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 not?
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% savings! Efficientcy

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!

 ...Vs Quality

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.

Then an 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 larger market.

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% back?
Quality will become an issue once consumers stop buying the inferior product.

...And Management

 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 positions.
Attrition 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?

Early 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

Strikes 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.

White Collar

If, during 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?

Simply warehousing 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