Current Trends

By now it should be no surprise a CEO has started a firestorm announcing changes to their workplace; after all Marissa Mayer did it by banning telecommuting at Yahoo, fortunately for her, at the same time, attaching a nursery to her office to simultaneously meet her needs as a new mom. Sheryl Sandberg scandalized many women with her new book Lean In, essentially telling off women while telling them how to get where she is shortly after being made CEO of Facebook.  Now CEO Tim Armstrong of AOL is in similar hot water from blaming a change of retirement account payments on two distressed babies of AOL employees requiring million dollar payouts for medical expenses. Obviously the outrage pouring in soon after as one of the mothers started to be approached by friends and acquaintances asking if she was indeed one of the people he referred to; others analysts, fellow women in workplaces nationwide pointing to this as the latest discrimination, hostility against women workers, working mothers, perpetuating the idea these women were somehow greedy, selfish, taking an exorbitant amount of their employers, fellow employees healthcare pie by needing insurance to see that their extremely sick child got a chance at life. Simply not true; more than the fact that as a corporation they are able to negotiate directly with insurance providers for cheaper rates, that most companies have back up insurance policies to protect themselves against huge costs like medical bills for preterm infants, it’s that he singled out pregnant women, innocent infants over all the other costly medical help a corporation can find itself on the hook for in terms of expense. Astute onlookers asking, and rightly so, what about treatments for cancer, specifically women with breast cancer, obesity; why just mothers, mothers with very sick children; highlighting just a few of the non-parent related illnesses, costs that can be racked up. But it’s not the end of the story whether it’s a war on women or the harrowing task of getting a job regardless of gender, there appears to be a large scale war on employment period spearheaded by giant business conglomerates. 

Now GOP members would have us all believe president Obama created the war on women concept as a counter attack to pro-life, republican positions decrying birth control provisions in the Affordable Care Act, as a response to the accusation he was forcing religious institutions to not only dispense birth control but perform, in their minds, immoral medical procedures in the form of abortions, obstructing their religious freedom. Not say the endless heartbeat bills, the increased restriction of birth control options on the market for decades pushed for by conservatives, not the inherent discrimination they have engaged in unhindered for years suddenly halted by a president who believes in equal access. However there has always been a war on women in society and the workplace; from the 1950’s when women were subservient to their husbands, in many states had to have varying legal grounds for divorce and little options if you did, regardless if your husband was a drunk, an adulterer or downright abusive, to the pre-women’s movement days when women weren’t allowed to work or only permitted to do certain jobs, the agonizingly slow integration of women into every field of employment often mandating women considered for what had been traditionally men’s jobs do exponentially better than their male counterparts.  Harassment laws and social perception shifts in place or not, recently it has become more sophisticated and subtle, removing benefits such as maternity leave on “financial grounds,” 22, 23 states still being the only ones to have express laws on the books preventing employers from not hiring mothers on the sole fact they are mothers or may become mothers during their employment, the makeup ad gone viral punctuated by a university study exposing our attitudes toward women and men’s behavior vying for management positions, women almost always viewed negatively, men viewed positively thus given the job. Societal stereotypes underpinned overwhelmingly by GOP republicans using Judeo Chastain values to excuse outdated, outlandish mindsets; i.e. the best place for women is at home barefoot and pregnant, shaming anyone who has a child out of wedlock, who couldn’t make their marriage, an attempt at a two parent home, work, the solution is not extending unemployment benefits, it’s compelling people to get a job/create more jobs, it’s not adding to the minimum wage it’s getting people to stop being lazy, complacent and actually learn useable skills. In the current context of what is meant by a warn on women as a political phrase it has morphed out from an admonishment on the pro-life stance against birth control, abortion to Michele Bachmann stating Obama has created an economic war on women citing increased propane costs and “quadrupled healthcare premiums” (the Affordable Care Act in general) according to the clip below; similar supports of this line of thinking tack on the supposed anti-business climate stagnating growth, which would lead to the jobs to get the nation moving again, tying in the push to raise the minimum wage predicted to eliminate thousands, if not millions, of jobs if employers are forced to pay more. Purportedly further disenfranchising women because they are the chief holders of low wage jobs as they try to scrape by raising one to two kids on $7.25 to 8.00 an hour. Yet again the bigger picture is the ongoing war on workers; beyond dismantling of unions, blows to worker rights established in 1930’s under FDR, beyond lack of sick days, health benefits, retirement plans going the way of the dodo for employers and their employees are the dirty, underhanded, nonsensical things employers refuse to hire because of or are trigger happy to fire otherwise solid workers in the wake of. 

When people aren’t getting fired for participating in a bikini contest, what tie they wore to work supporting their favorite sports team that somehow offended their boss, the benign post to social media your employer thought meant one thing, anyone who’s not hyper sensitive another, the fact that you have a blog, no, not that you defamed your employer with it, just that you had it; people are getting fired for actually doing their job lifeguards saving boy from shark, preventing robbery or carjacking in their place of business. When they’re not facing hiring scrutiny over smoking, their weight, the fact they like cheese burgers and don’t have a gym membership, being demoralized by their existing employer “because no one wants a fat girl at reception,” while pregnant, deemed too sexy for their job despite being professional and bringing in customers, or accused of causing their bosses marital problems by how pretty they are, when it’s not about the condition of your teeth, walking gate, the fact you wear glasses, what amateur psycho analysis supposedly reveals about our handwriting, employers aren’t investigating the cleanliness of your car right after your credit score, putting spies in their offices to find out if you pass their honesty tests as they leave everything from intellectual property to cash hidden amongst, in magazines, leave us sitting in an interview for an hour or more to determine how we handle stress, it’s a whole new barrage of  things weeding out potential employees. Most notably, no feasible way to meet employers unending, unrealistic expectations; several steps farther than odd job descriptions, forklift operation, stable cleaning alongside clerical work, must speak 3 languages for an administrative assistant,  no possible way any candidate multiple years’ experience or no experience could acquire all those skills in extreme specialty pockets of employment Power Church religious organization software, Dentrex, Eglesoft, PC and Mac platforms for administrative assistant work, and that’s only the beginning. None know this better than long term unemployed, the latest targets in a laundry list of people excluded from the working world based on one arbitrary reason or another, seeing job ads that openly state the unemployed need not apply, a practice perfectly legal throughout most places nationwide, only select cities, states reining in such tactics; behaviors representing a direct juxtaposition amid the toddler-esque crying they can’t find workers, bemoaning current applicant pools. Still employers would rather add to their existing employees’ job descriptions than hire new people. Should they deign to add to their workforce, attempt to have the number of people they need vs. what they can scrape by with, hiring personnel are cherry picking the uber candidate with 100% of their seemingly endless stockpile of ultra-specific job requirements a majority have never even heard of let alone possess, jobs that were always going to mandate tailored, on the job tutorials, training due to their unique nature. To be clear these are not the long term unemployed rendered so by incarceration, substance abuse treatment, even ongoing health problems slated to cost you money; these are individuals whose former jobs were swallowed by what, the recession, sizable shifts in employment opportunities, terminated for downsizing not inadequate job performance, perhaps a mother who took the first 3-5 years of her child’s life off to raise them until preschool, kindergarten.

But again the fault mainly resides with employers who in addition to willfully bypassing those minus a job six months or longer, compounded by their automatic shunning of any applicant over 40, certainly over 50, they can simultaneously respond to surveys, go on television talking about the urgent “skills gap,” saying we no longer have people willing to do something, usually in reference to construction, manufacturing, machinists, skilled trades. Yet are rarely found voicing their concerns to high school, college students, high school, college educators, administrators to attract both the age and knowledge base desired; they can’t even seem to properly articulate the problem. In fact as recently as November last year CNBC posted an article entitled “Why Jonny Can’t Write, and Why Employers are Mad” detailing how many millennial job seekers have abysmal communication skills, soft skills particularly in writing; however, the article contradicts itself in numerous places from the misleading, headline grabbing title on down. In between the back and forth blame game of who’s responsible k-12 or college educators for graduates with underdeveloped writing skills, they openly admit not a lack of correctly differentiating a pronoun and a participle, its and it’s or their, there and they’re, your and you’re, though there are plenty of older adults not educated under the current “failing” system who couldn’t do the same, because it’s never made sense to begin with, rather a lack of business writing skill. Persuasion, things that fall under sales, marketing; collaboration, creative/critical thinking and items under social skills also listed in related linked materials. ‘Some new hires are skeptical, he said. “People think when they first meet me that I’m going to grill them on semicolons.” But in fact, he says, he is teaching them what they need in order to succeed at the firm. You can be the smartest person here, but if you can’t convince the portfolio managers to buy what you’re selling, you won’t be successful.” (In Wall Street terms, that means you won’t make much money.)’ Quotes above proving they need college classes, targeted training in professional, clear, concise, business directed writing not re-education in the 3 R’s. And when it came to solutions for the low writing ability, attributes hung under the awning  “poor communication skills,” according to those same businesses who so prize making yourself clear, being able to convince others of an argument, the positives of a product came tidbits like this: “(Oddly, though, when recruiters were asked in a separate question what changes business schools should make to meet employers’ needs, the recruiters overwhelmingly called for something different: practical experience.),” better known as the one thing no business is willing to provide. There is indeed a prominent skills gap in America and no, K-12 isn’t the root, that root is internships, apprenticeships the “practical experience” everyone one wants, employer or striving to succeed employee, and almost no one wants to take on. Or should they agree to take interns, it is sans the guidance the latter needs to eventually get hired, learn new skills in a hands on manner instead used for paper pushing, coffee runs, dry cleaning pickups, free busy work, possibly even unpaid labor performing a real job, just not getting paid. Causing student, worker advocates to question the merits of unpaid internships altogether; unpaid internships causing a real hardship for students who either must work both during school and in summer for a roof over their head or to pay uncovered portions of tuition and expenses for the current, coming school year, making internships even more for the wealthy elite, the very few rather than everyone willing and able.

Truth be told the worst communicators are bosses, all sections of management well into their 40’s and 50’s who, like parents dealing with children, give directions, instructions or something as simple as a list of tasks to complete all out of logical, chronological order, no clarity on what you want/need done first, last, which items have hard and fast deadlines, what you need on your desk ASAP for review, knowledge not usually gleaned from the office environment, business operations, whatever parameters the worker is responsible for; then wonder why, like their children, their employees get confused, do things wrong, don’t give you what you need when you need it only on a more complex level. And still more bosses when they verbally hand an employee a to do list of things to be finished by lunch time, give an assistant, intern, entry level worker assignments, they do so in what could be called thinking out loud mode where the boss is rattling off things they need done that day, that week, no thought to order or process, how what they are saying is received, often dismissing them, flitting out the door themselves before questions can be asked; in either case, the employee spends 20 minutes trying to fit the tasks into a sane order, does them in the exact order given assuming the boss wants it that way for a reason then are labeled subpar, unsatisfactory if they get it wrong.  Bosses who sign off on want ads, this one from my local paper, reading verbatim as follows: “Medical Office, Efficient Medical Front Office Person or Medical Assistant to work as a “float” in front office, medical records and clinic in a busy specialty office. Must be professional in attire, mannerisms, have excellent phone and personal customer skills and can handle multiple duties. Computer and electronic medical records experience a plus. Mon-Fri; no evening hours. Send cover letter, salary requirements and resume to BBP.”  Said ad might have attracted more, better quality, workers if it were written along these lines, efficient front office person or medical assistant to work in specialty clinic. A float position with duties including front office tasks, medical records and clinic functions/check-in. Must be professional in both demeanor and attire, have excellent phone/customer service skills, ability to multitask. Computer and electronic medical records experience a plus. Mon-Fri; no evening hours. Send cover letter, salary requirements and resume to…much better don’t you think? Worse interacting with recruiters, hiring managers only to come up against scenarios couched into, when you can get them on the phone or get them to answer an e-mail regarding follow up, your interest in the position, you get unintelligible gibberish; one such man looking for a receptionist said to an applicant: “well we are conducting interviews if you did not get called for after one of those, I guess you didn’t make it through that process.” Then quickly hanging up before they could gain clarification, leaving the applicant justifiably scratching their head; a majority thinking I’ve met people who speak poor English with horribly thick accents who could do better. One and the same recruiters, hiring managers known to overlook qualified applicants because parameters weren’t clear, those coordinating hiring believe candidates must have every skill, going back to the given want ad, job descriptions that are either too vague, too specific, misuse technology when it comes to keyword searches in application materials also according to an adjacent CNBC article on employment. Complicating things exponentially overreliance on social networking, interment information sites like Facebook, Spokeo and Equifax to make final determinations about a candidate’s worthiness for the job, notwithstanding how inaccurate the latter two entities have been proven to be.

Despite overwhelming evidence corroborating aforementioned maddening barriers to meaningful employment in concert with current calculations on poverty, how much a person must earn to functionally support themselves, republicans likewise staunchly refuse to raise the minimum wage; not only due the litany of already listed grounds, shedding jobs, wrecking the economy but the protestant work ethic adapted for the later 20th, early 21st century. We don’t need to elevate low skills jobs, AKA the minimum wage; you, Citizen X, need to elevate your skills if you want a raise in pay. Their idea of the minimum wage worker is a high school or college student just starting out, someone lacking motivation or intelligence to go above medial labor, medial wage work, someone having to start over after making bad life choices involving drugs, alcohol, incarceration; false, significant numbers comprising minimum wage earners are in their late 20’s, early 30’s attempting to raise families on the $8.00 an hour employment they can access, older workers approaching, or past, retirement age financially unable to retire and unwanted in their former occupations. People who weren’t lucky enough to be able to afford post-secondary education, older workers who don’t have resources in the form of meaningful community retraining programs or have exhausted them to no avail, people working for such low wages can barely provide for their basic needs never mind save money to go back to school, get better educated to achieve upward mobility. Republicans being the first to slash job training programs at every turn, deny jobs bills a vote on the house floor, who remain utterly silent about employers refusing to hire the recession created long term unemployed along with longstanding other technically illegal, rarely enforced practices running rampant in our employment system, routinely screaming the new millennium version of get a job you bums. Those same conservatives call decommissioning common sense regulation aimed at fare and ethical business operation fostering a business climate, getting government off businesses back while giant corporate tycoons like Tim Armstrong contrive ways to take away benefits from peon workers concurrently posting their best profits ever; the 1% doing just fine stepping on the 99. A moderate wage hike that could be engineered to a happy medium allowing workers to pay their bills, meet basic needs without going so high it causes the standstill of the economy, falls into the same trap as other countries making dire mistakes with their own lowest wages. That conservative mindset honestly being nothing new, ties into this increase your skills fallacy most people are operating under including politicians, citizens and business people; it used to be circa 1960 you graduated high school, got a job and were trained for that job by your employer, by the 1990’s you graduated high school, went to college then got a job, early 2000’s trade and tech schools, specialty training became alternative options to the typical post-secondary 4 year institution. Cycle being get educated, get job, engage in further training/retraining to keep current job, receive promotion or change jobs; going back to school was done later in life or to get more practical education toward a job rather than a dream, not anymore. Currently education has become a continuous hamster wheel, a revolving door with little results; independent of your age, where you go to school, 4 year college for the second time, community training program, local career center, the rare program affiliated to a community college via an employer looking for workers, people to fulfill unique job functions, what you receive training in, it never goes that extra stretch to actually aiding persons in getting a job, a better job.

Looking at the link below is a classic example, why do we only have programs teaching work culture, interaction, networking for the corporate world; why not every work culture, environment above fast food, which the bulk of young people, sans type of upbringing, older workers seeking to move beyond  low wage work, have yet to be expose to?  Why are computer repair/technology and financial operation the only two options in this program, sending the dangerous message, to exactly the wrong people, these are the only choices? Why was this the brainchild of one business person, as opposed to a standard operating procedure in garnering workers? Why have we not combined high school and community college programs for specific skills in computers, business, cooking, mechanics, manufacturing, machinists, offering classes, training in building inspection, food inspection, practical lab work suitable for any number of chemistry and biology students who will need certifications to move forward to name but a few; particularly useful for students who already know what they want to do? Bring managers, experts in each field to certify students who complete the work, demonstrate the knowledge then send the out to get in demand jobs. Further footage also presumes their Year Up program equals success; comments on the segment seem to suggest, if not prove, otherwise; similarly the why Jonny can’t write story’s comments included chimes about kids not being able to fill out a low wage’s job application assuming stupidity, poor assimilation of k-12 education, not the complexity of the most “basic” application. Applications with lengthy questionnaires, invasive voluntary surveys asking if you have been on welfare, food stamps, how many days missed within a year exc., aside, so called basic applications, paper applications for minimum wage employment are routinely filled with illegal questions, poorly thought out questions, questions that, thanks to your situation, are difficult to answer. One head scratching example was an application that asked “have you ever filled out an application, been employed here before, yes/no; circle one. Problem, no matter which option you mark, they won’t know if you were once an employee or only filled out an application, how long ago you filled it out. To say nothing of 1960-2000, if you were a kid trying to obtain your first job, an older worker who obviously hadn’t been pounding the pavement in years, needing a little help filling out an application, clarification as to what they wanted to know, staff would give it to you, not jump to the conclusion you are stupid and therefore unworthy of work. And as tempting as it may be to ignore those facts on the premise we are no longer in the 1960’s, the idea job applications, common knowledge regarding application process must evolve, there is still the reality it was done that way then because it worked, should still be done that way because it still works. The strategy also accounts for the fact we continue to expect people to only learn how to complete an application by doing so, by some amorphous form of nonexistent osmosis.

Bottom line there is a war on employment, a war on employment perpetuated by a workforce system meant to exclude people deemed by appearance to be too young for the job they apply, too old to work in this place traditionally employing workers in brackets X and Y, individuals   who cannot afford varying types of post high school education. A war on employment further facilitated by only pockets of meaningful job training in distinct subsets open to mere fractions of the population against standard job training programs, where they can even be found, lacking learning opportunities in rudimentary skillsets for key sectors of employment. How can you have a clerical training program that doesn’t introduce students to appointment scheduling and accompanying software, invoice coding, adobe applications and how they might be used in an office setting, for an administrative assistant; nevertheless that’s exactly what we have fast-tracking workers looking for retraining, students looking to acquire, augment practical skills into frustration, unemployment not functional wages and upward mobility, because it provides and incomplete range of skills. There has been an ongoing war on employment fueled by employers who have yet to comprehend completion of a college degree in a field of study, a tech school certification or training in a particular skillset, signals their readiness for entry level work and basic job training easily rolled into telling an employee where to put completed paperwork, that sales meetings are on Fridays, to present their timecard to so and so in payroll, what forms they need to fill out with human resources at hire. There is a contentious war on employment centering around not just women and mothers but who is classified as good enough to work more than in a fortune 500 company, prestigious bank, tech firm, specific business targeting certain age demographics, but who is good enough to work in a front office, who is good enough to work even management at fast food, who is good enough to be in your employ often based on attractiveness. Not whether they come to work on time, show up every day, when they are sick dutifully inform you, have a positive attitude, are genuinely excited to be at work, come having performed rudimentary hygiene, appropriately attired for type of work and place of business, but are they pretty, lacking wrinkles, isn’t overweight, throwing competence, confidence and capability out the window along with too many people’s employment prospects while politicians shout stop being lazy, refuse to stay un/under educated and get a real job.