A long time ago, in a small town not so far away, I learned the value of that animal most oft referred to as “managing change.” I observed the approach of the animal like a floppy-eared rabbit who just saw a fox. And like the rabbit, I would at the time have been happy to disappear down a hole in the ground. Change, by the way, is scary now. It was a lot more so in the days when your average guy still thought a job was for life.
I learned about investment company’s asset stripping their acquisitions by basically sacking all the middle managers, putting in their own people, ripping the heart out of the business to maximise profit, then selling it on. I wasn’t a victim here by the way. I just had to run my own store, but I watched as I went through five different employers in as many years. This was the late 80s and early 90s. The only real difference between then and now is that the illusion is no more. There’s no longer such a thing as a job for life.
I saw it coming and once I had let go of my inner rabbit, worked to diversify my experience. I worked hard over the next few years to make myself “employable” by building core skills and experience that would be useful no matter the industry I end up in. I ended up in the bar trade.
In the third bar I worked in, I found myself back in management and in the fourth, back to that old pattern, as I spent 4 years in the same pub, but working for as many different employers in that time.
A new dimension had manifested by this time however, as store managers also began to be targeted in the endless quest for profit. I watched as my own store manager was pushed out in favour of hiring someone on a lower salary. That wasn’t how the company sold it, but it was how it was.
A few good years in a restaurant then back to pubs. And back to that pattern again. It now feels like the bigger a company gets, the bigger a monster it becomes, as managers who don’t “fit” with the new regime are pushed out one way or another. Middle managers are turned into hatchet men or women to fulfil this end, on pain of their own job if they’re unwilling to comply.
These companies have become utterly callous in their approach, with the profit motive being worshipped above all else. Managers are put under appalling pressure to control costs, usually resulting in ridiculously overstretched staff in all parts of the business being expected to cope with everything thrown at them, for the pittance that is the minimum wage the company can get away with paying.
Naturally, they lose many good people as a result of their business methods. They also lose the loyalty of many of those who remain, resulting in reduced efficiency and therefore profit. This, unfortunately, results in ever more pressure and micromanagement. And so it continues on and on.
Now that I look back on my working life so far, I don’t think that I gave true justice to my predictions at the time. But I’m glad I made the choices I did as the roller-coaster I ended up riding would have been impossible otherwise.
As to an answer to the question “What’s a job worth?” From the perspective of one of these types of companies, very little. Perhaps we should return the favour and consider such a company as worth very little when considering who we want to spend so much of our time working hard for.