for a change.

"There are many types of career changes, with some people making a career 'sidestep,' moving into a new kind of role within their current industry, while others may be making a more radical change," Charles Purdy, career expert, said. "Before considering a change, workers need to do thorough research, making sure they have realistic expectations and a concrete plan for filling their skills gaps."

Despite the overwhelming majority of workers looking for a change, 15 percent of global workers still feel that their career is not affected by economic uncertainty. Even though many workers are currently looking to make a change, Purdy thinks workers should always be focused on a career change, regardless of economic standing.
30% of US Workers Don't Get Enough Sleep
Nearly a third of workers in the U.S. aren't getting enough sleep, according to a new government report.

Overall, 30 percent of employed U.S. adults reported getting less than six hours of sleep a night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its report. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults get seven to nine hours of sleep.

People who usually work the night shift — especially those in transportation, warehousing, health care and social assistance industries — were more likely than day-shift workers to report not getting enough sleep. Forty-four percent of the night shift workers participating in the survey said they got less than six hours of sleep, compared with 29 percent of workers with day shifts.

"Insufficient sleep can have serious and sometimes fatal consequences for fatigued workers and others around them," the CDC wrote. An estimated 20 percent of vehicle crashes are linked to drowsy driving.
Sticking With a Job You Hate Can Make You Sick
Staying at a job you hate may affect more than just your happiness.  New research finds that employees who stay at jobs out of a feeling of obligation are prone to several health problems, including exhaustion, stress and burnout.

"Our study examined whether some forms of commitment to an organization could have detrimental effects, such as emotional exhaustion and, eventually, turnover," said study co-author Alexandra Panaccio, an assistant professor at Concordia University in Montreal. "It may be that, in the absence of an emotional bond with the organization, commitment based on obligation is experienced as a kind of indebtedness — a loss of autonomy that is emotionally draining over time."

The research also found that people with higher self-esteem were more greatly affected by a lack of employment options.

"When employees stay with their organization because they feel that they have no other options, they are more likely to experience emotional exhaustion," said Panaccio, who is in the department of management at Concordia's John Molson School of Business. "This feeling, in turn, may lead them to leave the organization."
Forget Modesty, Narcissists Best Suited for Job Interview Success
Modesty may be the best policy in many situations, but a job interview is not one of them. That's the finding of a new survey that looked at the way people performed on job interviews.  In that survey, narcissists, who promoted themselves in the interview, were rated more highly than those who were modest.

This is because narcissists come across as being confident, and engaging when speaking. Narcissists are also able to promote themselves in the interview setting as well.
What's Keeping Americans from Fulfilling Their Career Dreams?
Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong: there are second acts in American lives. An estimated 31 million Americans ages 44 to 70 hope to have encore careers that combine personal meaning, continued income and social impact, new research shows. The only thing holding many of them back is money.

The financial challenges posed by midlife career changes are hampering the plans of millions of people who are interested in new careers that can put their experience to work for the greater good, according to a joint study by the MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures, a think tank on boomers, work and social purposes.

Half of those interested in encore careers expect the transition to be difficult and, of those, 59 percent expect the main obstacle in making the transition to be financial, the study found. 

How Much Money Do You Need to Be Happy? 
It turns out, money might buy happiness after all. And, it might not cost as much as you think. According to a new poll, an annual household income of $50,000 is enough to increase the likelihood of people feeling an overall sense of happiness and satisfaction in life.
Not a pretty picture is it? The issue isn't just the jobs we do, it's the environment we must do them in and the control we have over it. I know my job is slowly killing me. I just wish I knew what to do about it.


  1. My job was killing me and I stuck with it for an additional 3 years after realizing that fact. Haven't you heard? You can't quit a job in this economy! So I gained 80lbs and actually found myself thinking about suicide (not seriously, but still, I had never thought about it before). This month I volunteered to be laid off and I was. The best decision I have made in quite awhile, though my co-workers and family (many who are nearly as miserable as I was) think I made a terrible mistake 'in this economy'. Maybe I have, but I don't think so. Health trumps wealth.

  2. I once had a job that was so stressful that I spent the last month thinking "they don't pay me enough to put up with this." Then I was fired. It was a relief. As soon as I got home, I called the nearest Cal State to see if I could get into grad school.

  3. "Be thankful you have a job" is the new American mantra. Maybe they can put that on the coins.

    I’m in the exact same situation. I am aware of all the negative effects of being at the bottom tier of a hierarchy, daily stress and sitting on your ass for 8 hours a day: obesity, cortisol poisoning, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, compromised immune systems, even genetic changes. Have watched weight creep up, sleep apnea, ulcers, depression, and other things I care not mention. My health has been spiraling downward. All my symptoms tend to magically ameliorate or vanish on the weekend or on vacation. What good is the money if you are dead?

    When I was young I was told that success was a matter of being smart and hard work. What a load of crap! I’ve been in the corporate world a long time. Everywhere I go I seem to get shunted to the bottom of the hierarchy by leaders who have an almost feral sense of status based on eye contact, aggressiveness, body language cues, etc. I've worked for some real nasty people. It's even more difficult if you work with a lot of children of privilege like I do (which I why I don't buy 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps'). For years I put in the long hours, got the license, etc. I guess I just don’t have what it takes to impress the alphas to claw my way up the corporate ladder. I've been working continually since I was fifteen. What do I have to show for it? Now I just stopped caring. It really is about social connections and who you know.

    But what’s truly sad, and what really breaks my heart is that most people eat his shit sandwich for the sake of their families so they can stay middle class and give their kids “opportunites” (something my parents never bothered to do for me). The cubicle is the price to pay for a place in the suburbs and a weekend of diaper changing, little league, soccer practice, bill payments, lawn mowing, grilling out, watching spectator sports and being in a good school district. And for most people, maybe that’s worth it. To each his own. But I don’t have any kids nor do I intend to, nor do I have any family keeping me anywhere (except an aging parent). I have nearly no possessions and no debt. I'm theoretically "free". But what use is freedom if you cannot use it?

    It’s like I have all the downsides to “freedom” and none of the upsides. Still, what alternative is there to life in the cubicle? What would I do? Where would I go? I have no one to fall back on. No wife, no girlfriend (around here, they wouldn’t want you anyway if you didn’t have a job), no family money (my mom lives on a small pension and my father died penniless – his burial was paid for by the VA). I have no brothers or sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. I just have my savings, and they won’t last forever. It seems like most people who just say “fuck it” have someone, somewhere, to fall back on. I don’t. What I’m doing is all I’ve ever known, all I’ve ever been told to do, and what everyone around me considers normal. My mom sat in the same tiny cubicle every day for forty-five years before retiring. She lives in the same house she was born in. She put all the pressure on me to have this life, but I just don’t want it. She doesn’t understand anyone who doesn’t want to live in the suburbs with 2.5 kids, a minivan and a thirty-year mortgage. I’m a terrible disappointment to her.

    I wish I could drop everything and walk away, but three little words haunt me: and then what? I just have a hard time believing in 'leap and the net will appear.' I've always been unlucky since the day I was born. Maybe a pinewood box is the only way out. But I hope to God it is not. I guess that’s what I’m trying to figure out.

    Sorry about the mini rant, I just had stuff I needed to get off my chest. I don’t talk about myself a lot here for good reason. You’re not alone. Good luck to you my friend, and I hope it all works out for the best.

    1. When I was still at my corporate job and dying, I would always ask myself the same question, "Okay, say you leave, then what?"

      I came up with some good answers, but none of them paid anything.

      Finally, a couple of months ago, after my 40th birthday, I realized that saying 'fuck it' was the only thing for me to do and that while getting paid is important, it can't be the only thing.

      I would rather be poor and healthy than middle-class and sick.

      So I am going to take a couple of years off to get healthy, to practice permaculture, and to try and restore a sense of connection to the natural world.

      A few years from now, I am hoping that a door will open for me in a direction that I had previously been unaware of to look.

      I'm a big fan of Charles Eisenstein, who says that 'anything worth doing these days is going to appear irrational from the old perspective'. I agree very much with that. The old ways are all about money and making more of it, even at the expense of the planet. This plague ship is sinking, as is quite obvious to us all, and it would be insane to continue to man to oars as the ship races toward the rocks. Don't follow the money, follow your heart instead, and get on the life raft and float away.

      Okay, I'm turning into cliches here, but bear with me, this is my last point. I've always read Joseph Campbell and loved the idea of 'following your bliss' and I've always wondered about such sentiments. Is that really how it works? Does the universe really reward courage? Well, if nothing else, I am going to answer that question for myself.

    2. I'm just a few years short of 40 myself. True story: Last Friday we had a lunch at an Italian community center, and I had to accept a five year "service" pin. What was interesting was that the walls were full of pictures of Piranesi's depictions of the crumbling ruins of Rome. Ironic?

      Another true story, when I did my Permaculture Design Certification, a running joke among us was wishing I would get fired so I could go work somewhere. At the time, it seemed like only a matter of time given the way things were going, so the decision would be made for me. But not yet, apparently.

      So eventually things will come to a head. With the way the economy is going and with the lack of employment in my field, I figured I might as well save up a few years for the inevitable. In the meantime I can work on my writing, which this blog is a part of. I've got a few ideas for projects, I just need to buckle down more and get them done.

      So good luck to you. If you find the answer, be sure and let us know. For what it's worth, I've yet to hear of someone who has done what you've done and regretted it in the long run. And the Eisenstein quote is good, but I always remember on from the old cartoon show of The Tick: "You're not going crazy, Arthur, you're going sane in a crazy world!"

  4. @Pinku-Sensei

    I’ve thought about graduate school (in my field or urban planning). I don’t see graduate school as a way out, though, since I’ll probably just wind up in another cubicle, working long hours, looking at another screen dealing with the same politics in another location, just with a bunch of debt or no more savings (assuming I can find a job). Right now the unemployment rate in my profession is around forty percent. I guess I’m just inherently allergic to the office environment. I wish I could work for myself, but doing what? Unfortunately, this blog doesn't pay a salary. I'd love to write for a living, and I consider this practice. Frankly, I wouldn't mind living like KMO at the C-Realm podcast: have a girlfriend in New York, spend all night going to parties, and talk to people in podcasts. What a great life.

    I get so angry when I hear about how "bad" the lives of people who win the lottery become. If I won the lottery I'd be happier than a pig in slop. I'd buy and apartment in Paris, winter on the Amalfi coast, summer in Berlin, write, blog, paint and read books. It would be bliss. Trust me, it would have no chance of ruining my life.

    1. I wouldn't hold it against you if you tried to monetize your blog a little more.

    2. Yeah, KMO has it pretty good. I am looking forward to his adventures in NYC.

    3. Thanks, I should get around to that. I'm still new at the blog thing. of course, if I did have some ads I would be sure to recommend that readers ignore them ;-)

  5. The last thing you need is more edumacation (to speak nothing of more debt). You've already overdosed on the mind. The more you focus on the mind, the more passive and helpless you become. You need a job which works your body as well as your mind. I like this blog (I went so far as to download all the archives and convert into an ebook so I could read at leisure on my kindle) but it is poison for you, IMO. So I don't think the idea of monetizing the blog is the way to go, even assuming this was a blog that was ripe for monetizing and it isn't. Take your architecture background, get some field experience doing construction and renovations, and launch a career in real-estate or a related business. If your prediction of declining living standards is true, then existing owners will be forced to declare bankruptcy, prices will be marked down, someone else will buy the place at auction, the place will be spruced up with renovations, and finally the building will be offered for rent/sale at a price that people can afford on their lower incomes. This could be either residential or commercial RE. Given the fragmented nature of real-estate (especially existing RE coming through the bankruptcy mills, with all the mess that entails, as opposed to new development), there are always opportunities out there for small operators. If your savings are small, then there are plenty of old people with money, who need more income but aren't in a position to manage any sort of real-estate activity themselves. Let them put up the capital and you take care of everything else for a fee of some sort. There are tons of different ways of going into business for yourself in real-estate.

    1. Interesting idea, thanks. I'm not sure how to make it work, though. I've contemplated going into the trades for years, but been afraid to make the leap. But if I had practical construction experience, it would be easier to do what you're suggesting. My uncle did something similar, but I'm not sure how. He also has his wife's income to help him out; I'm not sure you could live off of it. Still, it's a good suggestion. Funny, I've actually been looking at foreclosures to buy in my neighborhood, but just for myself. I wouldn't have time or money right now to fix them up or manage them.

      I think with energy costs on the rise, the smartest thing is to turn houses "green" - being able to operate with as small an energy bill as possible: Wood burning stoves, superinsulation, solar hot water, etc. I got to work on a straw bale house years back. It's hard to actually make the transition to doing it for a living, though.

      I always tell people the secret is if you have ideas and no money, find someone with money and no ideas. That's why I got excited about crowdfunding a few posts back. I do think you definitely need to think outside the box in times like these.


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