9 to 5 Culture

The Toll of Being an Employee

Here is a categorized list that I came up with in about fifteen minutes. I have the feeling that if I spent an hour my list would run longer than WordPress would allow for a single entry.

Low Self Esteem

* Feeling like a lackey

* Being told what to do

* Sucking up to superiors

* Being on lower rungs of the corporate ladder


* Stress about performance

* Worry about layoffs/status

* Dependence on job for income


* Workdays and weeks that are too long (65-75% of one’s waking day spent in office or in traffic, on average)

* “White collar” jobs too low in activity. Long periods of sitting

* “Blue collar” jobs too much repetitive activity

* Lack of ability to accustom to body’s natural sleep cycles and rhythms


* A person’s best talents ignored, not used

* Ideas often not listened to in favor of tradition/what the company is used to doing

* A person not using most of their brain – only the part that is required for the job

* Tendency for workers to aspire to complacency in order to maintain status quo at the office

Financial Restriction

* Most annual and semi-annual raises don’t even keep pace with inflation

* Income not tied to your output. You get paid the same one day for goofing off as you do for working very hard the next

* With the middle class disappearing, being employed will not necessarily give you the quality of life your parents had

Lack of freedom

* Dependence on relatively low wages (in terms of today’s economy) to get by

* Leaving the workforce is difficult because it takes up a monumental amount of a person’s reserves that might be spent on ways out

* Very low percentage of personal time vs. work time

* Vacation and sick days are almost like an insult in US compared to other countries

* Hours of time on the job are not even spent working, but you can’t go anywhere until the clock strikes five.

* Pregnancy, illness and emotional bereavement are also woefully inadequate

* Loss of job just makes you a slave to finding another
* Sucks up the best years of your life


* Creates a system where output has little to do with income
* Reliance on co-workers for much of social life instead of people with chosen interests
* Having health care is becoming more and more dependent on one’s ability to find employment
* Most doctors, auto repair shops, dentists, psychologists operate standard business hours which employees cannot make use of
* Creates traffic problems which increase pollution
* Less time with family, loved ones
* Less time for childcare. Kids raised by daycare centers instead of parents



  • Scott Jackson July 29, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Good post, however most people probably like being paid the same whether they do a lot of work in one day or not. A lot of a workers’ time, especially in white collar work like I do is spent not really doing much work, but just relaxing of socializing.

    Capitalism is generally demoralizing though, I agree, especially in the US. Other countries have regulated it for better labor conditions.


  • Scott Jackson July 29, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    I should add the presence of a collective action problem, a lot of workers want the same changes made (more vacation, more sick days, option to have a 35 hour work week for example), but it’s too each individual’s benefit not to ask for these things as he/she would risk being terminated or would be treated with a lot of hostility.


  • Mike July 29, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Scott,

    One of the biggest adjustments people who go from being an employee to self-employed have to make is living with irregular pay. Many entrepreneurs will start out having to deal with low earnings none, or sometimes take a loss with the knowledge and promise of future gains.

    I read somewhere that people in white-collar jobs actually only “work” for 30% of the time they are on the clock. Imagine what could be getting done if those workers were doing something productive with their time (like a different venture.) It’s a good arguement for pay based on output rather than hours.

    Totally agree on the “vacation” pay comment. It’s really hard to make changes in this sort of environment unless someone is willing to put their neck on the line!


  • Scott Jackson July 29, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    I don’t see how pay based on output would be practical at a white collar job. In blue collar many times it’s fine, since you have something to measure (widgets made, or whatever). But in white collar jobs a lot of the work isn’t scheduled and it varies.

    For example sometimes I will have lots of projects to work on, while sometimes there will be little to none. So sometimes there just isn’t enough work to fill the time. If we paid based on output I would be punished for something I have no control over!


  • Mike July 29, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    Agreed completely. I feel that any job where there is an output of some sort a pay-by-effort system might be a nice incentive for workers. It would give them a sense of connection between what they do and what they earn. I think some white-collar jobs could be tailored to fit that system too. But certainly it doesn’t always work.


  • Scott Jackson July 30, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Well you need a stable, steady stream of inputs into the system, which in many jobs you don’t have.


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