Sunday, September 10, 2006

Interviewed Again

"Somewhere in Dante's inferno, in an annexe by Judas Iscariot, there's a Human Resources department."

Joe did 4 interviews last week which means a little over 9 hours of his life with human resource professionals. Some of the questions were really strange: "What's your favourite television programme?" or "Do you like washing your car?"

Almost everyone uses interviews but there's lots of evidence that they're not reliable. Joe thinks interviews are best understood anthropologically. What they are testing is willingness to submit to the employer's culture.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hard Labour Day

Tomorrow is Labour Day in the USA.

I don't want to go all socialist on you, Comrades, but there's a great article in the Independent today about how workers benefit less and less from productivity gains.

I'll be celebrating Labour Day in the UK with a 3 hour interview at an insurance corporation.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Overpaid and underworked CEO's.

"Employment is like the National Lottery. You have a 1 in 300,000
chance of becoming very rich. Or you may end up with a miserable pension and a paper round at 70."

Joe's socialist instincts were twitched by this BBC article about executive pay. It explains why bosses are overpaid and underworked.

It boils down to what economists call "tournament theory". Consider tennis. Roger Federer is paid for winning not for trying. His huge pay packet is a reward for past victories not for hours worked on court.

Similarly, your boss is being rewarded for past victories. His pay packet is not intended to motivate him, but to motivate you. Tournament theory explains office politics. Either you can strive to win, or you can strive to make your colleagues lose. Alternatively you can choose not to play.

Joe thinks this third way is the most rational and the least ugly. Employment is like the National Lottery. You have a 1 in 300,000 chance of becoming very rich. Or you may end up with a miserable pension and a paper round at 70.

Joe thinks it's better to diversify our 'employment' risk. We could:
  • Work less hard for our employer.
  • Set up some ventures off the side.
  • Subvert company resources to help our own businesses.
  • Forget any mad notions of corporate loyalty.

An investor would call this a balanced portfolio of opportunities with diversification benefits.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Employment Contracts - The Judas Clause

Much excitement in the Stakhanov Household today as an employment contract landed in my inbox. It's got all the usual stuff about duties, ethics, pay, blah. It even comes with a seperate statement about corporate values (teamwork, customer-focus, blah, blah).

I'm going to sign. But it's got a "Judas Clause". This is the unwritten but mutually understood bit that says both parties are out to shaft one another. It reads something like:


1. Working Hours
1.1 The Employee is employed and paid for 35 hours per week.
1.2 However, the Employer is greedy, short-staffed and disfunctional. Therefore, the Employee will be expected to work 70 hours per week.
1.3 This will effectively deprive the Employee's children of their father/mother.

2. Contract
2.1 The Employer offers this Contract of Employment on a permanent basis subject to:
2.1 a) economic downturns
2.1 b) shareholder greed and resulting downsizing
2.1 c) frequent pointless re-organisations driven by the prevailing testosterone levels of senior executives.

3. Benefits
3.1 Your pension is unlikely to deliver any meaningful support in your old age.
3.2 At its discretion, the Employer may provide the Employee with non-financial support to find work stacking shelves or doing a paper round at 70.
3.3 The pension payments made by the Employer to its CEO and Directors will be not less that £20 million annually.

Lies, damn lies and job interviews

"The interview lasted 1 hour. I lied once every 7 minutes."

Last night I drove 60 miles for a job interview at 7pm. They were really nice guys. A Marketing Director of a Very Big Financial Company and an agency guy.

My CV has 20 years experience, 7 employers, 1 postgraduate qualification and 3 instances of the word 'dynamic'. The interview lasted 1 hour. I lied once every 7 minutes. Sometimes I lie once every 3 minutes. That's a bad sign.

Here are some of last night's lies:

FALSE: "I don't mind working away from home; it gets me away from my 15 yo daughter."
TRUE: I resent every second that work takes me away from my wife and step-daughter.

FALSE: "Thanks for explaining the brief, it sounds really exciting."
TRUE: The brief is full of obvious generalities. Saddam Hussain will win the Nobel Peace Prize before this brief delivers value.

FALSE: "I left when I'd successfully delivered the brief" x 2
TRUE: I jumped like a rat off a burning ship.

FALSE: "Product development has been my career focus".
TRUE: My career is a random walk of necessity, whim and circumstance that's post-rationalised into a CV.

The interview went well. I found out this morning that I'm through to the final round.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Recruitment adverts in the morning

"all this thrusting corporate gobbledegook feels like jabbing an icicle of frozen vomit into my head"

At 8 am recruitment advertising is horrible. But I'm looking for a job so it's best to start early.

You wake up. In my case, I feel warm, snuggled and in love with my wife. I make tea for us both (very English!), and then it's straight into:

"Dynamic and innovative from its very conception, Tesco Personal Finance is one of the fastest growing and most successful financial services companies in the UK."

OR

"The purpose of the role is to assist the Product Manager in delivering “best in market” product propositions and campaigns to meet the needs to customers and clients"

OR

"Manage an activity plan for the UK Strategy Team, based on a strategic agenda agreed with line management and the UK unit’s Executive Team, which takes into account team resources and prioritisation of projects."

At 8am I feel like a loving, content and rounded human being. That's why all this thrusting corporate gobbledegook feels like jabbing an icicle of frozen vomit into my head.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Working and Shopping

"We work harder, creating more workplace misery, to deliver more goods that create progressively less satisfaction. Is this a sort of mad tipping point?"

People in the South East of England are too exhausted by their jobs to go shopping according to an Experian (http://press.experian.com/ 30th August 2006) survey.

Joe wonders if shopping is part of the reason that work feels so bad. Most of us are Consumers and Producers. As Consumers, we want better-faster-cheaper-quicker-more. As Producers, we work harder-faster-longer-leaner to deliver it.

In the UK, we walk past 15,000 consumer brands a day, unless it's supermarket day, in which case it’s 35,000. A century ago, Royalty didn’t have this much choice.

The finance faculty at the University of Chicago studied what happens in supermarkets selling jam. More people visit the shelf when there's lots of jams to choose from. But on average they're less satisfied with their purchase than people who were offered a smaller selection.

We work harder, creating more workplace misery, to deliver more goods that create progressively less satisfaction. Is this a sort of mad tipping point?

Corporate death march?

"No employer will sanction your happy life; we have to seize it from them."


WorkWhore’s not really into big corporate visions. But if she was, it would be about escaping employment hell.

Joe (me!) has been licking his wounds after a horrendous 9 months at work. Horrendous because of a narcisistic boss, a futile corporate strategy and a terminally p*ssed-off team of co-workers.

Is most work largely a horrible experience? Is it right to make generalities out of certain personal specifics? Joe and WorkWhore hold the following to be self-evidently true:

  1. Workplace misery is endemic and epidemic
  2. Occupational unhappiness is cultural and institutional; it's not caused by individual failings.
  3. Big organisations are prisons for talent and imagination.

What can you, me or anyone do about it?

No employer will sanction your happy life; we have to seize it from them. It comes down to "by any means necessary". Fat cat pay, global outsourcing, pension erosion and insecurity mean corporate loyalty is deeply misplaced.

Individuals need to treat most employers as amorally as employers treat them.

WorkWhore prefers personal productivity and happiness to a pointless corporate death march.