Monday, 13 April 2009

Smile your way through the recession

Afraid of being made redundant? Take more showers, advises this week's Sunday Star Times.

This is one of a spate of smarmy news items I've seen recently, offering advice to anxious people on how they can keep their jobs. No industry does opportunism quite like the media, and articles like these clearly tap into a fear that we're all feeling right now.

At the same time, these articles downplay the fundamental problem: the global economy is pooing its pants. By suggesting that workers can keep their jobs by improving their performance, advice like this is also implying that those who lose their jobs didn't quite cut it - they didn't try hard enough, arrive early enough, smile brightly enough at their colleagues. People are losing their jobs not because they've failed, but because there aren't enough jobs to go around.

This kind of thinking is potential soul-destroying for those who are being laid off, and is solidarity-destroying too. I refuse to approach my work as a competition, ingratiating myself in the hope that if the proverbial hits the fan, it'll be one of my workmates who gets laid off instead of me. My workmates are good, hardworking people - none of us 'deserves' a job less than any other.

It's obvious, too, that going out of your way to ingratiate yourself at work isn't a family-friendly strategy. Sure, I could turn up early and stay late each day to show what a motivated young go-getter I am - but my partner would carry the can, doing longer days in sole charge of the kids. And I'd be trying to score cheap points over my workmates who simply have to knock off on time to go home and care for their families.

Like everyone who's scared of losing their job, I've had moments of nearly being drawn into this sort of competition with my workmates. I just keep reminding myself that it's really just a race to the bottom.


Dolan said...

Great post - I could not have put it better myself. That article was a piece of superficial nonsence. You might not get a job if you have a waky number plate! Employers complain that they can't sack bad workers easily enough - pehaps if they hired people based on something old fashioned like, um, competence or experience, they might not find they need the abulance at the bottom of the cliff.

Another aspect to this is that restructuring employers often try use criteria that is specially designed to get rid of women. People that have to pick up their kids at 3:30pm and have lots of domestic leave or parental leave can be categorised as 'unproductive' and get low marks under 'team player' type labels.

As an aside - how many articles were there in the SST about chocolate??? I counted about 6. Good to see them cutting to the heart of the issues that matter. Not.

Anonymous said...


Anna said...

Bloody chocolate! I hadn't realised just how many 'comfort food' articles there have been recently until you pointed it out, Dolan (ironic, given that all Campbell Live seems to be covering at the moment is various weight loss regimes).

It's kind of sad that the media assumes (rightly or wrongly) that people only want to know about the recession insofar as it personally affects them - ie how to keep MY job, eating chocolate will make ME feel better. I'd love to see some good current affairs coverage of the big economic picture - it's been sadly lacking.

But that Dilbert is classic, Anon!

Paul said...

Great post. It is not surprising that the quoted 'expert' is the head of the employers' organisation. It would have been nice to hear from a union organiser about the injustices which employees suffer in the name of 'restructuring.'