A DIFFERENT VIEW
So far I've mostly focus on you, the job, the boss and the relationship
between all elements in your life. Even if you have a decent job, a
good boss, reasonable pay, etc... we still need to take one more look
from a much different angle. Look at the job itself, the role it plays
in the company.
Is there a way to make it more efficient? Efficiency is
not defined as getting the best, but rather the most for a given
resource. A Yugo will get you to the same places as Cadillac, but the
Yugo uses less gas; it's more gas efficient.
Today's business climate
is weird. Many companies are complaining that it's hard to get good
help or they are always working short handed, but are not hiring. Why
Many companies solution - outsourcing or
overtime! Though overtime pay is more, an overtime employee is not
costing the any additional monies in benefits unlike a new employee.
The benefits to outsourcing - the workers may only be 3/4 as good as
you, but they work at 1/2 the overall cost! (Remember benefits?) Sounds
efficient to me - 3/4 the production for just 1/2 the cost! A 25%
- It's difficult to fire someone even if they are a bad employee.
- Good workers are expensive.
Think it can't happen to you? Well how important is it to
have 4 tires on a car at all times? It's so important that all cars
carry a fifth tire - the spare - so that there will always be four good
tires. But take notice - on most newer cars the spare is now a "donut"
that is 3/4 the size and probably costs the car companies less than 1/2
the cost of a full size spare. Last time I blew a tire, the donut
worked for me!
You say "what about the quality?". If your company
started out as a small company that grew in a competitive field,
quality is what made the company grow. Quality will hopefully be
rediscovered in time to save the company when the consumers are tired
of "efficiency"(read as low quality products). Most small companies
break into a market with a quality product that's different from their
competitors' product. As the demand grows, the company grows.
efficiency expert shows the company how a slightly different process
can increase output without growing the company by the same proportion.
This leads to better profits and delays the next needed price increase.
With the new profits and larger production, the company targets a
Now costs that have nothing to do with the actual
product, such as advertising, cut into the profit margin. Good
advertising increases the demand for the product and profits are then
derived from volume. Despite the enormous profit volume, some butthole
wants their 10% profit margin back.
So... how can they get that 1%
Quality will become
an issue once consumers stop buying the inferior product.
- Cut advertising... no that could cut volume.
- Cut my salary....
- Increase price...will the market bear it?..I dunno.
- Yes - we can
make it cheaper. Plastic, cheaper plastic compound.
Getting back to your position. Your position's
biggest threat is someone in upper management running a spreadsheet.
This person crunches numbers and processes only facts that can be
enumerated (quantified), much like a horse wearing blinders. Quality
enumerates itself over time by differences in expected consumer demand
verses actual consumer purchases.
What is quickly seen are three costs
- material, process and labor. Cheaper material, a faster process and
cheaper labor. Before getting to suspicious about your boss's vacation
to Mexico, remember that cheaper labor is not just a Mexican thing, it
is also done by machines. A $50,000 machine quickly pays for itself
when replacing 3 shifts of $20,000 workers. Thus while you are doing
your job, someone may be looking to automate it, eliminating the
position and the person in it - you.
There are a few different ways companies eliminate
is the most peaceful way. The person who holds the
position leaves on his or her own free will and the company never
refills the position. Some tasks are split among the remaining workers,
others automated, outsourced or eliminated. When was the last time a
switchboard operator answered the phone first? Does your company have
its own janitor, or does it have a more reliable service?
retirements and restructuring
trim a company. Usually senior employees
leave and other employees get shuffled as their jobs are simply not
needed in the new structure. The new structure's goal is usually to
take all the tasks of 100 employees and create such a cloud of
confusion that the remaining 75 employees are doing almost as much
work. When the high paying middle management positions are eliminated
their tasks are then spread over a few new positions of lower pay
grades. A good restructuring plan will leave few positions identifiable
with their previous higher paying counterparts.
Companies may move.
Some may not move very far from their current location, but to those
that already commute, the move may be devastating. One such move would
be to move the offices that are located approximately 15 minutes in an
easterly direction from the president's house to the same distance in a
westerly direction. Many employees would quickly find a half-hour or
more added to their commute. Sure the company has let you keep your
job, but they are making it less worth your while to stay there.
Blue Collar Elimination
and lockouts are additional techniques
used to clean house of the "blue collar" worker. Contracts expire and
many companies will demand that a contract must be in place before
anyone can report back to work. Companies looking to work a strike in
their favor plan for such in advance. Companies which are almost
terrified to maintain an inventory or make product as to fill orders
only, suddenly take interest in warehousing product. Months before the
contract expires workers enjoy larger paychecks as a result of the
overtime they've been asked to work. The workers asked back after the
strike some times find themselves either working next to a new machine
or living in another part of the country. Companies looking to replace
a well paid personnel with cheaper labor realize that because of labor
laws and the union, a simple forced strike may not be enough. The
company must ask back senior personnel first, the more highly paid
people. The company wants to make these people not want to come back.
The easiest way to do such is to have the strike last a while. Many
people will jump ship in search of the steady paycheck even though it
may be smaller. The company then replaces the people that won't
comeback with newer and lesser paid employees.
a strike, you are asked to remove your suit and put on a pair of jeans,
start distributing an updated copy of your resume. Sure the company
needs you desperately to cover for the blue collar worker, but what
about your job while you are doing someone else's? Remember, upper
level management is not only looking to see how many blue collar jobs
can be eliminated, but also looking at how many lower white collar
positions may be done away with as well.
So who's doing your job?
you are still covering the important tasks, you may not have to worry.
- If your work is piling up waiting for you, you should have a
to come back to which should last for a while.
- If your boss is actually
doing your job, you may either have your old job back because it's so
important that your boss had to do it OR you may be out of a job as
your boss took your job because HIS job was eliminated!
- If your job is
being done by either cheaper labor, tasks are split among the people
who used to be your coworkers or just not being done, start looking for
other jobs now!
- The company may bring in people from the outside. These
"scabs" may take the union positions, because doing such usually causes
trouble. A questionably legal and definitely unethical way around such
is to move the insiders into the union positions, and put the outsiders
into non-union positions. Thus the white collar worker, who has no
union protection, is replaced while the company uses the white collars
to fill the union positions from with in. If your position is left
intact, you should have a job when you comeback. If your tasks are
divided, your job does not exist, so start looking.
product may not be enough. Companies planning a long labor strike may
make a facade from where it can still service customers. Companies
which make a product may form a partnership with or buy a competitor.
In a partnership agreement, your company is retagging someone else's
product and selling that to the customers. Service companies may
subcontract the work to smaller independent companies or contractors.
Service companies, especially utility companies, may outsource certain
positions and eliminate other services all together. Gas companies
which used to install appliances will tell a customer to hire a plumber
on their own. A small crew may be kept as to maintain an ability to
respond to emergencies (leaks) while less critical work is assigned to
the more cost effective contractors (read as "The contractors who
submit the lowest bid"). Thus not only are you threatened in your
position, but your position may be threatened by you.
Once a number
cruncher feels that your job can be done more efficiently, then your
position may be eliminated. The tasks you performed will still get
done, but each task will be part of another job. If your position
survives, count on a number of new tasks to be added to your position -
tasks that once made a job for someone else.
© 1998 Frederick M. Picroski