Sunday, March 26, 2017

Employment Ontology from the Trenches and the Barrage Balloon

Employment Ontology from the Trenches and the Barrage Balloon

An interesting week has me rethinking my employment ontology from another perspective. For review this little table summarizes the basic ontology I'm using to classify work.

Working Conditions
Low High
Good Quadrant 2 Quadrant 1
Bad Quadrant 4 Quadrant 3

As Seen from the Trenches Where the Workers do the Digging:

My perspective is always from the trenches, and my primary analyses are usually from a time-based or freedom-based perspective. For today's extension, the freedom-based view is more relevant, with reference to my favorite little equation characterizing freedom:

#1 Freedom = (Meaningful - Coerced) Choice{~5} ≠ (Beer^4 | Speech | Trade)

From the perspective of freedom there seem to be four choices in play here, but only two of them are truly meaningful. Obviously people in Quadrant 1 want to stay in Quadrant 1, which means they don't really want any change or to make any decision about change. It should be equally obvious that no one wants to be in Quadrant 4, so any offer of a choice that leads out of Quadrant 4 is practically required. The interesting choice vector is between Quadrants 2 and 4, since some people would freely prefer to select high compensation even though the working conditions are bad, while other people would freely prefer to select good work even though the conversation is poor.

Anecdotal evidence, but during my own career, it seems pretty clear that I have chosen to move get out of Quadrants 3 and 4 when I could. There was even one case of a Quadrant 1 that was sometimes pushed into Quadrant 3 by a bad manager to the degree that I eventually found it intolerable and left. Most of my career was spent in Quadrants 1 or 2, but some of the Quadrant 2 cases did involve managing my own expectations, or at least trying to stay focused on the nicer aspects of the work. (Then again, I'm kind of a gloomy Gus, so I often fail to radiate as much happiness as I could...)

As Seen from the Barrage Balloon Where the Managers Direct the Firing:

First I'm going to expand the table a bit and then I'm going to map a few companies into their sub-quadrants. Then I'll try to justify my placement of those companies, basically mixing public perception and the visible distribution of the bulk of the employees. Obviously a major time element as in today's date, 2017/3/27, and my opinions might shift tomorrow. Beware my often questionable opinions, eh? If your corporation happens to disagree, well that's your opinion, too. (For an example of my poor judgment, I'm still holding shares from a dying company... Not going to include that one here, for sure, for sure.) While I certainly would NOT recommend that you invest any money on this basis, I'm quite interested in your agreements or disagreements, or your own evaluations of other companies that you want me to include. In other words, such comments are quite welcome (in contrast to the trolls' always unwelcome comments that oblige me to moderate the comments). There are a couple of companies I'm thinking about commenting on, but perhaps I'd rather have the cover of someone else mentioning them first, eh?

Working Conditions Low High

Best Buy Google
Bad McDonalds

Goldman Sachs
Walmart Amazon

Seems like an alphabetical approach is fairest now? Should also note that I've never worked for any of the original 6 companies? (But still hoping for more candidates, possibly even including some I know firsthand...)

Amazon has the reputation of treating the employees quite badly but paying fairly well.

Best Buy doesn't seem to pay that well (except in relative terms to Walmart or McDonalds), but the company seems sincerely focused on treating the employees well and weighing their happiness along with the customers' satisfaction.

I've included Goldman Sacks as an example of the kind of financial services company where the compensation can be extremely high, but there are major problems with the working conditions. Perhaps the largest such problems are with the kinds of people you have to work with, though that probably doesn't bother you so much if you are one of those kinds of people. Just my personal problem that I hate super-greed, eh?

While the google has an extremely high reputation right now, my impression is that the work/life balance thing is out of whack. They have such a focus on hiring elite employees (in the triple intersection of super-creative, highly productive, and money aware) that they make more money by overworking them, so the imbalance cuts into the quality of their lives.

McDonalds is mostly at the low end, but there seems to be a bit of wiggle room to do a good job, which is the contrast to Walmart. Also there's a lottery aspect in that not-so-distant managers can be well compensated. The forced (and possibly enforced) cheerfulness may even change some employees minds so they feel the quality of the working conditions is not so low.

Walmart is kind of the benchmark for worst of the worst, with the constant threat of termination, to boot.