ON MOTIVATION

"Lisa, if you don't like your job, you don't strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed. That's the American way." – H. Simpson

Recently, a relative was telling me how disappointed she was in the school her kids (used to, but will no longer) attend. It seems that at this private Catholic K-8 the teachers threw in the towel with about a month to go in the school year. The majority of May was filled with the kinds of things K-8 schools/teachers do when they want a day off – parties, Movie Days, assemblies, etc. The kids were having multiple "parties" per day to celebrate, well, anything the school could think of. The music teacher devoted two entire weeks to showing the students Toy Story…twice (??). In short, she told me that many parents were very upset, feeling that they had paid for nine months of classes and had barely gotten eight. Being a Catholic school, the tuition is not an inconsequential amount.

I sympathized. She told me tale after tale of things the school used to fill the days with anything but lesson plans and actual academic activities and her anger made sense to me. Not trying to stoke the fires or start a political debate, I just noted that this was not rare at any level of education, but was particularly common in private schools. Catholic schools are known for paying less than dick, so in this situation the kids are in the hands of teachers who haven't gotten a raise in 15 years and who were getting paid poorly to begin with. It doesn't surprise me, I pointed out, that in a situation like this people might go out of their way to do as little work as possible. When a job devalues employee, literally and figuratively, their response is often to work just hard enough to avoid getting fired.

The losers, of course, are the students. The parents are right to be angry, but I understand the mindset of the teachers. They are rational, and if the job isn't paying then they will seek to improve their lot by making the work easier. And nothing's easier than not teaching. I don't think she found this explanation persuasive, and I didn't push it. But it raises a larger question that I think about often: how hard do we have a right to "expect" people to work?

Even though many people can and do complain loudly about poor service, deep down I think we all understand that the kid at Taco Bell makes minimum wage, doesn't give a shit about the job, and isn't exactly going to go at 110% every single day. But how "hard" is a teacher supposed to work? Is he cheating you if he re-uses lesson plans rather than coming up with brand new and up-to-date ones every year? Is your doctor cheating you if she runs a test and diagnoses you rather than running all of the tests and spending hours reading about every possible thing that might cause your symptoms? Is your pilot lazy because he uses autopilot? Is your waitress lazy because she hasn't refilled your coffee as many times as you might prefer?

People are judgmental. Combine that with the fact that we pay for things (using the money that we have made our own sacrifices to obtain) and expect to be satisfied, and commenting on the work ethic of others is practically a national pastime. The previous thread on pensions noted that some people seem to think they invented the concept of hard work – nobody but me has even done an honest day's work! Some people certainly do have that attitude. But often the complaints people make (as in the story retold above) are valid. The part I can't figure out is what to do about it. No employer is going to raise the salary of employees who clearly half-ass their jobs, yet if the compensation is low most people simply aren't going to work very hard.

From the teachers' perspective, what is the motivation to work 16 hours per day and move heaven and Earth to be the best teacher since Jaime Escalante if they get paid the same $31,000 per year for being…mediocre? Business schools have spent 30 years churning out people who believe in motivation by intimidation – work hard or else we will fire you, replace you, move to Mexico, and so on. And yes, an employer certainly has a right to expect employees to fulfill their obligations. This is where we see the large gap between fulfilling the requirements of a job – i.e., doing the bare minimum – and doing a good job. "Work hard and you will get promoted / get a raise" is the natural response, but in many of our workplaces I think we discover fairly quickly that the raises aren't coming no matter how hard we work (or they come, but with a truckload of additional burdens that vastly outweigh them).

That's the end result about all of this "Woe is us" from the owner and manager classes – we're constantly told that we can't be paid more ("We just can't afford it! We're barely breaking even!") but we're not expected to react strategically. The rational thing to do, if you know you can't profit from working harder, is to figure out the minimum amount of work you can do under the terms of your employment.

Of course, when certain people in our society do what is rational, it's "smart". When the rest of us respond rationally to incentives, we're lazy.

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42 Responses to “ON MOTIVATION”

  1. grendelkhan Says:

    I'm reminded of Amazon's warehouses, which are reportedly optimized to get the maximum amount of work out of people that they physically can, which is, of course, exactly what you'd expect, especially when they have a deep pool of unemployed people to draw from.

    There's something a little poetic about coal-mining being replaced with another form of endless, back-breaking labor. Coal miners, of course, managed to unionize and at least get some job security and decent pay in exchange for that; it looks like Amazon's just employing "permatemps" and paying them minimum wage.

    Apparently fear of unemployment combined with a managerial panopticon (seriously, read about how it works there) is a functional substitute for actual motivation.

  2. Amanda Says:

    Guilty. Although, the movies I showed at the end of the year (after all my concerts and assessments were complete) were things like the Magic School Bus Explores Sound and the PBS series Lomax the Hound of Music so they were at least absorbing musical information and if the administrators came in I could justify its showing.

    I also don't think this is a symptom necessarily of the pay, but of the accountability. Most state tests (and Catholic schools use standardized tests too) are administered in April or early May, leaving about a month of time for teachers to continue teaching to prepare the students for the next grade, but really even the students know that once that standardized test is done, THEY are done. Everyone checks out and honestly I'm not sure that the admin cares if everyone checks out as long as no significant behavior issues occur and the school gets the grade expected on the test.

    The solution would be creating some kind of accountability instrument (end of year knowledge fair/showcase, school-based test/data collection, etc) to encourage students and teachers to continue their work to the end, or at least the last week. Because without that, teachers are going to avoid the work that doesn't really go anywhere and the students will welcome a break from the never ending test prep.

  3. bob_is_boring Says:

    Money can be exchanged for good and services.
    -Homer's brain

  4. Ten Bears Says:

    I, have students. The standardized system has… Pavlov's dogs.

    I don't fault the teachers, though many are indoctrinated themselves. The pay, the incentive sucks. Unless you're tenured, or administration. Who tend to not only be of lesser intellect and education but of that business school bully mentality.

    Quick question (and a true story): what's the most effective means to censor the ability to teach? That's right, put an Associate from a bible college in Oklahoma in charge of the IT department.

    No fear.

  5. Edward Says:

    A brilliant piece of writing. But not just true in education. In see it just about everywhere. Some employees are motivated to do good work, but so many do not give a damn. I see it where I work, some doing just enough not to get fired. And many have learned that no matter how hard you work, there will never be more money. And if like me you live in a right to work for less state, some bosses don't care whether you show up or not.

  6. terraformer Says:

    So much of the movie "Office Space" rings true today. The "if I move a few more units, what do I see? Nothing. Where's the incentive? So I work just hard enough not to get fired." There are people who buy whatever the machine says, and there are people who can see what the results of the machine's sayings are. The former are easily led, the latter feel helpless to do anything about it. Capitalism got us the "greatest nation on earth", but it's quickly creating a neo-feudalism. You can't have a societal mindset that profits must grow year in and year out; it's unsustainable. So the rich are grabbing all that they can, while they can, so they can build their fortresses surrounded by shantytowns.

  7. Alan C Says:

    Those crummy unionized teachers! . . . Oh, wait, Catholic school teachers probably don't belong to a union.

  8. c u n d gulag Says:

    In the field of education – but not exclusively, and I'll get to that later – since we seem to change directions every year and come up with new priorities, and new ways to "educate" – preferably, by privatizing education.
    And this is done at the expense of the teachers and the students, because the heads of both private and public education programs, districts and/or companies, try to find ways of maximizing the pay of administrators (themselves), while screwing everyone else.
    So I guess I can understand the lack of motivation of everyone – except the administrators.

    But the same thing is going on in companies, too.
    Years ago, companies had long-range plans.
    And people who wanted to be really successful (and maybe become wealthy) in those companies, had to be prepared to be there for the long haul – before they started seeing some REAL money.
    For the most part, you had to work at a bank, a law firm, a hedge-fund, or whatever, for years before you moved up enough, and/or became a partner, and saw that REAL money – yet, the pay on the way up wasn't bad, and it allowed people to raise a family at every step of the way, if they were so inclined.

    Now, we're in the "Quick-Profits For the Few/Cheap Salaries For the Many Era."
    There are no more 25, or 20, or 15, or even 10 year-plans.
    Everyone from the company itself, to the people that they hire, are looking for only one thing – make as much ASAP, and get out ASAP.

    If you're one of the select few, the "Chosen Ones," you're fast-tracked. And you usually got your job because of connections from your college, university, or graduate school program. In other works, the legacies of prior legacies, determine who goes to which schools, and who get which jobs.

    If you're hired, both the company and you want you to make quick profits.
    And the incentive for those who are fast-tracked, is to make enough money for the company, so that they get great salaries and bonuses, before the ideas (sometimes scams) they've come up with, derail.
    I they fail, the company will bring in someone else's pal, and that person can try something else to maximize the companies, and their own, profit.

    So today, there's no long-term. Practices are erratic, and so, as a result, are goals, and the means to get somewhere.

    It's, 'Get in. Make as much as you can, ASAP, and get the fuck out of Dodge before you're the one left holding 'The Dead-man's Hand."

    And anyone who's not one of the select few, does as little as possible.
    Why?
    Because they know they're poorly paid, there are no raises/bonuses coming, and little chance for growth in the future.
    So the message they get is, be glad for the job while you've got it. Do as much or as little as you need to keep it – because the line of people who'll be glad to take your shitty job, is very, very long.

    Schools, like companies – and nations, too – need smart and consistent leadership, with clear, definable, and manageable goals. And those goals need to motivate the people who work there, and they ought to be compensated commensurate with helping to achieve those goals. With bonuses for meeting those goals, and larger ones for LEGITIMATELY exceeding them.

    We don't have that anymore.
    We're a fucking mess, as a country.
    Greed trumps everything. And hubris from the elites, doesn't help.

    I've oversimplified a lot, but I think the main points are valid.

  9. Big dog Says:

    I think I've done just about every kind of scuzzy work imaginable, with dirt and grease up to my elbows, and for damn little pay, sometimes only for tips. Two things kept me going. The first was that I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I knew that this wasn't where i would spend the rest of my life. The second was pride in my ability to do well regardless of the thankless ness of the task. When after thirty years of teaching I realized that I was burning out and my work was suffering, I had to retire. I could not face the prospect of being a dead wood hanger-on like all too many of my colleagues. The real problem is seeing no way out of your job, not feeling that somehow you could reinvent yourself regardless of how old you are. I wish I knew how to help others get there, but I don't.

  10. Andy Brown Says:

    Teachers are some of the hardest workers I know. But I've also seen them intentionally demoralized by a leadership that wants them to know they are not respected craftspeople, but instead are nothing more than clerks dispensing the curriculum, flipping students rather than burgers. How long can you keep practicing a craft for the kids when your bosses not only won't acknowledge it, but actively use your commitment to wring work out of you that they are unwilling to pay for.

  11. According2Robyn Says:

    If teachers don't like their jobs, it's their own fault for choosing to enrich and inspire the next generation. If they had any sense, they would recognize that for the obvious mistake it is.

  12. Sarah Says:

    I worked at a non-profit for just over three years and quit several years ago. I won't say what it is or what they do because I actually do still have a relationship with them which I would like to maintain, but I will say that it is for a good and worthy cause about which I feel strongly. The first year I was there I was doing 110% every day, to the point of putting in unpaid overtime and sometimes coming in on my off days (and one of the employees actually told me that I shouldn't do that, because if I let them take advantage of me THEY WILL). That first year I was getting regular gratitude from the then-president and the then-manager, ranging from gift cards "just because" and other unexpected bonuses all the way down to "you're doing a great job" and "we appreciate you" at least every other day.

    My second year they got a new president who had been a board member and who I thought was a nice guy, but once he became the president he turned into an ASSHOLE. The manager also decided that she was no longer going to act like she gave a shit about the employees. My reaction to this was to stop acting like I gave a shit about the job and to start leaving on time (and the BITCH actually told me that I HAD TO continue working off the clock–to this day I am still pissed at myself for not having taken legal action). Towards the end of my second year I got hurt really badly and ended up taking worker's comp, with several months of leave time and limited work hours. When I got to the point where I was ready to come back to work, I was already making plans to quit and I had started back to school on a part-time basis. I was also discussing the history of the place with the newer employees and explaining to them about how they shouldn't be all gung-ho for the job (and there was a new board member who I strongly suspected was on to me about what I was doing there, but that's a story for another post).

    At any rate, one of the newer employees walked out in the middle of a shift six months before I quit. (I should interject here and say that the board members and the manager just LOVED to piss and moan about how it was so hard to find good people who were reliable and willing to come in and work hard. I had to conclude that they enjoyed doing that.) They cycled through more employees before they finally came upon what they thought would be a good team (myself included, and bear in mind that I was just showing up and working, but not with any enthusiasm). Meanwhile, the manager was being more and more assholish about things like smoke breaks; I don't smoke, but I wasn't about to let them tell me that I wasn't entitled to the same amount of break time as the smokers, so when the smokers would go out for their smoke breaks I would go right out there with them, and I even purchased candy cigarettes so that I could have my own "smoke breaks" too. So the manager told the smokers to stop taking smoke breaks, which went over very well.

    When I finally put in my two weeks' notice, I heard back the next day that one of the board members (whom I believe was that newer board member I mentioned; it was my belief that she was just a racist shitbag who didn't like people who appeared to be Hispanic) wanted me to waive my notice period and leave right away. Which I did not; I had timed the notice period so that my last day would be just before my birthday (because quitting that job was my birthday present to myself that year) and because I was still counting on the money from the notice period. And I believed that board member would have spread a rumor that I had walked out on the job, because she was just that big of an asshole. At any rate, a week after I put in my notice period two of the other employees (who also were planning to quit, although they hadn't yet put in their official notices) decided they had had enough of that asshole manager and walked out about an hour into the morning shift. There was still a ton of work to be done and suddenly they were short-handed.

    The next day we had a staff meeting where the manager alluded to what happened the day before: "I'm sure you've all heard by now that we are short-handed," and glanced in my direction. I gave her the side-eye but didn't say anything, and she said "and of course you're leaving at the end of this week, Sarah, that's FINE." And continued with what she was going to say.

    I came back as a volunteer and watched them continue the cycle of bitching and moaning about how hard it is to find good help, finding good help, treating the good help like shit, and then acting shocked when the good help decided not to be good help anymore. They do still have issues with the employee situation, largely having to do with clueless board members.

  13. Buckyblue Says:

    Yup, cut my pay by 15% and see how hard I work for the little darlings. With Act 10 here in WI taking away a big portion of my paycheck I no longer feel motivated to spend that extra time grading and lesson planning. I used to spend the better part of Sunday evenings getting ready for the week, caught up on grading and the like, but no more. Those papers will get graded and handed back whenever I get the fuck around to doing it. If you don't like it, tough shit, vote for someone else. That is if I even assign the writing in the first place now.

  14. Newgate Says:

    Since we're talking about education, let's not forget about the Adjunct Hell that we're fostering in our colleges and universities, where adjuncts might earn $2500 to $3000 per course with no benefits, no job security, no path to full-time status, and maybe not even a workspace or access to a supply closet for things like pens. Since I'm stuck there myself, I can tell you that it can be tremendously undermining, especially when you have students who don't want to learn, who have peculiar ideas about what can and can't be reasonably expected of them, and where teaching a respectable course all but guarantees low evaluations, which then dampen your prospects of getting a new contract. So far, I've opted for low evalutations. But then again, I'm one minor car accident away from complete financial ruin.

  15. Delbort Says:

    I'm an industrial electrician and I see this every single day. We get raises every three years when our CBA gets re-negotiated, which means every three years our pay jumps by about $0.40/hr. Promotions happen when someone retires, dies, or quits; our senior electronics specialist waited 18 years to go from a Class C to a Class B. Management is constantly reminding us that we're having record-breaking production periods, but when talk comes of getting bigger raises "WELL THERE'S JUST NO MONEY FOR THAT". As I was fixing a machine, my boss' boss came up to see what work looks like and started telling me I needed to work faster and get this machine running again. When I told him I was working as fast as I safely could, he spat and called me a "know-nothing, do-nothing, good-for-nothing asshole." I handed him my tools and told him to get after it. And they expect 110% out of us? PFFFFFFFFT.

    They tell us to work harder to get better pay or better benefits or better conditions, but when we do work harder, none of that materializes. Whenever you hear an employer say "if only you would work harder…" that's a lie designed to get more value out of you for nothing extra. We're the ones that make them all that money, it is a privilege for them to have us working there.

  16. grendelkhan Says:

    Sarah, sounds like a work-to-rule. As much as employers like to pretend that their employees are doing purely mechanistic work, they rely on a lot of effort and ingenuity that it's remarkably easy to withhold if you're being treated poorly.

  17. Mingent Whizmaster Says:

    I would like to recommend some reading material which bears upon this topic: How to Tell When You're Tired by Reg Theriault.

  18. Sarah Says:

    Sarah, sounds like a work-to-rule. As much as employers like to pretend that their employees are doing purely mechanistic work, they rely on a lot of effort and ingenuity that it's remarkably easy to withhold if you're being treated poorly.

    Yep. I should make it clear here that this wasn't all just in my head or against me personally; I mentioned above three different employees who walked out on the job, but the broader truth is that most of the people who quit there either walk out or stop showing up. I know of exactly one other employee who gave notice before quitting (and it was about two months' notice, certainly way more than they deserved). The problem is that Florida is a right-to-work state and the jobs at this place are minimum wage throwaway jobs, which makes it almost impossible to organize. Nobody wants to make that kind of a commitment to that effort when they could just as well look for another job, and given that this is a non-profit charitable organization striking would make the employees look like the bad guys anyway. Like I said, I still have a relationship with them because I consider the cause to be good and worthy, and I intend eventually to apply for board membership. If I get it, you bet I plan to advocate for the employees, because they don't get the respect they deserve.

  19. Gerald McGrew Says:

    Disclosure: I'm a federal employee.

    I think what we're all seeing and describing is due to the current state of the labor market. Right now it's an employer's market, where they can pay peanuts, treat the staff like crap, overwork them, and generally exploit the heck out of them, because as soon as they get burned out and quit (or get fired), there's 100 others who are eager to get any sort of paycheck. We're interchangeable cogs on an assembly line.

    The main question now is, will it ever turn back to an job seeker's market, where if you don't like the job you have you can quit and be reasonably sure of finding a better one? I'm skeptical that it will, because I think globalized capitalism/corporatism has permanently tipped the scales.

    In my line of work, with the sequester on (and no end in sight), the general sense is that we're all fucked. The corporatists have successfully turned the working man on himself, which means a lot of people are pissed off that people like me make a decent wage, get good health care coverage, and a good retirement. The elites have tricked the mob into storming our gates and demanding our pay be frozen (thanks Obama), our benefits cut, and our retirement reduced. Why? Because they don't have those things!!

    Never seems to occur to them that they should be demanding them for themselves…nope, just go burn down your neighbor's house if it's nicer than yours. Doesn't improve your lot, but it must be satisfying on some level.

  20. Robert Says:

    Gerald, federal retiree here. Waaay back in the late XXth century, I was asked by a particularly toxic service chief what I saw as the biggest problem my section was facing. I said "the reward for good performance and the punishment from bad performance are the same – nothing. Working hard for your own satisfaction gets to be thin gruel after a while." I wound up outlasting him and his three successors.

  21. Hazy Davy Says:

    Just a note to point out that I actually went to b-school, and was taught nothing like that.

    Also, the child of a teacher.

    Also, people suck.

  22. Benny Lava Says:

    How old are you guys? I ask because the perception I have, based on the comments, is that you are all old farts. Why do I say that? Because you haven't felt the panic. That feeling that tears at your back when you feel that ten other people are after your job. Because the young people I know feel the panic and are willing to work hard for peanuts.

    Don't get me wrong I feel bad for you old farts. I do. I am old myself. But man you guys all sound like you are spoiled and asking to be fired. And trust me I know ten people who can do you job just as well.

    I wish we didn't have a surplus of labor but what can we do about that? The cake is already baked.

  23. sluggo Says:

    Minimum wage means mimimum effort. You get what you pay for.

  24. Doctor Rock Says:

    I'm highly competent and I get good reviews. I honestly work harder than I have to, and thankfully do the kind of work that no one else in my department is as competent in/doesn't want to do (don't want to get too specific). But I certainly don't bust my ass or go the extra mile. I will when I strike out on my own next year, and get to keep the surplus value I make.

    And I'm young. And government jobs aren't all sunshine and rainbows. At least at the local level. You could be an ADA who gets stuck doing Saturday arraignments. Most city/state employees around here are unionized and have some degree of job security-ADAs are at will. So yeah…don't go to law school.

  25. wetcasenents Says:

    There are real consequences to being a shitty teacher — your kids don't learn as much (the motivated ones will learn in spite of it all, however).

    That said, what were the consequences of David Petraus being a shitty general?

    Sure, he was embarassed for fucking his hagiographyer, but somehow I doubt he'll end up in the poor-house any time soon.

    And CEO's who ruin their corporations?

    Golden parachutes.

    So yeah, I can't be too harsh on teachers who feel like showing a video once in a while.

  26. John Doheny Says:

    "From the teachers' perspective, what is the motivation to work 16 hours per day and move heaven and Earth to be the best teacher since Jaime Escalante if they get paid the same $31,000 per year for being…mediocre?"

    Oh I dunno…the ability to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning and not see a useless, half-assed drone looking back at you?

    I absolutely get what you're saying, but then I'm a jazz musician, so I never had any expectations of making any money anyway. And playing jazz demands a level of practise, skill and committment to excellence that is, quite frankly, beyond the understanding of most people, no matter how "good" at their jobs they take themselves to be.

    I took that same level of committment with me when I was hired as "professor of practise" (fancy title for "lecturer") at $36,500 a year. It made absolutely no difference to me that the money sucked, I still put in 60 hour weeks, basically developed a whole jazz performance program from scratch, and wrote curriculum for courses that are now degree requirement. I found the work enormously fullfilling, plus my academic sinecure allowed me the time and means to pursue my personal music projects. This is exactly why these gigs are so highly prized, and why Ed and everyone else in academia wants one. It sure ain't the money.

    Of course, after six years of throwing myself into the work heart and soul, a new dean with a new agenda arrived, and fired me.

    But you know what? I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. There is nothing more soul destroying than doing a half-assed job because the money sucks.

  27. Misterben Says:

    I think one of the "dirty little secrets" of our economy, that everyone knows deep down even if most people don't admit they know it, is that tons and tons of white-collar jobs are no different from the job at Taco Bell. Sure, the "Claims Processor" or "Office Manager" is making three or four times what the Taco Bell kid is making, especially when you factor in meager health benefits; but that white-collar job has just as little job security. And at least the kid at Taco Bell could theoretically get promoted to Supervisor, Assistant Manager, or Store Manager someday. Walk through any company in any sprawling, one-story "corporate center", host to a dozen anonymous offices, and all you will find is people with no promotion prospects, and no job security. Those people are wearing "business casual", sitting in an air-conditioned room, and playing on Facebook all day, but they are just as blue-collar as the guy in Taco Bell. They just don't admit to themselves.

  28. Big dog Says:

    I think the teacher who explained in one of the posts above that she and her students kind of wound down after completing the required testing explains a great deal. Teaching has become focused on the national or statewide tests, the preparation for which drives the curriculum. Once accomplished, there's not much reason to break your chops. Can anyone explain to me the positive value of this kind of testing? I worked a great deal in ex-French colonies where I saw the disaster of their national testing systems and I always told myself how fortunate I was to grow up in a country where the schools were free from this sort of nationalization. No more. Sic transit patria.

  29. slimlove Says:

    I work for a department of a state government. The kind of place where the world constantly tells you you're just a greedy, lazy drain on the taxpayers (even though my department actually makes money for the state). Where salaries have been frozen and employee contributions to benefits and pensions just keep getting higher and higher.

    I've been in the same position for 3 years now. Every year, I've received glowing reviews and been given ever-increasing responsibilities. What hasn't increased? My salary, which was never exactly high to begin with. Due to the aforementioned increases in benefits, my net pay now is less than it was a year ago.

    Despite this, I keep working hard because I'm a type-A overachiever, and there's a part of me that still foolishly believes I'll be rewarded for said hard work. And the result is frustration and burn out. I really do care about the place I work and the work I do, but I've also got one foot out the door. Morale here is terrible. We all malinger at some level (to follow on what Ed was talking about above, one of my co-workers calls this "giving yourself a raise"). Because honestly, what's the point? All my hard work has so far garnered me nothing, so why am I killing myself for this job?

    When anyone complains about ludicrously high salaries for bankers and CEOs and other high-powered folk, the refrain is always "well, we have to pay for the best." But of course we don't apply the same logic to workers. And then we're shocked – shocked! – when people who are never rewarded for their hard work stop working hard. But hey, you get what you pay for.

  30. Gerald McGrew Says:

    Robert,

    "the reward for good performance and the punishment from bad performance are the same – nothing. Working hard for your own satisfaction gets to be thin gruel after a while."

    Very true. Don't get me wrong here, I do my job. When I'm given a task I do it and do it well. The difference between the low-moral environment now and what existed before is that now few of us go that extra mile and seek out additional projects or innovate and develop new ways of doing things. And it's exactly for the reason you state above.

    Instead I've decided to de-emphasize the status I assign to my career. It's important, but it's not the defining entity in my life. My wife and kids, my leisure time, and my friendships are far more important to me.

    After all, if they didn't pay me to be here, I wouldn't. That's why it's called "work".

  31. mitten Says:

    The teachers at my former public high school made at least $60,000 a year, plus the most awesome health care and benefits you could possibly have. I guess when people complain about teacher pay being too low they mean at expensive, snobbish private schools.

  32. Big dog Says:

    @mitten
    I hope you are not objecting to that level of pay and benefits. That seems to me to be solidly middle class, where we should expect our teachers to be. Teachers on food stamps sounds like a bad idea.

  33. Kaleberg Says:

    In the old Soviet Union they used to say, "They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work." Given that American workers have had flat pay for 30 years, maybe a decade shy of an entire working lifetime, they are realizing that their bosses are only pretending to pay them, so they will only pretend to work. Russians were already used to it from the old Tsar's regime and had the appropriately adjusted attitude. Of course, there was always the KGB or being declared a parasite and shipped off to some gulag. I suppose that's what's behind the Republican move to cut food stamps and the like.

    Sometimes it's hard to figure out just who won the Cold War.

  34. Townsend Harris Says:

    When Soviet industrial workers said "they pretend to pay us, we pretend to work," they commented on the rubles piling up in their savings accounts in a society with few consumer goods. During my adjuncting years I noticed more than a few corrupt students seeking continued social promotion with a similar approach: "you pretend to teach me, I'll pretend to learn".

  35. Barry Says:

    Says:
    June 21st, 2013 at 9:15 am

    "From the teachers' perspective, what is the motivation to work 16 hours per day and move heaven and Earth to be the best teacher since Jaime Escalante if they get paid the same $31,000 per year for being…mediocre?"

    John Doheny: "Oh I dunno

  36. dillions Says:

    Oh I dunno

  37. dillions Says:

    Oh I dunno the ability to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning and not see a useless, half-assed drone looking back at you?

    manager spotted

    fuck off with your wanky jazz musician fantasy life bullshit

    I still put in 60 hour weeks

    my academic sinecure

    lol, at least try to believably lie instead of slopping out your bottomless hatred of anybody who actually works for a living

  38. John Doheny Says:

    @Dillons,

    "manager spotted

    fuck off with your wanky jazz musician fantasy life bullshit

    I still put in 60 hour weeks

    my academic sinecure

    lol, at least try to believably lie instead of slopping out your bottomless hatred of anybody who actually works for a living"

    I get the sense that I'm being insulted here, but I can't figure out exactly how or why. Could you please try making your point in actual sentences/paragraphs with subjects and meaning, rather than just shouting incoherently at clouds kthnx?

  39. haunted Says:

    I read once that because unlike the US where we define ourselves by our work and build our identities from it, work in the Soviet Union was just a place you showed up and worked, or showed up and went through the motions. And because there was no expectation work was going to be on any level fulfilling, people spent their time to visiting and socializing with friends and family in rich and full private lives that we are too isolated and stressed out to have.
    I've always thought it was a bunch of crap that everyone must aspire to a "career." Some people are going to just have jobs. Should they feel like shit about themselves throughout their lives because there is no way to spin 8 hours of motel room housekeeping into something that makes the spirit soar and the soul sing?
    Well, now the irony is that people who thought they had careers are finding out maybe they don't. When all the jobs are menial tell me why I'm supposed to be invested in this game again? Why I'm dashing myself against a rock over and over to buy into this narrative?
    If and when the economy improves, every single person in America who has been doing three people's work for what might or might not be one person's wages for the last 5 years is going to bail out as soon as possible and try to trade up. If employers receive desultory performance in the meantime, they have no-one but themselves to blame. They should be grateful if they aren't actively sabotaged by the new "dead-enders."