On Bullsh*t Jobs and Workplace Culture

Yet another pay week has passed where I have been underpaid and have had to spend the next 2 weeks trying to convince a faceless human resources department that I have in fact worked that day. Our line manager tells me to email HR and HR instructs me to contact my manager so he can contact them about my hours, the game of tennis continues. Clocking in on an app is an interesting idea which usually falls flat; glitches and bugs often plague such applications and is a recipe for disaster when you are paid weekly. Maybe it is the software developers’ fault but that is the crux of this issue, shifting responsibility to the detriment of somebody who could very well be in a more desperate situation than you.

Now, I am grateful to even be in some form of employment amidst the global pandemic, but recent events have taken the shine off my own work, and I do not believe I am the only one with complaints at the lower end of the PayScale.

Complaints that have been emboldened by my recent reading of David Graeber’s ‘Bullshit jobs’, which I found rather useful in my response to my companies human resource department. Graeber underpins problems that have grown inherent in our economies since the 1980s, alongside mass privatisation and the fetishization of office culture, many jobs have just become redundant or at the least completely pointless in an age where technology can cure all ills, but the cruel irony is that my pay issue began on an app, so where we go from here is a mystery.

It must be the lesser of the evils, right? Surely technology can decide who has the responsibility to decide what happens with my pay rather than those playing first world office pong. It is quite humiliating to have to quarrel over £80 and for those in the office on far more substantial wages, must feel like a power trip in a position where everybody recently got new phones and personal MacBook’s; much to the dismay of us on the ground.

Insistence on maintaining bloated offices and middle management departments is in large part due to the need to maintain stability up top and on the governments end, to prevent mass unemployment. The modern corporation has become full of paper pushers and box tickers of which more than 50%, according to Graeber’s research, admit they dislike or find their job pointless. This is not such a surprise. There is now wonder why I am being treated this way by those in higher positions when their only salvation is lording over labourers in an otherwise meaningless job.

The level of distrust over a small pay packet also points to a major flaw in our lack of connection to each other as functioning human beings. Quite often when one feels threatened, they try to avoid or even shift responsibility to lighten their load but this mentality towards work is extremely worrying and the business world must take note. Poor company culture ultimately bleeds into our societal structure and had I been a single mum of 4, taking child benefit, trying to put food on the table then the consequences could have a far more severe impact on company reputation than worrying about whose fault it was that I did not get my wages.

However, this reputational justification for middle management tedium still does not get to the point regarding our treatment of anybody employed or even unemployed receiving benefits late or incorrectly. Adopting new technology en masse to streamline decision blunders like my own would certainly ease these problems but you have the added conundrum of mass unemployment. Graeber points to universal basic income (UBI) as a solution to the drivel; this will simplify decision making and pave the way for more technologically efficient companies, whilst allowing everyone to live without the fear of destitution.

Countless studies have proven that giving everybody a set income per month does not encourage unemployment and that people becoming lazy or dependent is overwhelmingly false. This mentality in which we cannot trust each other is largely why it took me 14 days after my actual pay date to receive my missed wages, there was simply no faith that I was telling the truth. Sure, I could have been lying but have we become so cold and suspect that we assume everyone could do the same.

When you remove that threat eviction or falling behind on bill repayments, crime falls, trust rises and those otherwise in tedious jobs will leave and fill gaps in our economy that are in much more need such as healthcare and education; not forgetting mass upskilling of the workforce. As for that £80 and the other millions, like myself who have gone through similar moments of humiliation at work, our situation could have been mitigated.

This is not an advertisement for UBI, although proven somewhat possible during the pandemic, amidst one of Britain’s most ardently conservative governments of the past 30 years, it has run up an enormous debt putting many of those in power, off the idea. Evermore, if UBI or programs like it have taught us anything, it is surely that our current system is building up far too much friction and leaving us in a place where we are forgetting what trust, kindness, and respect in the workplace and beyond feels like.

Published by Harry Allen

Freelance journalist & Marketing Afficionado

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