Life at Up Up and Away Investment Management International: Chapter 14 Welcome to the post-industrial revolution

Chapter 14

Welcome to the post-industrial revolution

Somewhere in your education you must have encountered those terrible stories of poor British children toiling in coal mines during the British Industrial Revolution subsisting in workhouses under horrific conditions. Poor dirty ragamuffins working for treacherous capitalists dying by the dozens in rockslides or in a myriad of industrial accidents or victims of consumption and disease caused by both horrible working and living conditions. Do you remember your outrage when reading about these poor defenceless children? Smugly then you reflected just how far society has progressed in improving working conditions so such terrible tragedies would never repeat themselves. You believed in continual enlightenment and progress until you finally understood Queen Victoria was one of the biggest dope dealers ever! You were wrong!

Working in largecorp is akin to child labour in those British coal mines except what kills is stress. Yes, the rags have been replaced by “office casual”. The office tower has replaced the coal mine. Paper has replaced chunks of coal. The owners of coal mines have been replaced by the Senior Management Team. Exploitation has “evolved” with the well fed and dressed largecorp office worker becoming the new coal miner child in the Post-Industrial Revolution.

Now there are worker bees in largecorp toiling on the shop floor, but they have the protection of the union to prevent flagrant workplace abuse by largecorp however the office worker is hanging out on a limb without much protection.

The office worker at largecorp rarely even thinks of unionization as that would be the quickest way out the door. That would make it so much more expensive for largecorp if it had to pay overtime for the excessive long hours the largecorp office employee logs. Largecorp silently demands unpaid overtime for job tenure. The employee is supposed to be grateful for this privilege and expected to find challenge and satisfaction working under abusive largecorp conditions. Being part of a “dynamic and winning team” does not tolerate a 9-5 culture. Family and community involvement are lauded if you are a SMT member but implicitly discouraged for everyone else where paper pushing and the bottom-line reign supreme.

The “employee playbook” of largecorp encourages community involvement and quality family time. Yet more doublespeak from the MBA theorists inspiring the Human Resources Department. Let’s face it after 8 hours who wouldn’t want to pack it in and head home to a family or any other form of personal life but this runs terribly afoul of corporate commitment. The reality is slavery with a smile and as a largecorp worker in the office tower there is no socially conscious reformer or union looking after their interests. At least those coal mining children seemed to have someone on their team seeking to reform their exploitation. The largecorp office tower employee has no reformer against abuse but rather a justifier and promoter of abuse being the largecorp Human Resources Department.

One of the most vicious and competitive largecorps around in Toronto are the large national law firms headquartered on Bay Street. Lawyers have billable hour requirements foistered upon them by the law firm’s management committee. The targets are excessive and assume a lawyer works late in the evening and on the week-end. These elite pieceworkers make a very nice salary but their family is held together by a Filipino nanny. Therefore it is no surprise Filipino immigration to Canada amounts to 60,000 people a year. To patch up a decaying family structure through hired help such immigration is required. How many times have I been at the park walking my dog on the week-end seeing nannies playing with the children. The parents have been sucked into the office towers of largecorp. But the Audi 6 runs so smoothly and the salary of Mom and Dad is enough to choke a boa constrictor!

While large law firms are perhaps the most abusive sort of largecorp the same conditions exist for much lower paid non-law firm largecorp office tower employees where the SMT trumpets praise to those who have gone “the extra mile” by working ruinously long hours. Geez I recall many an e-mail from management teams I supported praising me from going that “extra mile”. I used to go home, have dinner with the family then drive all the way downtown and work well past midnight for years at CRAP. Given the Blessed Event what a fool I had been. I recall one Christmas Eve morning being in the office at 5 a.m. finishing a project which I managed to complete late in the evening. I saved Christmas Day for my family! If I hadn’t delivered on that project I would have been thrown out the door.

Perhaps one of the most interesting and eye-opening events for me at CRAP occurred one Saturday morning while I was in the office. My manager, Manny Fister, approached me and said in a strangely frank way, “What the fuck are you doing here on a Saturday? Don’t you realize the more you deliver the more will be expected of you? Get the fuck out of here and spend some time with your family.” I ignored his rather strange and bombastic advice and kept on working but over the next few days increasingly gave thought to his advice. So I toned things down and became a 9-5 man even when transferred to Felicity Poker’s Legal Department. And I found it really didn’t seem to make a difference unless it was grounds for the Blessed Event that struck me.

Poor Manny Fister had a meltdown on a flight to Vancouver on business several days after his outburst to me. A crying baby sent him into a nervous breakdown and at 55 he was never heard from again. The prevailing thought was the poor man had suffered a nervous breakdown. The bowling ball of largecorp had just knocked down another pin!

A conclusion to be drawn here is that fear of termination for not slogging your brains and body out is a prime motivator for largecorp employee productivity. That is not a healthy motivator. Don’t let your full stomach, faux mahogany office furniture and well-made clothes make you think you are very much different from the British coal miner child. Don’t fall for the crock of bullshit fed your way by largecorp’s Human Resources Department gurgling how important your quality of life is to largecorp. If it was so important why the rise of mindfulness sessions, Employee Assistance and Wellness programmes? These programmes amount not to compassion but desperation.

If you stand up and attempt to challenge largecorp abuse you aren’t going to take largecorp down like Harvey Weinstein but more likely to end up in the workhouse like poor Oliver Twist. Most likely you are powerless against largecorp but hopefully you have your head screwed on tight and realized you are victim of largecorp. Perhaps in time a collective of victims can unite to press for social reform of largecorp. I am trending towards thinking that unionization of office tower largecorp employees just might be the answer. The “Me Too” hysterical outing approach may take down a bunch of predatory movie executives but it isn’t going to budge largecorp.

Presently it would seem we are under the thumb of largecorp and their Human Resource’s Department grinding out tons of propaganda. Our worst enemy is our fear.

Published by Robert K Sephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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