27 April 2009

Me and work, work and I

I have been a 40 hour a week worker since I was 17 years old. I had a union position at an industrial scale grocery store. For the most part, due to lifestyle necessity or ill perceived feelings of responsibility, I have maintained that work input for most of the last 13 years. I make less per hour now than I did at 18. This is the preamble to what has been a developing perspective on what I think I should be sussing out of life. An idea that stems from the known fact that TIME is the only un-replenishable asset.
My current position found me because I assumed the need to work a real job but was weary of selling my time so that someone (or something else) could make more money while viewing me as a liability. I wanted a position that provided the tainted lucre of subsistence to me while I provided an actual service of value to the community. I work with homeless youth, a position both fulfilling in its role and outcome as it is challenging and exhausting in its application. It does not really require special skill as it does special perspectives. I accepted the almost demeaning pay in exchange for a tacit flexibility of time. Our problem is perverse. As we have become more successful in mission, we have drawn more notice from "management", which means more investment in our mission. We are now the facilitators of many millions of dollars of donated funds - assets. We are now liabilities. Individuals who excel at their jobs are unsurpassed in their knowledge, are written off because their seniority demands higher pay. Newer individuals, who succeed unsupervised and under adversity - the unrewarded cogs and wheels, are nicked and gouged for minutes over and under. All this with a hearty expectation that each and every individual exemplify the Protestant work ethic wherein time off, paid or not, contractual or not, is cause for remonstration. Where the most inane underperformer is exalted and rewarded for a four year degree and punctuality.
I am ranting but there is a point. There is something wrong with this culture of work; something wrong with management school and human resource departments. Something wrong with viewing employees as liabilities and the first to be cut.
I am a lazy person but I love work. Where is the demarcation between good work and soul crushing labor? I love a task and a challenge. At my job, there is a special place for the more challenging clients, cannot decipher their own fear and helplessness and who hurl chairs through plate glass. I love someone saying fix this problem. Solve that riddle. I have been valued in every position I have had, and then something snaps. Why can I only take two weeks off(and even that!?!). You don't need to pay me for more. What does it matter that I am five minutes late or early if no one is inconvenienced?
In the army, we loved a challenge. I would rally around seven day workweeks and twenty hour days...when the task demanded it. But I would bristle at mindless downtime "productivity".
All I ask for is a reason to sell my time and a value for it. A financial value sure, but to have it valued is more.

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