You’re Worth What You’re Worth

2 Jan

[This is a companion piece, of sorts, to my earlier ‘The Employer Owes You Nothing.]

There are times when I cannot believe the nonsense coming out of colleges and universities in the West. Just looking at the current hullabaloo in Missouri makes me wonder why a number of students, particularly the football team, haven’t been shown the door. Or arrested, purely for making it impossible for other students to actually study. But all of this pales before a reality that, I suspect, is going to bite those students hard when they actually graduate.

Who the hell is going to employ them?

Let’s be serious, shall we? What employer in his right mind wants an employee so wedded to a perverse and inaccurate racial narrative that the merest rebuke, in his mind, will become something far worse than a whipping from a slave-owner? Why would anyone employ a former student with so little dedication that his or her qualifications are barely acceptable? And why would anyone trust the degrees coming out of the universities if the threat of campus unrest, instead of being met with heavy repression, led to ‘As’ being handed out like candy?

Maybe I’m wrong, but I have a feeling that most of those students are going to leave university in a few years with nothing to show for it, apart from heavy debts. Debts they will not be able to repay, because they won’t be able to get proper jobs; debts that will hang around their heads like millstones until the day they die.

The blunt truth of the matter is that high-paying jobs go to people with qualifications, experience and the right attitude. Attitude is important; attitude is how you convince the interviewer to give you a chance to shine. There are very few jobs, no matter how glamorous they seem during careers day, where you jump right to the top on day one. You will start at the very lowest level and you have to prove yourself before you can get to the top.

Life isn’t fair. Unless you’re very lucky, you will see people promoted ahead of you that do not, in your opinion, deserve it. Those people will often have more going for them than degrees or even confidence. They’ll be the ones the managers feel they can work with, the ones who are able to act in a reasonable manner, the ones who understand the reality of the world. You have to learn from these people, not spend all of your time whining and embracing your bitterness. Lying to others is bad enough, but lying to yourself is far worse.

There’s a line from a book I read as a child where the heroine, a young girl (I think she was 12) argued that she was as old as she was. Trite as it seems, these days it sounds like utter wisdom – physical age is immaterial, mental age is all-important. If you go into work with the mentality of a five-year-old unable to tell the difference between accident and genuine malice, convinced that so-called micro-aggressions give you the right to make a fuss, you’re not going to last very long. No one is going to hire you, no one is going to promote you … in short, if you make yourself unbearable, expect to be shown the door in short order. Why would anyone hire a known troublemaker?

Living and working in the adult world requires maturity, not childishness.

So, put childishness aside and learn to act like an adult.

Pick a degree that gives you the greatest degree of flexibility possible. If you’re interested in soft studies, do them as a minor or study them in your own time. If you’re insistent on studying something ‘soft,’ work hard to make it clear that you are prepared to work hard. Do a part-time job and stick to it. Rest assured, anyone interested in hiring you will call around to check on your reputation. Do you want your first boss to say ‘good worker’ or ‘lazy sack of bones?’

Don’t walk around looking for an excuse to take offense. Put twenty or thirty people together and you can rest assured that some of them will rub others the wrong way. Learn to ignore micro-aggressions because the speaker probably doesn’t even know they’re micro-aggressions. You want a reputation to be easy to get alone with, not one for being a prickly hedgehog. Learn to cope because I assure you that you will run into people who will be far worse, depending on whatever you want to do for a living. (I never got assaulted while I was at the library, but I had my fair share of angry patrons.) You cause your boss problems with the customers and … well, you’ll be out of the door in seconds.

Learn to be reasonable about what your boss can and cannot do for you. Regardless of the legal requirements, there are some issues the boss will have problems handling. Can your boss actually afford to do what you want? And learn to ask nicely when you want something. People tend to resent being told that they have to do something, particularly when they’re the boss and you’re the worker. If your boss thinks of you as an awkward sod, you’ll be the first on the firing line when the business starts to run out of money.

And, while you’re at it, be polite to the boss. I’m not saying you should fawn on him, kiss his ass, grant sexual favours, etc, just be polite. Show enthusiasm, do extra work. Offer constructive remarks, if asked (smart bosses like people who bring solutions as well as problems), and be respectful when you do it. Yes, you’ll probably run into a few assholes who’ll steal your ideas, which is a good sign that you should be looking for another job.

Be polite and friendly to your co-workers. If you like them, be friends; go out on business trips with them, etc. If you don’t like them, be polite anyway. If you think they’re genuinely harassing you, build a case, but bear in mind that not everyone agrees on the definition of harassment. Talk to a co-worker and see if they agree before making a formal complaint. Your boss will certainly take how you work with your fellow employees into consideration when considering promotion.

In short, invest in your own value as an employee.

I know, everyone wants to be a special snowflake. And I don’t really blame them. Who doesn’t want to be special? But your employers aren’t looking for someone special, they’re looking for someone who can fit in. They’re the sort of people who get jobs.

Or you can just learn to say ‘do you want fries with that?’

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30 Responses to “You’re Worth What You’re Worth”

  1. duncancairncross January 2, 2016 at 11:29 pm #

    After a lifetime in industry I will agree with some (a lot) of this with one major difference

    Two engineers
    One concentrates on getting the job done
    The other one concentrates on getting promotion

    Who do you think gets promotion?

    Most people want to do their jobs and do them well but the exceptions are the ones who get promoted

    This is why almost all very senior positions are occupied by “Me First” people who are much more concerned about their own careers than about the company that is actually paying them

    • Dennis the Menace January 4, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

      I have observed a strong corollary to your point (rhetorical or not) is the following generalization:

      “The least-competent engineer gets promoted into management.”

      At least, that is how it is in non-start-up software companies. All the time.

      Why it never occurs to the senior management/execs that the rank-and-file engineers know this and so instantly don’t respect their new ‘manager’ very much is beyond me, but there you have it.

      The cynical side of me thinks that is done on purpose so that the new ‘manager’ gets a harsh course in ‘they are not my friends anymore’ and thus become a good Borg stooge for the VPs.

      But that is juuussssttt a guess on my part. 🙂

      • Brad January 4, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

        Better Borg, better manager, no doubt.

  2. Mike January 3, 2016 at 1:18 am #

    Hmmm……OK, you make some good points about the general work environment……but what would your solutions/answers/course of action be for reasonably obvious instances of systemic racial bias (and having someone not “knowing” an action is racially biased does not, in my opinion, excuse them from having their bias held against them)?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 3, 2016 at 1:52 am #

      “reasonably obvious instances of systemic racial bias”?

      Obviously, if they were “obvious”, the systemic racial bias would have already been removed. [Sarcasm]

      Sorry Mike but when I hear somebody talking about “systemic racial bias”, I consider that’s a load of BS.

      After all the years that good people have been working to eliminate racism, I find it strange to believe that “systemic racial bias” is real and exists.

      For that matter, I’m not sure that “systemic racial bias” can be reasonably defined for the benefit of the average person.

      As for somebody not knowing some action is “racially biased”, well it’s completely understandable that they don’t know.

      The Offense-Merchants keep making up “racially biased” stuff to keep their fancy jobs.

      Even POC don’t know something is “racially biased” until the Offense-Merchants tell them.

      • R Godfrey January 3, 2016 at 3:23 am #

        You want systemic racial bias? A black child with a toy gun is gunned down inside 2 seconds, a mentally ill white women with a real gun is tasered and bought in alive a few days later by officers on the same police force. Something is wrong with that.

        I would like Chris to state how he would solve the problem laisse fairre has had every time it is tried, that of a life expectency worse than feuldalism for the majority of people living under it, via starvation that has to be deliberate.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 3, 2016 at 3:40 am #

        “A black child with a toy gun”?

        I’d like to know more about that situation.

        “Black child” often means a teenager in modern news reports and in the wrong areas cops have been killed by black teens with real guns.

        Oh, some toy guns look very real.

      • Rob Godfrey January 3, 2016 at 8:41 pm #

        Tamir Rice is that child, you can look up the video of his death on youtube, but bear in mind even if the officers involved thought the gun was real, and thought he was an adult, Ohio is an open carry state, so having a gun at his waist was completely legal.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 3, 2016 at 8:56 pm #

        Right!!!!!

        The police get a call about a male pointing “a pistol” at random people and when they come up to him the black male reaches for his gun.

        Sorry, I’m for “Open Carry” but most Open Carry folks I know don’t go around pointing their guns at people and sure won’t reach for their gun when the police come toward them.

        This has nothing to do with “racism” but more to do with some idiot using a realistic gun in a reckless manner.

        Note, the article I saw indicates that the “toy” gun was an Airsoft replica and the orange safety feature marking it as a replica had been removed.

        As I said, this was an idiot wanting to scare people and the idiot got a response that he didn’t expect (but should have).

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 3, 2016 at 9:17 pm #

        Of course, if you really want to discuss “systemic racial bias”, just tell me why blacks killed by black criminals don’t make the news.

        Only blacks killed by police make the news.

    • MishaBurnett January 3, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

      Well, the fact is that there are laws in place to redress instances of racial discrimination in the workplace.

    • chrishanger January 7, 2016 at 8:51 pm #

      Point it out, see if their behavior changes. But they might have a reason that justifies it, so i would be careful not to assume the worst.

      Chris

  3. Anarchymedes January 3, 2016 at 11:37 am #

    In other words, be a plug-and-play component (I hope this term is no longer too technical). I’ve seen such. In one company I worked for, one junior accountant was leaving, and the other one started in her role. For a while, they worked together, passing on the duties and so on. One was an Aussie, the other one, Kiwi. And yet, they didn’t even look like sisters: even twin sisters have more individuality. No, they were clones. Two corporate Barby dolls, with the same frozen fake pleasant smiles on their nondescript pretty faces. I just couldn’t help wondering: if one of them had been my girlfriend (I’d need a lobotomy for that, but even so), and one day the other came home instead, how long would it have taken me to notice? And even when I did notice, would I really care?
    Move over, The Matrix: now we’re about to release a standard Employee Emulator and demand that everyone upgrades. How long before we have the standard wife/husband emulators? I mean, if being a person, an individual, can cause nothing but problems with the authority and peers…
    I just hope we’ ll never have writer emulators: more than enough of pop-psychology platitudes in the lifestyle media (smartly called “life couching”).

  4. MishaBurnett January 3, 2016 at 1:16 pm #

    What the modern crop of students doesn’t seem to understand is that employers don’t hire someone to BE something, they hire people to DO something.

    You may be the most brilliant, sensitive, intuitive, and so on and so forth person on Earth, but what a business needs is for tasks to get accomplished. What is important is for the job to get done, done to a minimum standard, and done consistently, day after day, rain or shine.

    This yields a mismatch of communication, with a recent graduate trying to impress an employer with all the things that the graduate IS, while the employer just wants to know, “What can you DO? And what evidence can you offer me that you are motivated to come in on time and get it done, even when you don’t feel like?”

    College, sadly, teaches young people to value identity over accomplishment. But companies don’t make money paying people to have a particular identity.

    • Anarchymedes January 4, 2016 at 8:27 am #

      Been there, done that: learned to dumb myself down. Also to detach myself from what I do for a living: it’s just a bloody paychek. Nothing more. So if my boss wants crap – for all kinds of obscure, mystic busienss reasons a techie grunt will never comprehend – be my guest. By bucketloads, as you please, master. At least, I’m employed. Just takes some effort not to get angry when recruiters start in on, ‘but what do you enjoy about your job?’
      And speaking of recruiters and how they choose: suppose there is a role that requires a lot of database opening; there are two candidates: a genius who’s designed the first true AI, and a drooling moron who’s spent last ten years opening databases: just typing in OPEN. So, with a charming corporate smile, the recruiter goes, ‘Unfortunately, this time our client’ s requirements have been very specific and the decision has been made to proceed with other candidates. When our client needs a genius, we’ll call you back. Have a nice day.’ And if on top of all that, the genius’ name is Mohammad (and the moron’s, David), here is your new ISIS volunteer. 🙂

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 4, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

        Sadly, in this day and age Mohammad may be the moron and hired because the company thinks they need more Muslims to met the “unofficial” quotas.

        Then of course, Mohammad and David may be equally good but David doesn’t get the job because he’s “white”.

        But then if David openly wonders if a non-white got the job just because he’s a non-white, he’s called racist.

        And if David is the right person for the job, Mohammad would be believed if he screamed “racism”.

    • Dennis the Menace January 4, 2016 at 8:45 pm #

      “What the modern crop of students doesn’t seem to understand is that employers don’t hire someone to BE something, they hire people to DO something…College, sadly, teaches young people to value identity over accomplishment. But companies don’t make money paying people to have a particular identity.”

      Its a total Millennial thing. I had to go to one of hose HR BS fests. It was about Millennials and how the company could recruit and provide a ‘rewarding’ workplace for them. They had one of their bullet points on the white board that said, “Millennials don’t want a job, they want a life: How do we has a diverse organization give that to them?”

      Yeah. As I said, they made me go to that. Big mistake, as HR Bitch found out when she called on me for my ‘opinion’. My boss knew what was coming next and just stared up at the ceiling and prayed I didn’t get fired:

      Me: “Well, as I see it, we as employees are not here to have a life but to do a job. It is something I think we can all agree on that shouldn’t be ‘diverse’ as it is what ALL of us should be doing. So, no room for ‘diversity’ on that point, wouldn’t you agree? (any VPs in the room usually perk up to that are totally on my side with what I just said, philosophically at least).”

      HR Bitch: “Yes, well. We still need to pursue diversity. There are so many different people out there in the world and we have to…”

      I cut in: “Uh, so are you saying that we should cut these Millennials slack by not holding them to the productivity/work ethic standards the rest of us non-Millennials have? Isn’t that Age Discrimination? I mean, what about MY work environment here?”

      Any VPs in the room usually start to panic at the direction this is going..and they did in this case…even just a bit. Unless HR Bitch is a total moron — and many are — she will realize what kind of a legal hot potato I just dumped on her. Of course, this point gets the attention of all the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers in the room, too. All of a sudden, this what was an HR BS fest that they normally tune out of just lit some fires under their asses instead. Even the most timid ass-kissers usually start to speak up…Things Then Fall Apart, The Centre can not hold, the Falconer (HR Bitch) is being shat upon by the Falcon, etc, etc, etc.

      In the end, people started shouting like the kids did in Lord of the Flies when they took away the conch shell form the fat kid when he was speaking. A ‘break’ was called and then when we got back, the agenda was moved up to talk about the new benefits package open enrollment choices for next year.

      My boss (Gen Xer) LOVED when I did that, btw.

  5. Martin Conway January 3, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    *Reads last line*
    DAAAAAAMMMMMNNNNN

  6. Brad January 3, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

    Two quick comments:

    First, I don’t worry about college professors handing out A’s like candy. Most tenured staff are not going to be bullied, and don’t even care if the students actually show up for class. They get the same salary regardless, if I understand the meaning of tenure. If that is incorrect, educate me.

    Second, I agree that most “bosses” in the corporate world value loyalty and obedience above productivity, and certainly above creativity. Having worked in the corporate world most of my adult life, I have been helped and harmed by this tendency in turns. Although I find the behavior of most corporate managers vile, I also get that they think bullying support from their employees will let the mangers survive in their jobs, as will managing up, while ignoring their direct reports. The answer for me was to find positions where my skill set wasn’t easily duplicated. So long as I am reasonably productive, and don’t allow them to duplicate my processes, I escape the need to flatter.

    One useful habit is that, when a manager asks for my opinion in a meeting, they are looking for buy in, not my real opinion. Do no harm, and say something vaguely positive.

    • jtbiggs January 3, 2016 at 8:39 pm #

      Many of my teachers curve the class grades so 20% or so get an A. I was generally a top of the class student and my numeric grade for a number of my classes was 110-115% after being curved.

      They do make it too easy sometimes.

      • Brad January 4, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

        This is in response to jtbiggs. I wonder if the professors curving or conforming the grades to a statistical bell are tenured. I think that for a number of reasons, non-tenured teachers do often go easier. I think a more even distribution sometimes helps the teacher when evaluated, but it harms the students – particularly those pushed into the middle of the curve, when they should be cautioned instead.

      • jtbiggs January 4, 2016 at 6:37 pm #

        @brad

        in my experience it was both.

      • Brad January 4, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

        jt – you must be a bit younger than I am :-). Back in the wayback, I used to hear complaints from university tenure committee members about the nontenured being less published and more lenient with grades than they ought. The grading curve in intermediate and upper level courses was a sure way to have the committee review (read delay) tenure for a time.

    • Dennis the Menace January 4, 2016 at 8:29 pm #

      ” I agree that most “bosses” in the corporate world value loyalty and obedience above productivity”

      No, they don’t. Remember, loyalty works both ways.

      They only ‘value’ loyalty over productivity up to a certain point. And when that point is reached, they have no qualms with throwing ‘loyal’ employees under the bus. None at all.

      “One useful habit is that, when a manager asks for my opinion in a meeting, they are looking for buy in, not my real opinion.”

      Depends on the meeting. If it is a meeting of different people from other departments or a higher up is attending or both, then you are correct.
      If it is an intradepartmental meeting, I speak my mind. Then again, I am in engineering where if you don’t cover your ass it definitely comes back to bite you, so there is that.

      • Anarchymedes January 5, 2016 at 9:01 am #

        I now work for the best boss I’ve had since 1990, who really is interested in our true opinions – but even so, I would never, ever, ever voice mine during a meeting: only one on one. And not via email, either: nothing beyond one person’s word against anothers’. The modern corporate world is Hunger Games: only one winner, all alliances temporary, and may the odds be ever in our favour.

      • Brad January 7, 2016 at 8:18 am #

        I concede for the purposes of our discussion here that engineering and finance may work a little differently, but I think you have misunderstood me.

        My first point about managers valuing loyalty and obedience In their employees did not suggest it ran two ways. It should, but it doesn’t. That was my point. Getting and keeping a position is often determined by the boss believing the employee be loyal and do as told by the boss, regardless of the goals of the business or individual duties. Loyal employees are easy to scapegoat (measurably productive employees less so),

        Although I have never been in an engineering staff meeting, in finance it is never wise to be critical of the bosses statements. If they are wrong, the boss or bosses will fail. If I successfully criticize them, I am then responsible for any failure without control (usually). Comments one-on-one fall to the loyalty discussion above. I just don’t argue any more. Even if I am correct, it may cost me more goodwill than its worth. Never make yourself the goat,

  7. PhilippeO January 4, 2016 at 3:32 am #

    I think you misunderstand extreme importance of athletes in American Universities. many universities or high school in US spend LOTS of money for stadium, hiring coaches (often highest paid employee in whole institution),and training equipment for their athletes. These ‘scholarship athletes’ is in essence getting scholarship because universities did not want to admit the fact that they actually professional athlete who can unionize and get paid professional wages. They did not get any ‘education’ in university, in fact teacher and other will go all the way to ensure they get good score without actually getting educated, scandal often surface that their scoring is raised by professor so they can keep these ‘athlete’ as students. Education is not the goal of neither student athlete nor university management. In essence what happen in Missouri is de facto ‘worker strike’.

    One curious result of this is black athlete in field while their audience often 90% or more is white. Several leftist bloggers had often compare them to gladiatorial matches, with different ethnicities became ‘fighter’ and ‘spectator’. the ‘micro agression’ is the result because student often treat these ‘student athlete’ than other student. while victory could bring status and adoration, they de facto never mingle with ‘paying student’ and treated as second class in university environment.

    And i think you underestimate the extent of nepotism/racism/patronage in workplace. In many place, corporation search their new employee from among ‘word of mouth’ spread by old employee, if you didn’t know anyone ‘inside’, you wouldn’t even know there are jobs for you. Even if corporation make open announcement, manager often search employee who are similar to them, go to same university, have same hobby, etc. After work, opportunity for raise/career/more high paying jobs work the same way.

    These is not necessarily bad, its human nature. And British Navy did managed to dominate oceans entirely with patronage. But it also means hard work or friendly attitude has limit, without frequent case employee suing their employer for racial/sex/etc discrimination since WWII, the chance of someone not born from right family to advance is zero. Demonstration, court case, and other clash often the ‘Only’ way someone not from ‘right family’ to advance. doubly so for minorities like african-american.

    • Dennis the Menace January 4, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

      “In many place, corporation search their new employee from among ‘word of mouth’ spread by old employee, if you didn’t know anyone ‘inside’, you wouldn’t even know there are jobs for you”

      That’s not nepotism. That is a well proven strategy in finding and hiring the best employees, actually.

  8. Dennis the Menace January 4, 2016 at 8:23 pm #

    “Let’s be serious, shall we? What employer in his right mind wants an employee so wedded to a perverse and inaccurate racial narrative that the merest rebuke, in his mind, will become something far worse than a whipping from a slave-owner? Why would anyone employ a former student with so little dedication that his or her qualifications are barely acceptable? And why would anyone trust the degrees coming out of the universities if the threat of campus unrest, instead of being met with heavy repression, led to ‘As’ being handed out like candy?”

    Well, that’s called the Higher Education Bubble in certain circles. And it is happening with a generation called “Millennials” who are so damn coddled they are barely functional w/ or w/o university (actually they have a leg up if they didn’t go to brainwashing school that is university, as you allude to, but a technical school instead).

    If you want to learn more details about all of this (yes, it is being studied), I highly recommend this book:

    The Education Apocalypse: How It Happened and How to Survive It
    by Glenn Harlan Reynolds
    Link: http://amzn.com/B00VPPYEWE

    Reynolds predicted a lot of what has been going on. Currently, it is all in the death throws phase of the end game. The future is about micro-credentialing via certification, mostly via MOOCs. Again, Reynolds predicted this would happen too.

    As a Gen Xer who is getting up in the years as a software engineer and thus could get hit any day now because of the Age Discrimination of my chosen field, I must say that personally all of this has benefited me. All my coworkers are GenXers. Almost all of the Millennials we hired were total flakes who either had to be let go or they left ‘because they weren’t challenged’. There is a BIG generational difference that has changed the game. I could tell you stories. At least none of them showed up for the interviews with their parents as I’ve read about. I would have definitely said some very MACRO aggressive things to both if that had been the case, like “If I am getting the impression that your little darling can’t hack it during an interview w/o Mommy & Daddy then how in the hell should I expect him/her to be able to do the job here then? Are you going to be here every day and do his/her coding for said little darling or something?”

    So, the benefit of an entire generation being ‘lost’ from the productive economy is turning out to be enough where a job counselor I spoke to once told me not to die the gray out of my hair, even. And to think that just five years ago I thought by now I’d be drummed out by now and managing a Denny’s or something.

    Of course, we can forget about getting Social Security/Medicare funding from this useless generation. At least not via the payroll tax regime. The US will have to impose a VAT to pay for it instead..or start using its military to shake down the rest of the world to pay for it (Example: “You [some foreign country – most likely a major exporter] want your commercial fleets to ply the world’s oceans accident free? Well, we at the US Navy — the US Navy that has a total fleet size that is more than all the naval fleets combined despite Obama cutbacks — suggest you pay an ‘anti-piracy’ fee to us then…because accidents CAN happen. [wink! wink!]”). Of course, even if the Millennials were worth their salt we’d have problems because of the upcoming mass roboticization (robots don’t pay payroll taxes, last time I checked). But the utter uselessness of the Millennials make it worse.

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  1. You Can’t Get Blood From A Stone | The Chrishanger - February 17, 2016

    […] this runs into a very simple problem. A newly-graduated student, as I discussed before (here and here) is unlikely to be in a position to pay. I have no idea what the rules are in the US, but in […]

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