September 19, 2018
I debated whether to quote from a new book by David Graeber, a professor of Anthropology at The London School of Economics BUT when I took a good, hard look at what he wrote I decided that I agreed with him on many points – so here goes.
He states, “Increasingly, workers in rich countries (up to 40% in some surveys) are secretly convinced their work is pointless. Over the last year or so, I’ve asked people to send me – what they consider – the most useless occupations.” Below are seven of the worst offenders.
Graeber begins by saying, “I don’t know if I’ve ever met a single call-center worker or telemarketer who didn’t hate his or her job.” One notes that, “It’s a job with no social value whatsoever. At least if you stack shelves in a supermarket you’re doing something that benefits people.“
TWO: STUDENT-PAPER WRITERS
“Taking on the chore of writing essays and term papers for college students is now a huge industry,” notes Graeber. A student-paper writer says, “While I have had the opportunity to write the rare, interesting essay, I’ve found that I’m largely writing countless papers about business and marketing. Actually, this makes a lot of sense – business majors spend four years learning how to hire other people to do the actual work.”
THREE: MOVIE EXECUTIVES
Ever wonder why Hollywood movies are so bad? (Yes I have – many times I’ve said to myself – how in the world did they get the go-ahead for this junk?) One reason is this, according to Graeber, who says, “Where once there were just writers, directors and producers; now there’s a dozen or more useless executives in-between. None of them really have anything to do, but all of them feel they have to interfere with the script – and everything else – just to make an excuse for their existence.”
FOUR: CORPORATE LAWYERS
Graeber believes that “the most prestigious, high-paying corporate lawyers usually won’t admit it, but others employed in the industry think all corporate-law offices could be sucked into a vortex with no ill effects.” He may have a point. “I am a corporate lawyer (tax litigator),” reports one. “And I contribute nothing to this world. In fact, I’m utterly miserable most of the time.”
FIVE: MIDDLE MANAGEMENT
“Most middle managers feel they spend almost all their time on useless rituals or pretending to supervise people who need no supervision,” Graeber writes. Or, as one explains, “Ten people work for me and from what I can tell, they can all do the work without my oversight. My only function is to hand them work.” No doubt some are doing useful work, but most middle managers secretly feel they might as well be digging holes and filling them in – again and again according to Graeber.
SIX: COMPLIANCE WORKERS
The dictionary definition of compliance: “The act or process of complying to a demand or proposal; conformity in fulfilling official requirements” – I thought I’d look at the meaning of this word first. Graeber says that banking is riddled with them. One efficiency expert wrote and told him that, “80% of banking jobs could be easily eliminated BUT banks keep thousands of employees whose only job is to pretend each transaction is in accord with government regulations that the banks, in fact, systematically ignore.” Yep, anyone remember Wells Fargo? They were fined $185 million in 2016 for fraudulently opening accounts. UPDATE: As of 2018 this bank is STILL in big trouble. CLICK HERE to read more.
SEVEN: ACADEMIC ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF
Over the last 20 years, university administration has ballooned. Or as one professor notes, “Every dean needs his vice dean and sub-dean, and each of them needs secretaries, admin staff and more – this only makes it harder for us to teach, do research and carry out the most basic functions of our jobs.
CONGRATS TO RALPH LAUREN: MARKING 50 YEARS IN BIZShaun Nelson-Henrick
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October 22, 2020
I just read an article that sounded – to me at least – like “a canary in a coal mine” or an early warning of danger. This piece, written by Joe Pompeo, appeared in the May 2020 issue of Vanity Fair magazine with the title “The British Tabloid Invasion” and a subtitle that read, “How the Daily Mail is conquering American gossip.”
The paparazzi horde, La Dolce Vita, 1960 – photo courtesy of Vanity Fair
October 14, 2020
Apparently the good old U.S. is a nation of “not great” sleepers. Really? And I thought I was the only one! According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it was revealed that one out of three Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. Yikes!
October 06, 2020
I think we’re all taken by the incredible mystique of the famous French fashion house, Hermès that has been with us for two centuries and is still owned and operated by the same family. From its beginnings in fine equestrian leather goods, they are – in the tumultuous year 2020 – best known for their handbags and many other items.
My image of Hermès has always been rarified products at equally rarified prices so imagine my surprise when I recently received a very stylish publication of theirs in the mail.