Employers. Bah Humbug!

Micromanagers, mindless projects and hypocritical policies. Working for someone else can be tough.

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Marty Nemko
Marty Nemko
Too many employers suck.

Their despicability begins the first moment a new employee enters the workplace and looks up at the motto, for example, "Our people are our most important product." Important? If people are their most important product, then why, when automation can replace a worker, does "our most important product" get laid off faster than you can say "offshore?"

Employers' hypocrisy is particularly despicable at some universities and nonprofits as well as in some politicians' operations. They proclaim to champion worker rights yet, because it affects their bottom line, they turn into, well, Scrooge. For example, to skirt the minimum wage law, they convert would-be-paid positions into volunteer gigs and unpaid internships. To avoid having to pay benefits, they make some of their paid positions part-time and temp. Indeed, such employers do everything but prohibit employees from putting another piece of coal on the fire. "People are our most important product." Right.

Employers' hypocrisy extends well beyond hiring. Too many employers claim to welcome employee risk-taking and dissent but in practice, reward kiss-ups. Such employers demand supervisees work long and hard while they work short and easy, perhaps trying to mark time until their stock options vest and they can retire to Margaritaville. Such employers mouth catch-phrases like "work-life balance" but, in practice, define it as, "work any 12 hours a day you like."

Employers' suckiness – that's the technical term – is not limited to hypocrisy. Examples:

  • The micromanager, who makes employees fritter away massive time writing accountability reports. He or she requires three signatures to blow your nose. And to ensure employees have even less freedom, the micromanager "manages by walking around," breathing down everyone's neck to be sure nary a moment is wasted. Doing holiday Internet shopping on company time? The horror! So what if you worked late the last three nights?
  • The foolishly consistent boss subjects even the smartest, hard worker to the same onerous reporting requirements as the most inert, brain-dead employee.
  • Speaking of brain-dead, there's the stupid boss. Alas, some bosses got promoted mainly because they've kissed enough butt, enabled a box to be checked, looked like a leader and/or because they're cute.
  • The hothead employer reacts to a dangling participle like it was Armageddon. And not only does such a boss bite your head off, he or she does it in front of everyone.
  • The lying boss is usually clever enough to avoid breaking a direct promise. Instead, he or she uses vagueness: "Yes, I can see you getting promoted … soon." "We'll be doing your performance review … soon." "I don't think there will be layoffs."
  • Bad employers save the worst for last. When they dump you, they often make it more demeaning than what the Puritans did to petty criminals: parading them before the villagers before locking them in the town square's stockade. Such employers make you carry out your possessions as the security guard marches you out, while the co-workers watch in pity and in fear they may be next.

    Employers. Bah humbug!

    Editor's note: Next week, Marty turns his ire away from the higher-ups to the employees.

    The San Francisco Bay Guardian called Dr. Nemko "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach." His latest books are How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School and What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America. He writes weekly for AOL.com as well as for USNews.com. More than 1,000 of his published writings are free on www.martynemko.com.