“You got me workin’ workin’ day and night. You got me workin’ workin’ day and night. — And I’ll be workin’ from sun up to midnight.”
I heard the Michael Jackson song, Working Day and Night, in the car the other day on my way to the office, and it made me think of Labor Day. It got me thinking about how different the present workday environment is to the one I remember from when I first started in the workforce.
When I first started in banking the newest innovation was still the drive-up window. There were no fax machines and no computers. You could only bank at your branch because if you went to another office your account balances weren’t available, and neither was your signature card. The doors opened at the stroke of 9 am and closed promptly at three along with the teller windows. Many banks weren’t opened on Saturdays back then either. As soon as the doors closed the “real” work began inside the bank where account ledger cards were updated and tellers boxes were audited, but we still managed to leave by 5 pm. It was a good career and a good life.
Fast forward to the present: Banks are now open pretty much 7 days a week, and the lobby stays open inside until at least 6 each day, plus one later night. There is no “quiet” time to get caught up on all the paperwork as the lobby never closes, and management now expects employees to continually cross-sell customers other products. The pressure to sell and meet your quotas is intense and the turn over in many branches is high.
When the real estate market first slowed to a crawl I transferred to bank branch to get a steady paycheck. It was a huge mistake, not to mention a nightmare. Not only were we expected to practically assault customers as they walked in to steer them back to our desks on the pretense of checking that all their information was updated, but sales managers stood within earshot to be sure you had memorized “the official sales script” and said it exactly right once you had the customer at your desk! It was dehumanizing. As soon as the real estate industry showed signs of a pulse I escaped back to real estate lending.
Do we need a Labor Day holiday? You bet your Susan B. Anthony dollar we do! As a real estate lender I have to be available to my clients practically 24/7 to stay competitive, which can be extremely draining. Talk about needing a digital sabbatical….there are days my cell phone never stops ringing. Just the sound of it is enough to raise my blood pressure.
But it’s not just the financial industry that’s getting squeezed to work more hours for less, or at least for no increase in pay – it’s pretty much become the norm for corporations to expect this of their employees. While I’m extremely grateful to have a job in these days, which might be cause for celebration in and of itself, there’s a part of me that rues the day we brought fax machines, computers and cell phones into the business world. Before all this technology we worked at a civilized pace and clients were patient – now everyone expects everything yesterday which means there is never any let-up to the stress you’re under.
I’ve decided that since Labor Day honors the American worker’s contribution to the prosperity of our nation – I deserve a big party! I’ve made the various companies I’ve worked for boatloads of cash over the course of my career, by loaning out hundreds of millions of dollars – so Labor Day is my holiday – and it should be yours too! Just think of the enormous profits your labor has contributed to this nation over the course of your working life. Each of us is a contributor to the economy. With all of us put together – we created one hell of a roaring economy – and we can do it again. And we will.
So, to all workers everywhere – Happy Labor Day! Break out the barbecue and go celebrate. For all you’ve contributed – you deserve it!
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