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Working for a Living

In these difficult economic times, employment is certainly not a given, and those of us who have paying jobs are grateful just to have them. However, the thing we need to remember is that we work to live; we shouldn’t live to work.

Our primarily employer is, contrary to what we believe, not the person/company that signs our paychecks. Our primary employer is our family, or in the case of our single readers, ourselves. The company you go to work to every day is just a contractor. You provide them with goods and services, i.e. your labor and in return they provide you with the capital you need to sustain your business.

Sometimes, we forget that and in our struggle to subsist from day to day we get lost in our own fears of unemployment. The thing to remember is that your current contractor isn’t the only one out there. As the economy tanked last year, employers did what employers do in a bad economy; they let go of part of their workforce, forcing those who remain to pick up the slack, and reduced benefits, perks and often, paychecks as well. Generally, when something is taken away it rarely is returned once economic times get better.

In other words, your boss expects you to do more for less pay. The problem is that because they have the cash, the thinking is that they have the power. To a certain extent, they do; workers rights have been considerably eroded under the Bush administration and there doesn’t seem to be much of a movement by the current administration to address that.

That’s a shortsighted policy. The engine that drives the economic pulse of any nation is not its executive class but its workforce. Without millions of people doing the actual work – from the manual labor of manufacture and factory work, to those who sit at a computer terminal and process data, enter orders and in general ensure the smooth operation of a business, those executives would have no income, no revenue.

A business, particularly a big business, is a complex machine that needs a large number of parts and systems to work properly and generate profits. As executive salaries have risen, the gulf between those at the top and their workforce – never close to begin with – has seemed to widen in recent years. I truly believe that the corporate executives of this country are taking their workforce for granted. The motivation for most corporate decisions seem to be completely bottom line-oriented, concerned with short-term profits over the long-term health of their company and those who work for it.

What executives don’t see is a workforce getting burned out; working long hours in stressful situations while receiving less compensation and even less respect. I honestly believe that it would be a valuable experience for every executive at a company should spend one month living and working as one of their own general workforce, receiving the same pay and benefits of their workers and experiencing the same stress and frustration. I think that would give them invaluable insight as to how their workers are motivated, what obstacles stand in the way of success and in general, what their attitudes are.

Why is this important? It is going to be crucial as business grows increasingly more global to have a workforce that can adapt to a changing business environment. It is also more cost-effective to have a stable workforce, rather than having to constantly be training new employees to replace those who have moved on to other positions, particularly those who have gone to work for other employers.

The prevailing attitude is that a paycheck should be enough to motivate a person to work like a wage slave. The reality is that it isn’t enough. A job is a two-way street; if you want dedicated, loyal employees then you must be dedicated and loyal to them. Their pay should not only be commensurate with their work, it should also keep up with the cost of living at the very least. One of the most common excuses I’ve heard from employers as to why raises in pay have been so slight is that they’re just paying “what is competitive within the industry.” That’s a load of crap, incidentally. If I’m working for McDonald’s, what Burger King pays their workers is irrelevant; I know what my expenses are and how much more it costs to buy groceries or gasoline. I know that the paycheck I took home last year buys less this year.

Loyalty is earned, not given. Dedication is likewise not given without reason. You don’t have to be some genius business analyst to understand that an employee will work harder for an employer who inspires them to do so, and that inspiration is given in the potential for career advancement but also in the feeling that the employee’s needs are being met. Those needs include being treated with respect and feeling valued, two areas employers are woefully inept about. If an employee feels appreciated, they’ll go the extra mile. It’s as simple as that.

We work to live; we don’t live to work. We get stressed out about work and feel powerless; work sucks, our bosses set standards that get higher and higher and our pay doesn’t keep up. Meanwhile, executive salaries continue to go through the proverbial roof. Don’t stress out about work. It’s not worth it. In this country, we tend to define ourselves through our jobs. We aren’t our jobs; jobs are just what we do. Yes, jobs are scarce at the moment but they aren’t non-existent. If your job is making you miserable, find a new one. If there aren’t any out there, bide your time. Eventually the economy will improve and more jobs will be available.

The point is, don’t worry yourself into a heart attack over a job. The worst that can happen is that you have to find another job. That’s unpleasant, but not an impossible task. Just do the best you can and put into your job what your job puts into you. If your best isn’t good enough, then it’s probably time to find a new job anyway. Always remember that whatever job you have, put it in its perspective. It’s merely a means to an end, a contractor providing you with currency. Your life should always be the higher priority. If your employer doesn’t get that, find another contractor. Your current one doesn’t deserve your business.


2 Responses

  1. I don’t know If I said it already but …Hey good stuff…keep up the good work! 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,)

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

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