Friday, July 24, 2015

I'm the best and why that sucks

Well, that was anticlimactic. At 3:00 I was sitting in my cubicle making progress writing something that fixed a bit of text I had been very unsatisfied with. The woman I reported to came by to thank me for my excellent work and say goodbye. I was more than a little shocked. After staring at her for a few weeks while I tried to find some way other than the obvious one to interpret what she was saying, I finally said "am I done?" She said yes, she thought that all the details been taken care of and I knew I was done. This was supposed to be a six to eight week job and today was the end of week three.

I filled out my last timesheet, cleaned up my corner, and went through my document, filling in placeholders with clear notes on what I had planned to put there. I wrote to the agency telling them what had happened and asking them what I should do next. Then I turned everything off, put on my hat, and started walking home.

About halfway there--after stopping to tell the police about a couple of people I had passed arguing over a gun--my phone rang and I dipped into a parking lot to take the call. As I expected, it was the person at the agency who had hired me. She apologized and said she had sent me an email yesterday morning, explaining the situation, but apparently it bounced off their servers. This is almost certainly true. When I filled out my timesheet, I tried to mail it to myself from the scanner and found I no longer had an email account at the place I was working. Looking over the last few days, I saw the the only emails I had received yesterday and today were company-wide reports and announcements.

So, what happened? It seems I'm just so good at what I do that I finished eight weeks of work in three. The client looked over my work on Wednesday and thought it looked so close to what they had been expecting that they figured I was winding things up. They called the agency and told them to close out the contract. In fact, I figured I was going to finish it next week and was hoping they would find other projects for me work on for the other four weeks.

There's a political lesson to be learned from this. Many people think (or, from what they say and advocate, appear to think) that the unemployed are just lazy. Or that unemployment is caused by greedy unions--and laziness. Or that unemployment is caused by undocumented immigrants--and laziness. Or that unemployment is caused by crafty foreigners--and laziness. In any case, the unemployed are contemptible and deserve no compassion or help--or help qualified by humiliation. The unspoken part of this belief is that the reason enemployment goes up must be because millions of gainfully employed American workers suddenly get lazy, quit their jobs, and refuse to go back to work.

Even if every part of that is true (and it's not), it's only half of the story. We could achieve full employment and be begging for foreigners to come work here if were weren't so damn productive. American workers put in more hours per year than any other developed country, with the exception of South Korea. As for productivity during those hours, we're number three (South Korea is near the bottom of that list). Those two statistics combined make us the most productive workers in the developed world. You can pick different bench marks and crunch the numbers in different ways, but you'll still find out that we're very good. You'd have to work really hard, and hate America, to give us an even moderately bad rating.

Since 1980, American productivity has risen about eighty percent while pay has risen about ten percent. If the wealth created by that productivity isn't going to the people who did the creating, where is it going? I can't say, because that would be engaging in class warfare.

Jeb Bush, a multi-millionaire who has done squat to create wealth or jobs for anyone outside his immediate family and friends, says American workers need to be more productive. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt on the "work more hours" part of that comment and focus on the "be more productive" part. Why should we be more productive? None of that created wealth comes to us. The very upper middle class are the only ones who actually make back the results of working harder. Everyone below them barely hangs on while all their wealth production goes to those above the upper middle class. Oh dear, I'm veering into class warfare again.

Though I impressed some people on this job, I'm not sure I impressed the right people. The agency that placed me expected to collect their share of my wealth creation for at least six weeks and only got three. I actually feel a little guilty about that and hope it doesn't work against me.

Let's get back to my situation. I just screwed myself out of 62.5% of the expected pay for this job by being so productive. The client was willing to pay for eight weeks for me to meet their expectations. I did that in three weeks. What I wanted to give them would have taken four weeks. To put it another way: If I had had my way, I would have exceeded expectations while coming far under budget and ahead of schedule.

If millions of people like me would goof off more, the totality of American society would be better off. Millions of other people like me would be employed. Those above the upper middle class would still do well, just not quite as well while Americans below the upper middle class would do anywhere for somewhat better to life-savingly better.

If I wasn't so damn good at what I do, I'd still have a job.

Note 1: So what is it that I do? I'm a writer. I'm a damn good writer. If you've read archy or any of my social media postings for any length of time, you've probably figured out that I'm chronically depressed and that my self-confidence and self-respect are in the toilet of the sub-sub-basement. Even from there, I have enough perspective to know that I'm a damn good writer and that I'm a damn good value for any any employer.

Note 2: Well, if I'm so good and such a great value, why don't I have a job? FUCK YOU! Fuck the horse you rode in on and fuck anyone who looks like you! This is the same as asking, if you're so smart, why aren't you rich? Once and for all, being skilled, talented, or brilliant in one thing does not mean you are the best in all other things. Einstein wasn't even close to being the richest man in the world. Bill Gates isn't close to being the smartest man in the world. But, they were each the best in what they did. I'm damn good at the thing I do, which is ferret out information and explain it in terms that are relevant to the people who need it. However, one of the things that I'm worst at is selling myself and maintaining the social connections necessary to do that. In other terms, I'm great at working, I'm awful at getting work.

Note 3: That wealth production thing, my example is one present-time event; other than statistics can I give you another real life example? Yes I can. My bid on this contract was two thirds what I was making for the same work fourteen years ago. Even adding in the agency's share, this is a huge transfer of wealth from the wealth creators to the wealth collectors (whatever you want to call them that isn't class warfare). As recently as when we lost the house, Clever Ex-wife thought two dollars more than this per hour for what we do was a humiliation. Several months ago, I thought I was a sure winner on a bid where I asked ten percent less than I made in 2001. The winner asked almost half what I did. Was he, she, or it going to be half as productive as I was fourteen years ago? Of course not. They planned to give it their best. I would have given better, but I can't communicate that. So good for them on winning the contract.

Note 4: I really need a job. I live in Alaska, but I'm a great telecommuter. And I'm really good at what I do. Really.

Update: I guess I'm done publicly wallowing in self-pity for now. What's the next Kubler-Ross stage?


trog69 said...

I'm a union retiree and fellow terlit-dweller. I envy that your mind is still working in a forward and logical direction. For me, I can't concentrate on anything before stressing out and quitting. I truly hope you find some way out. And rapid re-employment in the near.

Anonymous said...

Your claim that you were let go for doing the job too well isn't helped by the many errors in this post, but we're not paying you for it so fuck us, right? ;) Also, remember that the capitalist prime directive is "buy low, sell high", so on your next job, give them as little work as you can get away with doing or you'll remain a struggling schmuck for the rest of your life.