Sunday, December 03, 2006

"I Love My Job"

Recently I had to sit through a training session on a certain supermarket's secret shopper program. As you all know, during the hiring process for many companies there is a period where the many benefits of the company are hyped, its superiority to competitors is extolled, and an attitude of blind subservience and corporate jingoism is instilled. (This isn't to say managers are bad people or anything of the kind, to be clear.) The particular mouthpiece for the company in question described how she was once a bagger (or "Courtesy Clerk") and has now ascended the rungs of the company. She then said, "I love my job."

Of course, my political mind is always operating, and I was wondering how I could rebut this presumption on her part. I don't know her; might she enjoy her job?

Absolutely. After all, being in a managerial echelon, she had some degree of self-management and control. And even if she had been a menial worker at the bottom of the totem pole, one can always find individuals in a society who, for whatever reason, collaborate with oppression or at least tolerate it enough to lie to themselves that they "love" the roles that they play. But comments she made indicated a lot of what lay even under her attitude.

For one, she mentioned that it's not "worth it" to lose a job over theft. While this is somewhat ambiguous, it seemed to me that this indicated that, like everyone else, she viewed a job as an economic asset, not a treasured personal one. She surely did not speak about her labor the same way she spoke about her children. She went on to further imply this by saying that, were she to lose her job over a commodity, it would be a "$900,000 car" or something very valuable. It's pretty clear that she views her job in economic, not personal, terms.

Just ask yourself for one moment: Imagine any of those people you have heard who say they love their job. Now, first, ask how many of them were janitors, fry cooks or even bottom-of-the-corporate-ladder programmers. Then ask what I think is the most important question: If they won the lottery tomorrow, winning, say, $30 million after taxes (just to give them enough that they really wouldn't need to work ever and could survive on $200,000 a year for 50 years with $20 million left), would they come into work? Any kind of work?

I can think of virtually no person who would do so. A possible exception would be the Professors at my university. People animated by passion in a generally much freer environment who can define their own work conditions, despite working very hard.

The point? Until we replace our economic system, most people won't love, or even like, their job. They will loathe it, no matter how large their insincere smile.