Dysfunctionomy – How The Private Sector Could Prolong The Great Recession – And Profit From It Too =(

…Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd here we go again.  Once again – AGAIN!!!! – I’m looking at possibly being laid off.  For those who don’t follow my YouTube channel too much I was laid off from a good job I had for over 6 years in January of 2012, at which point this current death spiral I’ve been stuck in began.  After barely any responses or interviews for just under three months I tried working for a cable company for three months, but they told me to get lost because I didn’t fit in with them (not making that up – new hires were evaluated after three months based on “performance” and “fit” a.k.a. they had all the policy and procedure clauses necessary to be able to get rid of someone for no job-related reason even though the job was already at-will employment to begin with so the policies were completely redundant), and have been returning to my roots doing warehouse work as a “disposable temp” since last Summer.  Now though, the peak season is ending and the volume’s dropping off so it’s time for the folks in charge at this place to decide who if any of the “disposable temps” they might want to keep around.  One fateful night I heard that despite the last good job I had lasting over half a decade before all of this began, the three months at the cable company might be the reason why I get laid off when the “disposable temps” are “disposed of.”

Meanwhile, I’ve astutely observed over the past six months that this place is utterly plagued with people problems among the folks they already have there full time.  There are folks who don’t care, folks who try to see how little they can get done without getting in trouble, folks who stop following procedures when folks’ backs are turned, folks who interestingly enough aren’t there when there’s a good football game going on, etc. etc. etc., some of whom have been there for 6-10 years, longer than I was at my last good job.  Sometimes places have folks like this, but let’s not forget in this specific example while this stuff is going on, there supposedly “aren’t any openings” for anyone who isn’t like this because apparently the idea of replacing some of these folks who don’t care with folks who do isn’t even on the table.  =(

All of this, however, is a symptom and not the problem.  The problem here is one of the longest-running annoyances of the Great Recession that I’ve seen anywhere, not just at this warehouse – or any job I’ve had – ever.

Why Is It That In A Time When This Country Has Record Numbers Of Unemployed And Long-Term Unemployed That So Many People Who Actually Have Jobs Don’t Care Or Have Bad Attitudes???

I just can’t wrap my head around that.  Why are people with bad attitudes tolerated – anywhere?  Why not let those people sit home forever unemployed until they either shape up or go broke as benefit-exhausted 99ers?  Why is it that I keep seeing people with bad attitudes employed ANYWHERE?!!!  Supermarkets, retail stores, pharmacies, specialty stores, offices, restaurants – all over the place!  Meanwhile, people out there with far better attitudes who would kiss someone’s feet if anyone would ever hire them again – anywhere (!) – can’t find stable employment.  =(

Think I’m just being too negative?  Here’s a rant from a YouTuber out in California who’s been out of work since the beginning of 2009.

Notice around the 8 minute mark he starts talking about people with jobs in stores selling technology knowing less about tech than he does, even to the point where the person with the job suggests that SD Cards actually have mechanical discs inside of them.  😛  Seriously?  Think this guy’s just in a bad mood?  Here’s another rant!!!

I could post these all day, but eventually they’re all going to start saying the same thing.  Basically, when you take a look at the common elements of all of these rants about “the economy” eventually you start realizing that much like businesses themselves there’s a people element to this current mess, and simply blaming the economy via a snappy remark like “It’s The Economy Stupid” is basically the act of blaming an inanimate entity without focusing on any people who are part of said entity that might actually be responsible for at least part of what’s been going on, in which case since the private sector seems to evade people’s evaluations of what’s going wrong these days let’s take a look at how the private sector can cause this nonsense to continue perhaps for a long time, even after the “economy” has recovered.

“Wait?  The Private Sector?  How On Earth Can You In Any Way Blame The Private Sector?”

Oh yeah.  This’ll definitely torque some Libertarian types who think the Private Sector never does anything wrong, but before we go pretending the Private Sector was little more than a “victim” of this mess let’s bust out the bulleted lists and play a little catch-up here with some notes.

  • What started this?  A financial crisis and stock market crash.  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has prolonged the suffering of millions while up up up and away Corporate Profits After Tax and the similarly high Corporate Profits After Tax As A Percent Of GDP came roaring back shortly after the recession “officially” ended?  The job market.  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created a world where 50% of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, as well as similarly outrageously-high numbers of young people and people without college degrees, leading to such wondrous Great Recession Stereotypes as the College-Educated Barista, not to mention things like Janitors With Ph. Ds, etc.?  The job market.  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created the outrageously disgusting technique of HR folks lowering the piles of paperwork they have to deal with via infamous tactics like “Unemployed Need Not Apply” and other assorted Great Recession headline makers?  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created the similarly unnerving technique of places posting up job postings but not actually hiring anyone (a.k.a. “fake job postings”) just to maintain a queue of recently-submitted applications in case someone quits or gets fired to minimize the time the position is open whenever it actually is?  Hiring practices these days.  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created the wonderful world where applying for a job opens one up to identity theft in the event of an application server breach via mandatory Social Security Number fields on “vintage 1990s-world-wide-web-style” online applications?  Hiring practices.  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created a world where credit checks are part of the hiring process for non-financial-type jobs so all those long-term unemployed out there who either destroyed their credit in the housing bubble with a bad mortgage or destroyed their credit in the Great Recession trying to keep themselves off the street can not be hired and thus continue down their financial death spiral because “if they have bad credit they’ll steal from the company so let’s not hire them?”  Hiring practices.  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created a world where you can see a job posting somewhere that looks like something you can do, apply for it, then if you even so much as get an interview (if the stars line up of course) suddenly the recruiter with an ego/God-complex attitude problem suddenly ramps up the job requirements so outrageously high that you practically have to already be working for them in order to be hired by them for the first time, or just skips the ramp-up entirely and simply posts a job posting with requirements that outrageously high in the first place?  Hiring practices. Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created a world where “everybody’s hiring but nobody’s training – ever” essentially dumping the cost of training onto individuals instead of companies they work for, and creating yet another Catch 22 where workers need skills to get decent jobs but until they have a decent job they can’t afford to go to school to get the skills to get said decent job, etc. etc. etc.  Employer conduct.  Private Sector Activity.

Need I go on?  😛  For fairness’ sake I should probably be open to the idea of this happening in Public Sector and government type jobs too, but let’s not forget to ask the important question – does this type of stuff happen in the private sector?  At which point if your answer’s yes…  😛

“So What’s The Problem Here?”

The problem here is a matter of being humane to other human beings and recognizing the merits of people with good character and a good work ethic, as well as the business consequences of “having the wrong people on the bus” as Jim Collins puts it in business books like the well-known Good To Great.  Put those together and we may *never* see a better job market even if the economy completely recovers, because folks responsible for people getting jobs will be so used to the slop that everyone’s been swimming in for so long that an actual taste of prosperity would be quite a shock to the ol’ system.  :-\

This assumes, of course, that the economy even gets better in the first place.

Consider this.  Right now out there in what passes for capitalism these days there are all kinds of industries where corporations have been eating each other up like hungry sharks in a handsomely-chummed pool.  Mass-consolidation is the name of the game in industry after industry after industry and the resulting lack of competition and deterioration of customer service has some folks wondering if we might need to reintroduce and maintain more competition by any means necessary because not enough exists as things are.  Thus, it’s possible more than ever these days that even in a market with alleged “competition” you can have situations where all the players do a poor job and the customer has nowhere to turn.

Imagine if in these markets we keep seeing this problem of the wrong people getting jobs while the right people sit home unemployed.  First, the right people who become long-term unemployed and/or scarred/destroyed for life by the experience give up and leave the job market, so what happens to this problem of the wrong people getting all the jobs?  It grows of course.  :-\

Meanwhile, what’s going on in these companies with these bad people that they won’t get rid of for whatever reason?  Well, the “wrong people on the bus” end up costing them money, which hurts their performance, which hurts their results, which hurts their ability to hire more people, which hurts their financial performance, which can hurt their stock price if investors are scared away, which then in multiple ways hurts the economy as the very ways that business normally causes money to change hands diminishes (lower wages – people buy less stuff, less capital – company invests less money in stuff, etc.).  Normally, one would think the market could correct itself via bad businesses going under, but with enough huge oligopolies, again, what if all the big players do that sort of stuff and the mere inertia of simply being a big player causes smaller players in the market to not have a chance?

So, does that vicious cycle ever end?  Anywhere?

“But Don’t Businesses Want To Make Money?”

Of course as usual businesses want to make money.  It’s kind of what they’re there for.  😛  With these kinds of widespread job market shenanigans these days though it’s easy to get suspicious that maybe for someone out there somewhere it’s in their best interests to keep things as bad-looking as possible for as long as possible.  Bulleted list time again.  😛

  • First, the appearance of a bad economy helps with keeping labor costs under control and driving down how much employers ultimately end up paying people by arming them with a full arsenal of ways to dangle the job carrot.  “Oh, you don’t like the pay?  NEXT!!!”  “Do you really want this job that asks the world from you for $8/hour part time no benefits?”  “Look, 50 other people want your job here.  If you’re not happy, we’ll just get someone else.”  “Don’t like it?  Want a better deal?  Good look getting another interview.”  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.  Note I said appearance of a bad economy, like keeping a public mythos going that “there are NO JOBS” by any means necessary to retain bargaining power at the negotiating table, even if it means passing over good people for folks who just do enough right to not kill the business.
  • It’ll help deal with whatever’s left of those “pesky” unions out there – either with existing negotiations (“ohhhhh times are harrrrrrrd please take these concessions if you want this company to stay afloat”) or with keeping a workforce from organizing in the first place.  Want to avoid any semblance of organized labor?  Make things look bad and get it drilled in people’s heads that times are still tough even if the only reason there are “no jobs” is because the wrong people have them and the dysfunctionality of things has become SOP across the entire industry of largely a few big players that have gobbled up whatever competition they once had.
  • A mythos of “hard times” can help with other costs too if the ability exists to mess with them.  Honoring warranties?  Customer service?  The grocery shrink ray?  Oh have at them because “times are sooooooo harrrrrd.”  Yeah.  😛
  • Now suppose another business wants to do the right thing and not get caught up in this mess.  Could they possibly do better if they’re not caught up in this mess and thus hire better people but end up paying them more and having costs associated with being on the ball with things become notably higher than a place that is caught up in this stuff?  I hope there are still good places out there that can do well.  I’ve just been thinking about why places that aren’t so good stay around for so long despite the usual rules of competitive markets.  :-\

“But Doesn’t This Thing Stop Somewhere?”

Of course.  All gravy trains eventually stop, but that’s not to say folks riding the gravy train so to speak can’t milk the crap out of the thing before it finally derails.  Then of course it’ll be time to find or create another train to milk even more.  😛  If say this current mess went on long enough for us to see the end of it without someone stopping it somehow maybe there might be more problems when everything crashed, but until then, our current problems exist because of this milking process itself.  😛  How this ends – I do not know.  I can only hope it’s not as bad as it could be.  =(

In the meantime, let’s just hope things get better.  =(  This type of long-term unemployment mess has been shown to cause serious problems with people, and even drive some folks to commit suicide.  =(

…and to wrap things up, here’s two Liz Ryan articles similar to the one I linked earlier.

Liz Ryan – Glassdoor.com – Why Talented People Don’t Get Hired

Liz Ryan – Glassdoor.com – Are Companies Beating Talent Away With A Stick?

…and let’s call it a big long blog entry with some Moonlight Sonata and the Chrono Trigger Ruined World Eternal Derelict OC Remix to finish everything off.  =(