Super Sunday Hamster Blender Blog

12 January 2009

Is There a Correspondence School for Grave Digging?

I think I have a solution to help ease the economic crisis we now find ourselves slogging about in. It is a tried-and-true formula embraced by Wall Street and the captains of industry. Very simply, I believe we should lay-off about one-third of the United States.

Why not? Companies lay-off all the time, especially when they face the slightest whiff of economic adversity, or anything remotely threatening an executive bonus. In this case, we are going after the big enchilada and simply booting people out of the country entirely, skipping the middle man, taking the bull by the horns, calling the kettle black, spooking the cow, making up clichés. Give roughly 100 million Americans an empty cardboard box, two weeks severance, and a plastic travel coffee mug emblazoned with “Thanks for Years of Dedicated Citizenship,” and that will quickly relieve us of a great deal of expense.

Sure, it sounds rash, but let’s look at the argument closely. Most of us, whether we like it or not, don’t do anything. I am not just referring to the unemployed, I am talking about those who have a job. This applies especially if you have an office job.

By this I mean if you don’t move something forward, as in bringing something useable closer to completion, then what you do probably has no meaning. Meaningful work involves things like taking a lump of steel or coal and making it into something important, like scissors or a dashing chapeau. Those who do real, hands-on work – such as building things like houses or cars or pies; things we need – can keep their job. Those who make things we don’t need, like blogs, YouTube videos, union contracts, internet pop-up ads, boy bands, and the Snuggie are certainly getting the heave-ho. If you are doing something to bring a necessary product or service closer to completion, then that is valuable. Unfortunately, most of us don’t move much of anything forward, except our bowels, and that is kind of ass-backwards, so to speak.

Take, for instance, people in marketing and public relations. These people, affectionately known as frauds, do nothing to create any value. They generate stuff we do not need, like commercials, press releases, and lies. They actually spend their whole time crafting ways to convince/fool the general public to do or buy something. They design flashy labels and catchphrases. There is no value in a catchphrase. “Just Do It” is not a needed commodity. We can give these people their notice immediately.

So in determining who will be let go, some of it is common sense. Jobs like marketing, or anyone in human resources, are easy to distinguish as totally useless. If you are a CEO of a company, and before you lay yourself off, just get rid of your entire human resources department and see what happens. Absolutely nothing, except for a boatload of saved money, and a marked reduction in forced and humiliating team building events. Dignity restored and a pool of money to boot. On the flip side, jobs held by farmers, auto mechanics, and grave diggers are safe. If your hands are dirty with grease under the nails, you are probably worthy.

However, it gets trickier. Some of you hold fancy-pants jobs like “accountant” or “manager of quality” or “vice president of mid-market development of consumer operations southeast region.” And you may say, “hey, I, too, am bringing a product or service closer to completion!”

Help me out here – what is it exactly you are bringing closer to completion? A useless budget report that no one will read? Something terribly vague and inconsequential like “staff motivation?” Um, yeah…valuable stuff there…

General rule of thumb – if you routinely make PowerPoint presentations, clear your desk of your nameplate, snow globe, and yellowed certificates of appreciation.

A better rule of thumb is this - if you are “managing,” “directing,” “leading,” or the vice president of anything, you are probably not adding any value anywhere. Sure, you can eloquently give a rousing staff meeting discussion about the importance of controlling the supply budget, or approve a time sheet with great aplomb, but that’s all crap. It’s not moving anything forward. We don’t need time sheets and budget report-outs and parking policies, we need food and transportation and cotton-based products. On the contrary, most managers and alleged leaders actually make work more complex by introducing totally inane concepts such as reviews, controls, reports, approvals, and a host of other things that give themselves something to do.

Here is my open challenge to any large company with 6 or more layers of hierarchy – eliminate levels 2-5 – usually all managers and leaders – and see what happens. It’s just like laying off all of HR, but more satisfying. The real work – at the bottom-most level – will still get done. All the stupid work – the reports and meetings and metric dashboards – will disappear. In fact, the worker-level will become even more productive without all the interference.

It’s so ludicrous – we hire managers to manage mangers who are managing more managers, all who now need to hold meetings and demand reports to make sure that every manager is managing their reports and meetings. Meanwhile, the poor sap who needs to get a requisition approved for a half-inch box wrench so they can actually make something has to wait weeks and hear countless explanations that it is in the approval cycle and can he please write up a cost-benefit analysis projecting the savings over the next decade so his manager and his manager’s manager and the manager’s manager’s manager can all have something to sign.

Unfortunately, most companies, when they have to lay-off, go right for the bottom and actually get rid of the people who do the work, such as that guy who needs the box wrench (“that bastard, always wanting more!”). Or the mail room guy, the one who actually does something tangible, and who makes a lofty $25K a year. Meanwhile, the guy who fired him, four levels up, does nothing but come up with “concepts,” and makes $200K. That’s because the $200K guy gets to make the decision on who lives or dies.

Just for kicks, Mr. CEO, next time, layoff the leader, pocket the $200K savings, hire another mail room guy and still have $175 to throw one heck of a Christmas party.

Now, this has nothing to do with limiting immigration like all good Republicans believe because immigrants are doing jobs that no one else will do. First of all, if it is a job no one else will do, it is probably real work. Most of us like to avoid real work and would rather sit behind a desk and motivate our email to send out directives and funny, naughty videos of Sarah Palin in a bikini holding a dead opossum (which really isn’t that funny or naughty, if you think about it). Since the immigrants are willing to work, they get to stay. End of story. Welcome them with open arms and a spot on the assembly line. We need more people willing to smooth out asphalt on a southern highway in the August heat for 12 hours a day. The guy dictating the memorandum reminding people not to park in his newly paved reserved space; well, I hope he likes soup kitchens.

On a personal level, I have to admit that I, too, face being let go. I’ll let you know what my manager says after I finish converting this blog into a PowerPoint. But I am not worried; I saw a slick commercial which told me that being an immigrant is a growing field.

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