White Collar Machismo

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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163 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    Japan is legendary for this kind of machismo working hours. I really fail to see the appeal of it. I like my work but I want to have a life outside of it.Report

    • Art Deco in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Edward Luttwak contended (this is half a generation ago) that this was a journalistic convention, not a social reality. (“It applies to a minority of company men and factory workers. Mr. Tora-san is a common Japanese type”).Report

      • Barry in reply to Art Deco says:

        “Edward Luttwak contended (this is half a generation ago) that this was a journalistic convention, not a social reality. ”

        There was something on (the Simpsons?) where one Japanese guy was joking with another, saying ‘Remember when we got those Americans to actually believe that we did calisthenics before work?’Report

  2. Damon says:

    I recall a convo I had with a friend at work a number of years ago. He’s a bit younger than me and had a kid. We were talking about careers and promotions and he said “I don’t want to be CEO/VP etc. of the company (about 450M / yr at the time). Every guy who is is either divorced or estranged from his wife/kids. I want to see my kid grow up. I want to see him play little league baseball.”

    And this guy’s wife was a stay at home mom. Yep, he made some financial sacrifices, but he knew that going in and it’s worked well for him.

    “How do the elite signal to each other how important they are? “I am slammed” is a socially acceptable way of saying “I am important.”” Yeah, I never bought that BS. I always responded that the one claiming that needed better “time management skills”. That usually deflated them a bit.Report

  3. LeeEsq says:

    The problem isn’t that some members of the elite like to work long hours but the impose these long hours on their employees and assume that nobody wants to have a life outside of work. One of the hardest fought for victories of the labor movement was the fight for the eight-hour day. It took decades but by the mid-20th century, nearly everybody in the developed world had a work week that averged forty hours and still did fine. There were exceptions but in general most people achieved a good work-life balance as modern parlance puts it.

    Now that work hours are increasing, everything seems more stressful for everybody and fewer people are enjoying life. Whats worse, this is assumed by many people as the way it has to be and that life should be a struggle.Report

    • morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Worse than that — people just aren’t as productive after a certain point. All those extra hours you squeeze from an employee? You’re not getting your money’s worth (although most are salaried and thus working those extra hours is totally free labor for the company) because his productivity is going to slide and KEEP sliding as he works longer.

      If I work 60 hours I am not 50% more productive than I was at 40. I’m maybe 10% more productive. Because I’m tired, stressed, burned out, and forcing myself to focus.

      And it’s like that for everyone, whether they admit it or not. The human body and mind has limits.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to morat20 says:


      • greginak in reply to morat20 says:

        vary much agreed Morat. I learned in college that i only have so many hours per day that my brain will work. People would talk about pulling all nighters to study for an exam but i couldn’t even come close to that. After a few hours of studying i was goo and couldn’t think straight let alone trying to take a test without sleeping. Most people only think they are doing quality work when they are tired. Typically they are doing crap work or just pointlessly shuffling things around.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to morat20 says:

        Yes, this to infinity. Its scientifically proven to. At times people are going to have to put in extraordinary long hours because of emergencies but these times should be an exception.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to morat20 says:

        It does not strike me as a coincidence that the people who crashed our economy in 2008 worked 60 hour weeks.Report

    • Dan Miller in reply to LeeEsq says:

      +a million. The 8-hour workday (and the entire concept of the weekend) is IMHO the best single argument for unions. It’s such a classic case of collective action being necessary. I don’t know why decreasing what constitutes “full-time” isn’t more of a live political issue.Report

      • Mr. Blue in reply to Dan Miller says:

        If I am willing to or want to work 60-70 hours a week, that’s between me and my employer.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Dan Miller says:

        If you and your employer agree you need to work 70 hour a week you’re both idiots.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to Dan Miller says:

        @blaisep This is your personal preference (and many others.) The better half is a law geek. She starts to climb the walls if she works less than 50 hrs. Actually, she just drives me up the walls because I have to guess at somewhat esoteric legal questions. Some folk just really love what they do. They’ll get off work, come home, and do more of the same as a hobby.Report

      • morat20 in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Interestingly enough, most employers don’t contract you for 60 to 70 hours a week. They certainly don’t pay you that much. They put you on a salary, calculated as if you worked 40 hours a week.

        Then they pile on responsibilities. Stuff you have to do. They don’t hire enough people. Soon you’re working 45 or 50 hours a week. You count yourself LUCKY if your company offers comp time (generally at a 4-to-1 rate, so every four hours over 40 you work gets you an hour of comp time) — overtime or shift rates? Please.

        Soon you’re working 60 hours a week just to keep up. What are you gonna do, quit? The next guy will just do the same thing, and he’s not gonna pay you more. He’s just gonna pinky swear it’s 40 hours with ‘occasional’ emergencies or extra time, which earns you comp time! You’re paid for 40 hours, but you’re expected to work as “long as it takes” to do your job — which always takes more than 40.

        The company has all the leverage — they’ve got the money, they’re happy to play the guilt and LOVE to bring up how you’re ‘letting the team’ down — and it’s a nice effective pay cut for you.

        And you thank them for it, and think yourself a better worker for it. For taking a pay cut. For working longer hours than you’re contracted for. You’re proud of the way you just bent over and took it.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Dan Miller says:

        In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar: “It’s a trap.”

        Nobody’s doing good work when they’re tired, especially when it’s a thinking kinda job, which lawyering is, or so I’m told. I divide work into two tasks: input and output. Input is reading, listening, learning what the task entails. But then there’s output, creating documents, writing code, doing the number crunching.

        I can’t speak for lawyers, though I’ve worked for them. When I’m in the Zone, I’ll go on working until I’ve gotten something to a stable point because it’s pointless to stop halfway. It’s like being a deep sea welder, most of the job is getting down there to the bottom and safely up to the top. Can’t abide being interrupted when I’m coding. But I don’t code for too long or I start making mistakes.

        Early on, when I struck out on my own, working from the house, the computer would grin at me, sin at me, tempt me to write just one more module. I had to learn to discipline myself or I’d end up doing a half-ass job and living a half-ass life.

        But there was a day, early on in my career as a coder, where I was either coding, or up to my nose in the bathtub, thinking about coding, downstairs at the restaurant, reading about coding whilst trying to eat breakfast, or asleep, dreaming about coding. I was meant to be a coder. It’s the only job for me, taking someone else’s vision and creating something from it. Now I write code for myself. It’s my visions I’m implementing. Had enough of making other people’s dreams come true and now it’s my turn.Report

      • Mr. Blue in reply to Dan Miller says:

        There’s always work to be done. Whether it’s the best use of my time or my employer’s money (when I was hourly) is a judgment call that both my employer and I have more information to make a judgment than Blaise does.

        If I wanted to cut back my hours, I have made myself important enough to the company that I could. If he needed me to work extra hours at a time when I didn’t want to, the company is important enough to me that I would.

        Should I be grateful at those who want to come in and fix this awful arrangement? I’m not saying that everyone has it as good as I do. But uniform policies don’t care. My situation is just as exploitive as the next guy who has to work 70 hours. I’m not against all attempts to balance the scales. Overtime laws are good for non-exempts. I would even go a step further and crack down on the number of people who are exempt from hourly pay, probably. But for a lot of us, this isn’t a problem some outsider needs to fix.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Dan Miller says:

        @morat20 Half the reason I went to contracting was to avoid the Professional Hours trap. Did that for exactly two years. Now I bill for every hour I work.

        I have two billing rates: Analysis and Implementation. Analysis is 2.5x more expensive than Implementation.

        When these jamokes come up and change the spec on me, I gladly tell ’em “That’s great. That will cost you 10 hours at my Analysis Rate and invalidate the previous 60 hours of Implementation against the previous Analysis.”

        You’d be amazed how quickly they’ll back off from such mid-course corrections.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Heh. You’re a very important person, Mr. Blue. Let me tell you what I have learned over time. Nobody’s that important. Everyone is replaceable. You are nothing but an engine of profit for your employer. Every other perspective is self-delusion.

        Time is the one commodity money will not buy. My job does not consume my life. I will not become the men I knew whose careers ate them alive. I have watched them as they retire, losing their reasons for living. The Career Guys end up dying within a few years of retirement.

        You can love Jesus and Mozart and your kids and your wife and your dog. Do not love your job. It will never love you back.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to Dan Miller says:

        @blaisep Yup, you understand the worm. One of the nice things about law is you get paid hourly…. including the time pondering life in the shower or around the dinner table.Report

      • Kim in reply to Dan Miller says:

        I’ve seen contracts come up for 24-hour monitoring… given to a single individual.
        He’s not allowed to take vacations either (does anyhow, says, “what can they do? fire me?”)Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Dan Miller says:

        In addition to what Morat20 said, somebody’s decision to work sixty to eighty hours a week hurts those that want to work the semi-traditional 9 to 5 because the people who want only to put in 9 to 5 end up looking “lazy” to the sixty to eighty hour a week crowd.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Dan Miller says:

        24 hour monitoring? This is why stderr routes to the SMS system in a competently run shop, so people can get some sleep.Report

      • Kim in reply to Dan Miller says:

        of course there’s some buffering going on.
        I’m not always convinced that the people
        signing the contracts realize that, though.Report

      • Mr. Blue in reply to Dan Miller says:

        If your employer is forcing 60-70 hour workweeks on you and you can’t stand working those hours, then yeah, you quit. Maybe not right away, but most people I know don’t work those hours so it seems likely that there’s usually going to be an employer out there that will let you work less. Of course, those jobs will usually pay less. But that’s your call.

        The fact that even in this economy there are other employers out there is why my employer couldn’t force its people to put in that much time. We’d lose our best guys and gals if we tried to run roughshod over people. If you don’t put in the hours, you might be less likely to get promoted because higher positions at the company often require a willingness to put the rest aside. But that’s your call.

        There may be labor problems in this country, but the one group I don’t feel much sympathy for are white collar workers who think they’re stuck working too many hours. They’re the least deserving of our sympathy.

        The collective activists want to pretend that as long as they prevent me from working longer hours, we can all pretend that we have the same priorities and work ethic and should be shoulder-to-shoulder during company evaluations. Except we shouldn’t. Power to them for wanting to spend time with their spouses and children, but I shouldn’t get sent home early for it.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Dan Miller says:

        No, Mr. Blue. They don’t quit. They just work a lot less productively, I’ve seen what happens when firms demand loads of time from their workers in Japan. Here’s what really happens. They die. It’s called KaroushiReport

      • BlaiseP in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Here’s what aggravates me about this Tough Guy Work Ethic, the sort which says you can just quit and find another employer: people don’t want to quit. They can’t afford to quit. Furthermore, they’re emotionally invested in their jobs. They want to succeed.

        All this pernicious bullshit which says it’s all about the Employee Evaluation and getting promoted and how if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen — has never been in a fucking kitchen. A tired cook gets burned because he gets sloppy. A tired, burned out worker makes mistakes at crucial turns. He gets in emotional trouble because his marriage sails up on the rocks. It’s like the goddamn jihaadi and his visions of virgins in Paradise, if only he lays down his life in pursuit of the Big Objective. He’s deluded in the worst sort of way, he’s deluding himself.

        Worship at whatever altar you want. Just don’t become the sacrifice, I say.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to Dan Miller says:

        @blaisep “Worship at whatever altar you want. Just don’t become the sacrifice”

        That’s a keeper. Should put that on the other thread.Report

      • Mr. Blue in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Blaise, I agree with almost every word of your 2:36 comment. People who don’t want to work long hours, or aren’t inspired to, shouldn’t. Well, there’s a class of people who may not have much choice because they are teetering on the edge of financial ruin, but that isn’t who we’re talking about here.

        I work long hours because it’s worth it to me. Early on, I did it because I was paid hourly at a cut rate that assumed I’d be working a lot of overtime. And at that point the company really did rely on me and a few others. Now I’m salary for the most part – my pay structure isn’t straightforward – but I have an interest in the company and a passion for its success.

        If I ever lose that passion, or if I ever see the company becoming something that I can’t be passionate about, then I’m done. I’ll reduce my hours or I’ll leave. I’ve been socking away my income so that I can have the freedom to do just that. Own your money and don’t let your money own you.

        I actually plan on slowing down in the next year or two anyway because I need to go out and find myself a wife and get to work on the business of family. I’ve been dedicating more and more of my time towards training people to do what I do.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Heh. Feel free. I’m a fund of such nuggets, few of them are of my own coinage. It was my grandfather’s, first. A fierce, sawed-off, bald man, terribly argumentative, an autodidact who taught himself Greek, Hebrew, Latin and was a great buyer of books, many of which are in my possession. His History of Philosophy is heavily marked up in several languages. What follows is one of his dark little parables.

        In the ground floor of an old sawmill, a little donkey went round and round a capstan. Through a series of gears and pulleys, he drove a reciprocating saw above him. A crack developed between the boards of the work floor and sawdust fell down into the donkey’s barrel of oats.

        The sawyer came downstairs, cursed a bit and shovelled out as much sawdust as he could manage. But some sawdust yet remained. The sawyer, in no mood to throw out good oats, fed the donkey — and what do you know? — the donkey ate it.

        A light went on in the sawyer’s head. Oats costs me plenty, he reasoned, and sawdust costs me nothing. I will put the donkey on a 5% sawdust mixture. Of course, the donkey went around the capstan a little slower than before. His ribs began to show, the turpentine in the sawdust was no good for him.

        Then the sawyer got greedy and put the donkey on a 10% mixture. The donkey died.

        Which, my grandfather, in his own bitter, savage South Carolina accent told me, the sawyer attributed to the donkey’s lack of appetite.Report

    • ” It took decades but by the mid-20th century, nearly everybody in the developed world had a work week that averged forty hours and still did fine. ”

      I suppose that claim is easily verified, but I strongly suspect that even during the “trente glorieuses” a large segment of the lower-paid service workforce worked more than 40 hours per week. Of course, “a large segment” is in the eye of the beholder, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some member of the professional classes worked more than 40 hours per week.

      I’m not saying this only to be nitpicky (although I suppose I am trying to be a little nitpicky), or because I necessarily oppose the ideal of a 40 hour workweek. I believe it’s a good thing, but it can in some cases be bad for the worker.* The principal reason I bring this up is that I imagine in practice, it’s by and large something that the middling to upper-middling people (including skilled workers and unionized workers) enjoy. The celebrated 40 hour week and occasional 3-day weekend (4 days at some jobs, if, for example, the 4th of July falls on a Thursday or Tuesday) is one that participants in the lower-paid service work (and maybe the higher paid professional classes) might not have access to as much.

      I suppose the answer is to extend the benefits of the 40 hour workweek to them, too. That’s good as far as it goes. But in the meantime, we should remember those left behind, even during the heyday of the 40-hour week.

      *For example, if a worker wants to work 50 hours for 4 weeks so he/she can have a week’s vacation based on the 10 hours per week he/she saved up, then an employer who has to pay o.t. for the extra 10 hours per week would be less willing to enter the arrangement.Report

      • Matty in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        My understanding is that the push for 40 hour weeks and 8 hour days was largely based on factory work, which was where unions were most powerful. It was also where a lot more people worked in the period in question so that would have skewed the average even if the service workers and lawyers were on longer hours.Report

  4. J@m3z Aitch says:

    Heh, This morning I delayed work for an hour and a half so I could take daughter #1 to physical therapy. Shortly after arriving at work daughter #2 called from school saying she’d thrown up. So I called wife (#1 and only) and said, “now it’s your turn.” Their dear little critters, but they are a great time suck.Report

  5. greginak says:

    There is some truth to the Work Machismo thing. I’ve seen it although never felt it myself. Its a bit of joke around my office that when 430 hits don’t stand in my way ( or anybody else for that matter) because i’m out. I’m guessing this is partly due to working in social services/ mental health type jobs where having some sort of work/life balance is actually seen as a good thing. On the other hand The Wife and all her family are sort of workaholics which irks me to no end.Report

  6. NewDealer says:

    The cultural signaling happens in the more low-stakes world of theatre as well. I knew a lot of theatre people who always liked to talk about how they were running from one rehearsal to another or one production meeting to another. Though I suppose here the signalling shows that they have productions going on instead of being another artist just going out on lots of auditions or talks with nothing coming to fruition.

    Over the summer, The New Republic ran a big article on the death of Big Law and I believe this is one issue that came up. The firms tried to run life-balance seminars for mothers but a lot of the advice was about outsourcing the life part of the equation by hiring nannies, cooks, cleaning staff, etc.

    It seems to me that corporate America is going to need to come up with solutions for these issues but they really don’t want to.Report

    • morat20 in reply to NewDealer says:

      Well, it would require them hiring more people. Which is, obviously, inferior to making existing workforce more productive (and of course, not giving them raises nearly in line with their increase in productivity).

      The biggest change in American business happened slowly, but it explains a lot of what’s weird — labor is an expense, like raw materials. It’s a line-item to be cut. It is not an investment, it is not a partnership, it is not even a trade of labor for cash — it is an input that needs to be squeezed to the bare bones and replaced if possible.

      Additional hiring is only done if you absolutely MUST — and only if your business has grown. There is no such thing as “my workforce is overworked and overstretched, I need more people to meet current demand” — your productivity should be going up, always! You should be getting to the point where you can lay people off as your processes mature! So what if the peons are working 80 hour weeks — don’t you see how hard the CEO works?Report

      • NewDealer in reply to morat20 says:

        I agree especially on the problem of additional hiring.

        It will probably take the force of law to change this and that is not going to make people very happy.

        Though to be honest, the protestant work-ethic is alive an well in a lot of people. I think there are a lot of people who want life-work balance and there are also a lot of people who seem to thrive on working 60 plus hours a week. Or they get some kind of high off it. Sadly the world seems to conform to the 60 plus hour a week people.Report

      • roger in reply to morat20 says:

        You guys (morat, nd and lee) never fail to amuse.

        Actual data shows that Americans have never had more leisure than now.
        Actual data shows average hours worked is at historic lows.
        Actual data shows the largest gains in leisure are going to the lower income groups.
        Actual data shows that we are experiencing an exceptional boom in part time as opposed to full time work. Just about all the net growth in jobs is part time.

        But none of that keeps you guys from spinning silly narratives about some imaginary NEW and malicious trend of companies demanding 60 to 80 hours, and how we need to pass some law against a trend which isn’t just a total fabrication, it is actually a distortion which is 180 degrees from reality. Do you guys see why some classical liberals think you guys are so dangerous?

        You make up bogus trends based upon anecdotal evidence within the fact free progressive echo chamber and then demand top down master-planned laws to right your fantasy.

        I exaggerate, but just a little. I do get that double income professionals with kids are stressed out. My wife and I were at the time too. I do not think any good will come out of trying to limit this by law, but I am equally convinced that no empirical argument would interfere with your master planning.

        When I was a teenager I used to think how much better the world would be if someone like me was in charge. We could fix everything with compassionate and reasonable rules. But you know what? I grew up. I realized master planning has inherent limitations based upon the well known issues of imperfect omniscience and benevolence within a world of people with unique values and diverse circumstances.

        Its like watching the newest season of Arrested Development…Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to morat20 says:

        Hmm. Actual data. If Roger says it, gosh, there’s the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on any assertion.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to morat20 says:

        Actual data shows average hours worked is at historic lows.
        Actual data shows the largest gains in leisure are going to the lower income groups.

        How much of this “leisure” is more accurately called “unemployment”?

        Actual data shows that we are experiencing an exceptional boom in part time as opposed to full time work. Just about all the net growth in jobs is part time

        You do realize that it takes more time to work two 20-hour jobs than one 40-hour job (more travel time.)Report

      • Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        All due respect, but the undocumented, unpapered Americans are not part of your stupid studies.
        Would you like me to start pulling some?Report

      • Will Truman in reply to morat20 says:

        It’s worth pointing out here that the post here is specifically referring to white collar workers, and that’s what most of the conversation revolves around.

        Not that conversations about unauthorized workers or Zic’s example of someone working multiple part time jobs are off-limits, but unless otherwise stated, it should be pretty much assumed that we’re talking about the white collar world.Report

    • Mr. Blue in reply to NewDealer says:

      The firms tried to run life-balance seminars for mothers but a lot of the advice was about outsourcing the life part of the equation by hiring nannies, cooks, cleaning staff, etc.

      Which is A-1 awesome. If you’re going home to cook and clean, you’re not really bettering your work-life balance anyway. At least when I’m working late, I’m doing something I’m good at. Maybe I’m letting someone else do what they’re good at, too, for me at home.

      My flatmate actually does the cooking and cleaning. It’s part of the agreement that we have. But if she moved out, it would be better for everyone for me to hire someone than to go home early to take care of chores. When the flatmate had surgery, I hired someone while she recovered. Everyone wins.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Mr. Blue says:

        Not really. The point is that the women wanted to be able to spend more time with their children and HR’s response was “hire a nanny” instead and keeping on working until 10 PM-midnight. Believe it or not people get joy out of cooking for their loved ones or reading their kids bidtime stories.

        This is one of those areas where libertarians and neo-liberals don’t quite understand that this is not about optimizing economics.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Mr. Blue says:

        ND, whats a bidtime story? Is that what stock brokers and investment bankers read to their children?

        Mr. Blue, when people say work-life balance that don’t mean I want to spend less time at work to do more chores. They mean I want to be able to pursue my hobbies, spend times with friends, relatives, and romantic partners, etc. The fun part of life. They don’t mean paying others to do chores so they can spend twelve to fourteen hours a day at work.Report

      • Mr. Blue in reply to Mr. Blue says:

        Mr. Blue, when people say work-life balance that don’t mean I want to spend less time at work to do more chores

        Exactly! So hiring people to do the chores for you actually is a step towards work-life balance.

        Believe it or not people get joy out of cooking for their loved ones or reading their kids bidtime stories.

        Then find an employer or a career path that supports your ability to do that. This post isn’t really about the desperate who I feel some sympathy for. It’s about the professionals who are more likely than almost anybody to find the right situation for them. Everyone can find themselves in a bad situation, and I’ve got some sympathy there, but if you make enough that your employer can recommend that you hire help, then you probably make enough that you can take a pay cut to be home in time to see your kids. That might mean less money, and it might mean that you’re unlikey to make it to the top, but that’s your call.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mr. Blue says:

        This is one of those areas where libertarians and neo-liberals don’t quite understand that this is not about optimizing economics.

        Us libertarians understand this just fine, thankyouverymuch!Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to NewDealer says:

      I am shocked, shocked, that the firms’s advice for work-life-balance was to have less of a life.Report

    • zic in reply to NewDealer says:

      Over the summer, The New Republic ran a big article on the death of Big Law and I believe this is one issue that came up. The firms tried to run life-balance seminars for mothers but a lot of the advice was about outsourcing the life part of the equation by hiring nannies, cooks, cleaning staff, etc.

      Real work/family balance is perceived, at it’s core, as feminine, I think. And the legal professions answer to it was to masculinize it; instead of looking at the ‘feminine’ needs of the males they employ.

      At risk of sounding like a broken record, men need to have their own feminist movement; they need to start adopting things like the right to stay home and be the care giver, the right to work a sane schedule so that they have time with their families, etc.

      Part of the importance here is that so many folk are not only being asked to work insane hours, but they’re being asked to do so at a pay scale that doesn’t allow for outsourcing the family obligations. Nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, laundry services, and cooks become really expensive, and the big 10% income get’s spread pretty thin pretty quickly, let alone the 75% or 50% income.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to zic says:

        The economic point is very important. Most people, even among the very fortunate, can’t afford to hire servants to handle the chores. Its simply too expensive. They need time to shop for necessities, clean, do laundry, and relax.

        Sometimes the goal of the 60 to 80 hour crowd is to increase misery for its own sake.Report

  7. Cascadian says:

    There’s little that makes the better half more pleasant than spending a Saturday in the office with her partners and no associates around. It makes performance reviews so much simpler.Report

  8. BlaiseP says:

    Day was when I routinely worked myself to pieces. Bad period of my life. Coped by drinking. Thought I was a tough guy on his way up in the world.

    Morat observes what I found out the hard way: working more hours doesn’t produce more results. Wish I’d known that from the start instead of emulating all those older dudes who worked far into the night. They made mistakes, rushed stuff into production and it wasn’t properly tested, got overtired and therefore testy and made political mistakes. I watched them burn out, watched their marriages crumble. Literally watched. Watched as the wives would call their husbands at the bar. Got a few calls there myself. Knew it was time to change.

    I was then consulting at Sears Roebuck. One Thursday, I got a call from my Sears boss, Howard. I’d rewritten the corporate law system, assigning lawyers to cases, corporate lawyers mostly act as middlemen, some little old lady has a slip-and-fall in front of a Sears store in Des Moines, the corporate lawyer is mostly initialling paperwork, they’ll bring in local counsel to handle the case.

    Howard gave me a very odd assignment, one which had to be done by Monday morning. The guy he’d previously assigned to do a fairly trivial (but long-running) report was not going to deliver — and this was going to the Sears CEO and CFO. It meant I had to spend the weekend in Sears Tower. He’d pay me double my going rate, but he needed it by Monday morning.

    At about 2 AM on Sunday, I pulled the cushions out of a couch and made a place to sleep, next to the server. I fell asleep and dreamed I was being pulled up the side of Sears Tower in a bosun’s chair. Faster and faster I went up, pulling away from the side of the tower, like a fish being reeled in, eventually looking down into the canyon of Adams Street below, then down onto the top of the tower itself. I curled up and rolled across the flat surface, eventually crashing into one of the two transmission towers. Coming to a stop, I said to myself “Thank God Dad taught me to finish what I’d started.”

    I woke with a start. I walked through the empty halls, into a conference room overlooking Lake Michigan. The sun was rising. I still had some work to do, a few hours more. But I was a changed man thereafter. I gave up the long hours, resolving to work smarter, not harder. I began to avoid the drinking crowd. When my first child came along, I began to work from home at a reduced billing rate, so I could care for my children.

    The white collar machismo isn’t really macho, anyway. Macho is being a man, not a harried, overworked bureaucratic eunuch in a suit, his collar soaked in sweat, smelling like gin and tonic, in the company of his fellow eunuchs, watching Wheel of Fortune in a darkened bar.Report

    • Boegiboe in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Thank you for that, Blaise.Report

    • zic in reply to BlaiseP says:


      I grew up farming; so worked those long hours from the time I was able and carried my school load. We always had between 80 and 120 cows that needed to be milked. Twice a day, every day. Summers, freed from school, meant I was free to work fields; to hay, tend crops (corn, silage, etc.; winter feed for those cows.) Barns needed cleaning every day. Milk dishes and bulk tank needed washing and sanitizing. Every day.

      And I still tend to work every day, as does my husband. But we work for ourselves; and as I found farming, that’s a very different thing then working for someone else. We have a right to pace ourselves, to devote the time we need to pondering, to take a break and go walk the woods for peace.

      There are exceptions to your wonderful insight. But most folk (certainly not all, but most) in regular employ should not be forced to act entrepreneur or owner; if they had that drive, they’d be starting their own businesses. It’ an abysmal lack of insight into what creates the most productive workforce.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

        My girlfriend comes from dairy, a herd of registered Guernseys. Her brother is a dairyman. We see him at family gatherings with his kids, but never for long. The dairyman has sworn off vacations for life.

        Everyone ought to work for themselves for a while, I reckon. Gives a person perspective on how to work when nobody’s making you work but the inexorable advance of the hands of the clock. Bills come due, projects come due, there’s never enough time in the day when it’s your time. You wouldn’t believe the insensitivity of the slave driving asshole I work for. He’s the worst! Well, maybe you would. You’ve seen him around here.Report

      • Kim in reply to zic says:

        People down here in PA milk them three times a day.
        Why the difference?Report

  9. LeeEsq says:

    A lot of the problem is that many of the norms regarding work-life balance disappeared. When my Dad embarked on his legal career, every non-criminal court in New York did not have cases during the summer. This was so that lawyers and judges could actually spend time with their families and enjoy the summers. Now the Courts operate twelve months a year. Maybe the old system had certain inefficiencies but it allowed for lawyers to have a couple of quiet months a year. It was a more leisurely way of doing business.Report

  10. Cascadian says:

    Completely off topic @Colorado dwellers. Just saw some tweets warning of flash flooding…. stay safe.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Cascadian says:

      If it ain’t on fire, it’s flooding.Report

      • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        But soon sweet sweet winter will be here so no more concerns about fires and floods. Just skiing and more skiing.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to Jaybird says:

        @greginak But soon sweet sweet winter will be here so no more concerns about fires and floods. Just skiing and more skiing.

        Ramen, Winter Is COMING! Yay, another ski freak! I’m going nuts waiting. It’s supposed to get up to 40 C here today. Can’t come fast enough. Where, what, do you like to ski. What’s in your quiver?Report

      • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        @cascadian I’m in Anchorage, AK so we have plenty of winter usually. We are a great xc ski town. I can be at our biggest trail system in 15 minutes from my work and on another good trail in 5 minutes. I mostly skate style xc now which is a mega bomb. Yeah it takes a lot of fitness to have fun at it, but being fit is also part of the fun. Once we get snow i’ll be xc 5 days a week usually. A good day of skate skiing is powerfully good: its beautiful in the wood, a good skating rhythm is almost hypnotic, its hard enough to really make your body feel alive and easy enough to glide on to be no effort.

        I might do a little classic xc this year on my old Rossi’s. I got a nice pair of solomon skate skies last year that i’m working on wearing out. I do a little back country which we have plenty of here. I haven’t downhilled in a while although i always think i should run down to our one good alpine area: Alyeska. It’s nothing like Whistler/Blackcomb but it is good.

        40…gahhh…We’re in the 50’s F now and it likely won’t warm up much again. What do you ski?Report

      • Cascadian in reply to Jaybird says:

        Anchorage is a cool town. I spent a couple of days there before little one was born on my Denali trip.

        Little one’s mom is Norwegian. I think her grandfather has raced every Birkibeiner except one. I’ve spent some time on skate skis. It is pretty fun. I still have an old set of Rossis hanging around though I haven’t used them in years.

        I quit skiing after high school and took up climbing. I came back to skiing when little one was old enough (two) to spend time in the hills. I was just under a hundred days last year. Little one has summer training so she was above 120.

        I’m fascinated with the new shaped race skis. I have Head and Atomic WC SLs a set of Atomic GSs and S7s for pow days. Whistler is such a zoo if we get more than 15 cm I rarely use the S7s here. When we go to the interior for races I get more use out of them.Report

      • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        Scandinavian moms are great given they seem to give birth to infants actually wearing skies. I’d love to do the BIrkie one day. Skiing is great for kids that is for sure. 120 days….ohhh that is impressive. So is 100. When i lived in NJ winter was almost always far away, so we had to make a trip to get good snow for downhill. Living in a real winter place is so much better since skiing can be every day without a big trip to get there.

        I haven’t bought new alpine skis in years so mine are skinny. I do enjoy looking at the new shapes and will eventually get a new pair. Oh boy, its real easy to start shopping for skies. We’re lucky if our powder isn’t heavy and sticky.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Cascadian says:


      I have visions of the meteorology geek who has been waiting years so he/she could use “biblical” in the forecast discussion. My Denver suburb has now received a bit over triple the normal amount for a September, and they’re forecasting more for tonight. But we’re part-way up a hill, well outside of the 1000-year floodplain. Checked this morning and the sump hole in the basement is dry, so we’re good. I have a friend who discovered the hard way that his house, built during a stretch of dry years, was sited on a spring that only flowed when it rained like this.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Cascadian says:

      It’s pretty bad out here. I just spent about an hour and half out on a bridge above the St.Vrain watching the river keep rising. I’d guess it’s to about 18 feet above the banks right now and still going up up up. The river was maybe 2000 feet across where I was, with pretty wicked current for about 2/3s of that, and in the time I was there it rose about four inches. It’s still raining. Boulder is a mess, without power and road closures all over the place.

      One of the county guys down there said another damn broke up in Estes, so there’s another big surge coming our way. The town of Lyons, which is at the base of the mountains where the N and S St Vrain river meet is apparently under water, with all the homes along the river in danger of being washed away. Some of those houses are only a few yards from the river and not very high up the bank, so I’m sure there’s already tons of damage. The railroad tracks are in current as are the RR yards.

      I’m puttin on my rain coat and heading back out tho. The spot where I was is the only place I could find where the cops are actually letting people get close to the river.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Just got off the phone with a friend in Lyons. He said “it’s just horrible”. THe whole town is under water. Apparently the river decided to flow over the NE bridge and directly into town rather than follow the channel. His mother in law evacuated from a low level flood plain last night. His son is trapped at the highschool because there’s only one road out and it’s impassable.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Cascadian says:


      This is for your comment above

      I have no problem with people who want to work long hours. My issue is about how do we create a system that lets people work long hours without making those who want traditional life-work balance seem lazy, weak, etc.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to NewDealer says:

        @newdealer You have separate cultures. If you want to succeed on the mommy track (regardless of gender) you find a corresponding job or firm. That might mean being in house council or taking a research position. You’re bottom line won’t be that of some of your peers but that’s an acceptable choice.

        We have one friend that is a decent lawyer but does not stray outside of 9-4:30. She has a good job as in house for a union and that works for her. Her husband would be an uber stay at home dad, but she refuses to let her relationship with her two kids go that way.

        The better half’s junior is almost a member of the family. She’s gay and wants to become a single mom in the next year or two. I’ve tried to tell her about the realities of kids and the importance of support. However, if and when she has a kid, she also knows she will no longer be the better half’s junior. That job requires not equal work but at least something close to it. That’s not available to a single mum.

        Reality baby. Not sure how to get around it.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:

        I question whether the terms of reality have to be set by the most “macho” among us.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to NewDealer says:

        @newdealer If part of your job is to be a second, yeah he or she sets your reality. You don’t have to take that job. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t other positions in the firm (see: find your place) or firms or partners that have different work/client schedules. What you can’t do is get in the way or cry when you can’t eat your cake.

        No pain? No suffering? How can that be science?Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        I still think this is largely American exceptionalism with Asia possibly thrown into the mix. Europe seems pretty good at having laws that protect life-work balance for all citizens without everyone going insane about freedom (TM) being trampled on.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to NewDealer says:

        Um, I live in Canada. The better half clerked for Bev. You can drive the speed limit, just stay the F*** out of the passing lane.Report

  11. Michael Drew says:

    I’ve never had a job where I could work that many hours. I’ve been salaried, but in that non-Exempt category or whatever, where I’m still filling out an hours sheet, and if it shows more than 40 hours, I got paid 1.5x for those hours, and that was not. Okay. The only time I was able to work however much I wanted was when I was an AmericoprsVISTA making $752/month no matter how much I worked, except it had to be at least 35 hours, I think. I had a temp job for a while where eventually people were cleared to work OT once their productivity hit certain marks, but mine never did & they eventually ended my assignment. I’m certainly in worse financial shape for never having had to face this choice, but I’m fairly glad I never have, because, apart from being in that kind of job where it doesn’t feel like work because you’re in the blissful Flow state most of the time because you’re doing exactly what your intellectual makeup makes you right to do (which IMO is the optimum living condition for all humans, and those who find remunerative work that is like that ought to consider themselves among the luckiest people ever to walk the earth), I think I’d be profoundly unhappy in a job where I was expected to work nearly two full-time weeks’ worth of hours every, or even many, weeks. The money wouldn’t begin to make up for it. Give me $35K/yr, (that’s about what I made in NYC and would have been perfectly fine on that indefinitely, though I’m sure eventually the desire to buy a house and have kids would have encroached), even $25K and a lot of time to use to pursue my own non-job related (at least not yet) interests, and I’m a happy man.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Michael Drew says:

      One of the leading theories in left-labor law is that too many people are considered salaried workers or FSLA exempt and these people really should not be.

      I’ve seem law firms that treat their paralegals as FSLA exempt workers. I’ve seen law firms that do not. The paralegals and support staff at the later firms generally worked 35-40 hours a week. The paralegals at the earlier firms generally worked something close to lawyer hours but not quite as bad.Report

  12. Boegiboe says:

    Being in a same-sex marriage, I don’t take societal gender norms or expectations as starting points in how I want to guide my life. It’s wonderfully liberating, and it’s great to work at a place where I’m not looked down on for deciding having enough family time is more important than work.

    I worked pretty hard for roughly my first decade in my career to get to the level and type of responsibility I wanted to be at. Now I manage that responsibility as well as I can in 40 hours/week, with rare spillover being done at home. My daughter’s preschool is here at my worksite, so commuting time is bonding time, and that’s a plus. I took more than most dads here take off when she was born, because I could (adoptive fathers can take as much as pregnant mothers if the adoption agency says they should). But eventually I did go back, and I think the hardest part was missing out on “happy baby time” in the mornings, only getting cranky baby time in the evenings. But we’re through that now and I love my time at home with Alice, even when each of us is doing our own things.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Boegiboe says:

      Some while back, I saw a documentary on the NASA wives. Not merely the astronauts, the engineers were driven to work terrible hours. One such story goes that a NASA wife said to her children, “Guess who’s coming to dinner.”

      The children gleefully replied “Daddy?!”

      The divorce rate in NASA was appalling. Same in the elite branches of the military. I’m told SF doesn’t want to take married men any more. Too many problems.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to BlaiseP says:

        At the places where I’ve taken classes with PhD-track grad students (in multiple fields), there has always been a general consensus that very few marriages survive the first five years of a tenure-track appointment due to the hours that are required to succeed.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Big problem in the Navy with divorce rates too. Not sure if it is any better these days, but I know the navy made changes to deployment schedules, worked to build more family support for those left behind during a deployment, and worked to improve travel opportunities so families could visit during port calls.Report

  13. trizzlor says:

    I’ve never seen it myself, but I’ve heard that the culture in the UK is that if you’re staying to work late that means you or your boss managed your time poorly during the day and is not in any way considered a point of pride. I think that’s a very healthy attitude, but I personally still get caught up in the work machismo and all of the related signals (talking about how little sleep you’ve been getting, how much coffee you’re drinking, etc.). I’d be curious to see if there’s more parity between men and women in countries where the stigma is against work-ahol rather than for it.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to trizzlor says:

      Work-ahol seems to be a uniquely or largely American (and Asian) thing. Europeans and Canadians seem much better at creating life-work balance friendliness. There seem to be a lot of Mr. Blue’s and Cascasdians in American life who put the burden on the job seeker rather than the employer.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to NewDealer says:

        @newdealer I responded to your other comment as well. Though I’m as intense as the other half, I should remind you that I’m not the lawyer. I shepherd the little one in the hills.Report

      • Mr. Blue in reply to NewDealer says:

        NewDealer, I don’t understand on what basis we should give equal consideration between those who devote more of their life to work and those who devote less. It’s not necessarily even about employer vs employee. It’s about employee vs employee. Why should the workplace give people extra credit for having different priorities? When you think that it’s not fair that those who work more are rewarded for it, that’s what you’re asking for.

        If you want to opt out, that’s cool. I don’t think people should call you lazy. But you get your reward away from work. Those who spend more time at work (assuming it’s productive!) should get the rewards at work.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:

        Mr. Blue,

        I don’t understand why Europe can seemingly combine a capitalist or mixed-market economy with reasonable working hours while the United States cannot.

        Yes sometimes you need to work late because an emergency or something or other comes up at the last minute but it seems silly to say that working 80-90 hours is necessary just to prove toughness and machismo is a pissing contest that only Americans get involved in.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:

        Mr. Blue,

        I’ve met people who worked in the European offices of major American law firms. The big white-shoe firms that are notorious for 80-100 hour weeks in the United States at all levels. The European lawyers said that their hours were far from as long or brutal as the hours of their American counterparts.

        Is it labor law or culture or both that curtails the hours? I don’t know but it does not stop the big American firms from opening up offices and adjusting to the local culture of life-work balance.

        Immigration of this kind is hard so I can’t exactly hope over to Europe. But it does indicate to me that it is possible to be capitalistic and profit-seeking and a big and international while having reasonable work hours. There is clearly some exceptionalism going on in the US that is not healthy and not good.Report

      • Mr. Blue in reply to NewDealer says:

        Just because Europe does something one way and we do it another doesn’t mean that they’re right and we’re wrong. Some of those countries are happier than we are (Scandanavia Uber Alles!) but a lot aren’t and some are considerably less happy (the lovely French and their 35 hour work week).

        I got my second “real” job with the company I still work for exactly because when I was interviewed I was asked if I’d be willing to work for less than ten dollars an hour but with a lot of overtime. I was a displaced kid in a town where I knew practically nobody who had gone to a cut rate college. But you know what I had? My work ethic. Arguing that it is somehow wrong, or that I shouldn’t be rewarded for it in the workplace because other people’s preference for a work-life balance is just as valid is all kinds of wrong.

        Collective activism says that I should have waited my turn in line. That I somehow cheated someone else by being willing to work longer hours. That’s grotesque. It is not my responsibility to work less so that I don’t get ahead of the next guy. It’s not unreasonable of me to think that my willingness to work more should give me an edge over the person that can’t or won’t. It’s not my job to take it in the chin by sacrificing what I have to offer.

        The one big thing I will grant you is that I don’t fully get why a lot of employers that do to count on people working long hours. I honesty don’t understand why the law industry does what it does. I know that lawyers put up with it because there is enough hunger out there to make it happen. I won’t deny anybody their hunger.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to NewDealer says:

        Here’s the thing blue: I don’t think you were cheating others by taking a job where you worked 60 hours a week.

        I think you were cheating yourself by taking a job where you worked $9/hour. This isn’t a competition between those that want to work long hours and those who don’t.

        It’s the fact that some people are willing to get paid for 40 hours and work 60. That hurts all workers, whether they’re the ones who want to work 60 or the ones that want a more balanced work schedule.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to NewDealer says:

        @newdealer @mr-blue I don’t think the class spin is necessary. In law you have two sides. New Dealer wants to talk about mahogany board rooms and whip wielding capitalists. Do you not think the same is true, to an even greater extent, on the other side of the aisle. Should the side of angels, outnumbered by number and wealth, quit at four?

        This is just commerce. It can be about passion. If one is putting together a theatre production, shouldn’t it be with people of similar drive? That’s not to say there isn’t room for others but do we really want to take the lowest common denominator as our governor?Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

        I think you were cheating yourself by taking a job where you worked $9/hour.

        That’s right. You should have held out for that higher paying job nobody was offering you. But since you didn’t we’re going to judge you for not making the choices we would have made for your life.Report

      • Mr. Blue in reply to NewDealer says:

        Alan, $9 an hour would have been an improvement. I worked for $7. I could have gotten more answering phones for Convergys. Hourly, anyway.

        I actually think that I got the better end of that deal. In fact, ironically I currently advise the company away from hiring people they way they hired me because it’s a bad deal for the company. I feel kind of bad for denying future me a chance, but we need a faster learning curve and that means paying more. Back then, though, the company was just getting started and they took what they could get.

        And other than bread, I got work experience and an opportunity to improve myself. As the company grew, so did my pay. If it hadn’t, my pay still would have grown because I would have taken that experience to another company. I still work 60-70 hours a week for half the year, but now I’m paid very well for it (though not on hourly terms anymore).Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

        Mr. Blue, here is the issue with the 60 to 80 hour a work-week crowd. You force a lot of people to work longer hours than they want to. People generally need to work to make a living but if employers can find a bunch of people willing to work much longer than most other people and make work their number one priority than everybody else has to follow along whether they like it or not. This is an all or nothing situation, either people work 60 to 80 hours a week or they work 40 to 50.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

        Cascadian, there are a bunch of people in this world who are really passionate about what they do for living and will willingly devote long hours to do it because they heart their job so much that its basically play to them even if they take it very seriously. They are a minority. Most people work because you need money to survive in this world and a job is the only way to get money. They may not necessarily hate what they do and many people derive a certain pleasure from work. I certainly love my job and get a lot satisfaction from it.

        However, I and assume most other people do not want work to be the sum total of our lives. We want to have hobbies outside of work, romantic relationships, spend time with friends and family and clean our houses and apartments, exercise, do our shopping and chores, and have fun. If society forces us to sixty to eighty hour work weeks than those things are hard if not impossible.

        Work is a tree in the forest of life and its important not to miss the forest for the trees. We want a well-balanced life.Report

      • Mr. Blue in reply to NewDealer says:

        People generally need to work to make a living but if employers can find a bunch of people willing to work much longer than most other people and make work their number one priority than everybody else has to follow along whether they like it or not.

        Says who? Most people don’t work 60-80 hours a week. Few employers demand it. If they feel pressure to, I don’t see how that’s on me.

        Why should I have to set my working pace to those who want to work less? Why are their priorities more worthy than mine?Report

      • Cascadian in reply to NewDealer says:

        @leeesq Sorry, but don’t the theocons make this point? Culture is kind of an all or nothing sort of gig. I can’t keep my kid pure if you allow yours to X. My marriage is affected by your divorce. Is this really the kind of argument we want to endorse?Report

      • Cascadian in reply to NewDealer says:

        @leeesq We want a well-balanced life.

        Work hard, play harder.Report

      • Nicholas Costo in reply to NewDealer says:

        “Work-ahol seems to be a uniquely or largely American (and Asian) thing. Europeans and Canadians seem much better at creating life-work balance friendliness. ”

        This isn’t true, at least when it comes to practicing law. An 80-90 hour work week is the definite norm for articling clerks and starting associates in large Canadian law firms. Any clerk who has the fortune (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it) to assist in a major corporate transaction will most likely work nearly 100 hours for the week.

        I can’t comment on the necessity of the time commitment in relation to the work involved – at least not yet. I will say that as a law student, regular class attendance with a full-course load generally translated into a 20 hour week. Most students put in at least 20 hours of studying on top of that – some people put in 40 or more hours per week. So while a 70 hour work week does not sound pleasant – particularly at the start of a career, when the work is highly formulaic – it doesn’t sound unreasonable.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to NewDealer says:

        Alan, $9 an hour would have been an improvement. I worked for $7. I could have gotten more answering phones for Convergys. Hourly, anyway.

        I actually think that I got the better end of that deal. In fact, ironically I currently advise the company away from hiring people they way they hired me because it’s a bad deal for the company. I feel kind of bad for denying future me a chance, but we need a faster learning curve and that means paying more. Back then, though, the company was just getting started and they took what they could get.

        At $7/hour, even with overtime, that’s $8.17/hour with a 60 hour week, or $9.63/hour with an 80 hour week. As a skilled employee with a college degree, were those wages reasonable?

        I’m guessing the answer is “no”. After all, you recommend that your employer abandon this practice, because the wages you’re paying right now aren’t getting you the candidates you need.

        It sounds to me like you didn’t have the best resume, and so took a crappy job to prove your worth. I’ve got no beef with that. But that’s not a reason to praise crappy jobs or encourage their existence as opportunities for professional growth.Report

      • Mr. Blue in reply to NewDealer says:


        I don’t want to get bogged down too much in specifics unless you really want to hear them. But let’s say that the company had the money to get an experienced hand at a decent wage. Would I have benefited? I wasn’t hired because I was the best candidate. I was hired because I was willing to accept a harsh work schedule at low pay. No harsh work schedule at low pay, no job for Mr. Blue! Instead a better job for somebody who isn’t Mr. Blue.

        It’s pretty rare that doing what these guys did is going to be the best option. But when it is, it’s great for someone who was in the situation that I was in at the time, willing to work his tail off to pay the rent and get his career back on track in a down economy.Report

      • @leeesq

        I understand the argument that one’s willingness to work extra long hours or lower wages puts pressure on other workers and drives down wages and working conditions. (As an immigration lawyer, you know probably all too well that that’s one of the arguments some people advance against liberalized immigration policies.)

        But on a practical level and, perhaps, also a principled level, I disagree with the argument. Practically, if it’s to my advantage to work a low-paying or long-hours job, I’d be a fool to pass it up based on the assumption that as long as hundreds or thousands of other people do the same thing, the water will rise an inch and we’ll all have slightly more buoyant boats.

        On a principled level, I have a hard time denying someone the opportunity to work extra hours or shorter pay. (I also support minimum wage laws and o.t. laws, so I’m being self-contradictory….I’m conflicted, to say the least.)

        As Blue has pointed out, sometimes the best a worker, especially a lesser experienced worker new to the workforce or a particular type of job, has to offer is his/her time and willingness to work for lower wages. Unfair? Yes, but unemployment is also unfair. I think it’s wrong to judge someone for doing what they think is in their best interests in this type of situation.*

        I’m more conflicted about this than I seem. But (and I realize this is partially an ad hominem and therefore not valid) I do think it’s easy to judge others who are in more marginal circumstances than oneself is.

        *Not that I don’t sometimes judge others along similar lines….some of my reservations about immigration might, if I’m honest, be reduced to a certain resentment about increased jobs competition, and some of that involves a judgment of people who are just doing what they see as in their best interests.Report

  14. Art Deco says:

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics has some recent data on time use and an old study on the frequency of extended hours. The burden of the data on time use is that the working population spends a mean of 43 hours a week at work or commuting. The old study indicated that extended hours were more common than was the case half a generation earlier, but that work weeks in excess of 49 hours were still atypical, comprehending about 19% of the workforce.Report

  15. Jaybird says:

    I’ve worked at places where I didn’t know my boss’s boss’s boss’s name and he didn’t know mine. I’ve worked at places where the vice president of my division knows not only the name of everyone who works for him but the names of their spouses.

    The former only asked me to work overtime if it were Christmas Week or something and they needed someone without kids to provide coverage (100+ week, baby!) and they knew that I wouldn’t even consider working 40.5 hours without being promised overtime.

    The latter? “Jay, we’re on deadline… could you?” and I worked double shifts and picked up two or three dozen donuts on my way to them. And counted myself lucky.Report

  16. Burt Likko says:

    I’ve experienced many of these concerns myself. Recently. And I’m undertaking to do something about it.

    Among others, I’m actually taking my vacation (as I write) and refusing to respond substantively when work calls or e-mails me while I’m on vacation. There are other lawyers at my firm, and some smart paralegals. They can solve the problems while I’m gone. So far I’ve had only two communications from things that have caused panics back at the office, which is pretty good. Both of which have met with very brief responses.

    I. Am. On. Vacation.

    I’ve a few other ideas working about which I must be discreet but I’m finding that they’re acquiring a momentum of their own, so I may need to get things moving faster next week when I’m back than I had originally intended. Stay tuned, blogbuddies.Report

  17. LWA says:

    I think a lot of the white collar machismo is a cover for the fact that the modern white collar job has become increasingly ambiguous in its meaning, and success or quality is almost impossible to quantify.

    So there is a gnawing uncertainty- when vast armies of unemployed people are hovering outside the door, when your position and rank are ambiguous and arbitrarily determined, its very hard to say at 5:00, ” I am done!”
    There is always another email, another spreadsheet, another this or that busywork that needs fretting over.
    So it ultimately is easier to demonstrate motion than progress.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to LWA says:

      Its also because our economic system is more globalized. Its easier to have reasonable work hours in a more contained economy where everybody is more or less in the same time zone. Now everybody is connected and its always work time somewhere in the world.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to LWA says:

      If the White Collar job has become ambiguous, the colour of the collar has become ambiguous. Day was when Clerical Workers were discrete from the Decision-Makers. But success is easier to quantify: it’s still about profit and value. That’s become clearer over time.

      In badly-run businesses, people don’t know how much value they’re adding to the proposition. Much heat, little light — show me a business running on spreadsheets and not well-constructed databases and I’ll show you a money-waster, where busywork reigns supreme. It’s a sovereign clue in my line of work: if I see people copying data into spreadsheets and mailing them around, I know I’ve found a data leak, rogue information on the loose, just waiting to fall into the hands of competitors — or worse. Stale data translates into bad decisions.

      If an employee understands the necessity of his work, how his efforts satisfy clients, he’s enlightened. If he doesn’t, he keeps doing what he’s told, working blind and often scared to death. Such people don’t know what’s important, though if they did, they’d do a better job and they know it, too. The anomie thus created gives people heartburn, keeps them looking over their shoulders, creates little islands of inefficiency and often misery.

      The best part of my job is giving users the power to make decisions. Taking the drudgery out of the jobs, applying common-sense rules, liberating them to handle the exceptions. That’s what people do well, handle exceptions, let the systems handle the rules consistently.

      As for the unemployed and the danger they pose to the livestock in the Cubicle Farm, in my perfect world, they’d be harnessed to the plow of sophisticated temp work. In every firm, there are times when things stack up and more hands are needed.

      Trouble is, most firms don’t understand delegation, trusting their employees to manage their own workloads. That part of the old Clerical Worker / Decision-Maker paradigm is still intact. I see it all the time, well, not much anymore, simply because I laugh when I’m told about the arrangements — having some goddamn consultant come in, check into an expensive hotel, drive over to the worksite — and having to set up a laptop in a conference room — because they don’t have a cubicle — so I can connect to a server fifteen hundred miles away from that location.Report

  18. Will Truman says:

    I’ve been out and about for most of the day, and unfortunately haven’t had the opportunity to participate much in my own comment thread, but I wanted to say that the comments here have been awesome and a joy to read on my phone throughout the day. Thanks a lot NewDealer, Lee, Mr. Blue, Cascadian, Blaise, and others for the lively discussion!Report

  19. zic says:

    Another really important point here: Many of the lower-income people I know do not have a single full-time job. They have two, three, and a few, even four part-time jobs. No one job supplies enough hours for benefits like health insurance.

    Often, those jobs are subject to short-notice hours changes, too, making plans for child care and maintenance of other jobs really difficult. (I should also note that where I live, a tourist destination, means those jobs are often seasonal, and there’s the most demand for workers during the times when children are home, the dinner hour, school vacations, etc.)Report

    • NewDealer in reply to zic says:

      Another reason for universal healthcareReport

      • LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

        And universal pre-K and a bunch of other things.Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:

        Heck, let’s just socialize everything and quit pussyfootin’.

        Can I be in charge first?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

        Roger, how hard do you think life should be? It seems that your general philisophy is that life should be a bloody struggle for everybody and no steps should be taken by the government to make things even slightly easier. Dog eat dog is a horrible way to run a society.

        We live in a society where its simply not possible for one parent to stay home and take care of the kids in most circumstances. We also live in a society where kids are often raised by one adult rather than two. That means we have to have place for parents to put their kids while they work when their kids are under elemenary school age. However, we don’t have government provided daycare or pre-K in this country. That mean parents either have to shell out a lot of money for pre-K, which can be very expensive, or select a place of dubious quality. Maybe if the parents are really lucky, the grandparents can take care of the kids before elementary school or their rich enough for a nanny.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:

        No Roger. Just because liberals believe in universal pre-K and universal healthcare and good public services of transportation, roads, schools, and libraries does not mean we want to nationalize everything. We simply believe that these things are human rights and transcend the market.

        I suspect you will continue to keep believing as you do though.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to NewDealer says:


        Libraries and public transportation are a human right? I’ll assume good faith and hope that was a bit of an unintentional overreach. Otherwise, this falls under my general complaint about liberals, which is that they put a bit too much under the category of, “things I have have a right to expect from my government.”Report

      • zic in reply to NewDealer says:

        Roger, in my original comment, I talked about people I know who work three or more jobs and still cannot make ends meet.

        Why shouldn’t there be some sort of safety net to help out people who are obviously putting in the hours and are not lazy, but because of the cost of health insurance and child care, struggling to stay out of poverty?

        You’re all about responsibility; what’s wrong with rewarding and encouraging it? Certainly employers are willing to cut hours enough so that they don’t have to provide benefits; yet someone working at two or more jobs for more then full time hours shouldn’t be penalized because they’re employers are trying to scam the system.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to NewDealer says:

        public transportation (is) a human right?

        Everybody gets a pony.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to NewDealer says:


        Wouldn’t healthcare co-ops for businesses like that be more fair?Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        My problem with conservatives is that they still seem romanticize the frontier and the yeoman and this completely against the modern industrial to post-industrial economy.

        Even in the 19th century, there were plenty of people in government advocating for strong public improvements and works including public transportation. They were usually called Whigs and Lincoln started as a whig.

        Government is what got the Erie Canal built.

        I really don’t understand the psychology of libertarians and conservatives (in the American sense) at all. The belief of negative liberty above all, what goes on in your mind that makes you think liberals want nationalize and socialize everything just because we believe in somethings like healthcare and pre-K should be universal and if government is needed to do so, so be it.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to NewDealer says:

        @mike-dwyer : There’s a good point in there. The topic of Human Rights has gotten out of hand. Here’s the real argument for public transportation and other Gummint Programs: it’s good for business.

        Out in the boonies, here in Wisconsin, there’s a little manufacturing town, Arcadia. Home of Ashley Furniture, a biggish employer. There are others in Arcadia. Quite a few unemployed people here in the Eau Claire area. If public transportation translated into a shuttle bus running between Eau Claire to Arcadia, that’s good for business.

        In Germany, when the train pulls into the station, it’s met by a fleet of buses. They take people from the Bahnhof to their little towns. Good for business. Lets people commute surprisingly long distances without needing a car.

        Just got back from running a little transportation firm out in the back of beyond. Big picture: it’s expensive to warehouse people in nursing homes and much cheaper to keep them at home.

        This is Wisconsin, home of Governor Walker, no fan of Big Government, he. When these people need transport to dialysis or to an audiology appointment, they can call up a firm acting on behalf of the State of Wisconsin. That firm sends me a nice electronic transmission with all the details. I can choose to accept it or not: some runs aren’t profitable or I can’t find room for them on the schedule — any number of reasons. State of Wisconsin pay pretty well for those runs, too.

        Big Gummint? Human rights? No, it’s not. It’s common sense. Everyone benefits from such an arrangement. Reflexive knee-jerks over the Nanny State are understandable, necessary even. But public transportation isn’t Nanny State, not when it gets workers to work and keeps people out of nursing homes. Keeps them in their homes. Gives them a better quality of life, for less money than you might suppose. Public transportation isn’t always money well spent but I can tell you for a fact it doesn’t have to be that way.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to NewDealer says:

        New Dealer / Blaise,

        I should be clear here: I am a supporter of public transportation. I understand how important it is. I also love public libraries. But words matter. No matter how important public transportation and libraries are, human rights they are not.

        I’m pretty agreeable to the idea that food, healthcare and safety are basic human rights, however when people move beyond those things I get pretty uncomfortable.Report

      • zic in reply to NewDealer says:

        @mike-dwyer, I’m not sure what you mean by ‘co-op.’ Insurance co-op? This is something that varies by state because it was, until ACA, regulated at the state level. In mine, it was illegal for business to group together to form an insurance co-op, unless they did it through some sort of other agency, chamber of commerce, for instance; and there, the rules pretty much meant that the business was it’s own group still, there was no ‘group’ benefit for the members as a whole. This is, imo, a huge way health insurers drive up premiums; they’ve gotten to define what the group is. For states that bother to set up exchanges, this is one area that may change, groups may be able to form and self-insure on the exchanges.

        Companies who won’t insure or won’t give enough hours to make employees eligible for insurance are literally cheating their workers out of the tax-subsidy that employer-provided insurance is, too. If you get insurance through your job, that’s several thousand dollars of earnings a year tax free.

        But the service-sector worker with two or more part-time jobs is going to get the short end of the stick here, and sadly, that’s where jobs are in this sorry broken down economy where investment means scamming the margins of high speed trades instead of actually investing in creating something.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to NewDealer says:

        Calling public transportation a Human Right is overkill. What’s good for society as a whole can be called a human right, I suppose, though I wouldn’t. People’s lives are better when public transportation actually serves a given population properly.

        If only Liberals and Conservatives and Libertarians were able to consider the overlap between Human Need, Value for Money and Overweening Do-Gooderism, respectively, we’d live in a more interesting and well-run world, that much is for certain. So many inefficiencies, so little examination of what’s working and what’s not working, on a common sense basis.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to NewDealer says:

        Public libraries and public transit are not a human right, nor are they socialism.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to NewDealer says:

        @zic : The answer is to get the employer out of the Health Insurance Subsidy business. If everyone in a given state was thrown into the same insurance pool of lives, employers could get the hell out of this racket.Report

      • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

        I would like to ask that some sort of “public transportation” (bikes or foot traffic) be considered a human right. It’s cheap, and effective, and not having it builds enormous barriers to things like “getting food to eat”.Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:


        First, life IS a constant struggle. Life is problem solving, and we best never forget it.

        My philosophy is the antithesis of a bloody struggle. I believe we should create institutions which forbid any and all bloody struggle and coercive zero sum, win lose interactions including those coercive zero sum actions which you and ND constantly argue for. I also believe we should build institutions which reinforce positive sum, voluntary, cooperative interactions. Things like economic and personal freedom (to cooperatively buy, sell, hire, work for, trade with whomever we want to as long a they too agree).

        I am fine with well-designed social safety nets (aka the kind you and ND don’t want) and limited government action to ensure that people interact with each other constructively and not destructively. I do not support dog eat dog and never have or will. Zero sum activities such as this are harmful acts which destroy net value for humanity.

        What I do support is, pardon the bold…


        By this, I mean that institutions should be designed to create self amplifying search engines to create better cooperative problem solving between human beings. Are you familiar with this dynamic concept and it’s role in complex adaptive systems?

        I won’t sidetrack us with empirical data on standards of living now vs the single income fifties. The cliff notes are that people are often making trade offs for bigger houses, better cell plans, more and newer cars, fancier shoes and so on.

        I understand that the liberal welfare state helped create a plethora of single moms, and that this creates pressure to create universal day care, and this gives master planners a great opportunity to inculcate a future generation on the evils of freedom and the wonders of benevolent master planning.

        I suggest parents do what we did. Let the nice neighbor lady down the street earn a few bucks by watching kids. Better yet, single ladies should try to avoid having kids all together until they can afford them.

        Granted mistakes happen, and again, effective social safety nets are necessary, but they must never be run by liberals because they believe safety nets are rights and want to shower them upon us all like mana from Heaven.

        I again exaggerate, but just for effect.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to NewDealer says:

        Socialism. As with Libertarianism — it’s defined by what it’s not. It’s not communism. It’s not bare-knuckles capitalism. Whatever you might try to call the socialist, he’ll wriggle and squirm and tell you he’s Not That.

        Socialism is a tacit admission some Means of Production can’t be satisfied by Markets. Some things the State does better. But the State had better demonstrate a lack of satisfaction, first. And should the State make the case, it would be better for all concerned if it contracted out as much of that work as possible with competitive bids, justifying such expenditures as wise investments, acceptable to those who must foot the bill.Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:

        “We simply believe that these things are human rights and transcend the market.”

        Then perhaps you can explain where these rights come from. Were they created in the Big Bang along with quarks and photons? Or are they social conventions? Or is it something your god bestowed on us (on the eighth day, god granted us the right to universal transportation, public libraries and cell phones?)

        I am being silly, but before anyone accepts the explanation that the reason the state has the ability to coerce people to pay for somethingos that it is a “transcendent right”, I think we should ask the person making this argument to explain themselves. Otherwise we might think they are just making stuff up.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to NewDealer says:

        That’s really tiresome, Roger. Humans are a social species. Long periods of helplessness: we have a long infancy, a long childhood, a long old age, these days. We can’t mature without other human beings providing help to the helpless. It’s been going on a long time, too. The palaeontologists tell us the cave dwellers were expert bone-setters, brain surgeons, even. As we’ve advanced, we’ve always measured ourselves from the ground up, viewing children, the infirm, the insane, the prisoner, the stranger — the helpless — as measures of our own humanity.Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:


        You guys know i strongly support well designed safety nets and that i am not shy about laying out what well designed health care and guaranteed income would actually look like.

        “….employers are willing to cut hours enough so that they don’t have to provide benefits; yet someone working at two or more jobs for more then full time hours shouldn’t be penalized because their employers are trying to scam the system.”

        What? Employers are “scamming the system” when stupid progressive master planning leads to the unintended consequences which libertarians and economists assured them would result? You guys create a library of regulations on hiring, firing, wages, mandatory benefits and required health care for full time employees and you are suddenly shocked! when the market naturally responds by gravitating to contractors and part timers? And then you stigmatize the employer?

        Thank the lord for the creativity of markets, or you guys would have killed employment entirely.Report

      • LWA in reply to NewDealer says:

        Roger’s comment about constructive competition raises the question:

        To what end?

        What is this constructive competition constructing?

        If we adopted a libertarian policy, what would be the end result? Would we be happier, would our families be more satisfying and fulfilling, would our communities be stronger and more peaceful?
        Would the general level of education be higher, would the general level of health improve? Would crime go down?

        Or does libertarianism even address these things?Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to NewDealer says:

        Constructive Competition builds a toilet with the soil stack discharging raw sewage into someone else’s back yard.Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:


        “What is this constructive competition constructing?”

        Seriously? Well since you are asking, there is this new concept running around called division of labor. In it, each person specializes in what they do best and then exchanges the fruits of their labor for the products made by other specialists. The net result is substantially more efficient and broad scale production across a wider range of goods. This creates stuff like food, housing, cars, tooth paste, iPods, aspirin, subwoofers, books, heart defibrillators and ski poles.

        Specialization allows substantial gains in productivity for about a dozen ingenious reasons, which I will skip unless you need a primer. Part of specialization involves creating voluntary COOPERATIVE teams of people who do different tasks together to create something which could not be accomplished alone. These build into giant corporations and even gianter networks of interdependent people spread across the planet. Creating something as simple as a pencil may take thousands of networked people, none of which knows how to actually make a pencil.

        When produced, the act of exchange is also a COOPERATIVE act. Each member of the transaction gets something they perceive as higher value, and thus creating more utility. To facilitate the transactions, othr people specialize as middle men, retailers, transporters, and such.

        So, we have huge COOPERATIVE networks of specialized producers cooperating with each other and with middle men to further cooperate with customers to meet their needs. Free markets are about cooperating on expending networks to solve the problems that humans face in the domain of scarce goods.

        So where does COMPETITION come in? The marvel of competition is that everyone gains by having choices in who they cooperate with. Employers choose which employee and vice versa. Consumers choose retailers, retailers choose suppliers and producers and so on. By doing this each party selects the best COOPERATIVE arrangement. This puts constructive pressure on each of us to offer the best possible terms. Employees work harder. Producers try to create new or more efficient services, features or values and so on.

        Thus like science and sports, markets have an “invisible hand” dynamic. The way the rules are written, to optimize benefits for the players, they (generally) do so by optimizing value offered to others. You compete to cooperate, and you cooperate to create value for fellow humans. Using prices and the invisible hand dynamic, knowledge is economized and the whole becomes unimaginably smarter than the individual players.

        “If we adopted a libertarian policy, what would be the end result?”

        This isnt libertarian policy, it is well established economic facts stretching back over 250 years. And I am a classical liberal anyway.

        “Would we be happier, would our families be more satisfying and fulfilling, would our communities be stronger and more peaceful?”

        Would you? The reason you are alive and communicating on the Internet is because of the billions of COOPERATIVE value creating events described above. Absent these, you and I would never have been born as our ancestors would have died on subsistence living standards like the ten thousand generations that came before them. Markets, along with science and technology in a positive feedback process have allowed the planet to support ten times as many people with twice as long of life and an average of fifteen to fifty times higher living standards.

        If you honestly do not realize that the reason your community exists is due in part to the magic of markets, then you are more of an ideologue than even I imagined. And yes, if you want me to write a comment on how markets create not just prosperity, but peace, health and morality I will.

        “Would the general level of education be higher, would the general level of health improve? Would crime go down?”

        What is this about “would”? Health’ lifespan, education, knowledge and such are up because these are among the problems that humans are constructively competing with each other to cooperatively solve. As we competively and cooperatively solve more problems on net, health, prosperity and other human needs will continue to advance. That is if those with privilege supported by those on the left dont outlaw constructive competition.

        “Or does libertarianism even address these things?”

        Classical liberalism and the enlightenment were all about improving the human condition. I repeat, are you serious?

        Are those on the left really oblivious to how markets work and the value they bring to the human condition? ( I am resisting the temptation to make a crack about how progress really comes from government regulation and unions.)Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

        Roger, like you I believe that life is intrinsically not fair and that we have to strive to make it fair. Where we differ is that I think your preferred system will only increase the struggle of life rather than make it better. Competition is not inherently constructive. What we need is competition tempered by cooperation and redistribution to an extent. Not to the extent of what the more utopian leftists want, that won’t work but more in line with the vision of left-liberlism; a free market system with the hard edges softened by a social welfare state and decent regulations of economic activity.Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:

        Institutions need to be created which channel competition in constructive paths. Markets, science and sports all do this and all have aspects of an invisible hand where self focused action and competition is channeled to serve fellow man.

        This makes sense to you right? (not that you always agree with market solutions, but that you understand how market’s channel self focused action into human prosperity?)Report

    • Art Deco in reply to zic says:

      Another really important point here: Many of the lower-income people I know do not have a single full-time job. They have two, three, and a few, even four part-time jobs. No one job supplies enough hours for benefits like health insurance.

      You have an interesting collection of acquaintances. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has it that about 4% of those in the workforce hold multiple jobs.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to Art Deco says:

        And those 4% are pretty strongly concentrated at the bottom, yeah.

        I just spent 6 years working at a grocery store. Here’s the rough breakdown:
        A third actually worked a 35+ hour week and could actually meet their expenses
        A third worked 25-35 hours a week, but were secondary earners or kids who relied on their parents for support.
        A third worked 25-35 hours a week, and then had a second job somewhere else. One co-worker worked six jobs at one point.

        And this at an employer who provided health insurance for all employees (technically, all working 25+ hours, but that was everyone)Report

      • Art Deco in reply to Art Deco says:

        He says he knows a mess of people with multiple part time jobs. About 60% of the people with multiple jobs have at least one that is full time. About 15% work variable hours at their jobs. Only about a quarter have multiple part time jobs. That would be 1.0% or 1.2% of the working population.Report

      • zic in reply to Art Deco says:

        Art Deco,

        #1. I live in a state where more than 91% of the workforce is employed by a company with 50 or fewer employees, and there are only a handful of employers with more than 500 employees, so it’s not at all surprising that the people I know don’t fit your statistical model based on census/DOL data. That does not mean that their problems are not real.

        #2. She. Not he. Please use the correct pronoun to refer to me, don’t presume everyone you encounter on the internet is male.

        #3. I may know an odd bunch of people, but at least I know a variety of people, and I think about their lives; I don’t insulate myself in my own little class, and I don’t presume that because people are not well off that they’re losers, lazy, or not worth bothering myself about.

        #4. DOL does a great job of counting jobs that have employers reporting on employees who work year round. It does a pretty lousy job of accurately counting people who work second jobs in agriculture, performing arts and seasonal non-ag employment. My son has three jobs; one just ended but will resume next summer (when he’ll once again work six or seven days a week). My husband teaches at a college, performs, and develops software. In each case, I’m quite sure that DOL only picks up the primary job. They certainly don’t know my husband writes software for the music industry; nobody reports that, and I doubt he’d fill it in on a census form, where he’d simply say he’s a musician or perhaps a teacher. But the IRS knows; believe me.Report

      • Art Deco in reply to Art Deco says:

        1. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the states with the largest share holding multiple jobs are Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Vermont (8.1 – 8.6%% in each). Collectively, they comprehend 3% of the population of the United States (and multiple job holding, much less multiple part-time jobs, is still strongly atypical therein).

        2. You can always write the Bureau of Labor Statistics and explain to them their methodological failures.

        ( None of the rest of it is a response to anything I stated or implied0.Report

      • zic in reply to Art Deco says:

        Art, I live in Maine.

        First on your list for people who hold more than one job.Report

    • LWA in reply to zic says:

      ” I am resisting the temptation to make a crack about how progress really comes from government regulation and unions”

      I won’t, because it does.

      No one is disputing markets’ ability to efficiently allocate resources. They are a fine and wonderful thing. Yay markets!
      But I hope you aren’t seriously asking us to believe that markets alone are responsible for human improvement since the Enlightenment!

      And back to the thread topic, is seems reasonable doesn’t it, that our public policy stance be aimed at something other than just increasing production?

      Since as you yourself pointed out, all the metrics of productivity and wealth have increased, yet we are not, on the whole, happier?Report

      • Stillwater in reply to LWA says:

        But I hope you aren’t seriously asking us to believe that markets alone are responsible for human improvement since the Enlightenment!

        Yes, he is. Except! when he isn’t. It’s all markets except when it isn’t but even then it’s really still markets. Markets are the be all and end all. Except when they aren’t (but even then they are!).

        Is that about right Roger?Report

      • roger in reply to LWA says:

        No, markets were a necessary but insufficient ingredient. Cars take more than one wheel, but absent one wheel they barely move at all. Absent widespread markets I believe human progress would not have been sufficient to outrun Malthusian forces and the tendency of humans to exploit each other.

        Increasing production isn’t everything, and there are other problem solving domains outside of markets. Furthermore markets traditionally depend upon non market mechanisms such as rules and regulations, which themselves evolved via institutional cooperation and competition.

        Happiness is a tricky and elusive goal. The reason is that we have evolved to constantly ratchet up our level of satisfaction/dissatisfaction. See the term “hedonic treadmill.”Report

      • roger in reply to LWA says:


        Was this comment necessary?Report

      • Stillwater in reply to LWA says:

        Was this comment necessary?

        It was necessary, but not sufficient, I fear.Report

  20. Mike Dwyer says:

    So much of this post hits home for me along the lines of work/life balance. I have been fortunate in that I spent the first 8+ years of married life in a series of very stable positions with my company where I rarely ever worked over 40 hours per week. It was important not just for the health of my marriage but gave me time to be a father and also to have a healthy social and hobby life.

    In the last 6 months I have found myself in a position where the company pressures us to work long hours. I’ve done 60+ weeks several times since March. They are horrible. The only thing that has gotten me through it is a strong wife and kids that are now old enough that they don’t need me around all the time.

    Recently though my company has been reconsidering its overtime culture a bit. Starting to realize that at least with stable accounts they need to try to keep people at 40 hours whenever possible because our margins are so thin that OT blows our profit projections. It also increases productivity. My father in law, who has a PhD in economics, pointed me towards Parkinson’s Law, which states that work will expand to fill the allotted time. I shared it with my managers. They completely understood it…and then ordered up more OT three weeks later.

    It’s weird how OT cultures develop. I hear guys bragging on Friday morning that they are already at 50+ hours for the week. An old-timer on my account pointed out to me how sick it was. I couldn’t agree more. Chronic OT is a sign of sickness in a business, not dedication.Report

  21. James K says:

    I wonder if this has something to do with the difficulty of measuring output in white collar vs. blue collar jobs. Most blue collar jobs have easily measured outputs, so if a blue collar worker wants to show their worth all they have to do is point at the pile of widgets they helped make, or point to their defect rate or something like that.

    White collar jobs are more nebulous, and when a process’s outputs are hard to measure people tend to fall victim to input focus – a tendency to measure the value of a process by how much input goes into it. Since it’s hard for your boss to measure what value you produce, they default to the lazy heuristic of measuring the hours you spend in your chair.

    This gives workers an incentive to work long hours, even if they don’t end up getting much done.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to James K says:

      I’m not sure if this is true. People in many white collar professions like accounting, architecture, law, engineering, and medicine do have qualifiable outputs. As a lawyer, I can measure my output in how many cases I can complete or briefs that I can write. Architects and engineers can measure out put by progress on or completion of projects.

      The driver seems to be a feeling that if businesses did not do this, they would get buried by the competition more than anything else.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Software development is also quantifiable, and an excellent example of more hours not meaning more actual productivity, yet the push for longer hours remains. I think it’s largely for show, either “look at how hard I work!” or “look at how hard I make my people work!”Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @mike-schilling : Wouldn’t it be great if software could be measured in terms of Bullshit Reduction? User satisfaction? Attenuation of Administrivia? What if users got to rate software? Boy howdy, I could live with that sort of yardstick.Report

      • James K in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Don’t most of those jobs bill by the hour? In which case hours worked (or billable hours at least) are the output.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to James K says:

      In big law, there is also the issue that you bill by the hour so more ridiculous work hours means more money for the firm. A lot of associates in big law tend to plod through projects in order to meet their hour requirements rather than work efficiently at them. I’m in a field of law, where we charge per service rather than per hour so the incentives for long hours are only there if you have a deadline.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @leeesq Unfortunately, associates hours have to be double checked by a partner. If there is more time billed than the supervising lawyer think reasonable, you get your hours written down. This is not unusual or necessarily bad. However, if you had a lawyer that often needs substantial mark downs, a pattern and the weakness would become apparent.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to LeeEsq says:

        In software contracting, the general rule for winners is to think about what Done means, then rush as fast as possible to finish up on one set of deliverables, getting it into test with all prudent speed.

        If he can deliver his first project quickly, he’ll get lots more work. The key is not to allow the client to goober up the first deliverable. That’s when the hours start stacking up and the client gets impatient.

        Because you’re never really Done. 89% of a solution is a solution. The remaining 11% requires getting it all into test to flush out, anyway. And it will kill your timetable if you think you can get it all through test in time. You can’t. That phase can be assigned to a separate SOW. The accountants and contract admnistrators love it when you can deliver slighty ahead of schedule and slightly under budget.

        That’s how good contractors can charge so much: they can bring in huge chunks of functionality in less time than a host of cheap schlubs.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to James K says:

      I’d also like to point out that the battle for the eight-hour day was one of the longest and hardest fought battles of the Labor Movement. For most of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, the norm in blue collar work was for a ten to fourteen hour day despite blue collar work’s measurable out put.Report

  22. Mike Dwyer says:


    Yes, an insurance co-op. My understanding is that these have been made very difficult by Obamacare. That seems to be designed to drive people away from private insurance.Report

    • zic in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Well, you’ll have to provide more details.

      Co-ops that discriminate based on conditions (common in many states, legal until Jan.) will be more difficult. Cherry picking healthy people to insure, tossing the ill off, and calling it insurance is a great way to make money; but it’s not really useful for people already ill or people who get ill. And insurance was/is cheapest in states where insurers were allowed to do this. So if this is the kind of stuff you’re meaning, yes. It will be more difficult if you cannot discriminate against the ill.

      But these practices were exactly the problem that created support for most of the pieces of Obamacare, if not the name of those pieces grouped together.

      Again, it’s very difficult to discuss, because we’re talking 50 sets of policies and laws.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to zic says:

        Cherry picking healthy people to insure, tossing the ill off, and calling it insurance is a great way to make money; but it’s not really useful for people already ill or people who get ill.

        Charging people for the actuarial value of their expected future costs is what insurance is. If you can buy it when you’re already sick, and pay the same rate as a healthy person, it’s not insurance—it’s a gift.Report

      • zic in reply to zic says:

        Brandon, that works right up until you get sick.

        In many states, healthy people who purchased insurance were thrown off once they got sick. That’s not insurance, that’s fraud.

        Additionally, charging the value for their future costs is not what insurance is, either; it’s risk pooling to spread costs across groups.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        Charging people for the actuarial value of their expected future costs is what insurance is.

        Over what time frame, tho? Should future costs be determined in one year increments or projections over a lifetime?Report

  23. David Patrick says:

    Obvious outgrowth of libertarian policies in the workplace. “negotiation” with the “boss” means more hours, more hours, more hours. The more we remove worker protections and put everyone “salaried, exempt” the worst it gets till the libertarians have fucked the country again.Report