Bosses….what are we to do with them? You take your eye off the ball and the second you look back, a boss is getting just off the wall nuts.
Take, for instance, Cathy Merrill, the chief executive of Washingtonian Media, which publishes Washingtonian magazine. I had never heard of Cathy Merrill until she made the interesting decision to openly threaten her employees in the pages of the Washington Post (yes, she attacked her workers from the confines of a different Washington publication from the one she already controls, it’s all weird).
The op-ed is couched in general terms about the challenges a shift towards more remote work might pose for businesses. Much of it is pablum, but then you get to this part (emphasis mine):
While some employees might like to continue to work from home and pop in only when necessary, that presents executives with a tempting economic option the employees might not like. I estimate that about 20 percent of every office job is outside one’s core responsibilities — “extra.” It involves helping a colleague, mentoring more junior people, celebrating someone’s birthday — things that drive office culture. If the employee is rarely around to participate in those extras, management has a strong incentive to change their status to “contractor.” Instead of receiving a set salary, contractors are paid only for the work they do, either hourly or by appropriate output metrics. That would also mean not having to pay for health care, a 401(k) match and our share of FICA and Medicare taxes —benefits that in my company’s case add up roughly to an extra 15 percent of compensation. Not to mention the potential savings of reduced office space and extras such as bonuses and parking fees.
People considering just dropping into their office should also think about FOMO, fear of missing out. Those who work from home probably won’t have FOMO, they will just have MO. The casual meetings that take place during the workday. The “Do you have three minutes to discuss X?” These encounters will happen. Information will be shared. Decisions will be made. Maybe if you are at home you’ll be Zoomed in, but probably not. As one CEO put it, “There is no such thing as a three-minute Zoom.” Being out of that informal loop is likely to make you a less valuable employee.
While remote working is certainly industry- and job-dependent, and the future employment scene will probably be some type of hybrid, the CEOs I have spoken with fear erosion of collaboration, creativity and culture. So although there might be some pains and anxiety going back into the office, the biggest benefit for workers may be simple job security. Remember something every manager knows: The hardest people to let go are the ones you know.
So here is a CEO saying that, in her opinion, if you’re not showing up to office birthday parties or signing up to a mentorship program or doing some other thing that is not actually included in the scope of your job, there’s a very good case to be made for you to have your job security and benefits taken away from you. If you’re not around for your boss to corner you and possibly give you extra work, then are you really worthy of health insurance? Just being honest!
I’m just going to put my cards on the table and make a shameful admission here: I have been a boss before, overseeing quite a few people who were full-time remote workers, and so I feel confident in saying that this is a totally insane argument. Judging someone based on whether or not they are eating enough cake at work is ludicrous nonsense. It’s a sign that your boss thinks of themselves not simply as someone who oversees your work, but as a feudal lord who is entitled to every part of your life and personality. They are not entitled to that!
Cathy Merrill’s intervention is also………possibly illegal. LOL.
Merrill’s employees at Washingtonian responded by walking off the job for the day. Good on them.
Our other piece of boss news today: bosses are itching to stop giving people money!
The U.S. jobs report today was notably soft, so of course rich people are now saying that the problem is….the poors have too much money right now.
I always love these kinds of comments because they neglect to address an obvious question: if one in four people can make more money on unemployment than by working, shouldn’t the bosses try…paying them more? Sure, the stimulus payments sent hunger rates plummeting, but what about the hunger for LOW-PAID WORK? That’s what’s important here.
Bosses: shut them down!