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Old 03-21-2012, 10:03 AM   #41
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As for blame, chicken and the egg in many cases? I've known at least as many ungrateful entitlement minded employees as I have unreasonable self important bosses. And I still know more productive workers and competent caring bosses than their counterparts, though I'd have to agree the ungrateful & unreasonable seem to be gaining ground.
Maybe -- but I think back to my days as a software guy in the "mercenary" era of Silicon Valley in the late 1990s. The moment someone with a technical degree and a pulse sent their resume out they'd have several interviews and probably a few job offers with nice raises.

Yes, it was common for workers in that time and place to go "job hopping" to the highest bidder. But there was also more of a sense of giving a damn about doing a good job, about wanting to exceed your employer's expectations and helping them prosper. People felt like they were getting a good deal and were being treated and valued fairly. Today there's more of a sense that employers will crap on their workforce every chance they get because they have all the leverage and there aren't many options for labor but to suck it up and take it. Even companies posting record profits year after year are freezing wages, cutting benefits and exporting jobs. So there's less and less motivation to want to help your employer succeed -- and more on pure survival.

Frankly I remember waves of layoffs, freezing of pensions and watering down of benefits before it became common for workers to voluntarily leave good jobs for greener pastures. I know it's a matter of perspective but as I see it, employers fired the first shots in the "no loyalty" shootout.
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Old 03-21-2012, 10:08 AM   #42
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Experience, dependability, knowledge of company culture, a known quantity, solid known work record, and the list goes on.

Perhaps your friends' experience differs...but I think there are plenty of reasons to hire older workers or keeping them.
I agree, but in a market and and era where the mantra is "burn them out and discard them," better to find someone with more energy, more tolerance for BS and less of a learned cynicism about the relationship between employer and employee. Many people with a lot of experience feel like they have already paid their dues, that they no longer have to endure a bunch of crap just to get the experience. Young and eager folks who need the experience on their resume will endure an awful lot of BS and abuse to get it. And today's employers are more than willing to dish out huge quantities of BS and abuse.
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"Hey, for every ten dollars, that's another hour that I have to be in the work place. That's an hour of my life. And my life is a very finite thing. I have only 'x' number of hours left before I'm dead. So how do I want to use these hours of my life? Do I want to use them just spending it on more crap and more stuff, or do I want to start getting a handle on it and using my life more intelligently?" -- Joe Dominguez (1938 - 1997)

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Old 03-21-2012, 10:19 AM   #43
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Interesting. I know my boss, who just turned 62, is way into working overtime and doing what it takes, which often means taking about 1/3 of his vacation a year, with the rest not paid out. The few "young bucks" I work with, work their hours, usually intensely (ironic to be posting here during work hours, I know), take all their vacation and go home. I guess if I had a family and felt like I was competing for a job, I'd do like the japanese and give the appearance of working long hours. But, fortunately for me, that isn't the case. I get my work done, and then some and go home within reason.
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Old 03-21-2012, 10:26 AM   #44
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Experience, dependability, knowledge of company culture, a known quantity, solid known work record, and the list goes on.
Knowledge of the company culture - If it is a question of laying them off then, well sure, unless the company is going through a lot of changes, then maybe the culture is starting over. If you are entering a new job then you don't know the culture better than the people already there.

Known quantity - see above

Experience - possibly but they might also be out of date in their skills.

Dependability - each age cohort has its own dependability problems. For older workers I've noticed that their health problems or the health/life problems of their parents can interfere with work availability

Work record - definitely a plus as long as it is a good work record in line with what they are hiring for.
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Old 03-21-2012, 10:45 AM   #45
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I've griped before about my toxic w*rk situation before. Last week, I left that j*b to "take on new opp*rtunities". First week on my new j*b finished yesterday. There is a 180 calender day qualification process. The last two people who tried to do this j*b were disqualified. It is a difficult and exacting job that requires specialized training. There are perhaps 100 people in the world that do this work.
My new co-workers are working 80 hour weeks because of the severe worker shortage. I am running half of the job rotation and am concentrating on making life as easy as possible for my co-workers/trainers and bosses. After 80 hour weeks, they are extremely grateful for the help and of course are giving me fantastic reviews.

The whole age/productivity thing is overblown. When I concentrate on making my co-workers and bosses lives easier, so that customers are happy, I have more work and offers than I can handle. The younger workers who get this also are doing well. Slackers, at any age, on the other hand...
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Old 03-21-2012, 10:56 AM   #46
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Very interesting opinion from the original post. I am still working, the same industry for 33 years, pharmaceuticals. I have done various quality and regulatory jobs, and am a mid-level executive at this point. I would like to share my opinion, all related to professional jobs.

I have seen many young people who do not "do whatever it takes". And I disagree with the assessment that older people do not. I think much of anyone's work ethic is personality based, and sometimes it depends on where you have worked.

I can say that having worked at 7 companies, that some companies expect you to be in the office long hours, but it is not related to productivity. Does that make sense? And what about the fact that some people waste alot of time and others are very efficient? Do we punish those who get the same job done in half the time?

Clearly I do not agree with making generalizations.

I would agree that typically older workers have higher salaries, on average and that probably leads to their being laid off first. However, during these hard times, many people take pay cuts to simply stay employed. I also think the competitive job market is making recent graduates be less complacent than workers in the job force with 5-15 years experience.

So I hope that the prejudice against older workers is not shared by all HR people since I can attest to hiring 4 workers over 45 last year and they are the best!!!

Norma
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Old 03-21-2012, 11:30 AM   #47
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There are perhaps 100 people in the world that do this work.
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The whole age/productivity thing is overblown. When I concentrate on making my co-workers and bosses lives easier, so that customers are happy, I have more work and offers than I can handle. The younger workers who get this also are doing well. Slackers, at any age, on the other hand....
Your situation may not apply in the general case however...if there are truly only 100 people in the world that can do what you do, then that situation doesn't really have the same rules as say a mid-level paper-pusher in some mega-corp with the same skills as 10 million other people.
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Old 03-21-2012, 11:31 AM   #48
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Very interesting comments so far. The US labor market is 130M strong, so it can’t be easily broken down into just one trend. There are many dynamics here. Youbet asks an important question. A business should want to take advantage of experience with a low cost. The small business survey consistently reports the number one issue as lack of demand. This is consistent with declining job prospects. In this case, experience is only valuable if it can be used to make something to export. Lack of domestic demand is allowing employers to be very picky when they hire.

It isn’t clear “Whatever it takes” has always been around, at least in the same form as today. Business labor cost has been contained by increasing productivity, lowering real wages and pushing retirement costs back onto the worker. In the 90’s the benefit of this was realized by sharholders. In the ‘00s the benefit has been exclusive to management, both workers and owners have lost. Allowing corporate execs to benefit personally to such extreme levels seems to be unhealthy when the rest of the economy is disadvantaged.

That said, I know of an initiative where in just a few years a privately run business in the Midwest went public, raised a fair amount of money, has greatly expanded its operations and even built new facilities, all in an industry that is subject to substantial environmental regulation. Their hiring has definitely not been one that can be easily categorized by age, profession, degree, etc. Perhaps the "least common denominator" is hard working. It can be done.

Our biggest jobs related problem is still lack of aggregate demand. It may take a long time to improve, and meanwhile I suspect we will see lots of tough employment situations.
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Old 03-21-2012, 11:56 AM   #49
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Attitude definitely counts. My last hire, about a year before I ER'd, was someone coming out of retirement. He had trained as a Six Sigma Black Belt and that was what he wanted to do. He didn't want to go back to electrical engineering or supervision. His commute was going to be 90 minutes each way but I called his references and he had done commutes longer than this in the past. He had a mother that needed some care. We agreed that he could telecommute 1 day a week.

He was always on time, energetic, cheerful, and he was excited about his work. When working from home he was available by phone and email. I saw him recently (a year after my ER) and he is still on the job and happy.
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Old 03-21-2012, 12:26 PM   #50
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I'm skeptical of these 60-80 hour uncompensated work weeks. We have been hearing about them for at least 25 years. For much of the time it was bogus self promotion by us boomers about how hard we worked, now it is the demands of evil bosses. Yet every few years someone publishes a study that shows that workers vastly overestimate their hours of work.
As am I. Working 60 hours/week is hard and a huge strain on the body. Doing 80 hours/week for months/years at a time? Work 8-8 7 days/week? Never seen it unless a release is imminent.
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Old 03-21-2012, 12:35 PM   #51
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Hope your headhunter friend wasn't joining in and is sending out applicants based on skills and knowledge.

I don't think the get em young theory works as well as they think.
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Old 03-21-2012, 12:36 PM   #52
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As am I. Working 60 hours/week is hard and a huge strain on the body. Doing 80 hours/week for months/years at a time? Work 8-8 7 days/week? Never seen it unless a release is imminent.
Working these 60+ hour weeks used to be an adrenaline rush for me, partly because (a) they were rare, (b) they usually only lasted a week or two and (c) I had pride in what we were doing and I could see the need for a short period of "burst mode".

These days they just stress me out and make my abdomen hurt. You ran the business just fine without this "critical" new set of TPS reports for many years, not having them before the end of this quarter isn't going to make the business go under.
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Old 03-21-2012, 12:40 PM   #53
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I'm skeptical of these 60-80 hour uncompensated work weeks.
Yeah, me too. When someone on my team was complaining of excessive hours, I'd check it out. Almost every time the truth was associated with either a burst of activity being extrapolated over hypothetical stretches of time or mediocre performing associates struggling to keep up with smarter, more efficient teammates.

Once when we moved our operation to a new building, we put in some 60 hour weeks. Stories that our team always worked 60 - 80 hour weeks under the sting of the lash abounded for years afterwards.

I tried to foster an environment where performance evaluation was based on accomplishments and not hours worked. (Note: this was in manufacturing so presence at the factory was important, but not a steady 60 hours. Not even close for most.) Folks who struggled to acheive competitive results vs. their peers sometimes put in a lot of hours trying to keep up. Then, at performance review time, they (NOT management) would want to talk about hours worked and would want some credit for clock hours spent on the job. In the long run, I would probably have been better off terminating these marginal performers rather than allowing them to struggle for so long with the long hours they required to get their jobs done probably ruining their lives.
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Old 03-21-2012, 12:55 PM   #54
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I noticed a huge change in attitude in the newbies or younger hires over the past two decade in my field. When I graduated, a Bachelor was needed but over the past 10-15 years, Doctorates became the new entry level degree. New intense training programs and rotations requirements were implemented with the new degrees so those new graduates that were hired felt so entitled. Some refuse to do certain part of their jobs because they consider it menial duties and it's so beneath them. I even had to contact a supervisor to make it clear it is in their job description to leave an area clean for the next employee including removing the small trash basket outside the satellite for the cleaning crew; it was 3 feet to the door!!! As my field became more saturated and every new graduate has a Doctorate, those attitudes quickly changed.
I’m in research/pharmaceuticals and a huge trend I’m seeing is the hiring of all these “green” employees and not just the lower or mid-levels but also in upper and executive management. They may have the degrees and the qualifications on paper but their lack of experience is apparent in conversation and meetings. In fact, a few sound stupid every time they open their mouth and some of the decisions they implemented are the most ill-conceived I have ever seen in my 20+ years working. It’s been 2+ years since the mass hiring of those “green” employees and my company is facing bankruptcy; I wonder if the two are somehow related?
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Old 03-21-2012, 01:23 PM   #55
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<snip>
My new co-workers are working 80 hour weeks because of the severe worker shortage. I am running half of the job rotation and am concentrating on making life as easy as possible for my co-workers/trainers and bosses. After 80 hour weeks, they are extremely grateful for the help and of course are giving me fantastic reviews.
<snip>
Are they really working 80 hour weeks or has this been embellished a little?
That would average to 11.39 hours per day for 7 days per week with never a day off.

I do recall one year working 2400 hours (I have records) -- mayby the most time I ever put in over a calendar year, and it seemed to kill me. That is an average of a little over 46 hours per week over 52 weeks. I did take three weeks of vacation that year, and a few other days off, so the weeks I worked probably averaged something like 50 hours per week, and it was a killer. Sorry but I'm having a difficult time with the 80 number unless the job is completely mindless.
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Old 03-21-2012, 01:29 PM   #56
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I worked >60 hour weeks for well over a decade. If travel time were counted as work it would be much higher.
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Old 03-21-2012, 01:35 PM   #57
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"Sorry but I'm having a difficult time with the 80 number unless the job is completely mindless."

Me, too. Even the Pony Express swapped horses regularly.

In the face of any commercial endeavor that has substitute labor inputs available, working your people for long periods of time [60-80hrs/wk] on a regular basis is nuts. Management should take the fall for that. We hear all the time that business won't hire because of fear that the recovery won't stick, but as a new paradigm? Crazy.
We are arguably in a recovery, even if you have to put your ear to the rail to notice.
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Old 03-21-2012, 01:37 PM   #58
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I work in government now, so more than 40 hr weeks are rare.

But in a previous life working for a consulting engineering firm, in general the older workers never really worked out even though the CEO loved to hire them. The salaries were always a lot higher (often double that of a newly minted engineer with 0-4 years experience). The real problem was that they weren't that technically savvy. Frequently they didn't have the computer and software skills needed to succeed and work independently. This shortcoming was seen on the word/excel/outlook side of software - they couldn't complete simple reports and get them formatted professionally. And on the technical software side. Many older engineers never had learned CAD so were stuck manually reviewing plans and manually marking up and hand sketching (sooo 20th century!). And there were other kinds of analytical software we used that had new versions coming out every so often. The kids just coming out of college were up to date on the latest versions. The old guys never really learned the first version and had sort of muddled through with a real lack of knowledge and were far outclassed technically. Add to that the fact that industry standards and guidelines seem to morph or change on a roughly 10 year cycle, and again the old guys were still learning the new guidelines that came out 8 years ago while the new college grads had learned the current state of practice in depth from the start.

These knowledge shortcomings can be overcome, but at a steep cost, made steeper when you are paying the less skilled employee 2x that of a new college grad. The reason the corporate overlords paid more was to get their networking, marketing, leadership etc skills. Most older prospects never really panned out.

That is not to say the younger workers were diligent and eager to put in 60+ hour weeks. Most were very interested in limiting their employment to 40 hours and some had absolutely no problem walking out at 40.0 hours even if something pressing was due and they were necessary to complete the project. But no one ever worked more than 45.x hours on average, even during the boom times of 2007 (they used to distribute monthly lists of average hours worked for all employees so I know the numbers). Most averaged 40.x or 41.x hours and very few put in any substantial amounts of overtime (of course we were never compensated for overtime even though we know the hourly billable employee business model of charging by the hour).

Just my experience at a small engineering firm - I am sure it is not representative of the entire US economy at large.
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Old 03-21-2012, 01:39 PM   #59
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Not counting travel or commuting. If I counted travel I would have a several year string of 7 day work weeks.

I know a sales manager who claimed to work from 6AM to midnight. But a lot of that "w*rk" was relationship-building on the golf course, and at the tennis club and in restaurants and reading industry-specific periodicals. I don't doubt that he may have thought about "w*rK" that many hours a day but he uses a really loose definition of w*rk. To his credit he did have a $50 million quota and rarely fell short.
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Old 03-21-2012, 01:40 PM   #60
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In the face of any commercial endeavor that has substitute labor inputs available, working your people for long periods of time [60-80hrs/wk] on a regular basis is nuts. Management should take the fall for that. We hear all the time that business won't hire because of fear that the recovery won't stick, but as a new paradigm? Crazy.
But when there are substitute labor inputs available and unemployment is stubbornly high, it's not hard to just hire someone else to do the 60-80 hour weeks until they crash and burn out like their predecessors did. And probably for lower pay and worse benefits than their predecessor got.

Businesses won't hire for a number of reasons, but the fact that they don't HAVE to in such a fear-motivated job market -- even when they have more work to do -- is certainly one of them. Why hire more people or give raises when you can simply tell them to shut up and be thankful they have a job at all?

That seems to be the new paradigm -- labor as disposable resources to chew up, burn out and discard.
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