Work That Has No Worth

September 19, 2018

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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.

ONE: TELEMARKETERS

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.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK.

CONGRATS TO RALPH LAUREN: MARKING 50 YEARS IN BIZ

Shaun Nelson-Henrick

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