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Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Working Crass

Every once in awhile I would engage in imbibing alcoholic beverages( mostly of the cheap variety ) with fellow exhausted coworkers at a small bar. The bar was a transitionary haven between work and the blessed solitude or chaos of home life and sleep. We sat around a table and started talking about ( you guessed it ) work! Mostly it was gossip around coworkers or upper management that obviously weren't there. With the aid of alcohol and frustrated venting, it acted as an almost underground therapy session. We could talk about things we had to hold in at work and ultimately free ourselves from negative opinions or ultimately validate them with the consensus of the other coworkers. Being lower level grunt like factory type employees, we of course liked to spend time vomiting the words on how upper management was doing things all "wrong". In a sense to us they were. They had no experience "on the line" or really had little to no hands on experience. Most of the upper management's theory of capitalist tactics was based on theoretical logistics and a cancerous corporate type growth strategy. We all had different ideas on how we wanted things run, but most of us held our job to be so sacred and almost scoffed at the idea of them actually listening to us. The company gave the illusion of choice. They told is they would listen to us and have our voice heard in any workings of the entire company. Never the less, this company was new and going places. So much money being spent on new machinery and efficiency tactics that would ultimately lead us to all being "machine operators". We rarely delved into such deep and philosophical theories of corporatism and capitalism because of our surface disdain for coworkers behaviors and our physical and mental exhaustion of working a twelve hour shift. This is of course what the bosses would want. We work our asses off and just peacefully go home to out families or television sets. They certainly don't want us to do work outside of work and god forbid us actually think and concoct better ways to achieve a healthier work environment. We were machines and we had very little use in the "critical thinking" department.

The thing ironic that was brought to my attention was the fact that we were bitching and talking about work outside of work! Couldn't we put that behind us and talk about sex, comics or food? ( insert your interests somewhere in there ) 
We seemed to be carrying work outside of work and we weren't getting paid for it. The upper levels would be on salary for this type of thoughtful activity. It is truly not right for our job to victimize us as if we endured a traumatic long day in the long heat. We were in a large air conditioned warehouse and had the freedom to listen to music. We were however slaves to the dreaded "Units per labor hour!". We were always under the guise of the shift lead who would constantly keep the morale up by saying " we got to hit those numbers." When we had a bad hour then of course the shift lead would take a bunch of the guilt and shame of being a few numbers off. He carried most of the stress considering he would be the first to blame if we did not hit our numbers. 

The units per labor hour was a theoretical formula that was void of calculating any human error or semi disastrous events. In theory, we would be hitting certain numbers per person. Each persons unit would be added together. For example if there were 12 people on shift and the unit was 10 then it would be 120 per hour. Everyone had to work together as a team and not one person could be blamed if we did not hit our numbers. This of course was a good thing. We were always at the constant pressure of hitting the numbers. Sometimes it flowed out of us effortlessly and sometimes it was halted by mechanical error. With that in mind, we were at the will of computers and machinery. If any of those malfunctioned then it would factor into our numbers. Theoretically this is pretty absurd. We still would be chastised even if a machine broke on its own or if it was ( god forbid) overworked! 

It doesn't take a professional to realize that none of us actually wanted to be at work. All of us made due of what we had. The job has benefits so we cling to it like a leach on skin. The pounding drudgery of loud lights and physical exhaustion made us more bitter, but also more apathetic. I mean we were able to sustain our actual lives outside of our job. At the very least we were able to barely pay rent or get by. It was almost as if half of our weeks were dedicated to just paying off for the other half of our weeks. We could enjoy a few days off, but of course had the lingering monkey of work right behind our backs. Some of us have developed some pretty valuable relationships and have learned to make the work environment into a tolerable and dare I say fun like atmosphere. None of us wanted it long term of course. Some
of us just needed a job. We had to have a job to pay off student loans, fund our drug habits, feed our kids, and be able to drive! Some of us with a "job" job feel the need to keep up with it so we are able to live the lifestyle we want. It is a bare minimum. Some of us may need a second job and some of us may need to tighten the budget belt a few more rungs. 

The idea of diving head first into something more fulfilling and new seems super scary. We get accustomed and comfortable with what we have and do not want to struggle to find other work. When your work dangles the carrot of benefits in front of you it justifies the reason for why you are saying. 
" Sure my job sucks, but I mean look at the benefits! I don't have to worry about paying rent!" 
The paycheck to paycheck job is completely unsustainable and absolutely soul crushing ( if you let it get to you ). 
You can't pursue happiness with a job or a career. It is a illusory concept that we cannot be happy now with what we got. Of course it could be worse! 

The trick is to keep your options open and your awareness of opportunities sharp as a tack. You can work your doldrum job and always look for a replacement. If you want something new then understand that the possibility of that new opportunity getting old is very high if you determine your overall state of well being with work. I am of course no talking about abusive or hostile work environments. If you are getting sick or being harassed then you must be proactive in changing your scenario. Bitterness kills your ability to be a great worker! Even if you aren't doing what you think you think you should be doing right now, you can always be the best at what you are doing right now. This takes full attention and acceptance of what skills you have. People see that. People get inspired by that. If you are yourself as the bitter coworker you think you are then you are toxic to others. Be the worker you want to see and be the worker you want to be around. 

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