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Why Work Sucks

JonKatz posted more than 15 years ago | from the The-Technological-Elite-Wreaks-Havoc dept.

Technology 222

Do you like your job? Do you feel secure in it? Do you know anybody who does? Life in the new technological workplace is filled with ironies and contradictions -- all tht money and opportunity, hardly any loyalty, appreciation or security. Companies no longer see themselves as pyramids, but fast-on-their-feet networks. Workers, especially older ones, are highly expendable. A new book helps us understand why the new capitalism is making companies more efficient, but destroying the character of jobs; improving the economy while ruining work itself.

Here's a quiz:

Do you like your job? Do you trust the people you work for? Do you feel needed and valued at work? Are you loyal to the company you work for? Is it loyal to you? When the time comes, do you count on your employer to take care of and protect you?

The most significant thing about this quiz, of course, is that most of the people reading it don't need to bother to take it.

An enormous shift is under way in the workplace, according to economists. There is a huge transfer of wealth from lower-skilled, middle-class American workers to the owners of capital, and to a new technological aristocracy.

This change is transforming the nature and character of work. And not for the better. The technological aristocracy is creating lean, mean, corporate machines. But for more and more people, work sucks.

The new techno-managers and their companies no longer care about individuals or their work or personal lives. They take over companies primarily to strip them down for re-sale, merger, or greater profitability. They've adopted a newly "flexible management style in which goals and structures constantly change, and older, more experienced workers are sometimes brutally abandoned; only younger presumably more malleable (read overworked) employees are favored, until they too are inevitably tossed over the side.

This chilling view of what technology is doing to work is unsparingly laid out in Richard Sennett's "The Corrosion of Character, The Personal Consequences of Work In the New Capitalism (Norton, $US 23.95). Sennett, who teaches sociology at the London School of Economics and New York University writes that the booming new economy teaches corporations to value flexibility over almost all other considerations.

Flexibility, he argues, has become the prime ideology, the golden rule of corporate life. Companies and executives place change and rapid-response above all other values. Notions like loyalty, security and character get chucked along with the expendable workers. Accordingly, large numbers of mostly younger people have no choice but to try a kind of extreme risk-taking, gambling that they will be among the survivors, the chosen few. In this increasingly cold-blooded scenario, those who succeed sweep the table of gains, like poker players after a winning hand; the mass of losers who remain divide the crumbs.

Instead of thinking of organizations as pyramids as they used to, says Sennett, management sees them as networks - network arrangements are faster, more efficient. This means that promotions and dismissals tend not to be based on clear, fixed rules, that tasks are never "crisply" defined. Instead the network is constantly refining its structure to remain efficient, competitive and profitable enough to satisfy stockholders and analysts, everybody's new bosses.

Drawing on interviews with dismissed IBM executives in New York, bakers in a high-tech Boston bakery, a barmaid turned advertising executive and a few others, Sennett argues that the new capitalism creates an environment where companies are continuously forced to down-size and re-organize.

Older employees are necessarily more resistant to continuous upheaval, saddled as they often are with mortgages and kids, and companies perceive them as difficult and more stubborn anyway. They're toast. Thus more and more workers are now must the most vulnerable precisely when they're the neediest.

This change is already so profound that American worklives are being dramatically shortened. The number of U.S. men aged 55 to 64 who work has dropped nearly 80 per cent in l970 to 65 per cent in l990. Statistics tell the same story - or worse - in France, and Germany. And much of this change has been involuntarily, prompting epidemic feelings of anger, guilt and uselessness rather than the chirpy contentment of early retirements portrayed in TV commercials.

That could accelerate: in America and Western Europe, sociologist Manuel Castells predicts, "the actual working lifetime could be shortened to about 30 years (from 24 to 54) out of a real lifetime span of about 75-80 years" - with older workers forced from the workplace long before they are physically or mentally unfit.

The image of corporate "deadwood" is so pervasive it has become a media cliché. Sennett quotes an advertising executive: "If you're in advertising, you're dead after thirty. Age is a killer." A Wall Street executive confirmed this view: "Employers think that if you are over forty you can't think anymore. Over fifty and they think you're burned out." Older computer programmers are rare enough to be stuffed in museums.

Recent flaps over age and hiring in television reveal that few TV writers are over 30; nor do many large Wall Street firms smile on bankers over 40.

That makes older workers instantly targetable during the ceaseless reingineerings, takeovers and mergers that characterize large corporations. The rate of involuntary dismissals for men in their 40's and early 50's, has doubled in the last twenty years.

But that thinking also puts considerable pressure on the young, sociologists argue. Experienced workers tend to be more judgmental about their superiors than novices, more likely to challenge unfair or arbitrary decisions. Younger workers are often forced to do a variety of jobs, whether they like them or not, and to be willing to move, whether they want to or not.

Sennett argues that the work values of the new technological elite threaten character, not only economic security.

"Who needs me?" is a question more and more workers are ask themselves. The new system radiates indifference. "Such practices obviously and brutally diminish the sense of mattering as a person," writes Sennett, "of being necessary to others."

Sennett's book is powerful documentation of what most people are learning the hard way: the great majority of those who toil in the "flexible" regimes are going to get left behind. One-sided, temporal relationships with employees are increasingly the only ones that make sense.

Technology has made corporations vastly more efficient, but at an enormous cost: they can no longer afford to be human.

Life in the technological workplace, toiling on behalf of the technocracy, is filled with ironies and contradictions - all that money and opportunity, hardly any loyalty, appreciation or safety.

Sooner or later, the elite and their corporations - connected to their workers only by money, by transitional and exploitive relationships - are bound to find themselves in serious conflict with the people they most depend on. You can email me at

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Work is getting worse?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046402)

Sennett is anything but Gen X. Maybe you should read the book!

I'm so bleeping sick of this stuff... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046403)

I have no idea where this self-nihilistic crap gets started.

the average individual is far MORE empowered today than ever before.

the average individual has MORE ability to think of something grand and spread it to the outside world.

the average company is no MORE hardcore about not viewing their employees as interchangeable cogs. Skills / experience / etc. are MORE thoroughly rewarded now than ever before. Think about Henry Ford's assembly line vs. JIT production techniques.

We are far MORE in command of our salaries than ever before in history.

The same economists who talk about widening rich/poor gaps (which is NOT an intrinsicly bad thing) will also tell you about increasing "income mobility" -- e.g. it's far easier to move between income strata now than ever before. 30 years ago, if you were born poor, you likely stayed poor.

oh well, enough ranting.

not really...for nerds anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046404)

i don't know abou this. skilled, long-term employees make IT companies very rich and profitable, and if they aren't taken care of, they leave.

i left my last companie because i had no say in the technical directions it was heading ("going microsoft"). i mean, they didn't care one bit what any of the engineers had to say about it. several of us left. i hope to convince my new management to install some linux clusters, and at least they are willing to listen and let me experiment.

for computer folks, at least for the time being, you can decide what you want and where you want to go. we don't really have anything to whine about. we've got it much better than most other americans, and really should be thankful.

anyone who is involved in IT and feels this bad either needs some psychiatric intervention (i'm not kidding -- computer-centric people have fairly high rates of depression) or they just need to sit down and make a list of what they really want and figure out how to get there.

Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046405)

Of course this crap is why work sucks. Why the hell do you think Dilbert is such a success? Talk about stating the obvious...

Added to which... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046406)

Or Canada, and hopefully it will change soon enough before everyone move out of this country.

Work has always sucked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046407)

The simple way to fix it is 1) make as much money as you can 2) retire as soon as possible. Duh. It's not a complicated situation. Nobody here works 90 hours a weekk and only has enough money to eat and pay rent, that was the 20's.

As true as this article is, Slashdot wrong forum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046408)

As true as this article is, Slashdot is the wrong forum to express it. Simply because Slashdot users consist of the younger, cheaper workers that Jon discusses. (As an aside, what do you think Slashdot's demographis are - I'll bet it's 90% young males between 18-30).

"A hundred years ago four year-old children worked to death in mines"? "Please Rob, I don't want to hear from this whining leftist any more"? These comments smack of young arrogance to me...tell me what happens after you're 30,40,50, and you have family, commitments, that mean that you can't dedicate 90% of your waking hours to work?

These are exciting times, but let's be honest - the fact that the companies that we work for have no loyalty to us affect us in a myraid of ways, none positive. It makes our lives more stressful, our health worse, our values suffer. I certainly won't, and think this article raises valid points about how people have to live their lives today.

Thanks for writing this article Jon. It put into focus what I've been feeling for some time.


Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046409)

I don't need some useless union extorting money out of me. If you don't like your job, QUIT and contract. Any dope can make a 6 figure salary in today's market. Unionization is reserved for industries where the labor market is EASY to replace. Unionize McDonalds, BurgerKing first, and then you can start worrying about white collar jobs. The average US income for a male is 27,000 a year. The median income is 24,000. You can check for yourself by contacting the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

You whiney little twits have no clue how bad it can be and has been. We are hardly an 'opressed' group stuggling to make end's meat.

Winners Vs. Losers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046410)

:those who succeed sweep the table of gains,like
:poker players after a winning hand; the mass of
:losers who remain divide the crumbs.

Hmmm... maybe I'm one of those winning poker players, but I've never considered myself in the elite or advantaged class. Yet, by virtue of a choice of vocations that I made sixteen years ago, I'm making fine money and I have lots of autonomy.

Job security? It's out there. Indeed, I work for a company that espouses corporate flexibility; at the same time the founder of my company would no sooner leave his people on the streets than saw off his leg.

As for the corporate attitude, in a capitalist economy almost *everything* is more important than the workers at a top-level view. If you don't want to be less important as an employee than shareholders are as investors, then don't work for a publicly held company. If you don't want to answer to "the man" and let him make money off of your work (vis-a-vis HIS INVESTMENT) then make your own damn capital investment, work for yourself, and shut up!

Up or Out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046411)

First off, I *love* my tech job.

Of course, I don't work for a tech company, I work for a news media company and therefore I don't make nearly as much as my friends in the Sillycon Valley, but that's also mute because my cost of living is far lower.

What's important to note however, is there is a very prevelent "up or out" mentality out there.

Face it, it's "normal" to work in McDonalds when you are 16 but a 32 year old asking for your order is a bit odd. The same is true for every onther field.

If you are a 20 year old programmer, you're a "whiz-kid" if you are a 40 year old programmer you're either washed up, or have no drive. At 40 you "should" have kids, a mortgage and be in manage ment. If you aren't then you have no drive, don't program all that well, and are basically lazy.

That may not be true, but that's the perception.

Some people just don't *want* learn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046412)

Where I work we just fired two IT so called Network Administrators because they were dangerously unqualified and didn't want to learn anything new that didn't say WindowsNT on it.

The first one wouldn't let Novell die. She had to have WindowsNT, because she couldn't do anything without a mouse. And then she went with Groupwise so that she could feel comfortable and we could just sit there and not use all the mail features seeing as how every other department had Sun systems.

The second was some punk who was *working on his MCSE*, enough said.

This is a government department that we were all working for here. So naturally these two were offered training in System V, Oracle, and just about anything they wanted. They decided they were too good for that. They even didn't want to learn HTML.

I was an intern building the website and now that I have learned Oracle. I have their jobs.

Yes, it seems cold to everyone else, but anyone going into a techi position knows that most of the information that they learn today will have to be updated in 6 months.

All it takes is some newsgroups, reading up on some documentation, and occasionally picking up a book.

If companies are trimming the fat due to lazy employees then all the more to them.

Common Knowledge: If you don't stay up to date. There will be someone younger, better educated, and willing to do the job for half the price.

You don't stop learning just because you graduated.

Doctors? No, Lawyers? Yep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046413)

What do you mean we aren't on the same level as doctors and lawyers? Yay, maybe I'm not saving lives but, people depend on computer engineers more now a days then their doctor. Even your doctor depends on the tools computer engineers supply them.

As for Lawyers,.... what real good do they do anyone now a days. Linux gives its core (the Operating System) away for free. When was the last time you heard of a bunch of lawyers defending for free?

But why are the older men not working? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046414)

Obviously, because they are lazy, or so your post implies. My father has a network of friends in their fifties who are unable to find meaningful work. They all have to take jobs at UPS or K-mart just in a futile attempt to make ends meet. My parents were the picture of common sense financial dealings of their day and yet now they are having trouble paying their mortgage because neither can use their skills to earn what they are worth, in large part due to age discrimination.

Your father has had the good fortune to be in a field where retirement is usually not forced, but others should not be surprised when half of their $100,000 / year salary goes to getting their parents through tough financial troubles. Jon Katz is talking sense here and young people should be aware of the reality.

Go on believing you live in a meritocracy that places people exactly where they belong, but when the rules by which decisions are governed are capricious and out of your control, merit plays little role in some decisions and good people suffer. Be thankful for your luck and good choices, and sock away as much money as you can, because good pay won't last for you forever.

*Sigh* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046415)

Every place I've worked, there have been people who have moved up (and usually out) and people who have stagnated. Are the ones who stagnate being exploited? No, the ones who stagnate are the ones who think better jobs should fall out of the sky on top of them.

Poeple who get out and take responsibility for themselves - whether it's simply looking for a new job or going to night school to get a certificate or a degree, or whatever - are the ones who succeed. It's as simple as that.

As soon as you buy into the mentality that the people who succeed are "privledged" you've pretty much guaranteed your own failure.

-Joe Merlino

I'm so bleeping sick of this stuff... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046416)

but back in 'our parents generation' the average job was closer to "supermarket worker" and "burger flipper"

the average factory worker, farm worker, 'office worker' back then had a VERY boring, repetitive work life.

and, although we are more interdependant now, we are overall less vulnerable. The kinds of things that this generate refers to as "economic depressions" (e.g. early 90's, early 80's) were a PIECE OF CAKE compared to "economic depressions" i nthe 40's & 60's.


Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046417)

In 5 years, I will have put away $208,000 into my retirement account, will be 33, and that doesn't include interest. Who knows what's going to happen in 5 years and furthermore who cares?

If you want to bitch about something, bitch about something that is worth bitching about. It's not about 'slave labor' and 'poor us'. There are plenty of people who fare much worse than you we do. Fix the worst problems first then worry about the trivial details. The best way to make work equitable isn't to start with the upper class you dolt. Quit being such a greedy fucking bastard.

socialist crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046418)

If an older worker is truly fired simply because of age, then that is clearly wrong. But in my experience older workers are often resistant to change simply because it means that they have to learn something new. This idea that the company should be paternalistic, and take care of the worker forever is socialist crap. Older workers get pissed off when they see younger people come in and work their asses off, because they are no longer willing to do so. The reluctance of older workers to continuously update their skills in the job market is not the problem of the company - it is the problem of the worker. The fact is, there are very few well-paying jobs out there now that do not require competition. If you aren't willing to compete, that doesn't make you a "victim of corporate oppression", it makes you lazy.

Employment at will! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046419)

Once you understand the full implications of the newly fashionable "at will" clauses in these so-called permanent positions, you come to realize that you've got the best of both worlds.

You've got an indefinite term contract with bennies! Loyalty is obsolete, and "permanent" is a fiction. But there's always headhunters calling you up. Just keep those jobs skills current. A job is just a gig. It's the career that matters.

I agree with Katz... oddly enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046420)

Normally I find Katz to be too long winded.. but this time I'll look past that because he IS right.

I'm 21 years old, I make 6 figures a year, and I have passed up people twice my age many, many times - who have spent years at their companies' because there is a age bias when it comes to techjobs.

employee's have become tools as skills are more important then experience.. lucky for me i am on the good side of this stick.. but this era is going to hurt alot of older people.

I'm not particularly surprised... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046421)

by the generally indignant and self-righteous tone of the responses. I live in Los Angeles, a very large city. Every morning on the way to my wonderful, high paying job, I see dozens of homeless people.

At my last job, where I went unappreciated for eight miserable years, I quizzed people who took nearly the same route that I did to work about how many homeless they saw on the way in. None of them ever saw any! I then asked them how many people they had ever seen die on the streets of Los Angeles -- none had ever seen any! (I have seen about 8, actually saw them meet a bloody end, as it happened...)

All of those people are still at that crappy job. They are also moderately happy there -- they are paid poorly and treated as non-entities, and that is what they want.

So perhaps the "normal" condition for man is to assume a libertarian disinterstedness in his fellows, and to want others to view him similarly, and to live out his life in enforced ignorance, without whining.

But you can whine like hell, and be concerned for and even help other folks, and still succeed very well.


But why are the older men not working? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046422)

Hell, both my parents retired before 60 (NYC teachers bought out with a sweetened package), and I am jealous _as hell_.. I'd love to chuck it all with a $45k pension and travel the world.. In fact, my dad starts getting ~$1k/mo in social security next month, so between that, his (very) part time mall job and the state pension, he's making more than his 30th year teaching!

He pities me the current state of the job market (no 30 years same job anymore), but I am making more now at 26 than he did after 30 years, even adjusted for the change in the $, and he has a masters degree to my HS + 100 credits..

Still, I know this corp has zero loyalty to me and vice versa, but I am root and my boss is a smart decent and cool chap.. I just need to make sure I keep socking 10% away into that 401k and hope Y2k doesn't wipe it (and even if it does, I'm sure that when we rebuild we'll do so on unix, and they'll need even more unixslaves.. I hope.. ;)

- Otis (

No Subject Given (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046423)

work has sucked for some but not all ppl's for some time.
this is why []

Katz is RIGHT!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046424)

>>While the young might have energy and vitality
>>to do the grunt work, they need the experience
>>of the aged to lead them.

Um, I hardly look to the "aged" for direction. I look to books, the Net and occassionally colleagues whose egos haven't been so overinflated by years of work experience that they are still willing to help the little guy pick it up.

As far as leadership, the "aged" can hardly provide it. Lemmings might have a better chance. That's why there are technical architects -- people who have the skills to interpret the needs of obnoxious, technology-illiterate salespeople and executives into a solution that can be understood, digested and processed by programmers, administrators. Older workers in the tradition corporate hierarchy have assumed that with experience comes seniority. Alas, this is changing -- an exceptional college grad with the desire to learn and develop a multi-faced skillset can become more valuable than a person who's merely performed the same function for the company for years.

Older workers might be a great source of information, but they're no longer the lifeblood of the global economy. Multitasking and the willingness to keep abreast of the newest technology will make you a star -- sedentary workplace ethics won't. So thpppppt!

-a young, ambitious, employed programmer

Why work doesn't suck (for me!) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046425)

I am 31 and work for a small multimedia firm in the southeast. My job rules:

We are discouraged from working more than forty hours a week, so as not to impact on our family time.
It is the company policy that no one gets screamed at by any one else. Courtesy and repect are paramount.
The salaries are well within the the national average for programmers/animators/artists.
Employees enjoy near total artistic freedom, with humorous creative content strongly encouraged.

"Management", such as it exists, wants our input as much as possible. Our suggestions are very often implemented too. We work with them, not for them. It's understood that the real capital goes home at five o'clock, and needs to be treated as such. Overall, a swell bunch of guys, ranging in age from 24 to 40.

I have worked for some real maniacs in the past, so this job feels like a karmic reward. Don't give up hope! It can happen to you!

Socialist Propoganda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046426)

This book sounds like the typical socialist rant:

"Capitalism is stomping on the workers; things are getting
worse; companies just care about making money; employees
are cogs in the machine, to be tossed aside when they
outlive their usefulness; etc., etc., etc."

I'm one of those "older" workers, in my 40's, and I sure can't
remember a time when things were better. My first software
job, in the 70's, paid ~$20K, at a time when houses near
work (in L.A.) were well over $100K, inflation was
running at 10%, and mortgage rates were around 12%.
Unemployment was also fairly high, and I found it extremely
difficult to find jobs back then.

Oh, and in the 60's, I remember having to compete to get
a $1.35/hour job at MacDonalds, a place that would fire
you if you let your hair get too long.

The U.S. economy is in much better shape these days, and
it looks to me like people are also generally happier with
their jobs.

This makes it rather difficult for the professional socialists
like the fellow who wrote the book. Since unemployment
and inflation aren't particularly high, they have to convince
us that the TRENDS are bad.

BTW, some of the things he complains about are, to some
extent, a good thing. "Company loyalty" often meant that
some workers were buddies with their bosses, and were
assured of a good, secure income regardless of their

I hope someone up-stages you someday kiddo.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046427)

Ever try to raise a family and still be a first class tech? its doable, but not easy, we get lazy in our jobs over time to give time to our family, a wife, a kid.. etc..

when that time comes for you and you dont want to spend 70 hours a week learning in front of a new pc.. you too will be upstaged..

then perhaps you wont be so smug.

Work is getting worse?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046428)

For the record, I'm 27 and I'll never be a millionaire for as long as I live.

For the record, I am 27 and I will be a millionaire, when I'm 42, probably earlier unless the economy takes a dump - which I expect it will.

Oh well, I've never been a materialist.

I like my job.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046429)

...Guess I'm in the minority. Hook up with a big consulting firm. Good money, interesting work, lots of variety. What more could you want?

Katz is right.. tho this forum wont wanna hear it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046430)

Since slashdot's people are those younger wolves killing the older animals off for their jobs due to their new k-rad k00l java skillz, I'd expect this place to respond to katz in such a hostile manor.

Old programmers don't die, they continue programmi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046431)

Case in point, my father. He's a programmer and has been programming for well over 20 years now. He is over 50 now (by a hair) and he's still programming. He started on old IBM mainframes, moved to other mainframes (Assembly), OS/2 (C), Windows NT (C++) and Java now. He's learning programming on Linux (C) as well.

There's nothing wrong with being old, just continue to update your skills.


Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046432)

I only make a 6 figures a year! And I work 40+ hours a week! And if I quit, it takes me 2 weeks to find another job! I need a union.

Low unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046433)

Sure, unemployment is 4%.

I'm sure you've heard the comeback (joke?) that goes "The economy created 200,000 new jobs last quarter!" Reply: "Yeah, I've got 4 of them."

People in IT may be constantly nervous about their futures, but people from the no-skill fields that are downsized are not, as a prior post alluded, buying computers and learning Java. They are screwed.

These IT "victims" described by Katz made more in their (shortened) career than the person who parks the typical ./ reader's SUVs everyday will make in his/her lifetime.

Don't like the corporate world? Don't be so greedy for pay and go work for a non-profit. "Leftist" IT workers in Silicon Valley don't carry much water for me.

I Love My Job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046434)

- I work with and for people whom I admire

- The work is challenging and a creative outlet

- I make very good money

The secret is to find something you truly enjoy and then do it for a living. Doing anything else simply leads to dissatisfaction, bitterness, and ultimately whining on slashdot...

Work is getting worse?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046435)

It's called We The Cattle. People notice it and just accept it.

Tell me this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046436)

If we have so many 21 year old millionaires then how many of you on /. are worth $100,000 or more?

No one? Ah, I see. You're all SHEEP.

You're getting screwed and you deserve it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046437)

If you program 60 hours a week for $30k salary, you're stupid and you deserve to get screwed. I'm serious.

Its not clear he's stupid, but he is obviously not very saavy. Or maybe he would rather complain than switch jobs and make more money.

I agree with Katz... oddly enough(me too) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2046438)

yeah.. I'm in the same boat..

But my plan is to make as much as I can for the next 10 years as I may need it to live the 10 after.. I do see much demand for people in their late 30s in the tech world.

Learn how the threshold feature works... (1)

Pathwalker (103) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046494)

They're all still there, just lower your threshold a notch or two (or click here [] to lower it to a rediculous level)

Slashdot is the RIGHT Forum! (1)

Clifton Wood (213) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046495)

An Anonymous Coward was caught uttering the following:
As true as this article is, Slashdot is the wrong forum to express it. Simply because Slashdot users consist of the younger, cheaper workers that Jon discusses. (As an aside, what do you think Slashdot's demographis are - I'll bet it's 90% young males between 18-30).
90%? Not 90%, but close! According to this poll from August 8th [] , folks in their 20s, dominate the population of Slashdot (54%) with teenagers aged 16-19 as the next group (21%). I find it interesting that the older segment (folks older than 30) comprise the same percentage here (21%). That's hardly a small percentage, and certainly not as small as you make out.

Seriously: young or old, I think Katz is right in bringing something like this to the attention of the readership. Those who are willing to listen, will listen. Those who aren't, will not.

Quite frankly, I like my job, but then again, I work for a State University and not a coporation. The attitudes and atmosphere between the two are worlds apart. I can see how folks who do work in a corporation might need a little heads up. Sure, it might not be happening to you now but don't discount later!

- Cliff

I agree with Katz. (1)

Chris Johnson (580) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046497)

I make basically diddly working in tech support, but I'm working for/with a nifty Quaker boss, and we're gradually accumulating other techies who are actually clued. We do have future plans. The important thing is, we're basically flying in the face of the current job scene. We _care_, by choice, and it's a continuing choice- trust isn't easy, but we're all in the same boat.
The ruthless motif is doomed. Who the _hell_ wants to do business with untrustworthy, ruthless people? Who really _wants_ to be used up and thrown out, or to depend on someone or something that's only out for what they can get away with? This is a dead end, an extreme swing in attitude (which I think can be traced back to MS's eternal attitude), and it CAN'T LAST. Cooperation has _advantages_. Functioning in a society has _advantages_. Cutting both of those things away and leaving everyone from the temps to the company itself scrambling ruthlessly for the next profitable betrayal has _costs_ that are not being considered at all. LOOK at an example such as Intel, and the FACE Intel website, for a picture of what happens when you go fully 'modern' with this approach to work. Reading that website, does Intel sound like a place with a future? No, it sounds like it is fscking going down in _flames_, man, and the sick thing is that nobody cares or wants to help because Intel hasn't given anyone a reason to like them other than being the 800 lb gorilla- there's no cooperation or social awareness within the industry for them, it's all what they can get away with, and people are sick to death of playing that game.
People who seriously believe this ruthless attitude defines the future are deluded and uneducated. It's been tried many times in many contexts, and it _loses_. Your individuals end up so busy taking care of themselves that they WASTE TIME which could be spent providing some cooperative benefit, in doing things that other people could be helping them with, simply because they don't trust anybody and won't believe in a social interaction that can't be crushed by something ruthless coming along, so they won't even _try_ working with others and daring to risk contributing to a larger whole.
Isn't it kind of odd that the people ranting about how the new ruthlessness is the future, are doing so on a site which advocates open source cooperativeness and the abandonment of this ruthlessness regarding _code_? Why shouldn't 'open source' work just as well on the personal level- a _GPLish_ (not 'public domain') type, in which you trust only the trustworthy, but will go to the wall for them, and vice versa? If you think I'm going to trust any of these merry ruthless child posters, you're out of your fscking mind- but I _will_ find other people who wish to cooperate in something, and I _will_ go to any length to justify their faith in me. But you gotta earn that, you gotta earn it and talking ruthless does nothing to suggest you are honorable and trustworthy- it suggests you are unscrupulous and dishonest- and if you think that's gonna win in the long run, man, you're gonna be alone out there, and I'm not fool enough to give you a hand on your inevitable way down.
I will be busy giving a hand to the many people, including all Open Source programmers, who were willing to set aside ruthlessness and risk helping _ME_. And if you choose to scorn that I can only honor that choice... and let you die, free, proud, and trusted by no-one.
So, in conclusion: Katz is right- but what he's not telling you (and perhaps doesn't know himself) is that the behavior he's protesting is a losing game, and ironically the people he's writing to, the ones who love and hate and argue with him, are a fine example of one way to put that behavior aside and return to the more successful behaviors of trust and cooperation.
I hope he can see that. More than that, I hope enough Slashdot readers remember that, and remember the social ethic which underlies our open source licenses- and perhaps also the twist that defines the GPL itself- it's great to cooperate, but it's also damned useful to _demand_ it. If you can't play nice, maybe you oughta hit the road... I hear Intel is hiring, after a new round of layoffs >;)

Contracting and Perm stuff... (1)

gavinhall (33) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046499)

Posted by modefan:

To everyone that prefers contracting to being an employee, I have a few words for ya:

1. I did it, I enjoyed it and I will do it again.
2. Making the better and better hours is something that no other field gives you.
3. You will become the most in-demand worker in your field.

However, being a perm does have more benefits other than money and that's why many people like it.

All in all, I hate working in general. I would much rather be retired and sitting on my DSL all day long =)

wrong auditorium (1)

dragisha (788) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046503)

You don't really expect ego-nerds to understand sociology and/or statistics?

Soylent Green (1)

pohl (872) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046504)

Soylent Green is old programmers.

As true as this article is, Slashdot wrong forum (1)

Kyt (903) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046506)

AC wrote: "These comments smack of young arrogance to me...tell me what happens after you're 30,40,50, and you have family, commitments, that mean that you can't dedicate 90% of your waking hours to work?"

Those who are spending 90% of their waking hours working in their 20s are getting into habits that won't change in later years, I think. Forget marrying later in life, these folks won't be marrying at all... if you spend 10+ years completely isolated from any kind of socialization, you're gonna have a hard time diving into it when the time is available.

But why are the older men not working? (1)

Eccles (932) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046507)

Some older men may not be working because they can't find a job. However, my parents retired at age 62 (my father is a professor emeritus, so in some sense he'll never truly retire) because they could, not because they were forced to. This statistic is meaningless without information about how many older workers were fired, how many are trying to find work but can't, etc.

work sucks? Depends (1)

mackga (990) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046508)

Really. I've worked in a variety of settings - academic, public service (ugh), large corporate, small startup (not counting summer jobs, of course). And I've enjoyed working in the academic and small startup only. The positions I had in each were different - academic: ESL instructor/department head; public service: library drone; large corporate: library technical advisor; small startup: sysadmin.

One thing I've learned is that if you concentrate on what you can learn and how that turns around into what you can produce, the happier you'll be. The less you learn, the less you'll produce.

Basically the work that has sucked for me has been the work that has degenerated into routine. I'm not saying that the marketplace isn't hard, fast and cutthroat, but IMHO it's always been. In each of the work settings I've found myself, I have always taken it for granted that tomorrow may bring a reorg/cutback/loss of financing, etc. Fact of life, sorry but we have to let you go.

My point being: the more you know how to learn, the longer you stay marketable.

My $0.02.

I agree (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046511)

I started out working on a wheat farm, the family thank you.

I went to the city (Portland Oregon) and learned computers. Now I have a kickin job. I work when I want, I am almost unreplacible and I have two Power Mac G3s sitting on my desk and Xeon powered Compaqs to play with.

The jobs are out least in the United States. Workers make more than ever. Sure the cost of living is high and so are doesn't bother me.

I am far more empowered than my Mother or Grandfather ever was. I was born middle class and I still am middle class. I have lost nothing.

Change in thought... (1)

MeAtHereDotCom (1511) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046515)

It used to be that 'job security' meant that you would work at FoMoCo for all of your life putting that screw in that hole day after day. FoMoCo wouldn't lay you off..etc. But people didn't really have many skills either. Mechanics are a dime a dozen. So are IT people. The difference being, that almost every shop in town has a Network, and needs someone to provide TLC for it. So the shift is becoming that 'job security' means 'good skillset.' A good skillset and you will never have to look long to find a job, and you can constantly be asking for more and more money. Maybe you do get dumped by Xyz, Inc, but Xyzzy will pick you up.

One thing's for sure. This new-fangled internet thing surely won't just 'go away.'

okay. back to the crack pipe.

Contracting is the solution (1)

Matts (1628) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046517)

I used to be one of the best employees at my previous company, but I wasn't given wage rises for the following reasons:

- My hair wasn't as nice as Richards (OK, that's what it fealt like)
- I didn't want to go into management
- They couldn't, because they had to give everyone similar wages

So, I got sick of the BS and went contracting. Never regretted it yet, and earn more than the directors at the previous company.

Am I loyal to my employees? Yes - I employ myself!
Are my employees loyal to me? I hope so ("self - am I loyal to me?") ;-)

I think the older generation can also benefit from this newer model - they just have to face facts - the world is changing, you can no longer stay at the same job for the rest of your life. I think it's far more interesting this way.

Which Unemployment Figures is Katz Reading (1)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046519)

There is no question that corporate America is changing. It is no longer probable that you will spend your entire life working for one single company. The question is whether or not this is inherently a bad thing. Katz clearly assumes that no one would ever leave their current job except under duress, but (from my experience) much of the current job hopping is voluntary. The chances of getting fired are higher than they were 30 years ago, but there is also less of a stigma placed on those workers who have worked in several different companies.

In fact, in many cases the experience is seen as desirable by employers.

The fact of the matter is that it is hard to complain about the state of the job market (at least in the United States) with the current economy. This is especially true in the computer industry. We have some of the most sought after skills in the country. And it is really the skills that are valuable.

Even if Katz did have a point, what would he propose we do about this "dilemna." Our employers are plotting to screw us, are they? How is that different from how it has always been?

As true as this article is, Slashdot wrong forum (1)

sengan-home (1901) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046520)

Actually I think it's the right forum. The young'uns are the ones that still have th energy to shake the world. And given how tightly corporations hold on it's going to take quite some shaking.

Great, maybe someday you'll learn.... (1)

bobalu (1921) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046521)

how to write, too.

I'm so bleeping sick of this stuff... (1)

Ex-NT-User (1951) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046522)

You go man! Completely agree here. My last employer tried to screw me.. so I got a another job.. albet 3000 miles cross the country.. but not only am I makeing a hell of a lot more, they actually treat me very well here. So all it takes is the self confidence and desire to do better and you can. No one is going to stop you.

Some people mentioned that in 20 years I could be out of luck because my field vanishes. Here's an answer for you... continuing education. No one is stoping you from keeping up to date.. or taking an evening class instead of watching monday night football.. in fact most employers encourage and pay for such classes. All it takes is some self motivation.

Anyone who doesn't even try to do better or learn more has no right to whine and complain that they lost their job because their expertise was no longer needed.

Hell I'm 23, I make 70K/year and if I cashed out all the stock I own I'd have $160,000 in cash laying around. So if I keep going at the rate I am.. and I have no plans to slow down.. I could easily have over a $1mil in assets by the time I hit 30. And the most interesting thing is that I'm not the smartest ape in the tree...


United Information Technology Workers (1)

Gus (2568) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046526)

Perhaps not everyone here is a professional, but some of us certainly are. As a member of the leading professional organization for IT professionals, SAGE [] , I can tell you that attempts to organize a more traditional trade union has met with heavy resistance among system administrators.
In this economy, with the current shortage of IT workers, there is no reason to make $30,000 for 60 hour weeks. As stated in the last issue of ;login:, this is the time to vote with your feet. Walk away; with a reasonable skill set, anyone in this field can find a better employer, both in terms of economic compensation and personal considerations.

So what's wrong with this thesis? (1)

ciurana (2603) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046527)

If anything, I found this article inspiring. Two years ago I decided to start a company rather than to bitch and complain about my previous employeer. I went from senior executive at a software firm to unemployment. And it feels great!

Since 1997 I managed to sign up some very big companies as my customers, I'm working with the coolest technology, my company is expanding, and the company income increased more than 5 times from 1997 to 1998.

The company is growing faster than I can control it now, and yes, I may employ people. I'd much rather hire contractors because their work ethics tend to be better than permanent employees' (out of self-defense; no performance = no $$). Other people who work with me come in as partners if we identify that our goals are similar. Then we all have a vested interest in making the company succeed.

If you have a chance, check out Ricardo Semler's book Maverick. He explains how to structure your company as an employee-less place in which everyone involved maximizes the benefits of self-interest and self-ownership.


Old programmers? (1)

tjansen (2845) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046531)

Something I always wonder... there are so few older programmers. What does a programmer do when he gets 50? Work on a sheep farm?

Work is getting worse?!? (1)

homebrewer (2857) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046532)

You could convert your money to yen and be a millionaire :)

Yet another reason to use Free Software :) (1)

homebrewer (2857) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046533)

Yup, company loses its help.
Product stalls.
Customers need something more stable.
Switch to Free Software.


Yeah, so? (1)

Digital Commando (2881) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046534)

We are now all effectively independent contractors. That means that one has to think; one can't just mindlessly show up for work and do what someone else tells one to do and expect to be secure in retirement. Just because the post-war generation was guaranteed a rising income despite never learning a single new skill past the age of 25 doesn't mean that such a state ought to persist forever.

United Information Technology Workers (1)

msuzio (3104) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046535)

Umm, no.

It's a bad idea. Why? Because if you're getting exploited ($30,000 for a 60 hour week? If you're getting $30K, you're a total newbie to the field and it's not worth making you work overtime, you
don't have enough to contribute yet), leave. Don't ask a union to do the job for you, vote with your feet and get another job. If you can't at least get a 5% raise after 6 months of looking around (read "Ask The HeadHunter" [] for tips on how to look), then maybe you're in the best situation you can find for now.

Still, 30K for 60 hours? Not worth it. At the very least, you should be getting overtime pay for that (making your real salary something more like $35K, which I wouldn't consider too bad to make in the first 1-2 years of an IT career).

My take on unions is that I prefer a system where my skills determine what I make, not the amount of whining me and 50 of my buddies do. I'm just not a union fan, and never will be.

My little essay (1)

Troy (3118) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046537)

Let me send out a disclaimer here: The following post contains vast generalizations, and there certainly are expections. I know this. But nevertheless, I think that what I'm about to say also has a great deal of validity.

While the book Katz reviews may or may not be an accurate summary of the corporate situation today, it does paint a picture of what could be before long, especially as we 20-somethings become 40-somethings.

When the computer was a new toy, 'techie' people were very special, because it took lots of ingenuity and know-how to make computers go. As a result, technie people were courted, schmoozed, and treated very well, because they were special. You couldn't just pull any guy off of the street to do a techie job.

Then the personal computer happened. With the advent of the personal computer, literally anyone with some spare time and determination could become a 'techie type.' This is a wonderful, empowering thing. The largest reason why I'm proficient with computers is that I was raised with a computer in my house.

But there is one side effect to this - because of the personal computer, more and more techie people are entering the job market, and this trend can only continue and increase. Indeed, by the time I'm 40, I fully expect hordes of young punks to enter the job market knowing more about computers than I will ever know (and that's with me keeping up to date).

And as more and more techno-minded people go out into the workforce, they'll become more and more replacable. Already, to some degree, you can pull someone [young] off of the street and give them a techie job. That saturation of techie people can only increase, and as they become more and more replacable, they'll have to endure harder and harder working conditions, and be treated less and less like people and more and more like cogs. Inevitably, people in techie position will suffer all of the worst parts of capitalism that 'replacable' factory workers have endured for years.

Call me a pinko commie, but under capitalism, as soon as someone is regarded as replacable, they repeatedly get bent over, because they are replacable. Sure, there are good companies that treat people well and don't exploit them, but there are also lots of bad ones.

I'm not so sure if such is the situation now, especially in light of the insanely high demand for techie people in the work force. However, I do see a situation like this evolving in no more than 20 years...maybe even 10. As future generations become more techno-saavy and enter the job market, technical positions will become more exploited and less secure.

Then again, I could be completely on crack, but I don't think so.


PS. Any typos are really artistic alternate representations of words and sentances. :-)

Old programmers? (1)

harshaw (3140) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046539)

My company employs around 40 engineers where the median age is 35-40. I am by far the youngest engineer at 24. Perhaps this is because I work on kernel level code or perhaps the average New England SE is older than the average SE on the west coast.

Only $5K on credit cards!SIGH..those were the days (1)

AnOminous CowHerd (3188) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046540)

Waaaaay of topic.

Contracting is the solution: yep (1)

warmcat (3545) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046542)

I also make a living from contract work and agree that it kicks sand in the face of regular employment. It's true that you lose some degree of predictability and certainty that its present in regular employment; but as Katz points out this security is shrinking and there comes a point where it is no longer rational to say 'no' to a doubling of salary for an increasingly slender comfort blanket

The short term nature of most contracts can actually work in your favour: if you are any good then your employer does not want to lose you. Once you have a record of quality you can say 'no' to toilet-cleaning work that often tries to piggyback on what was explicitly agreed because both you and your employer know you can always move on to something else.

By the way, the best articles I have read on Slashdot have been on this subject: it seems to bring out the best in the posters because it is something we all have some experience of (and is very close to our hearts :) )

Depends: yep (1)

warmcat (3545) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046543)

I agree with all your points. You basically have to incorporate (here in the UK, become a Limited Company) and regard yourself as a corporation that just happens to have one employee. Along with that goes all the grief of keeping receipts, issuing invoices, liasing with an accountant and so on. Goes with the territory.

On the unpredictability, I have been lucky and haven't hit any quiet patches; but you are right, you have to have money in the bank first because your paycheck can no longer be relied upon. This has downstream effects such as mortgage lenders raising an eyebrow: however, again in my experience, once you show them your accounts, and they see you make good money then they're all smiles.

On the NT invasion, I have been programming in C++ & MFC on NT for the last three years or so and only recently spent time with Linux, which was a revelation in several departments (mainly to do with how much of Win32 & NT itself MS had stolen from Unix, and yet munged up or made less capable). I have been looking at X programming recently (another revelation to run GUI processes on another box with all IO on the one you're sitting at) but I fear - and this is the point - that any new API I learn will be dust sooner rather than later. I see I could readily learn the X APIs, seeing as they are similar in intent to the Windows SDK APIs, but is it worth it? There's the tk way of doing things one could worship, too. But it occurred to me maybe we are entering a time of the Death of APIs where everything is written in Java and the rendering of the App - and which OS is being used - is a detail.

transfer of wealth (1)

Lurking Grue (3963) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046546)

Beanie Babies, Furbies, $30K+ SUV. Gee, I wonder why nobody has any money. I guess I could complain about my income, but it is much better than the minimum wage I started at years ago. It is also better than the pay I earned while working an "undesirable" job while paying for and attending college. Hmmm. Maybe I was not content with my job or my income and did something about it?

I like my job. My techno boss gave me a week off with pay last September when my dad died. My last few employers would not have even considered it. That is why they are former employers.

I'm not rich. I may never be rich. But if I'm never rich, it is my own fault. (I don't save $$$ worth a damn.) I'm not gonna blame my employer, when I was the one who chose employment. Sometimes work is actually,!

As true as this article is, Slashdot wrong forum (1)

nowan (4075) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046547)

I have to disagree with you here -- if /. is only younger males then it *should* get this sort of thing.

A younger male myself (24), my reaction was "Yeah, there's probably some truth to that, but so what -- what's new?" Personaly, I don't think things are as bad as Katz is saying, and I also think that much of what is bad isn't so much systemic as it is a result of the fact that we're going through a period of change. I get frustrated sometimes, but I also got a relatively nice job (try carrying hod -- now there's an unpleasant job) by studying philosophy in college. That's quite a trick, if you want my opinion.

But I realize that my experience in the job market is limited, and if you have a different perspective, I'd like to hear it, and hear why you feel that way, don't just tell us we're being arrogant.

Work is NOT being destroyed (1)

Skip666Kent (4128) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046548)

Only our previous assumptions ABOUT work are being destroyed.

Some get bowled over in the process, but this is true in ANY form of social change.

Social Security (1)

Skip666Kent (4128) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046549)

I think very few of us (20/30-something) have taken the idea of Social Security seriously for a long time. I pay my SS now soley in the hopes that it will benefit my parents someday, but with no illusions that it will ever help me directly. Today most folks are already acting around this issue, with 401k, self-employment, continuing education and other investments in their own futures.

Rather than the tired and oppressive trade union perspective (which starts out for the common good, but rapidly evolves into a purely self-seeking corporate entity) I think we'll see more a return of guilds (places where tradespeople can network, socialize and upgrade their skills) and co-operatives (healthcare, childcare, educational, etc.).

What? (1)

hawkeye (4170) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046550)

Ok... this article is not very well done and goes against some of the principles by which I live my life.

"Do you like your job?"

I wouldn't be here if I didn't.

"Do you trust the people you work for?"

I trust them to make decisions to make the business successful... That's there only job! If I'm no longer deemed "useful" then that's *their* loss, but it doesn't matter to me!

"Do you feel needed and valued at work?"

I'm not in it to feel "needed or valued". Just the satisfaction of *knowing* I've done a good job is good enough for me!

"Are you loyal to the company you work for?"

Loyalty has nothing to do with it. I feel that I'm doing pretty cool work right now. If I get sick of it, either my company will provide me a way to do other work, or I'll look elsewhere!

"Is it loyal to you?"

Don't care!

"When the time comes, do you count on your employer to take care of and protect you?"

I neither expect or want this! I have the freedom to leave the company any time I choose. This works the other way as well.... *If* I become "dead weight", I'd expect any decent company to dump me!

I cannot foresee a time in my life when I won't have passion for the job that I'm doing and, if that time comes, I'll look elsewhere to regain it!!!

I'll admit your points are "interesting", but they're not founded in the way things should work!


- Hawkeye

United Information Technology Workers (1)

Ben Smith (5358) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046554)

I've said it before on /. and I'll say it again, we need to get organized. If we accept the conditions do nothing, then we deserve what we get. I read about a group of workers, at Microsoft of all places, that are forming a pseudo-union in Wired magazine.

And cut the crap, we aren't "professionals" the way doctors and lawyers are professionals, they don't work 60 hours a week for $30,000. We're workers, just like factory hands, and we need to face up to the problems that many in our field are going through.

Work is getting worse?!? (1)

brennanw (5761) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046556)

How old is Mr. Katz? Do you KNOW he's a Gen X'er? Do you know the author of this book is a Gen X'er? How many 21 year olds do you know who are millionaires? Do you usually typecast people like that, or were you just cranky this morning.

For the record, I'm 27 and I'll never be a millionaire for as long as I live.

Christopher B. Wright

Beating around the bush (1)

Ross C. Brackett (5878) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046557)

So, how's the Linux install coming along, eh Jon?

United Information Technology Workers (1)

Big Boss (7354) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046560)

We need a better name... UITW doesn't exactly roll off the tounge. ;)

However, I think something like this is going to be required.. we should learn from the unions though and avoid the problems they caused for themselves if you want to make it work well.


Oh, I get it -- so work used to be "fun"? (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046565)

Keerist on a keerutch. What is your attention span? Go to any Detroit worker nowadyas OR 10, 20,50 years ago -- think they enjoyed their jobs?

Fun is what you make it. Work is what you make it. I could double my salary by working in Silicon Valley but I choose not to.

And Katz -- do you enjoy this job you have, of writing silly articles devoid of meaning?

This article is about as useful as edible underwear that's been worn for 3 months straight.


Really? (1)

mikec (7785) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046570)

I've read articles with the same basic thrust several times in the last few months. Maybe I've just been lucky, but my experience has been quite the opposite.

I'm 43, and I have never felt more in demand. The company I work for seems to value me pretty highly---I make more in a month than my father ever did in a year. We're not only not laying anyone off, but working very hard to hire people faster. (There's a $5000 reward for a referral that pans out---send me resumes!) If times do get hard, I will probably talk to one of the head hunters who call me about once a week with "great opportunities." My management cares about my happiness. I don't have any illusion that this is pure altruism, but turnover is expensive and they know it. My only real concern with work is that there is a steady pressure to move from project leader into management, and I'm not quite ready to make that move.

Several of the statistics given by Katz---e.g., the drop in number of men aged 55-64 who work---can be interpreted in several ways. It may be that a lot more men aged 55 can afford to retire than in the past. Personally, I plan to be on-line, wirelessly, from a sailboat in the Caribbean before I get that old.

I think there is a nugget of truth in Katz's article, though. The lesson to take away is, Don't Become Inflexible. In particular, make sure you don't spend a decade working on something that has no future. Especially an internal, proprietary technology. Eventually, your company is going to wake up and realize that it has to go, and you will be in trouble.

Work is getting worse?!? (1)

JoeBuck (7947) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046571)

A hundred years ago? It's quite likely that some overworked child, or maybe a political prisoner in China, made at least some of the clothes you are wearing. We are reverting to the 19th century and the sweatshop conditions that prevailed then.

"21 year-olds are becoming millionaires"? Yeah, right, about 0.0001% of 21-year-olds.

If you have good marketable skills, good for you. Have you given any thought to how you will be doing twenty years from now? Or do you think that you'll become a millionaire and retire?

Think you're going to make a lot of money as a programmer? Why, when there are millions of skilled programmers in India or Russia that'll work for $10K a year and a network infrastructure that makes it easy to move the work there?

I'm doing very well, thank you very much. But I'm not so self-centered or arrogant as to think that there is no reason for concern.

So don't be a burger flipper (1)

Thag (8436) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046573)

You're talking a deadend job that any normal person can pick up within a week and master within a few months. Is it going to be a career? Of course not! How can you ask for continued raises when you max out what you can do within the first year?

The kinds of positions you're talking about are unstable because the standards are so low.

The solution is to find a job that challenges you and uses all of your abilities! You'll be far better paid, and HAPPIER as well!


Try "pro bono" (1)

Thag (8436) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046574)

Pro Bono work = work that lawyers are willing to do for free because it's in a good cause.

Find a lawyer to work for you pro bono might be hard, though, depending on your circumstances. It helps to be an obvious charity, and poor besides.


Work is getting worse?!? (1)

Cassius (9481) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046577)

Typical Gen X whining. A hundred years ago four year-old children worked to death in mines. Today 21 year-olds are becoming millionaires. Quit whining and admit it that you're just projecting your own failure.

Katz's article sophmoric and anachronistic (1)

Cassius (9481) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046578)

Even if you wanted to pour out the leftist workers-are-getting-screwed drivel, it was chic two years ago (a la William Greider and others). Now its just cliched.

Entrepreurialism is the new model... (1)

NatePuri (9870) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046582)

I agree. If you have a marketable skill, market it. If you have an idea, plan, design, implement, market, sell. Simple in theory, difficult in practice. So let's all get to work... for our selves.

Put this on the editorial page, NOT NEWS! (1)

cholko (10212) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046584)

While a little over obvious in content, and rambling within normal expectations this article is not NEWS.

Put it on the editorial page.

Sheesh... isn't anything you post news?


Katz is RIGHT!!! (1)

Laxitive (10360) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046586)

Leftists, oh what a nasty word to call a person. What is going on is scary. It's true that the vast majority of people think that old people cant work as well as young people, and the new culture that is arising in US is favouring those 20-somethings that are willing to give up their social life, rather than the 35+ who have stayed the course and have experience, with problem solving, and life in general.

The new Culture's disrespect for Aged people for their vastly superiour experience is appalling. Being old is supposed to signify senility, being old-fashioned, conservative. The ageing in this country today desparately try to look and act young (plastic surgery, hair growth pills, viagra, etc.). While the young might have energy and vitality to do the grunt work, they need the experience of the aged to lead them.

FOr those of you who tell katz to "go back to russia you leftist", you are all naive fools. You will most defenitely change your policy when you find out that Social Security isnt going to pay shit for you when you retire, when you find out that you're $5K in debt with credit cards, when your kids think you're some senile old fool, and when nobody wants to hire you because you've got wrinkles on your face and your hair is going gray. You cant be young computer techies forever, what are you going to be? I can tell you that right now, you'll be a "has-been".

"He used to be a programmer"
-"What is he now?"
"Who the hell gives a shit? he's old"

You smug self-satisfied techies will eat your words.

Katz is cool.

and no, I'm not old, I'm 17


Age related to quality of production? (1)

Josquin (10374) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046587)

Just a thought:

Development of UNIX began during what the article refers to as the golden age. Over time it became the rock-solid operating system which served as the conceptual basis for Linux. UNIX (and by derivation, Linux)are products of that earlier mentality. Everything I've heard about Microsoft leads me to believe it is representative of the current system as described in the article.

It takes patience and time to work the bugs out of a system. Knowing that you may still be working on the same product 5-10 years from now gives you a longer time-horizon and makes you more willing to do a thorough job, even on a big project. Patience, focus and attention to detail are as necessary to the development equation as are vision and drive. Nobody starts out with all of these qualities. It takes time to fill in the gaps. There's an awful lot of software out there that would be great if it actually did what it was intended to do, but was never finished because people were called on to the next project.

This is not new (1)

binarybits (11068) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046588)

Leftists have been saying this crap since the Industrial Revolution. They have always told us that workers are "alienated" from their jobs, that we are pawns of the "super-rich," that corporations are "inhuman" and so forth.

This article is the result of a monolithic view of the American workplace, what Drew Carey calls the "Shiity Jobs" phenomenon. There's all this nostalgia for the fifties, when `everyone had 9-5 jobs pushing papers from the right side of their desks to the left.

It is particularily ludicrous to bemoan early retirement as some kind of inhumane punishment. If a corporation lays you off, you are free to seek another job. If you cannot get one, perhaps you should go back to school, and develop your skills. Companies in today's economy cannot afford to pass up skilled workers, no matter what their skills. This gives skilled workers an enourmous amount of freedom.

Even the poor can move up in the world faster than they ever could before. For 1000 bucks, one can buy a computer and some books, and learn Java, html, or whatever, and get a job doing IT stuff. Never before has knowledge been so cheap and readily accessable.

Re: Censorship (1)

Jello (11089) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046591)

I am all for freedom of speach and all that crap, but I'd rather have /. trim all the fat and pointless comments. If not, all /. will become is a another usenet disaster.

United Information Technology Workers (1)

adamsch1 (11525) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046592)

Workers of the work unite!

No one owes me a living (1)

Keel (11611) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046595)

Corporations are faced with tough choices to stay alive sometimes. Sometimes downsizing is the only way to stay competive; if you don't stay competitive, everyone loses their job.
if(!company) !job;
Given such a tough choice, offering early retirement to the older folks seems to be a far friendlier option than firing across the board.

I also think that concerns over the older generations unwillingness or inability to adapt and grow is legitimate. However, I don't believe this trend will continue into our old age, because it's not about age, it's about the era those folks grew up in. Let's face it, there is a large group of people who don't want to, or can't, change and develop themselves (and are sometimes downright lazy) not because they are old, but because that's the way the world once was.


Low unemployment (1)

Keel (11611) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046596)

How can drivel like this (Richard Sennet) still get published here in the USA where unemployment is less than 4 percent last I heard -- the lowest ever?

Low unemployment (1)

Keel (11611) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046597)

I was expecting this reply. I don't want anyone to be unemployed either. My point is that the artical and the book compare today's circumstances to sometime when they were apparently better. As someone said in an earlier post: "when was this Golden Age?"


Accespt dissenting Views folks (1)

SQLBoy (11838) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046600)

I've come through several extemely large IS shops, and I have to agree with the author. Companies care very little for the welfare of the employees. The 'dilbertizing' of the workplace seems to be especially rampant at larger companies with lots of fat in management. As a DBA, I'm almost always among the higher paid folks in most departments, but anyone who doesn't see the end of the line is blind. If they didn't need me, I'd be kicked to the side in favor of the good ole boy network. And sure, you can leave one pit for another, but there goes retirement, benefits, and any hope of long term job satisfaction. The 'I can leave if I want' attitude adopted by some of the younger programmers has caused a whole new type of slack which reflects in our (collectively) software and companies. Ya'll claim to loath Microsoft so much, but a big reason for its flaws are in the people who work in the industry and in Redmond. Consultants are great, but become part of the problem when they're underqualified and overpaid. There is no easy solution, but the problem is definitely growing...

Some people just don't *want* learn. (1)

SQLBoy (11838) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046601)

What's sad is what happens when the shinyness wears off. The would be overachievers learn the basics of Oracle or other sophisticated systems and then sell themselves as true professionals. Then, one day, the system locks and the golden boy can't unf*ck it, leaving the company in a real rut. I watched many a cocky freak get led to his car by security guards after finding out what his boss's feelings towards him REALLY were. A thing to remember is that if you are aggressive and 'get other people's jobs', your boss is almost always going to make sure that you're never going to be a threat to him ;)

How Old Are You? (1)

Lucky (12407) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046603)

I think Jon has some valid points here. Points that I can't really understand as I am nowhere near his new "retirement" age of 55.

I think a poll of the average age around /. would show why so many of these posters don't understand what he's talking about.


Censorship (1)

James Ojaste (12446) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046608)

"Some ignorant oaf made a comment...This has now mysteriously disappeared"

It's not censorship; the replies are still there. There's no mystery - the only thing that's been done is filtering. The replies in question were deemed to have no useful content and their score was reduced to -1. *You* have decided to only view articles with a score of at least 0, thus if anybody is censoring articles, it's *you*.

Try clicking on the " Down One" at the bottom of the article or pages.

Myth of the golden age (1)

joshv (13017) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046609)

When was this golden age that the present day keeps getting compared to?

As far as I know there was only about a generation after WWII that enjoyed life-long employment and insanely bloated benefits.

Yes, compared to this generation our workplace is dishearteningly cutt-throat. But that generation rode an unsustainable bubble. Compared to the rest of recorded history we today are much better off in our working lives.

The pendulum will swing the other way. There are inneficiencies and inequities in the current workplace. These provide opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Start a company Jon. Hire all those perfectly good, displaced, middle aged workers, and if they are as good as you say they are, you'll be eating those dirty old capitalist's lunch.


France and work (was: Added to which...) (1)

JulienB (13854) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046612)

Well the situation is barely the same in france...
Every business is pushing hard on the governement to forget about wellfare system and go to a full market society... (good or not?)

Well the position of the technical worker is the same as explained in the editorial. More over bosses tend to forget that techies make their companies prosper and consider them as "maleable workers".

I'm not it to judge it but the wellfare system in france is going away...

Newsflash: Work Sucks?! (1)

BlackFlag (90262) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046620)

The history of civilization up to this point has been those in power making those without power do their work. To that extent, work has *always* sucked, whether it be sweat shops, or kids working in mines, or union-busting hired guns, or the braindrain monotony of an office job -- no matter what, the worker will spend most of their life working to make money for someone else while barely being able to pay their own bills.

The new generation of IT/network kids like us can't complain about the money issue. I personally sell what I know from my hobby (no school) and so I've just lucked out.

Personally, I think the whining Dilberts of the world should quit crying and realize that their complacent, obedient cubicle-dwelling selves provide the main stability for a corporate structure that is just annoying and boring and mind-numbing to them: meanwhile, the janitor, or person working in the shop, or the person shovelling the sidewalks can't afford to pay their bills, or get medical insurance, or anything. In other words, what is annoying to Dilbert is near life-threatening for everyone "under" him.

Want to end this shit? Me too. I want an open source world where voluntary associations replace the boss-worker scheme, where whoever chips in gets an equal share back.

Ah, but the hell with that. 1999 is the year for open source start-ups, I hear.

Censorship (1)

El (94934) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046621)

I disagree with this specific article by Katz, but I really find the censorship of responses offensive. Some ignorant oaf made a comment to the effect of "I don't want to hear any more of you're leftist whining, Katz". This has now mysteriously disappeared, along with a half dozen responses to it. This leaves many readers wondering what the hell is going on when they read the references to "leftist whining" in the subsequent posts.

Please, freedom of speech means freedom even for idiots. Katz has a right to say what he wants, and ACs have right to disagree, although I do wish they would be more polite out about it, and stick to reasoning debate instead of emotion, personal attacks, and name-calling.

As true as this article is, Slashdot wrong forum (1)

katana (122232) | more than 15 years ago | (#2046623)

well said!
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