I almost titled this post with a Farnsworth-style, ‘Good news, everyone!’ (if you’re a Futurama fan, you’ll know that always precedes bad news). But I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. So I chose a Legally Blonde quote instead.
Maureen Ogle sent me a link to a Crooks and Liars post making vicious (and deserved) fun of a CNN article on why unpaid jobs are the new normal. The manager in the original article astutely notes that employees without actual jobs are ‘hungrier’ will go above and beyond those who have any hope of getting paid. She even suggests a strategy for weeding out candidates who won’t throw themselves in front of a bus for the company — self-respect is so off-putting in an employee.
It’s an exciting management strategy, you have to admit. Unfortunately, those pesky labor laws currently get in the way of widespread deployment. But I’m sure someone will take care of that soon. I really can’t do any better than C&L, both with their title (“Let’s go serfin’ now”) and their illustration:
Aw, they made a joke and got to the historical kernel of why this is a very, very bad idea.
The fields most likely to suffer this fate: “marketing, editorial, advertising, sales, account management and public relations.” But of course, when I read about how great it was to have employees who were”going to outperform, [were] going to try to please” based entirely on some sick sense of hard work being it own reward, I couldn’t help but think of teaching.
Some survey just claimed that “education” was the third happiest field. That seemed impossible, especially since the criteria included a sense of control — but then I saw that in this field, it was the work itself that was deemed most important. So it seems like education is a shoe-in for the newest management strategy, especially given current events.
To be fair, I understand the role of unpaid labor; internships can lead to jobs, of course, and I’ve seen startup founders effectively barter services with each other. But a culture where the best employee is the one who will kill themselves the most has got a real problem — a bigger one, I mean, than looking like some lame eighties movie.
One reason I found the CNN article so disturbing was because at SXSW there was a prevalent belief among the (mostly young) volunteers that you had to go ‘above and beyond’ in just the way the article was describing, that if you didn’t there was no way you’d succeed, and that (most disturbingly) this was somehow okay and/or the way it should be and/or a method for weeding out the unworthy (dingdingdingdingding!!!! Danger, Will Robinson!) rather than being a sign of desperate times. And what we were doing was the sort of temporary, unpaid labor that wasn’t going to lead anywhere – it wasn’t even an internship.
So I didn’t tell them what I thought of that idea, or about my experience teaching, because I know full well that there’s no point trying to sway the faithful.
Man, that article was real downer. Given the early hour I’m going over to Maureen’s site to read her nifty posts on being at a brewer’s conference. But later…well, survey says that nine out of ten peasants prefer beer instead of lunch.