5 Wasteful Things Employers Do (Instead Of Paying Us More)
Corporations love to cry poverty when employees ask for a pay raise or even a full hour for lunch. But somehow they keep coming up with the cash to do useless bullshit framed as morale-boosters, despite the fact that we'd all rather just have the money. But why would they give workers a bonus when they can just give them stuff like ...
"Gifts" Or "Prizes" In The Form Of Company Swag
You know that time off you get when you can forget about it all? The times when you're not only free from physically going to work, but also free from your work email and calls and Slack? That's a nice four hours a year. Well, your bosses would really love it if you could keep the company in mind during your desperate vacation, maybe by wrapping your beer in a koozie with their shitty logo on it, or adding a logo-shaped trinket to your keychain, so that not even getting into your car provides an escape.
Companies love their swag, for reasons no one is quite sure of. A logo-embossed water bottle at Christmas, a T-shirt to celebrate some goal or other that you had nothing to do with. I can't tell you the amount of swag I've received over my near-decade of office work, but I can tell you exactly how much of it didn't end up in a landfill: fucking zero.
This is one of those ideas that you know the leadership team gets super excited about, thanks purely to having zero feedback about it from outside their bubble. They're so confident that the cheap plastic shit they'll be putting on every employee's desk as a token of appreciation will be received like airdropped Salisbury steak to the frozen, battered soldiers in Foy at the Battle of the Bulge.
Your boss will swing by your desk like, "Hey, Amanda, I know you have student loans that you'll never be able to pay off and a parking pass to work at this job is $200 a month, but I just wanted you to have this USB stick with our logo on it because you've worked so hard. Now that's a nice USB stick. Keep up the good work!" So if any leadership of literally any company ever can break away from their Ayn Rand SparkNotes for a second and read this: Just give us a couple bucks instead. I would rather have a fiver I can spend however I please than a Frisbee that constantly reminds me that my job is an unforgiving hellscape.
If just hearing the phrase "team building" sends shivers down your spine, then you're probably one of the many tortured souls who have been put through this gross white-collar waste of time and money. I bet you thought the brutal awkwardness of the group project wouldn't follow you beyond high school or summer camp? Well strap in, because the forced cooperation and "fun" never ends, baby!
The first type of team-building nightmare is the in-office spectacle. And the most common and played-out exercise that employers will strip your dignity with is, of course, the trust fall. During this on-the-nose activity, you're supposed to believe that the very same frail weirdos you've watched sit in cubicles and devour Subway will transform into hunky firefighters in order to safely cradle your descending pre-corpse. Or maybe your office is more into the icebreakers, and you end up with a game of Two Truths and a Lie, which always somehow makes people understand each other even less than before.
And to show that it's not just offices that suffer from this misery, here's Walmart employees being forced to chant about how great their job is to the tune of Queen's "We Will Rock You." It goes from a cringey wake-up activity to a damn David Cronenberg film in about four seconds.
But where team building turns downright criminal is when they take us outside our human terrariums and yet still force us to say things like "I'll need that by EOD." From team-building scavenger hunts through major cities in company-branded attire to escape rooms with people you hate, it's clear that just pulling someone from their desk isn't the recipe for instant communion. Hell, there's even this story about a team-building trip to a paintball center that sounds less like a stress-relief excursion and more like a recreation of Platoon. So maybe just give people that time off instead? Or just let people work and pay them decently for that work? I know, I know, It almost seems too easy.
Obligations are a natural part of the holidays. We're penciled in to see our family and friends on certain dates with certain gifts in tow, and that's just the way it is. And employers have figured "Hey, what's one more brick in their backpack, right?" and have decided to add company parties to your already-stretched-thin itinerary.
The company holiday party is like watching your boss hold up a handful of cash that could have been your year-end bonus right in front of you and then feed it to rats. And all you can do is take one sad bite of your shrimp cocktail and nod your head. These flagrant wastes of money usually lure in employees with an open bar, and and if you're especially unlucky, they'll also have one of those photo booths with the shitty props where Lauren in Sales goes to hold up a tiny little mustache on a stick in front of her face.
The entire night is an internal tango with your id, as you try to ride an impossible line of getting drunk enough to tolerate this cacophonous wail of slurred small talk and not getting so drunk that you do what your soul really came to do and ask your boss about his divorce. There is always -- and I do mean always -- the potential that it could be an outright disaster, and that at best you'll maybe get out of there relatively quickly and unscathed. Ordinarily, these are not expectations people go to a "party" with; they're expectations people go to war with.
How about you skip the nondenominational forced fun around December, and let us spend more time with our actual friends and family? You might be able to give us those aforementioned bonuses, and you'll save a ton on sliders and gift bags (of company swag!) that are always forgotten in the Uber on the ride home.
Employee "Wellness" Programs
Not every corporate money dump is as outwardly stupid as the ones above. In fact, company wellness programs are a really good idea on paper. The gist is simple: Give your employees offerings that make their bodies and minds healthier and happier. Sounds good, right? In fact, it's so good that it's already been invented. It's called giving your employees paid time off and health insurance.
In recent years, things like workplace yoga have grown stupidly popular. The central tenet of yoga seems to be balance, right? Centering yourself, finding that peace and harmony. Meanwhile, offices are based around pushing you to not ask for overtime, because maybe you taking a while to file a thousand things was your fault anyway. I'm sorry, but spirituality and mindfulness cannot live within the walls of the modern office. They're suppressed, in the same way that prisons for superheroes have a way to dull their superpowers.
Workplace wellness gets far worse than yoga, though. Some are going as far as running wellness contests, many of which end up being weight-loss competitions. And just in case you couldn't guess the obvious, or haven't seen that particular episode of The Office, a company-led initiative isn't going to be what kicks anyone into gear to shed pounds. It's awkward and intrusive, and getting a weekly email detailing how the fit people have remained fit and the less-fit have been shamed is about as effective as screaming fat jokes at them during lunch.
Here it is. The granddaddy of them all, the goddamn corporate retreats. These are the exclusive "leadership" trips that seem both useless and like they're taunting everyone who didn't go. And if you work at an office, you probably know them best by the out-of-office email reply that talks about how no one important will be available because they're all in Vegas sharing PowerPoints and watching PowerPoints. But don't worry, as they'll eventually come back with chunks of wisdom that everyone already knew ("Studies show that if you advertise your business, more people know about it!")
Perhaps nobody recently exemplified the insanity of this tradition better than student loan provider Sallie Mae, which recently flew its execs to Maui to celebrate a record year of "sales." That shows you how commonplace and insane these retreats are. If even Sallie Mae has the balls to do this, you can be damn sure that your company is also retreating far and wide with dollars that could be spent on you instead.
What's so great about these retreats is just how vengefully unnecessary they are. If you take them at their word (don't ever actually fucking do that), then their purpose is usually for the corporate team and leadership people to learn and road map ways to make the company more successful. Sure, OK, but can't they do that in the same stale conference room that we're in, rather than a sailboat encircling some resort? I guess fresh Hawaiian air does wonders when it comes to devising new ways to squeeze more work out of fewer and fewer people.
But, and I know this sounds radical, how about they just forego the airplane tickets and retreat to a large desk in our actual office, like the rest of us? Then they can game-plan a way to slide 16 extra cents a month into our paycheck, and it will literally be more beneficial than their extravagant tropical middle finger to the entire workforce.
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