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Young Workers: Hit Hard, Hitting Back

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Image: Liz ShulerAs newly elected secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, I traveled the country this fall, talking with workers and hearing their concerns. The economic crisis is causing a lot of pain. So many people have no jobs, no health care–and many are losing their homes. And as I looked into the faces of young workers, the reality hit home that these young people are part of the first generation in recent history likely to be worse off than their parents.

This is a tragedy.

The AFL-CIO and our community affiliate, Working America, recently surveyed young workers–and I’m not talking about 17- and 18-year-olds. I’m talking about 18- to 34-year-olds. In the past 10 years, young workers have suffered disproportionately from the downturn in the economy:

  • One in three young workers is worried about being able to find a job–let alone a full-time job with benefits.
  • Only 31 percent make enough money to cover their bills and put some aside–that is 22 percentage points worse than it was 10 years ago.
  • Nearly half worry about having more debt than they can handle.
  • One in three still lives at home with parents.

Young workers are living the effects of a 30-year campaign to create a low-wage workforce. It has succeeded.

For decades, the far right led an anti-government, anti-investment, feed-the-rich-and-starve-the-poor drive that gave us an era of deregulation, privatization and job exporting.

At the same time, corporations and government attacked unions and workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain for decent wages and benefits. When unions are strong, paychecks grow and workers have benefits like health care and pensions.

When unions are under attack, paychecks shrink. Pensions vanish. Health care becomes the emergency room.

What’s left is not working for young people–or for any of us. It will take a broadly shared sense of wartime urgency to replace today’s low-wage economy with a high-wage, high-skills economy. The first step must be immediate action to address the nation’s jobs crisis, with five essential steps:

  1. Extend the lifeline for jobless workers.
  2. Rebuild America’s schools, roads and energy systems and invest in green technology and green jobs.
  3. Increase aid to state and local governments to maintain vital services.
  4. Fund jobs in our communities.
  5. Put TARP funds to work for Main Street with job-creating loans to small businesses.

We took these initiatives to the White House Summit on Jobs on Dec. 3 and are pushing Congress to take action now. The first reports from the Jobs Summit are encouraging, and we look forward to working with the Obama administration and Congress to carry on this momentum.

It’s time to rebuild an economy that works–an economy based on prosperity, an economy we can be proud to pass on to our children and their children. And we need young people to lead the way. That survey I mentioned earlier shows they are ready.

· Young workers have a whole new level of civic engagement, with the surge of new voters in the 2008 election.
· They are well-informed and following government and policy news.
· They believe in collective action and understand the power of having a union.
· They have hope for the future and the vision of a savvy, diverse movement to bring about progressive change.

We’re planning a major summit for young workers after the first of the year to bring all our ideas and voices together. When crises hit, it’s young people who drive change.

Martin Luther King Jr. was 26 when he led the Montgomery bus boycott. At 25, César Chávez was registering Mexican Americans to vote. Walter Reuther headed strikes demanding GM recognize its workers’ rights starting when he was 30. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was 33 when she drafted the declaration of women’s rights.

Young people are being hard in this jobs crisis. But I believe they provide much of the fuel we need to get out of it.

*This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post on December 7, 2009. Reprinted with permission by the author.

**Photo credt: © 2009 Jay Mallin.  All rights reserved. Licensed soley for use in publications, both electronic and print, websites, and public relations of the AFL-CIO.  All other uses, publication, or distribution strictly prohibited. Licensing is contingent on payment in full of our invoice. For more information, contact: [email protected] 202-363-2756

About the Author: Liz Shuler was elected AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer in September 2009, the youngest person ever to become an officer of the AFL-CIO. Shuler previously was the highest-ranking women in the Electrical Workers (IBEW) union, serving as the top assistant to the IBEW president since 2004. In 1993, she joined IBEW Local 125 in Portland, Ore., where she worked as an organizer and state legislative and political director. In
1998, she was part of the IBEW’s international staff in Washington, D.C., as a legislative and political representative.


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Unemployment Q & A’s

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Image: Brett BrownellI’m thankful for the opportunity to be part of a great organization like Workplace Fairness. We’re using online tools to educate workers about their rights and job-seekers about their search. But I’m no stranger to unemployment.

In the not-too-distant past my resources became limited and I hit a wall in my job search. So I made the tough decision millions of Americans have had to make: I decided to file for unemployment… But making the decision was just the beginning.

What I remember most vividly about the time that followed were two things:

1) The confusion, hassle, and frustration of the application process

2) My relief when I received the first ameliorating check

So, when I came across the The New York Times’ money blog “Bucks” and their series “Answers About Unemployment Benefits” I wanted to share it and hopefully save some frustrated job-seekers a few minutes, or hours, or dead-end research.

The answers are provided by Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project. All four parts in the series can be found here:

Answers About Unemployment Benefits: Part 1

Answers About Unemployment Benefits: Part 2

Answers About Unemployment Benefits: Part 3

Answers About Unemployment Benefits: Part 4

Among the topics the series covers are:

• COBRA health care
• Tip earners
• Temp workers
• How to determine eligibility?
• How to determine amount?
• New 2009 Recovery Act extensions
• Students
• Self-employment
• Independent contractors

I hope you find it helpful.

*For more information on unemployment insurance visit the Workplace Fairness Unemployment Insurance Information page and 2009 Economic Stimulus Package and its Effect on Unemployment Insurance page.

About the Author: Brett Brownell is a new media fellow at the New Organizing Institute where he manages the Today’s Workplace blog and new media for Workplace Fairness. Brett served as deputy director of new media & videographer for the Obama campaign in Pennsylvania. He is also the founder of Worldwide Moment (an international photography project for peace) and the son of a 40-year veteran of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants union.


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Some Things I Took Away From The Organizing Conference Last Week

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Image: Richard NegriLast week I attended the Web 2.0 Organizing Conference in NYC. It was an incredible event packed with hundreds of online organizers from around the country.

While I think the conference was a tremendous success, I think we, in labor, have a long way to go. We have the daunting task of internal organizing so that we can actually do 1/2 of the great things we talk about with online organizing and mobilizing. We have to remember that some unions’ web sites still look they were built out by a third grader. There appears to be an underlying fear among old school unionists to do anything on the web — and most probably because they cannot control the interactivity — or they don’t think they can. This is where we become educators.

We have to educate our bosses on the technology in a way that they can understand, and this is not easy for a whole host of reasons. Some of us don’t know how to explain why some social media tools work and others don’t. We don’t know how to explain that Convio is capable of a lot more than sending a mass email, etc. We can talk about this stuff until we are blue in the face, but often times we just need a shot at doing something to prove that it works. Do it now and apologize later? Maybe.

There are two different things at play for a lot of unions. One is actual organizing and the other is outreach – they are two different things that are frequently carried out by the same individual. (I think one day this will change. I think eventually the unions will realize that they need a team of workers to carry out the online organizing, mobilizing and education and will not put the task to one or two people only. I also think we are not there yet). For now, the same person who is clicking away at Twitter a few times a day is also the person who is getting flyers on web sites and sending emails to workers to get the flyers to print and distribute. The same person should also be building out technology to mine workers’ names and information to turn over to the boots-on-ground organizers. And this is where it can get very tricky for traditional organizing models.

At the conference something was said in one of the workshops that really struck a chord with me. If a worker’s first contact with a union is through a web site form, so should the second — usually with an email. Too often unions will realize they can get a worker’s information mined by the sites but then they want someone to go house visit with the worker immediately after. It shouldn’t, in my opinion, work quite that way. (In other words, I agree with the person who said this at the conference).  It should be: initial contact web site – second contact email. Sure, by the third or fourth correspondence with the worker, have them meet up with someone from the organizing committee, but they might not be ready sooner than that. This is why an online organizer needs to make assessments of the workers in the same way an organizer on ground has to.

The education and mobilization part is becoming easier and easier. We have tools like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, YouTube. There are progressive blogs welcoming labor’s messaging, such as FireDogLake, Daily Kos and Huffington Post. Then there are labor specific blogs like UnionReview.com where we can get to the meat of things if we need to.

Of course it is important to comment on stories we see — and that is a brand of online activism the same organizer who is mining workers’ names from the sites must motivate people to do. If we see an article in the mainstream media news that is totally counter everything we believe in as working class union workers, then take ten minutes and leave a comment, sway the discussion and get yourselves heard.

If there is one thing that is clear to me after a few years of doing this stuff it is this — never before have we had the opportunity to actually be the media. I talk about this in workshops at the union I work for and wherever else I am asked to talk, it is pivotal. We have to take into consideration that once upon a time it was a talked-at media. We were talked at from places like the NY Times, CNN, etc. Now journalism is an interactive trade. We are still talked at, but now we can talk back, instantly. If we stay as apathetic online as many of us are in the shops we work at, nothing is going to change. And change is what everyone is crying for.

Finally, I think it is important to mention that some of us who are doing online mobilization and education fall into the rut of singing to the choir. I have been guilty of this also. When we have made some ground on blogs or web sites, got heard and — even better – understood, why not move on to the next site or blog? Don’t get caught up in saying the same thing over and over to the same people. It can be a challenge because sometimes we don’t know if our work is ever really done, but who doesn’t like a challenge?

Do you want to be part of the change or would you rather sit back and hope for the best?

This article originally appeared in UnionReview.com on December 12, 2009. Re-printed with permission by the author.

About the Author: Richard Negri is the founder of UnionReview.com and is the Online Manager for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.


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How Things Really Get Done

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Image: Bob RosnerOne of the most creative bits of problem solving I’ve ever heard of came during Hurrican Katrina. In the French Quarter, Addie Hall and Zackery Bowen found an unusual way to make sure that police officers regularly patrolled their house. Ms. Hall, 28, a bartender, flashed her breasts at the police vehicles that passed by, ensuring a regular flow of traffic (from the New York Times).

I’m a fan of New Orleans. And let’s face it, if you had gone through the hell of hurricane Katrina, would you be able to draw on years of experience at Mardi Gras to get the police attention you needed? Ms. Hall, like so many residents of the Big Easy, has the most creative problem solving skills I’ve ever seen.

Ms. Hall also reminds us that there are the ways that things are supposed to get done and the ways that they actually get done. I’m not suggesting that flashing is a career enhancing move for most of us. But there are times at work, and in life, where creativity and bold action are not only called for, they’re a requirement.

This reminds me of a story that I heard as a graduate business student. Our professor told us that he wanted to talk to people who actually implemented programs in corporations. So he arranged a meeting with no consultants, authors or other hangers on. He only allowed corporate doers in the room. He asked them to tell success stories and he marveled at how the techniques for getting things done in the real world had little resemblance to what was being taught in MBA programs.

For example, there was the change agent who tried to get his program implemented for years with no success. He’d long since given up. Then one day he was having lunch with his friend, the company speechwriter. The topic of his failed program came up. He told the sad story of defeat after defeat on the corporate battlefield. Cut to the CEO two weeks later announcing his latest initiative, the change agent’s program. One conversation with the speechwriter breathed more life into his program than years of banging his head against the corporate hierarchy.

For every rule of how things should get done in organizations there are often at least two exceptions. That’s why it’s so important to get to know the network of doers in your organization. They’re in there, but chances are that they’re operating beneath the radar. So you’re going to have to go looking for them. Once you get their confidence, they’ll have many stories that will both surprise you and teach you new ways to get from point A to point B within your organization.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected]


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Did a Sodexo Manager Really Just Say That?

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Image: Brad LevinsonAs over 1,500 students at Loyola Marymount University begin a massive boycott of Sodexo’s dining facilities this week, Sodexo’s general manager for the area, Lisa Farrell, has issued a revealing quote that may enrage workers and students all over the country.

The school’s newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan has the story of the boycott, which students are staging for reasons including “reducing the prices of perishable items such as fruit, making price reductions for students who choose to forgo meat and ensuring that workers are paid a living wage,” according to student Megan Lynch.

According to Lynch, Sodexo justifies their “high prices” by explaining that “workers are paid the local living wage of $11.25 per hour.” The students, however, “have come to find that many Sodexo employees make $8.50 to $9.00 an hour,” reports the Loyolan.

But here’s the kicker: within the article itself, Sodexo manager Lisa Farrell unintentionally admits that Sodexo does not pay a living wage, as defined by the City of Los Angeles’s living wage law. Here’s what she’s said to the Loyolan:

“The current L.A. living wage is … $10.30 an hour, with health benefits, or $11.55 an hour if no health benefits are offered. Here at LMU, we have a minimum starting wage of $9.05 per hour plus one meal per shift valued at $1.25…Sodexo offers full benefits to all full-time employees.”

The last time we checked, $9.05 an hour does not equal $10.30 an hour, nor does it equal $11.55 an hour.

And what about that free meal per shift valued at $1.25? Even if we gave Sodexo the benefit of the doubt and included that figure in lieu of actual pay – which would be extremely unusual – that would mean that a worker making $9.05 an hour and receiving the $1.25 meal would only make the living wage for the hour that they’re afforded that meal. For the rest of the hours they’re working, they’re still making $9.05. Nice try, though.

It’s also unclear how many of the Sodexo workers on site actually are afforded full-time positions that provide health-care benefits- meaning that for these workers, they would have to make $11.55 an hour to meet the living wage guidelines – not the $8.50 and $9.00 that the students are reporting.

And how about a second look at the $1.25 figure? As Farrell admits, the meals that the workers are provided are “valued at 1.25.” Explain that to the students spending $10 for that meal, as LMU student John Twehill says he does.

*This post originally appeared in the SEIU Blog on December 9, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Brad Levinson is new media strategist for SEIU, where he current serves as the new media lead for the organization’s Property Services division.  In addition to his daily role of designing and implementing new media programming for SEIU’s food service workers, security officers and janitors, his current work involves developing a functional model for successful online union organizing.  Brad’s primary interests include online organizing, emerging media trends, online video, online anthropology and culture, and digital divide issues.  He is a graduate of Drexel University and earned his masters in media and politics from Georgetown University.


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Where Have All the Labor Writers Gone?

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Consider the fate of the labor reporter. A long vanishing breed, there are only a few of them left in the country.

Businesses and their mouthpieces disparage them for daring to question their facts, their motives and for humanizing the stories that Corporate America wishes would remain distant and bloodless so nobody would pay attention to them.

Union supporters often question their support for organized labor. And they frequently accuse labor reporters of hyping their coverage in order to draw attention to their articles while failing to convey the deeper, more significant issues that confront unions.

Then there is the small collection of union crooks, and bullies who despise labor reporters because they dare to look under their unions’ hoods and to expose wrong-doing.

And yet the surviving labor reporters go on. They persist even though many of them have been scattered to the far corners of news operations by editors convinced that their stories no longer matter, and despite the crushing presence of business news that treats workers and unions as if they were invisible and unconnected to what goes on.

New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse is one of these survivors. He was recently snarled in a dispute with some union officials that says something about the job’s many thankless hassles.

In November, he wrote an article detailing complaints of current and former members of Unite Here, the hotel and restaurant workers’ union, with what they described as a longstanding practice known as pink-sheeting.

Citing interviews with “more than a dozen organizers,” Greenhouse detailed workers’ allegations that they were pressured to detail personal issues that they said were later used against them as a way to control or manipulate them.

John W. Wilhelm, Unite Here’s president, who was quoted as saying that he condemned such tactics, also described its presence within in the union as “rare.” But he also told Greenhouse that he was “cracking down on what pink sheeting existed.”

Not long after the article appeared, the Union of Unite Here Staff (UUHS) issued a public letter, heaping a mountain of complaints onto Greenhouse’s shoulders. The group accused the story of being founded on “trumped claims” from disgruntled former staffers, and of failing to link the complaints to the larger dispute that not long ago drove the former hotel workers and garment workers unions to abruptly break up their union marriage.

What’s Greenhouse’s take on these gripes?

Citing Wilhelm’s own admission that such abuses have existed and accounts from others familiar with them, he doesn’t think the complaints are made up.

Nor does he think he failed to point out the battling between the unions.

Indeed, the story did talk about the break-up and cited as well Wilhelm’s supporters who said that the complaints were coming from his union’s foes.

Could he have fleshed out more in detail the roots of pink-sheeting within organized labor? Possibly, I think. Could he have moved higher in the story the details about the unions’ toxic break-up? Possibly.

But questioning his “journalistic integrity,” doesn’t fit well.

Not when you consider reporting over the years about union victories ignored by most of the mainstream media, otherwise untold stories about companies’ abusive practices that unions stood up against, and stories about unions and their leaders that reached more than some husbands and young children.

It’s a pain delivering bad news about unions when they are so down on their luck, but  that’s one of the burdens of being a fair and honest labor reporter.

It’s also a responsibility.

I know, because I spent quite a long time doing the job, and can tell you all about the rewards and headaches, among them angry words hurled at you by union officials who say you are not on their side.

But truly you are not on their side.

You are there to tell the truth, to tell the human story, and to make sure nobody forgets that workers and unions count. And that’s a fact nobody should deny.

This article originally appeared in Working In These Times on December 12, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Stephen Franklin was the Chicago Tribune‘s labor and workplace reporter until August 2008.


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Aetna Cuts 600,000 Lives for Profit

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Aetna announced that it will deliberately cut 600,000 people from its insurance rolls to raise its profits next year:

In a third-quarter earnings conference call in late October, officials at Aetna announced that in an effort to improve on a less-than-anticipated profit margin in 2009, they would be raising prices on their consumers in 2010. The insurance giant predicted that the company would subsequently lose between 300,000 and 350,000 members next year from its national account as well as another 300,000 from smaller group accounts.

Aetna’s decision to downsize the number of clients in favor of higher premiums is, as one industry analyst told American Medical News, a “pretty candid” admission. It also reflects the major concerns offered by health care reform proponents and supporters of a public option for insurance coverage, who insist that the private health insurance industry is too consumed with the bottom line. A government-run plan would operate solely off its members’ premiums.

Aetna is saying they want to make more money on each person they insure to please Wall Street, so they are raising prices. It doesn’t matter to them if this action causes them to lose some less profitable customers, customers that actually use their health care benefits. In fact, they welcome it. They are more than happy to let these people be priced out of the market, go uninsured, go bankrupt, or lose their lives. These people are not bringing in enough money for Aetna, so Aetna would rather not have them as a customer.

Aetna is following the insurance company playbook as articulated last year by Wellpoint CEO Angela Braly when she said, “We will not sacrifice profitability for membership.” In other words, the insurance companies won’t sell health coverage to more people if it means they will make less money on each person.

They don’t care about coverage, they just care about profits. This is exactly why we must have a public health insurance option.

Health reform without a public option will not not work. The insurance industry playbook would still be on the table, and they would still find ways to cut people for more profit. Even with laws against insurance companies denying care, they would still find ways to do it.

The CBO confirms this with their analysis. Even with laws making it illegal for insurance companies to deny care, the CBO found that while the public option would keep down insurance premiums overall, it would attract less-profitable customers that the insurance companies don’t want and would refuse to insure.

There is no substitute for a public health insurance option that’s national and available everywhere on day one – no triggers. And indeed, the bill on the table in the Senate gets us there.

To those moderates who are holding out, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. There may be some things in the Senate bill you don’t agree with, but that’s no reason to deny this country the reform it needs and wants. It’s time to allow this bill to come up for a fair, majority vote in the Senate.

*This post originally appeared in SEIU Blog on December 9, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.


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It’s Official: Three Unions Merge to Form Nurses ‘Super Union’

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Nurses have been called the new face of organized labor. Like an increasing percentage of the rest  of America’s labor movement, the typical RN in the U.S. is female, college-educated, and working a non-outsourceable job in the service sector.

This week, American nurses banded together to weild unprecedented power in the workplace and in national politics. Delegates in Phoenix yesterday approved a three-union merger to create National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest union of registered nurses.

Eight months in the making, the merger joins the California Nurses Association, the United American Nurses, and the Massachusetts Nurses Union to create a new super union with a combined strength of 150,000 members.

NNU hopes to use its increased clout to influence the national healthcare debate. The timing is fortuitous. The new super union is coming online just as the Senate is debating its version of the healthcare reform bill.

Near the top of NNU’s legislative wishlist is S.1031, AKA The National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act. The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Ca), would require hospitals to maintain a minimum ratio of nurses to patients in ERs, operating rooms, critical care units, and nurseries. Hospitals would be forbidden under the Act to use mandatory overtime or layoffs to meet the target ratio.

Most registered nurses in the U.S. do not belong to a union, but NNU is thinking big. The new union hopes to organize tens of thousands of non-union RNs nationwide.

*This post originally appeared in Working in These Times on December 8, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Lindsay Beyerstein, a former InTheseTimes.com political reporter, is a freelance investigative journalist in New York City. Her work has appeared in Salon.com, Slate.com, AlterNet.org, The New York Press, The Washington Independent, RH Reality Check and other news outlets. Beyerstein writes a daily foreign affairs bulletin for the UN Foundation’s UN Dispatch website and covers healthcare for the Media Consortium. She is the winner of a 2009 Project Censored Award. She blogs at Majikthise.


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Labor Department Unveils Regulatory Priorities for 2010

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Today, the Department of Labor released its Fall 2009 Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda (PDF). That may sound dull, but if you care about good jobs and safe workplaces, you should care about this, because it signals the Department’s regulatory priorities for the year to come. And now that we have a Labor Department with leaders who actually care about workers, we’re seeing movement on a wide range of issues that languished throughout the Bush Administration.

The good news: the Labor Department is moving swiftly to clear out the backlog of rules stuck in the pipeline, to reverse bad decisions by the Bush Administration, and to start fulfilling a new agenda based on protecting workers first. Millions of workers on construction sites, in factories, warehouses, nursing homes, truck terminals and other vital industries will all benefit from the Administration’s commitment to workers’ rights.

The new agenda includes action on a wide range of issues, including:

  • Advancing towards safety standards to protect workers from combustible dust (the need for which we have written about at length), diacetyl (the source of “popcorn lung”), pandemic flu, and silica dust
  • Documenting the epidemic of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that more and more workers suffer from each year
  • Amending the recordkeeping regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require that workers receive pay stubs, and that those pay stubs break down how their pay was computed, helping workers guard against wage theft
  • Implementing President Obama’s Executive Order #13496, which requires all government contractors to post notices of their workers’ rights under federal labor laws — a move that will better inform a fifth of the private-sector workforce of their rights
  • Conducting a review of the regulatory protections that apply to temporary non-agricultural guest workers, which were weakened by the Bush Administration in one of its final acts.

*This post originally appeared in Change to Win on December 7, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author Jason Lefkowitz: is the Online Campaigns Organizer for Change to Win, a partnership of seven unions and six million workers united together to restore the American Dream for everybody. He built his first Web site in 1995 and has been building online communities professionally since 1998. To read more of his work, visit the Change to Win blog, CtW Connect, at http://www.changetowin.org/connect.


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Do You Have to Be a Jerk to Be an Effective Leader?

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Image: Bob RosnerBusiness is tough in the best of times. And few would probably argue that these are the best of times. A part of the problem is the rift between workers and their bosses. From an old Harris Poll that found only 37% thought their management had integrity, emails to Workplace911 and almost any conversation overheard about work—bosses and employees appear to inhabit two parallel universes.

From David Letterman to the folks at Lehman, it seems like integrity in the corner office has taken a sabbatical.

Which brings us to the topic for this week’s blog—Do you HAVE TO be a jerk to be an effective leader today? Are these the exceptions or the rule of bossing?

I’ll argue the pro side first. Then the con. Then I’ll tell you my take on the question (as if you didn’t already know).

PRO-JERK ARGUMENT. There has never been a tougher time to be a boss. The combination of a faltering economy, competitive pressures, a workplace that keeps moving faster and faster, technology and workers who have less loyalty than at anytime in the history of the modern corporation (which is approximately 100 years according to Peter Drucker, for those who are scoring at home).

Workers like a firm hand on the rudder at work. They like an executive who is in charge and pointing the organization in the correct direction. And as they say, you’ve got to scramble a few eggs before you can make an omelet. So a bit of jerkiness is a required part of being a leader today.

ANTI-JERK ARGUMENT. Eisenhower, the General who led the Allied Forces in WWII and later served as President. A real guys, guy. As weird as it sounds by his bio, he is the source of the best all time quote of the anti-jerk position. He said, “Hitting people over the head isn’t leadership, it’s assault.”

What Eisenhower knew was that treating employees like rental cars has consequences. Some beaten down employees will take it out on customers, while others specialize in being passive aggressive—employees, to paraphrase Kafka, have their weapons too.

AND THE WINNER IS…

I believe that jerks can have a major positive impact over the short term. But after a while their whip cracking tends to fall on deaf ears. Or no ears at all as the workforce goes running for the exits. So be a jerk selectively.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected]


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