Friday, December 25, 2009

Corporate dieting: fewer and fewer people are being forced to do moreand more work.(New Economy - White Collar Workers). USA, LLC

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Blue-collar workers are laid-off. White-collar workers are "de-layered." This a polite way of saying the same thing. Survival in the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism has forced hundreds of industries to remove entire layers of management. Those that survive the de-layering process must work harder and longer to make up for their missing colleagues. After all, the work didn't go away, just some of the people who did it.

Sales executive Daniel is typical. He is always in his office before 7:30 a.m., and usually works through lunch. His briefcase stuffed with files, he never arrives home before 7:00 p.m. An average evening involves three hours of work at home. His weekends normally involve rounds of golf, dinners, and receptions with clients. Daniel puts in 70 to 80 hours a week and complains that sleep is the only thing he does other than work. Daniel is constantly plugged in. He used to listen to the radio as he drove to work, now he's on the cellular phone arranging meetings, or even holding them. He has a fax machine in his office, one at home, and another in his car. He also has a computer at each location. He takes a laptop on vacation with him and receives daily fax updates from head office.

Why does Daniel keep up such a furious pace? He knows that if he slackens off he will become a casualty. There are plenty of people, leaner and hungrier than he is, eager to jump into his shoes.

Corporations learned this lesson during the most recent recession. In previous downturns, blue-collar workers took the pain. In the recession of the 1990s, white-collar jobs in services from advertising to zookeeping were axed -- the very sectors that provided virtually all the new jobs of the past two decades.

At the same time, white-collar workers have been coming up against the same competition their blue-collar colleagues faced before them -- new technology is taking over much of the work they do. Think of Daniel, our sales executive; without his long hours and his electronic gizmos how many people would be needed to do his job? Two? Three? More? The microchip has cut a swath through many occupations -- receptionists (voice-mail), bank tellers (automated banking machines), stenographers (word-processors), pricing clerks (universal product codes). Even computer programmers are being put out of work by packaged software and more efficient programming techniques and languages.

While technology has shut down many clerical jobs, it's had the same effect on the people who used to supervise the clerks. Middle managers are no longer needed in the same numbers because there are fewer people to manage. Also, the machines they operate can now monitor the work performance of junior staff with more efficiency than most managers. Computer technology has taken over one of the major functions of middle management -- to collect and control information.

But, the downsizing can go too far. The danger point is reached with what's been called the "anorexic corporation." Stripped of layers of management, all that's left is a few exhausted workers and a Chief Executive Officer who is struggling to control the whole operation from the personal computer sitting on her desk.

In the anorexic corporation everybody, from top to bottom, is stressed by overwork and on the verge of burnout. Morale is at rock bottom. Nobody thinks in terms of a career anymore, the major goal of each staffmember is to survive the next round of firings. Long-term strategic thinking, the kind of planning that positions businesses to take advantage of the next upturn in the business cycle, goes right out the window. And, there's nobody around to keep an eye on the till; management consultants are warning slimmed-down companies that they're leaving themselves dangerously open to employee fraud.

The severe cost-cutting of anorexic corporations usually produces big profits in the short-term. But, there's no way such companies will be able to meet the long-term challenges of the nineties.

Eric Greenberg of the American Management Association puts another spin on the downsizing: "What companies have been doing is firing their customers...People who lose their jobs are not spending their money and not driving the industrial machine."

However, despite the grim picture we've painted here, white-collar work is where the action is. In the 18 years between 1975 and 1993, Canada added 3.1 million jobs. Two thirds of these jobs -- more than two million -- were in the Statistics Canada category of managerial and professional. The other third -- 1.1 million jobs -- fell into the "other white-collar" slot occupied by clerks, sales, and service people. During that same 18-year period, blue-collar jobs also increased in Canada, by just 13,000.

As the economy sputters back to life, the ranks of white-collar workers are once again growing.


1. Philosopher Bertrand Russell once proposed that the official working day should be limited to four hours. With job sharing, he argued, the scourge of unemployment would be eliminated. When skeptics suggested that men and women would not know how to fill the remaining hours, Russell replied that if this were true, 'it would be a condemnation of civilization." Discuss.

2. Display the following figures in a graphic format: "Between 1990 and 1993, total employment in Canada fell by 1.5%, but the number of service jobs increased by 3.2%. Sales jobs remained flat, while clerical work declined 7.5%. At the same time, employment in the professional and managerial class rose by 6%.

Source Citation
Veerasingham, K. "Corporate dieting: fewer and fewer people are being forced to do more and more work." Canada and the World Backgrounder Mar. 1995: 18+. Academic OneFile. Web. 25 Dec. 2009. .

Gale Document Number:A16934488

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