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Work --- Frenetic Pace, Get More Done with Less, High Stress... What is happening?
Old 07-04-2007, 06:04 AM   #1
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Work --- Frenetic Pace, Get More Done with Less, High Stress... What is happening?

Hey Doc... This headline is for you.

But on a serious note:

Over my work lifetime (since 18 about 33 Years) work seems to be getting more and more difficult. Expectations in the work place seem to continue to rise... More complicated situations, need to get more done quicker with less time and money, everyone frayed at the edges (which brings out the worst in everyone), job uncertainty, on and on.

Where the heck are we going in America? Something seems a bit out of whack. I know that some of it is caused by American Business trying to compete with third world countries (on a cost basis)... But where the heck is it going to end?

Are you feeling the same way?
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Old 07-04-2007, 06:17 AM   #2
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This is one of reasons why so many people I know are looking to get out of the rat race. Some are thinking of exchanging high salaries and positions for less stressfull jobs.

"More with less" seems to be the motto of corporate america as more jobs are moving overseas.
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Old 07-04-2007, 08:48 AM   #3
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I found a good deal of the stress was internally created and had very little business value.

So called "politics", management automatically trying to cut deadlines in half along with the budgets. Lowered responsibility coupled with rising required broad consensus decisions.

That and theres a constant attempt by businesses to distance themselves from the customer and cut costs in the areas of product and service offerings. Then spend millions or billions on marketing campaigns to sucker in new customers that were lost by selling them crap and subsequently treating them like crap.

All in all a pretty sad statement of affairs. The good news is that the primary competition is putting poisons into all of their products.

Or maybe thats the next logical step in the sequence and we're still behind the curve.
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Old 07-04-2007, 08:59 AM   #4
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Don't you think technology has added to these stresses ?Years ago when you went on a plane, people were either reading or napping .Now everybody has their lap tops out and are busily working .Were has the chill out time gone ?
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Old 07-04-2007, 09:11 AM   #5
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I agree completely. The ability to instantly know and communicate things is not necessarily beneficial.

When I was doing technology impact studies to sell more expensive stuff to unsuspecting customers determine the benefits of faster technology products to consumers, we had an interesting one come up.

Turns out that comparing productivity levels between groups who communicated verbally and in writing (and I mean, writing a memo and leaving it on someones desk) vs someone with a faster computer, high speed network connection and email...the latter suffered in the long term.

The condensed reasoning was interesting: in the latter situation, people reacted, often without fully forming their thoughts, usually emotionally, and the collateral damage and subsequent damage control was stressful, time wasting, and frustrating. In the "old school" approach, things were usually better thought out, chains of command were followed, and the inherent "demand" to react quickly regardless of quality didnt exist.

So it seems that the faster and more broadly you spread communications, the more problems you create. And truthfully, the productivity boost wasnt that impressive.

Oh yeah, and we buried that study without publication. In fact, its buried about 3' below the 100MPG carburetor.

This also contradicts the hedonic adjustments made that claim that faster computers are more beneficial. Seems the opposite may be the case. Which is why its not that smart to overthink fairly simple things and think faster is automatically better.

Imagine this forum if you had to wait a day before you could post to a new thread you had read, and could only post to each thread once per day...and once you hit 'save' you could never edit your content again.
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Old 07-04-2007, 09:55 AM   #6
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Yes, I feel so stressed out at work, and my job isn't inherently as stressful as some others.

Most people I know feel pressured to work more hours than they used to. Frank and I are both salaried senior professionals (he is a degreed senior engineer and I am a Ph.D. senior scientist) and yet at our jobs, we are expected to sign in and sign out. Where did that come from? I remember past times when a salary meant that you worked the hours necessary to do the job, no more and no less. Now, even we don't have anything to do, we have to be there and look busy. And mostly, we ARE swamped with work and frightfully busy. Neither of us feels free to take a few hours off to wait for a repairman or get a safety inspection on our cars, or that kind of thing, without using vacation time. Both of us have supervisors with much less education and background than those whom they supervise, so despite their own high pay they don't really understand or appreciate what we do. What's with that?

I think you are right. My main stress relief is in computing my retirement and reading this board.
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Old 07-04-2007, 11:14 AM   #7
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Are you feeling the same way?

NO, not since my last w*rk day on June 1. Jump in, the water's fine.
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Old 07-04-2007, 11:48 AM   #8
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when my fortune 5 employer downsized our unit we went from 34 people to 7 of us covering the same territory. before the change i worked for a company of admirable integrity, putting out the best product available. afterwards i worked for a bunch of back stabbers and finger pointers barely beating the competition's crap.

after about 5 years of dealing with the morale produced by the new american business model of "crap plus one", i said my goodbyes.
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Old 07-04-2007, 12:04 PM   #9
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Are you feeling the same way?
Yes. Megacorp asks for more and more of its employees (more time, more projects, more mergers, more travel, carry a blackberry so we can reach you), and in return, we receive.... um.... we receive...... um..... what was it again that we received? ah yes, a shrinking paycheck, a pension-plan-gone-missing, cuts in 401k contributions by the company, and thousands of outsourced technology jobs.

Thank goodness I'm on the 4-years-and-I'm-outta-here plan, or I'd really be bitter.
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Old 07-04-2007, 12:31 PM   #10
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I guess my experience was difference. My 27 years as a programmer (until I retired
last year) got easier as time went by. The technical part was always trivial, but I got
better at ignoring the cr*p part of it. I strenuously resisted unpaid overtime, refused
to get a cell phone, and as my savings got larger it became increasingly easy to resist
work impinging on my 128/hr week real life.
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Old 07-04-2007, 11:53 PM   #11
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I met up with a former employee yesterday. He moved from our mega-corp to a new place a few months ago. The mega-corp had followed the trend posted here, do more with less, etc, etc ,etc. Fine, but mostly, this was just to cover up inefficiencies and bureaucracies, etc.

The new place he moved to: no laptops (they don't want you bringing work home) and they tell you to go home at 5PM. And they seem to be making money, while the mega-corp is struggling. When a company focuses on getting the job done, it can be done in 40 hours of real work (plus the occasional burst to meet a deadline).

-ERD50
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Old 07-05-2007, 12:17 AM   #12
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it became increasingly easy to resist
work impinging on my 128/hr week real life.
And I bet you wasted over a third of it sleeping!

Staff duty was the other way 'round: "What can be done, WILL be done." Of course we'd let it go for a couple days to see if it went away, and by the time we came back to it we had to deal with "MUST be done."

Spouse worked at a PACOM Reserve unit for five years. During that time she learned that if you didn't have a dog in the fight then you were considered irrelevant. People used to race to work whenever a military crisis or natural disaster developed because if they weren't seen during the crisis then they obviously had no need to be in their billet, if indeed their billet even had a reason to exist. Two O-5s spent so much time on the Crisis Action Team command floor that they were known as "Watch Bill & Watch Phil".* Neither has promoted to O-6 yet.**

The daily routine in the ops & plans directorates consisted of coming in at 5 AM, going to meetings until the two-hour lunch workouts, scarfing the real lunch at the desk while catching up on e-mail, going to more meetings, sending out for pizza dinner, and staying until 8 PM earning those PowerPoint Ranger badges & rockers. The real stud muffins with pit-bull Dobermans in the fight would stay past midnight at least 3x/week and just not go home a couple times a month. But think of the work they got done!

PACOM maintained CONOPs on over 180 countries with a goal of updating them (the CONOPs) biennially. She worked a CONOP update for over three years, and it was considered to be one of the good ones.

*"Watchbill" and "watchbill filler". Military humor, ar ar ar...

**One claimed to be so desperate to escape PACOM for a combat billet that he told his assignment officer he'd run naked through the streets of Fallujah at midnight whistling the "Star-Spangled Banner". His bluff was not called.
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Old 07-05-2007, 04:51 AM   #13
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The mega-corp had followed the trend posted here, do more with less, etc, etc ,etc. Fine, but mostly, this was just to cover up inefficiencies and bureaucracies, etc.
-ERD50

My thoughts exactly... The Peter Principle in Upper Management. Too much Politics to little attention to fixing root causes.
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Old 07-05-2007, 07:21 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chinaco View Post
Hey Doc... This headline is for you.

But on a serious note:

Over my work lifetime (since 18 about 33 Years) work seems to be getting more and more difficult. Expectations in the work place seem to continue to rise... More complicated situations, need to get more done quicker with less time and money, everyone frayed at the edges (which brings out the worst in everyone), job uncertainty, on and on.

Where the heck are we going in America? Something seems a bit out of whack. I know that some of it is caused by American Business trying to compete with third world countries (on a cost basis)... But where the heck is it going to end?

Are you feeling the same way?
Chinaco,
I have to question your premise that the workplace is any more stressful than in the past for USA workers in general. I think factors such as news reports about stress, workers perceptions about the past and worker's expectations for work and the future are different but these are not new either really - started about 1976. The only period I can think of that might not have been as stressful was after WWII until 1958 - a recission year.
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Old 07-05-2007, 07:40 AM   #15
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Chinaco,
I have to question your premise that the workplace is any more stressful than in the past for USA workers in general.
Sure, many people were working hard and being stressed out earlier, but I do think it has accelerated for many. Communication and globalization have affected a lot of job duties.

I often started the day with 100 new emails, many of those from parts of the world that were working while I was asleep. In the process of catching up with those, I'm getting pages from my boss and others. Pages while you are in meeting (and these are text 2-way pages, so they want an answer). 12 hour day, make sure you covered the important emails so the other time zones have the info they need for their day, and then a late night conf call with China, sometimes followed by an early morning conference call with Mexico. Fun times...not.

Just a vague memory now....

sipping coffee, catching up on a few posts and emails, and walking away when I want. Life is good, good, good.

-ERD50
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Old 07-05-2007, 09:10 AM   #16
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I remember one of my very first jobs (in the early 70s) where I noted that most of the folks in the place didn't do much work during the regular work day...but every day around 3 pm, the supervisors would go around and tell staff that they should plan to work overtime -- generally until 10:30 or 11:30 pm. After a few days of this, I naively asked "what's going on here?" and was told that this department had secured a large overtime budget so in order to justify it, all the work was shifted to the overtime hours! I lasted six weeks before I decided that these people were crazy!

I thought this was an aberration, but throughout my career I encountered all kinds of policies that seemed designed simply to increase stress. I had one boss who held three hour staff meetings every Monday morning beginning at 8:30 am -- no exceptions! Then, he'd complain that the department wasn't getting its work done. Moron.
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Old 07-05-2007, 10:39 AM   #17
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I bridged the transition from the essentially no-electronic-communications era to just a few years ago. Looking back at the differences is startling:

We started out working with clients that would make 2 or in a rare case 3 rounds of changes on projects, with a day or two minimum on each side to review and process the changes. Life was normal and work was fun. At a certain point the project was finished.

In the latter days I ended up chained to the computer, making literally dozens of changes to the same project over the course of a DAY. 15 min. after I sent a "finished" file to the client, (aaahh get a cup of coffee and WhoopS!) I'd get an e-mail for another minor change. Make change. Send file. Get e-mail with new changes. Make changes. Send file. This went on ALL DAY LONG.. they never stopped! If I came in at 7 there were already demands that they'd forwarded from 8 or 9 the night before, same time zone.

The various client elements, also, could never get it together to review the changes together INTERNALLY.. so I'd be getting changes from several quarters, sometimes conflicting! When I suggested they take a break, talk together and get back to me the next day they seemed offended! So I'd have to call each of them in turn and waste time on the phone trying to re-integrate the project and figure out what they collectively wanted. Then the next round of changes would come.

And then they wondered why our bills were so high.

This was pretty much the norm for all clients.. that just seems to be the way everyone has gotten used to working: running around like chickens with their heads cut off. WAY more stress, with the bonus of WAY lower productivity. The projects were never, ever, finished, and we were made to frantically continue to phone and fax changes to printers and trade show booth constructors and various fabricators while the work was in final production. I never, ever had to do that in the '80s and it made me frustrated and embarrassed to be abusing my suppliers in turn.

I got the feeling it was a downward spiral with no hope. Far from trying to learn (from us or by experience) to meet mutually-agreed-upon deadlines and manage their work well, it seemed like the crisis-mode actually served to justify their existence. The more frenetically they worked, the more they felt important. "See! We got through 20 rounds of changes today!" If they sat down seriously and THOUGHT about and READ what they were working on for an hour and made all the changes at once.. then what would they do for the other seven hours? Go home?

The higher-up managers are to blame, but I get the feeling they, too, are just caught up in it and have a hard time stepping back and seeing the waste and the burn-out. The older the person, I will say, the easier they were to work with, but I think that's just because, like us.. they remembered a time when things were not so continuously "urgent".

CFB, sorry your study was "buried", but really.. it's all there for anyone with eyes to see it.
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Old 07-05-2007, 11:14 AM   #18
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what a nightmare to have to remember this but everything in our company became piecemeal much like ladelfina describes. my theory was that management chopped it up so that everyone would become not only quickly replaceable, but that employees would lose appreciation of their own self worth. it seemed designed to destroy morale.

the effect was that not only did we became less valuable to our employer but also to our clients & ourselves. i used to know everything about all the parts of what i was working on. but then as the work became so fragmented and the workloads intensified i wound up knowing nothing about any of it. and by then, i no longer cared. they lost a damned good employee.
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Old 07-07-2007, 10:55 AM   #19
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To the Original Poster - part of your question, I believe, was "What is happening to America?"

Check out a book called "The World Is Flat - A Brief History of the 21st Century". It shows in a very fascinating way 'what is happening'.

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Old 07-07-2007, 11:31 AM   #20
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I ended up chained to the computer, making literally dozens of changes to the same project over the course of a DAY.
ladelfina, good summary of the issues. I forget what line of work you are in, but I see parallels in the engineering community, too.

An apparently 'simple' project with items that can be turned around quickly often ends up a mess. Everyone is quick to make changes like you described and efficiency and quality sinks.

OTOH, a moderately complex project with some long lead-time items will sometimes come off without a hitch. Seems counter-intuitive, but often true. The reason is, people look at those long lead-time items and realize they need to really think it through, no time for changes so they need to do it right the first time in order to meet the deadline. So they get serious about it rather than just tossing in changes on the fly. End result is it takes relatively less time overall (but more upfront time), and you get a better quality product.

Sometime,s you need to slow down to speed up. But that is not an excuse to slow down, there needs to be a rational behind it. I've had employees tell me they would have been able to do a better job if I gave them more time - I would always say "OK, specifically, tell me what you would have done differently if you had an extra week?'. If they just mumble and stumble and make vague references about being 'more careful', I don't buy it. They simply would have taken more time. OTOH, if they give a specific list of items that would have helped to assure a better outcome, I could say, 'Good points, let's make sure we schedule those into the next project, or find ways to incorporate those checks into the normal process, or better yet, automate them so they don't take much more time'.

It's tougher with customers, but I wonder if there is not a way that you could show them that reviewing, approving (internally) and limiting changes would be to their benefit? You would have to approach it very positively, like 'look what could be done by process x-y-z' rather than point to past issues as 'mistakes'. Not easy, but you might be able to improve things.

-ERD50
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