Ladies And Gentlemen, The Modern Marie Antoinette

“Madame, the peasants have no bread!”

“Then let them eat cake.” It’s the classic story of aristocratic malice and one-percenter disconnection from the real world, attributed most famously to Marie-Antoinette. There’s just one problem — it’s probably not true. Marie-Antoinette was profligate in an era of general poverty but she appears in retrospect to have possessed genuine concern about “her” people.

No such ameliorating statement can be made about Michele Peluso, the modern aristocrat who decided on a whim to demolish the lives of several thousand families. As you will see, “let them eat cake” pales next to Ms. Peluso’s aristocratic detachment.

Less than a year into her tenure as IBM’s chief marketing officer, Michelle Peluso prepared to make an announcement that she knew would excite some of her 5,500 new employees, but also, inevitably, inspire resignation notices from others… “It’s time for Act II: WINNING!” read the subject line of Peluso’s blog post on the company intranet.
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IBM had decided to “co-locate” the US marketing department, about 2,600 people, which meant that all teams would now work together, “shoulder to shoulder,” from one of six different locations—Atlanta, Raleigh, Austin, Boston, San Francisco, and New York. Employees who worked primarily from home would be required to commute, and employees who worked remotely or from an office that was not on the list (or an office that was on the list, but different than the one to which their teams had been assigned) would be required to either move or look for another job.
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“Speed, agility, creativity and true learning experiences within your team,” Peluso says, are just some of the benefits of working together, in-person, from an office like this one.
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IBM is paying for moving costs and trips to the cities to which each employee has been assigned. It will also pay severance to employees who decide not to move. It is giving them 90 days after they make that decision to look for another job either at IBM or elsewhere. According to an internal document reviewed by Quartz of frequently asked questions about the move, the severance payment will be equal to one month’s base salary, the standard at IBM.
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I ask Peluso where she’ll begin from there.

“I will say they’ve made an investment,” she says. “By making the choice they made, they made an investment in IBM, an investment in marketing, and an investment in our clients. We know that it takes a lot from them and their families, and my job is to honor that commitment and that decision with the best spaces, the best skills, the best tools, and a clear sense of mission and great colleagues—and then get out of their way and let them do great work.”

You can read the rest of the details at the source article, but the long and the short of it is this: Thousands of IBM employees who have worked remotely for their entire careers have been given ninety days to sell their homes and move to one of six “collaborative” cities. IBM will pay their moving expenses, but it will not cover the costs of moving to some of the hottest real estate markets in North America.

Very few of these IBMers earn more than $100,000 a year, but they have just ninety days to cash out and move to places where the average home costs between $315k and $1.5m. If they have families, then chances are that they are one half of a double-income couple. After all, that’s the only way anybody can afford to have children now. So Ms. Peluso’s arrogant decree doesn’t just turn thousands of homeowners into renters or house-poor bubble-mortgage slaves; it also forces thousands of people to quit their jobs and start over somewhere else.

The irony here is that IBM has pioneered multiple studies showing that remote workers are happier, more productive, and less expensive than their “agile workspace” counterparts. But Ms. Peluso is not going to let the facts interfere with her emotions. After all, she works in New York, and it’s no trouble for her. Why shouldn’t everybody have to come work with her? Why wouldn’t people want to move to the most exciting cities? Why wouldn’t they want to spend an extra three hours a day commuting to jobs where the first person to leave the office every day will be nonchalantly added to the top of next quarter’s layoff list?

I doubt she has entertained the slightest whiff of a notion that people who don’t earn several million dollars per year might have trouble making a ninety-day relocation to places where a family-sized apartment rents for $10k a month. She almost certainly has not thought about what an extra three hours of day worth of commuting means to the families and children of her employees. Like most C-suite types, she considers the eighty hours a week that she spends on private jets, in limousines, and at multi-billion-dollar resort facilities to be “work”. Surely everybody below her should be required to put in the same hours — and what difference does it make if they start and finish those hours driving a clapped-out Corolla ninety minutes in each direction from the only places they can afford a balloon mortgage?

Let them work in the best spaces! Holy shit, that’s worse than Let them eat cake.

Ms. Peluso has managed to combine several of the most repugnant management trends into one:

  • Disposable employees who must give 100%. In the modern environment, everybody is replaceable — but up until the very moment that they are discarded, they need to act like their employer is the only thing that matters.
  • Feudal levels of isolation. Ms. Peluso inhabits an utterly different world, financially and physically, from her employees. She can no more understand their problems than I can understand the problems of a humpback whale. She has become a different species, one that flits from company to company to increase its net worth while leaving human carnage behind.
  • Review of the proles/troops. As far as I can tell, the “back to the office” movement, along with the “agile office” movement and the “bench seating” movement, operates on nothing but the base desire on the part of management to see their underlings actively kowtow to them. Only the most subtle and effective managers can truly accept the idea of a workforce that is not physically present to do them obeisance. Everybody else wants to see their subordinates kneel to them in person. It’s a desire that comes straight from the monkey in your backbrain. I was recently present at a newly-Agile-ified office where the vice president came in, looked at the miserable people crouching behind the home-made barriers they’d constructed to avoid smelling their co-worker’s rancid post-lunch breath, then jumped up in the air, clapped her hands together, and screamed “I LOVE IT!” What was there to love, other than the fact that we were miserable and she was not?
  • Your employer will make your social choices for you. And these choices will always be designed to get more work out of you. The arrival of a ping-pong table at your office doesn’t mean you can play ping-pong from noon to three then cut out at five — you’re expected to play some ping-pong at five then turn in an unpaid evening shift. The same goes for gourmet restaurants on-site. All of this bullshit comes from people who have completely subordinated their identity to the corporation and they expect the same from you.

But the worst trend of all, and one that reeks from a distance in Ms. Peluso’s case, is this: The Chicken Is Involved, The Pig Is Committed. You, the IBM employee, have ninety days to destroy your life and pull your kids out of school. It will take you years to absorb the financial damage and put your kids back on track in their new schools, their new sports teams, their new friends. You are committed to this new choice.

Ms. Peluso, on the other hand, is merely involved. She rarely spends more than a year or two in any given position. She’s worked at three different corporations since 2014. Each time she leaves, she gets a few million dollars’ worth of severance — but if you decide that you don’t want to leave Indianapolis so you can work in her San Francisco “collaborative office”, you’ll get one month’s benefit.

Hear me now and believe me later: Five years from now, Michele Peluso will be somewhere else, sitting on eight figures’ worth of net worth. But the people at IBM who gave up their lives to chase her dream will still be wedded to the consequences of her decision. Their children will still be dealing with the aftereffects. Their retirement accounts and net worth will still show the scars of what happened when they had to sell out of their slack real estate markets to move to a hot one. Ms. Peluso will be sitting on her nest egg, but her former employees will have had the bacon forcibly shaved off their backs.

There’s a larger consequence to all of this. Every time the American social contract is obscenely shattered like this at the whim of a one-percenter, it adds shock troops to the growing masses of people who feel betrayed and who no longer feel bound to that social contract. The consequences can range from anything from the election of a surprise candidate to the proverbial blood in the streets. Ms. Peluso should take note from the example of Marie-Antoinette, whose aristocratic indifference ended at the gallows. History shows us, given enough provocation, some percentage of the peasants out there will decide to eat your cake.

80 Replies to “Ladies And Gentlemen, The Modern Marie Antoinette”

  1. John

    “Wow!” On so many levels.

    This is an illustration of the dissolving nature of the threads in our society. Jack brings in some of the effects of these decisions too. The reverberations of these disruptions propagate through communities like waves on a lake, and some of the splashes at the edges cause real damage to families.

    Reply
  2. Tomko

    Thought provoking, once again, Jack.

    Although by virtue of my conception I am a tail-end boomer and missed much of this – I did not escape unscathed nor scarred in other ways.

    Reply
  3. CJinSD

    This will be the fate of millions of people who think they’re above the fray today. They’ve got their STEM degrees framed, their deep-seated belief that only dim losers whose jobs will some day be done by machine need fossil fuels, and assumptions about everyone having the opportunities they did. Tomorrow they’ll be making hard decisions about whether or not they can afford to keep their jobs.

    Reply
    • jz78817

      uh, I have a “STEM degree” (engineering) and I don’t think I’m above the fray. I was a licensed auto mechanic when I was 15, I fix a lot of my own stuff, and I sure as hell don’t shit on people in the trades. I can figure out some mechanical stuff, but when it comes to electricity or plumbing, I’m out of my element and will gladly pay someone who knows what they’re doing to do what they do when I need it.

      Reply
      • rwb

        I would expect the societal implications of automation to come to a head, with the result being some sort of major social upheaval, once significant business operations, the development of necessary related processes, and the implementation thereof can be be reliably performed by a computer, which is not hard to imagine. These types of desk jobs seem to be providing bread for most people in the middle- to upper-middle-class who don’t own their own business.

        I won’t pretend to know what’s coming in 20 years, but I would suggest, generally and to all, that learning all of the skills involved in building and maintaining a dwelling and repairing life’s necessities might not be a terrible idea.

        Reply
  4. jz78817

    when this popped up on another site, most of the conversation was about how this is more or less a “stealth layoff.” I remember back when Nissan announced they were moving HQ from SoCal to Tennessee, estimations were that about 20-30% of employees wouldn’t make the move.

    Reply
    • Josh Howard

      Here’s the deal with Nissan’s move though:

      Not only was it cheaper for Nissan, it is cheaper long term for employees. Tennessee is a heck of a lot cheaper than SoCal. No, it’s not got the same swagger, but it’s easier to live. The one department that didn’t get moved? Design. Far as I know it is still out there and engineering is still here in Michigan. If my work decided to move to Tennessee, I’d make that move in a heartbeat. Then again, I grew up in the south were most everything was cheaper than it is in Michigan.

      My home in Michigan: $315k
      Friend’s home that’s barely smaller in Ohio: $125k

      I really, really wish more employers allowed working from home. You’re just wasting your life on the road commuting in traffic that isn’t getting better despite them telling us that it will improve with an extra lane or more public transportation.

      Reply
      • Will

        I don’t know, there are times where being in an office can help. Maybe not at home permanently, but a hybrid of some sort.

        Reply
      • jz78817

        My home in Michigan: $315k
        Friend’s home that’s barely smaller in Ohio: $125k

        Whuh? a $315k home in Michigan is a borderline palace (so long as it isn’t in the Pointes or Bloomfield.) my folks’ house is a 3-br ranch in an inner Detroit suburb which they paid $98k for in 1988. it’s worth less than that now.

        so honestly I think your numbers are either extremely optimistic or just cooked-up bullshit.

        Reply
        • Josh Howard

          I’m in an outter Detroit suburb sort of close to Bloomfield. While it’s a large house, it’s not super fancy. I really wish it was optimism, but we sold our 1300 square foot home in Ferndale for 200k. Home prices in Michigan are hyper inflated.

          Reply
    • Will

      @Jz8817

      Not only did they have to bribe a lot of the exec team to move, but it also fundamentally changed the corporate culture.

      Reply
  5. Tyguy

    Just a way to lay people off without saying so.. While it sounds better than saying we fired people, the problem is that you lose your best employees and keep only those who can’t find a better option. BTW Standard practice is generally 1 month severance per year employed, not one month total. I would be surprised if IBM only gave a month severance total.

    Reply
  6. phr3dly

    In my opinion the “work remotely, from home” thing was an experiment that, for certain jobs, has simply been shown to be ineffective. Assuming that’s correct, then this is likely not a “whim”, it may be a business necessity.

    The ability to try bold experiments and fail is one of the characteristics that Makes America Great. Compare this to countries like France where employers won’t even hire people because it’s so hard to get rid of them when they don’t work out.

    Reply
  7. Dirty Dingus McGee

    IBM stands for I’ve Been Moved.

    In the 80’s, I was working for GE ( Give Everything) and a buddy from school went to IBM. In the space of 6 1/2 years, he went to 4 different locations, only one of which was of his choice. Soon after the last move, he went to a smaller company, due to burnout.
    I stayed with GE until they closed the facility I was at and relocated it to western Mass. I was offered a position there, but the cost of living was about 30% higher than where I was. They also offered me positions/interviews in San Fransisco and Washington DC. The cost of living in both places was eye popping. I stayed put and as it was a growing area, employment wasn’t difficult to find. These days I might think differently, but I think I would still stay where I’m at.

    Reply
    • Josh Howard

      That’s what I’m doing. If I lost my job tomorrow, I’ll be mowing lawns and swinging a hammer to NOT move. Or, I’d flip cars and turn a wrench from time to time. It’s amazing to me how many basic jobs people don’t want that can pay pretty well. Mowing lawns and fixing cars may be physically tough, but it would easily pay my mortgage.
      (and probably cause me to lose those 20lbs I’ve needed to lose)

      Reply
      • Daniel J

        I was recently out of a Job about a year ago. I had no problems with moving. I had no kids to worry about. The problem is, even with my STEM degree, it seems like many cities aren’t really matching the COL those cities require. Even companies with locations all over are unwilling to pay for the “new” COL in that city. One is almost better off to quit and get rehired if they can in that new city.

        Reply
  8. Ronnie Schreiber

    “Like most C-suite types, she considers the eighty hours a week that she spends on private jets, in limousines, and at multi-billion-dollar resort facilities to be “work””

    I was talking with an acquaintance who teaches math at a local university and I said that I was skeptical of many non-STEM professors working anywhere near a 40 hour work week. He said that his contract specifies half his time has to be devoted to teaching and the other half to research. I told him, “I write about cars. If you reading a math journal is “research” and “work”, than I’m working when I read my friend Jack’s column at Road & Track.”

    Sometimes it seems that the higher up you go, the lower the standards are.

    When you look at some of the job descriptions of some high level corporate executives and how often they are supposedly responsible for supervising a number of different programs, you have to wonder how a human being can do a good job at so many different things. When I worked at DuPont, one of the senior VPs was listed as being responsible for about a dozen high level direct reportees? Who can manage a dozen projects at once? I have a hard enough time juggling embroidery, writing and bringing the gizmo to market.

    Not everyone is Roger Penske.

    Reply
    • Ark-med

      The astronomical pay is recompense for bearing the legal risk/responsibility for your underlings’ eff-ups.

      Ha! Like that happens often!

      Reply
  9. MrGreenMan

    This can’t be bad news, because that would mean a female CEO and a female CMO made a bad move. I saw an article over the weekend about how S&P 500 female CEOs are “outperforming the boys” and making more money on average. IBM was specifically held out as the proof that female management is great – they just need to be provided a company with healthy profits and a brand that is a household name. Female management fixes everything – especially in the tech sector – just check out Yahoo and HP and HP again.

    Reply
    • Eric H

      Anyone who thinks Ginny is doing a good job probably liked what Carly did to HP.

      This was a layoff, plain and simple. Look for the decision to be reversed in a year to lower office space costs.

      Reply
      • Mopar4wd

        Yeah that’s the really confusing part. Here in CT the big financial and insurance employers can’t make up their mind. City office, suburban office, work from home, I know some people who have stayed in the same job at the same company but have cycled thru all 3 options multiple times.

        Reply
  10. Will

    Is it crazy to say women aren’t really leaders?

    Aside from getting crushed from that hypothesis, I think this maybe the problem with the MBA as an executive; they lack any understanding of life if it’s not on an excel spreadsheet and their achievements are through certification/politics rather than genuine success. I could be wrong, but from personal experiences have yet to see the latter.

    Reply
    • Ronnie Schreiber

      Is it crazy to say women aren’t really leaders?

      Perhaps broadly, no pun intended, but you can’t predict anything about individuals from group trends.

      Many would point to Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir as examples of women who could lead. I use those two and Indira Gandhi as examples when folks try to tell me that the world would be at peace if women were in charge. All three went to war when they thought it necessary.

      Reply
      • Will

        Many would disagree in Britain on Thatcher being a great leader and politician.

        I have had many female bosses and male bosses, there are zero females who I would run through a wall for, there are a couple men. Men can be bad bosses, but true leadership is missing from 99% of females.

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        • Shocktastic

          I rebut that statement. I have worked for fantastic leaders who were men, women, & one trans. Being a dumbass is an equal opportunity disease. I have worked in multiple industries with some astonishingly stupid people and the XY chromosome pair is not a magic antidote to stupidity.

          Reply
          • Will

            Trans = man. You are your chromosome if we are to believe biological science. Women aren’t leaders, they don’t (and can’t) get blood on their hands (so to speak).

            P.S. This is the problem with the Daenery’s character from Game of Thrones; she only sparks fear because of the men around her and her dragons (though one belongs to John), whereas John strikes fear because he’s been through battles and has killed. There’s a big difference.

      • Panzer

        The average Feminist would counter (as my mother did) that women like Gandhi, Meir and Thatcher are “honorary men”, and so that therefore these womens’ decisions don’t count. Sour Grapes indeed.

        Reply
  11. jz78817

    I like something Joel Spolsky wrote in his blog:

    “The cult of the MBA likes to believe that you can run organizations that do things that you don’t understand.”

    Reply
    • Will

      +1 on this. I had a start-up and I used to ask my MBA friends (and those who worked in consulting) advice on certain things. I always had to hold in my laughter because there solutions were impractical or required $$$ that simple wasn’t there.

      I had a friend tell me once, “I love consulting because I get to strategize and not worry about the execution.” I found that appalling as strategy without a plan of execution is useless.

      Reply
  12. Frank Galvin

    And now for the stuff that will really make you hurl:

    1) The twitter bio “passionate about tech, great teams, design, girls’ rights, learning, and being a mom and wife.”

    2) Mumsy and Daddy wanted her to give back “My parents did an incredible job in instilling in me a fierce sense of responsibility and accountability…They were very clear with me, even from a young age, that because I was fortunate and had been given gifts, I owed it to myself and to society to give back and to push myself beyond what I thought my limits might be.”

    3) She bakes! “Peluso is a popular CEO, known for bringing in home-baked brownies for her co-workers.”

    4) Dammit, she cares about “her” people. “Even as a little kid, I was struck by Dad’s obsessive interest in and care for the people who worked for him….A few years ago one of our senior managers was leading a huge project that had high visibility with our investor community when she began having pregnancy complications. I fully supported her in taking several months off, for her own health and for her kids. It was a daunting time, but the team worked through it, and that manager is still working here—as our COO….I describe my leadership style in all humility. I don’t have all the answers on how to lead people, and I learn from colleagues every day. But I share Dad’s entrepreneurial belief: People aren’t your “greatest asset”—they’re your only asset.”

    5) She cares about her employees more than you’ll ever realize, “If you treat your employees as unique individuals, they’ll be loyal to you and they’ll perform—and your business will perform, too. The longer I’m in my own career, the more I attempt to put that lesson into practice.”

    FWIW: IBM’s revenue fell short of analysts’ projections, marking a 20th consecutive quarterly decline

    Reply
  13. Yamahog

    Knowing that these sorts of things happen every day really has to put a dampener on consumer confidence.

    Of the ones that I know, most 20-something men with discretionary income are saving it for a rainy day.

    One looks at all these trends – younger people are reluctant to own houses/buy new vehicles/marry and it’s no wonder. Job security is a thing of the past for most people (and don’t say ‘consider the public sector’ – a day of reckoning will come), high paying positions are increasingly concentrated in expensive areas (making it difficult to save, and sapping the joy out of fun things like motorcycles and zippy cars), and if you actually kick ass at your job and dedicate yourself to it so that you can stay one step ahead of the devil, you can jump ship every couple years and get a healthy raise.

    Some day the devil is going to come for IBM – they’re in the I.T restbelt and they don’t even know it.

    Reply
  14. rwb

    Though I’m lucky to work in a corporate environment that isn’t quite so toxic and prone to passive-aggressive, socially destructive maneuvers (for now, knock on whatever,) and thus (hopefully) have a bit less experience dealing with the types of people who would make decisions fitting that description:

    I give these people more credit, as I don’t think they’re acting in ignorance of the real effects you mention as much as willfully deluding themselves by function of some kind of deficiency that it would be way above my pay grade to identify. I’m guessing the person you mentioned, who experienced great joy upon walking into what sounds like a barn full of depressed dairy cows, was easily able to rationalize her pleasure with the situation despite, I assume, immediately knowing that most of the people in that room would probably rather be almost anywhere else.

    One thing that I don’t often see people admit, is that the ridiculous language of modern business requires an ability to add an additional layer of abstraction to a simple, concrete concept which could easily be clearly stated. Usually because if clearly stated it would either be obvious bullshit, or have a net-negative effect on a majority of those reading it, wherefore the couched language forces some processing time which might help dissipate acute rage into, preferably, simmering disdain.

    In my perfect world, the people willing to use this skill don’t succeed, but even in my not-so-bad situation I see worrisome upward failures due to misrepresentations of tangible realities. Charm and gullibility are in play at all levels.

    Reply
  15. Donald Curton

    “operates on nothing but the base desire on the part of management to see their underlings actively kowtow to them. ”

    I work as an engineer in the petrochemical industry. There’s a shortage of good engineers and most companies in this area promote a 9/80 work schedule to attract talent. That means we get every other Friday off in exchange for working 9+hr days the rest of the time. For most of us, that extra 26 days off a year is crucial to actively spending time with family. Occasionally it also allows us to sneak into the office on our “day off”, shut the door, and actually get work done. One day we get a new CEO and he all of a sudden cancels the 9/80 schedule. Says that we have to be on-site 5 days a week to be competitive. A large number of us threatened to quit then and there and management had to sheepishly back down. But it was strictly the kowtow thing. We all knew that. I bet that still rankles the upper echelon.

    The same CEO liked to brag that he found a whole extra year’s worth of work by staying in his office 80 hours a week. He doubled his productivity and strongly hinted that anyone who didn’t work as hard as him was basically cheating the company. I highly doubt his 80 hr work weeks were anywhere near the pain of my typical 60 hour work weeks. But whatever.

    I’ve been relocated several times, and I’ve quit one company over a relocation. It happens, but this story is beyond belief. This has to be a lay-off by other means.

    Reply
  16. Duong Nguyen

    But I thought Watson could solve every businesses’ problem….. Maybe they should have hired Ken Jennings.

    Reply
  17. Ronnie Schreiber

    I had a group supervisor who told me that if you employ people to use their brains, you shouldn’t expect more than six hours of productive work per eight hour shift. Creative people need to goof off. Interestingly, a lot of important problems are solved during the two hours wherein the employee is ostensibly goofing off.

    Reply
    • Don Curton

      A major design idea for a $15 million expansion project in my unit came about from me doodling on a piece of scratch paper and paying absolutely no attention to the meeting in progress. I’m installing it next month. I’m sure hoping it works, otherwise I’d have to admit I basically slept through most of the prep meetings that month.

      Reply
    • Daniel J

      Best thing in a while. Very correct. I’ve found, at least in my line of work, that managers and upper level management don’t think we are doing our job if we aren’t actively writing code or testing code. What about the time to design the code? What about time to take a step back, goof off a bit, and maybe come back with a different perspective? I had one manager that told me his direct boss had told him that we should be “designing the system on our own time.” Like Really?

      Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Embarrassing.

      This is what we throw up against the Chinese executives… and we wonder why they kick our asses.

      Reply
      • Will

        I don’t think the Chinese kick our asses, in fact I’ll take US innovation over Chinese innovation any day of the week. Communism is not supposed to inspire ideas, but the Bernie Sanders’ of the world do not really understand how the role of big government can play a long term role in ideation.

        Reply
  18. wlitten

    So, I’m from Fresno, CA and I’ve been working in Springfield, MA for the last four years for a large manufacturer. My job isn’t 100% cubicle office work but it’s close enough. The place is run like feudal England with a bunch of barons who control their little fiefdoms. I am miserable out here and I don’t have much to show financially for my years of work. Much of this is my own fault.
    So I said fuck it.
    I’m moving to San Francisco to be a plumber. I’m tired of working a corporate job.
    Its hard work but in a city where only the wealthy or the homeless can afford to live there, contractors thrive.
    The closest thing I have to a brother is offering me an affordable place to stay, a beater car and the opportunity to work with him doing an insane job in my favorite city making more money than I ever have. The wisdom of this is debatable but I am taking the chance.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I’ve thought about that myself, more than once.

      Keep me posted on your adventures, and let me know if there’s room for more than one Renaissance plumber in the Bay Area…

      Reply
      • wlitten

        If you are even slightly mechanically inclined they would probably take you. The company I’m going to work for has a high turnover rate. You just need to know some basic things and be willing to try. They will teach you the rest. But you have to be ok with lugging a water heater and ductile iron pipe up four flights of stairs and working 18 hour days. The hard part is doing all of that and , it’s 1:00 in the morning, you have a problem you can’t solve, no one is coming to help you, you can not leave until you solve the problem.

        Reply
    • Dirty Dingus McGee

      wlitten;

      You might regret the outcome, but you would regret more NOT taking the chance. After my stint at GE, I went to another corporate position (plant engineer). The president of that division was a rather “difficult” individual to work for. He wanted to be involved in any and all aspects of the daily operation. After I hired in I found that one of his litmus test’s for any supervisory/management position included looking over the applicants car. If it was an older “beater” or had ANY trash on the floor, he would not allow that person to be hired. In his mind the “beater” wasn’t dependable and could cause that person to miss work due to a breakdown, and the trash was a sign of sloppiness. You should have seen the look on his face the first time I showed up on a motorcycle. As time went on, the atmosphere there got worse. At the end, I needed 2 trained and ready maintenance mechanics. Without my input, 2 guys were hired. One’s experience was working at Jiffy Lube, the second was fresh out of the Air Force where he loaded the bombs onto planes. Both had aptitude, but I needed experience. I was burned out on the 60-70 hour weeks so ended up leaving. Started my own business within a month. At times in the last 24 years I’ve questioned my sanity for choosing that path. The 60-70 hour weeks didn’t change until myself and a semi competitor merged 15 years ago. Since then it has gotten better, these days mostly 30-40 hour weeks( and getting lower each year as I’ll be 60 this fall).
      There is no way I could go back to the corporate world, I see how it is when we are bidding projects. There are times when some of the ideas we hear show just how clueless some of these folks are about what we’re proposing. At times I want to just get up and walk out, but then I remember that I like to eat, once or twice a day hopefully.

      Good luck with your move, and I hope it goes as you hope.

      Reply
    • manfromlox

      After retiring from the military (at age 42) I bought myself a service job. I’m now the proud owner of a Screenmobile franchise. It hasn’t been a year yet but it’s going fine so far.

      I learned how to safely and effectively navigate and employ an aircraft carrier as a weapon system in under six months. This screen shit is still kicking my ass though.

      Reply
  19. RobbieAZ

    The company I work for is incentivized by the county to offer alternative schedules, which includes telecommuting wherever possible, in order to reduce traffic and pollution. This should be the norm everywhere. Any business owner/CEO/upper level manager who willfully defies this principle without a verifiably good reason should have their company suffer a tax penalty and be savagely shamed by local governments and environmental groups until they see the error of their ways.

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  20. BamaSkip

    Absolutely nailed it, including one of the subsequent comments regarding that “this is what we put up against our competitors.”

    Reply
  21. WheeTwelve

    A few years ago I was working for a fairly large CE manufacturer, leading a small team on what was a new project for this manufacturer. Things were mostly OK, until my boss hired a buddy of his for me to report to. We locked horns constantly. On more than one occasion he insisted I bring my entire team in over the weekend, even though there was *absolutely nothing* we could do to solve a problem at hand. The vendor who could solve the problem was aware of it, and working on it, though I’m certain not over the weekend. All we could do was wait. But he wanted to be able to tell *his* superiors that “his team was working hard on the problem all weekend.” He did not like it when I told him that my team would *not* be coming in over the weekend.
    I was oh-so-happy to leave for another opportunity. I have since spoken to my former team members, all of whom have found other jobs since, and they informed me that every single person who was promoted into my former position either quit, or was let go. The problem *obviously* wasn’t with the person they were reporting to.
    I was not surprised when this CE manufacturer was acquired by a competitor, and most of the management in that particular office was let go.

    Reply
  22. viper32cm

    Here’s an interesting question: Is the decrease in employee loyalty/increase in job hopping that we’ve seen over the past however many years a cause or effect of this type of corporate shenanigans?

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Effect, absolutely.

      Human beings are naturally group-oriented and loyal. It takes strong negative conditioning to break them out of that.

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    • Ark-med

      It’s a mix of the large petty stuff that leads to employee disengagement. I used to work for one of the big computer companies, which hadn’t done any layoffs until the turn of the century. If you arrived at work at 7:30, you’d have to resign yourself to parking in the back 1/4 of the lot. If you chanced upon the parking lot on a Saturday, you’d see at least 40 cars, with people working at product engineering. Even after the layoffs rolled around, you’d still see around 80% of those weekend workaholics futzing around various hardware dev labs.

      Then they took away the free vending machines and drinks. Not long after that, the parking lot turned into a graveyard on Saturdays.

      By the time I’d left a year or so ago, you could amble into work at weekdays ~9:30a and park in the second row. On days with great weather, the lots would start emptying out by 3pm; most Fridays wouldn’t see the lot more than 2/3rds full.

      Of course, these observations are somewhat confounded by folks’ availing of working remote; yet, a peek at folks’ calendars would indicate a dire sparsity of meetings or conference calls after lunch on Fridays — more like remotely, hardly “working”.

      Reply
  23. Chef Goldblum

    Jack, you’ve done it again. This type of writing is exactly why I come here.

    This article struck a chord with me because I’ve witnessed the same out-of-touch, one-percenter mentality at the mid-sized tech company where I work. Our new CMO published an article suggesting that people should quit their jobs before they have another job lined up because she did that, and it worked out great! Of course a person who has been working in the C-suite and is likely sitting on a sizeable nestegg could afford the privilege of quitting a job and being unemployed for an indefinite amount of time. For the average Joe or Jane, the prospect is dangerous and stupid, especially if that person is supporting a family. Who wouldn’t enjoy a 12-month sabbatical full of family time, self-reflection, soul-searching, and spiritual wilderness vision quests in which one could find his or her true calling in life? Who can afford it though?

    I was gratified to see that she was absolutely lit up by the commenters when this article was published. Maybe it brought her a little perspective. Or maybe she doesn’t read the comments on her articles because “haters gonna hate.”

    Anyway, I was going to post a link to the article, but I’m a first time commenter and I don’t want my post to be flagged as spam. If you want to read it, the title is “Quit Your Job Before You Have Your Next One #bestadvice” by Heather Zyncyak.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      That woman’s advice is vile and furthermore she looks like a T-Rex that has just sniffed blood

      Reply
      • Domestic Hearse

        Peluso looks like a velociraptor studying its reflection in a Sub Zero refrigerator door, so she and the tyrannical Zyncyak make a great pair.

        Reply
  24. Hogie roll

    The company aka Indian Bowel Movement treats its employees poorly and is run by a rat faced bugwoman? I’m shocked.

    Reply
  25. Der_kommissar

    Wow. I’ve been away for a while, but this is a good piece to come back to. The experiment of American democracy works when capitalism voluntarly bends to create a substantial middle class. If it won’t do it voluntarily, then it’s up to the people. I agree that we are edging closer to that day, but there is still time to avoid it.

    Reply
  26. N3TRUN

    Great article, Jack. I’m so glad you picked up the axe and took a swing. The economic damage inflicted on these families is very real and will be very painful. I feel for them and hope they find some way through all this without going crazy.

    One thing I’d like to add, though, is that the telecommuting effectiveness polls are a little biased in the same way the automotive designer bosses were when they moved their shops from the Midwest to beachfront Cali. Those bosses declared that they ‘needed’ the better sunlight available out there to do their jobs even though everyone knew that they were being prima donna’s and moving there just because its what they wanted. People who telecommute full time or even part time love it, its a terrific benefit. Thus surveys and polls and every possible metric is stunningly good in order to not provide any excuses to the overlords that hate teleworking to take away this fantastic way of working. I would say that anyone teleworking full time that also doesn’t live anywhere near their officemates likely was aware that something like this could happen.

    Reply
  27. Orenwolf

    Completely agree with this. Utterly boneheaded decision from a company that, in many ways, pioneered the remote office.

    Reply
  28. Doug

    I totally agree. I live in the Raleigh area and have a friend in a different area who worked at home for a decade. For the past year or so they have forced him to commute…which is hell from our side of town.

    FWIW, in the Raleigh area you can EASILY get a good house in a reasonable commute of their offices for much less than $315k. That is why all the northerners have relocated here.

    Reply

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