So -- I am pasting in an old writing from my days installing tires for Goodyear, but really, the picture says it all.
29 November 2003
I am 49 years old, and through misdeeds/mistakes find myself working as a tire installer in San Jose. The job I do requires lots of skill, but those skills can be learned with practice after a couple of weeks. A Union is the side that won the civil war- sort of historical footnote rather than something helpful in everyday work life. I am a blue-collar guy now, though THAT thought makes me laugh a lot.
I work with kids- 20 year old kids. I am the self-assured one at work- I am unflappable, the old man, the rock. I have salt and pepper hair- a belly, and kind of look like someone you might calls pops. Please note, I am not a babysitter or a boss; when the kids play ball, I suggest they use gas and make it fireball.
In some ways it’s like that dream of going back to high school as an older wiser man- only I have to date their moms instead of my new peers. Which actually appeals to a part of that old high school fantasy anyway…
The kids ask me for advice. I usually tell them a stock answer like, “That’s stupid, don’t do it”, or, “What do YOU think you should do?” but sometimes…, I tell them what I did- that usually shuts them up.
I generally have a good attitude about the whole thing. I frame it as if god has put me in fat camp because I refused to exercise and eat well. And instead of making minimum wage, I think of it as getting a small stipend to work out at the “gym”. I tell myself that this is all just a phase I am going through; that years from now I will laugh and laugh about the whole thing. Material for my great novel… Grist for the mill…
Sometimes it just pisses me off and I become very impatient. I install tires with two pennies flopping around on the inside. I sneer and sulk when I see a customer come in. I take it personal. I think that people are buying tires just to piss me off- that they plan it at home with friends and time their entrance for JUST when I have to pee. I walk a fine and narrow edge of attitude.
I work hard at hard work. I wear a back brace- just like the moving men do. I lift and hit and bang things a lot. I get angry and throw things. I kill time and occasionally it kills me. I am a lumberjack, and I am OK…
A little more from another day…
I went to work on Friday and found a notice on the wall next to my schedule. Turns out my hours have been reduced- as well as all the people I work with. Now, as I look around, I see moody people snapping and passive-aggressively fucking with demons. They could be wondering what they will do with all the extra time off they are going to get—maybe spend more time with the kids, or catch up on TV. They may be thinking that 8 bucks an hour minus a few hours won’t really be noticed. They may just be pissed that a dead end job just got deader.
As for me, for me, for me, I have mixed feelings. I have been working very hard, physically, for the past year. I have been putting in forty hours a week, have not called in sick, and take no time off for anything. I have no benefits- no vacation, sick time, holidays, etc. I am considered a part time; casual employee- hired (or fired) at will .I make 8 dollars and fifty cents an hour- with no raise in sight. So the truth is- what the fucks the down side to all this for me?
One downer is the shaking of the veil of denial. I don’t make a living wage, and my expenses are more than my income. I HAVE been graced with a bit of denial about all this and have used magical thinking mostly to make ends meet. I don’t have enough- and now I have less.
The other downer involves anger. I am angry that my hours are cut. The cut came from the “Big” office in Akron, and it feels to me like a corporate, technical way to improve productivity- the cook the numbers. As we all know- productivity is the amount of work done per person used. If you reduce the people and the work done stays the same- increased productivity. The magic grail of business is productivity- as it should be- but attempts to get it done by stupid people are harmful. It’s form over function as far as I can see.
What happens at my end is slightly different. I have a nut to make every month, a small amount that covers my life. I have cut expenses as tight as I can, and live month to month without any safety net of stocks/bonds or savings. I have no 401K to fall back on. I am on an edge financially. When income changes slightly, my life changes dramatically I can’t use one credit card to pay off another until things get better. I can’t tell people who depend on me and my income to wait- they depend on me.
What happens to me is that I get another job, move to a cheaper place, and cut more of my life out. That’s my cost. What does it cost the company?
- Angry employees using the “Union” word in conversations.
- Customer service slips- and I deal with a commodity service- people can goes elsewhere.
- Sales WILL fall- I guarantee it.
- Loss of trust in our shared goals with the company.
What makes me do a good job? Interior values and goals that we each set for ourselves carry most of us through life. Most of us want to do a good job; it makes us feel better about ourselves. I think that all of us also need feedback- something to recharge our batteries. In business that feedback can come from support, education, money- and most important- a sense that we are valued. Without help- it’s all too much for us.
I think you can also motivate with fear- but, honestly, how that been working out for you?