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Social Problems in Enterprise Unix Administration

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Over 50 and unemployed

Corporate bullshit
Toxic managers Micromanagement Toxic stress The psychopath in the corner office Burnout Overload
 Orthodox Christianity and Russian Religious Humanism IT Offshoring Skeptic Education Slackerism Humor Etc

Under neoliberalism IT workers are invariably characterized as a new type of worker, so called knowledge worker, but in reality they are is several ways are more exploited and less protected then blue collar job.

While world of organized labor is filled with hidden animosity and threat of strikes, the word of IT is more about subtle art of office politics where instead of strikes, insinuations and subterfuge prevails.  Office hamsters seems to be unable of any political organizing and tend to join the party that is winning. It was C. Wright Mills who noted this interesting political mediocrity of office workers. They also tend ot associate themselves more with management then with lower level office workers and blue color labour.

The corporate world is characterized by both affluence as well as pervasive fear. As well as almost complete loss of personal autonomy. Striving for approval of others It professionals at the same time find themselves in competition with others. There is a social pressure to work long hours. It is a casual bled of tedious, bland paperwork, and attempt solving complex problem inherent in the complexity of modern OS and datacenter.

The nature of bureaucracy in IT is generally similar to military bureaucracy: it is self-protecting, easily wounded with the need to be constantly flattered by those who are down the food chain. Often the team structure impose severe limitations of personal productivity and it is always require to avoid steps that would make the boss look bad. In other words boss security is more important then getting gob done or finding some innovative solutions for the project.

Fear demonstrates itself first of all in unwillingness to take risks. The entire system put strong demand " to participate", no matter in if the direction is absurd and self-defeating for the organization.  In other words "antagonistic cooperation" in modern IT is guided by strict rules and God forbid your to breach one of those unwritten rules, especially regarding your boss.

the language is polluted by corporate bullshit, such as claims by upper management  "employees are always our great assets" during cruel company of downsizing and off shoring.

Conformism pervading large corporation didn't come out of nowhere. Large role in establishing of "dictatorship of mediocrity" belongs to to central HR. It is HR that is the center of generating "corporate bullshit" in attempting to smooth out inherent conflicts in the office and drown them into meaningless, conflict less phrases taken directly from 1984 Newspeak textbook. You know "Freedom is slavery"...

Like Big Brother in 1984 large corporation is not content with just mangling the language of employees. It is also attempt to mold their personalities. This strategy is implemented via system of performance reviews, a modern corporation torture camera; not that different from those use ised in 1984 in its essence.

By steadily eliminating dissidents, performance reviews enforce groupthink. Beside tendency to promote individuals that are more authoritarian ("kiss up kick down"), conservative, cautious and "other-directed" performance reviews produce its own "dictatorship of mediocrity", not that different from fake "dictatorship of proletarian" is the USSR.

Like "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" nonconformism may be accidentally rewarded but exceptions only confirm the rule.


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Cubed A Secret History of the Workplace

Amazon.com
Dr. Cathy Goodwin (Philadelphia, PA USA) - See all my reviews (VINE VOICE) (TOP 500 REVIEWER)

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at a major institution in society, March 17, 2014

Saval's book is a "must-read" for anyone interested in the world of work. For one thing, the author chose a topic that's gotten little attention from researchers or popular writers. He takes us through the history of the office, going back to the days of all-male offices with male clerks. He traces the development of office equipment - not just typewriters, but even desks and filing cabinets.

We also get reminded of past workplace trends.

Remember GIlbreth's Cheaper By The Dozen? This family dynamic was fueled by an offshoot of Taylorism, a system of measuring productivity that seems cruel to many of us today.

And then remember the 40s, 50s and 60s? The world of Mad Men and the movie The Best of Everything? Women dressed up in dresses, hose and heels (girdles, too!) sitting at rows of typewrters. Katherine Gibbs School was the female Harvard MBA, an entry to the most elite secretarial positions.

Cubed then fast forwards to the present, where companies experiment with a variety of formats, including open offices resembling coffee shops and coworking spaces.

Cubed is best read as a series of loosely themed chapters. My only quibble is that the focus of the chapters (what social scientists call the unit of analysis) shifts. Clerks, secretaries, engineers, call center workers, and software developers might work in similar spaces, but their perspectives will be different, as they have widely divergent opportunities for promotion, marketability and day-to-day flexibility. An engineer sitting in a cubicle probably can take off a couple of hours to get a hair cut or run an errand; a clerk or call center worker probably cannot do the same. That's huge.

Ultimately Cubed seems to raise many questions that demand answers in future books and articles. For one thing, everyone agrees that offices are highly stressful places. We didn't hear much talk about stress in the early days of work, possibly because people had lower expectations and less understanding of the impact of stress on health. But today there's a certain irony in the fact that companies gripe about increasing medical bills and pay for wellness centers, while adding to workers' health risks by dialing up the stress levels.

An even bigger elephant in the room is the alliance of government infrastructure to the cubicle world. People who work full time for large companies get access to benefits that are beyond the reach of all but the richest self-employed entrepreneurs. In a world where jobs are becoming obsolete, the next shift needs to take workers out of the "job" mindset. I remember hearing companies described as "little Swedens" back in the day when you were covered for all sorts of benefits and you were rarely terminated except for egregious cause. Now, as Cubed points out, workers can challenge the structure by becoming freelancers. Ultimately, the ability to work on one's own terms will carry the day, not the unions.

Finally, we could take the whole concept one step further and note that every aspect of life in the world today is becoming cubed, including health and education sectors. We look for systems, processes and ultimately uniformity

John L Murphy "Fionnch˙"

4.0 out of 5 stars In-depth review: from the typing pool to the cubicle, March 4, 2014 Vine Customer Review of Free Product

How did Bartleby the Scrivener spawn Dilbert, and why does their "unnatural" office space compel over sixty percent of Americans to labor there, often in tasks divorced from farm or field so much that the work seems invisible, and its productions intangible? One wonders, if in a "cubicle farm", why employees in an electronic era must be corralled in this interior labyrinth. Despite computers and smartphones, many must commute. They may enter open-form layouts, replacing flimsy grey partitions, but raising walls of chat; we see headphones advertised now not for jets but during 9-to-5.

I remain uncertain about the "secret history" subtitle. The book delivers a steady report but like its subject may not always excite the reader. This lacks the salacious rumors of Procopius' Byzantine courtiers or the gothic menace of Donna Tartt's novel. Nikil Saval's history credits a more stolid literary forebear, as clerks marked the arrival of a new type of mass-employed common man. Bartleby's odd situation, when offices themselves seemed a novelty in mid-nineteenth-century Manhattan, rapidly transformed tedious if cleaner manual labor for clerks, who, at first like Melville's protagonist and his colleagues remained largely male, and often derided for their foppish fashion and pretenses to culture. They fought back against the system once in old Manhattan, so as to purportedly get off at 8 p.m., to attend debating societies or to frequent the lending library before it closed. Saval notes how their status, as salaried, meant that they spent long hours (if often with not much to do) earning their keep, and how this cut them off from the laboring masses, resigned to hourly wages or piecework.

Time management, by the 1920s, had long put paid to the leisurely pace of Bartleby. Adding machines, typewriters, bells, and bosses accelerated the working day. Railroad dispersion necessitated the division of corporations into stratified departments. The "company ladder" loomed. Specialization required that tasks were aided by telecommunication and divided into vast spaces filled with desks, similar to the factory floors, for both demanded "labor-saving" machinery, which led only to more products and then more memos, more invoices, more letters, and more calls for harried salaried staff. (The psychologist Martin Seligman has recently defined "learned helplessness," as paperwork in turn spawned voicemail, run-arounds, and depression deepens as today's customers face bureaucratic and corporate tedium.)

"Taylorism" dominated as rational, "scientific management". Bureaucracy enabled women, who by 1920 comprised half of the ranks under the hierarchy Taylorism required, to take on the perceived or practical advantages of clerical work. This led to many disadvantages of disparity, as when male bosses took advantage by their own office politics, and the scheming secretary on the rise led to a provocative archetype promoted in Depression-era stories and films. Predictably, "white-collar" wages stagnated once "unskilled" jobs were associated with "white-blouse" stereotypes. Meanwhile, regimentation for all meant that desks lined up, bosses carried stopwatches, and the sole "restroom" might be a few flights up, near executives who sat in their suites behind doors, glass or wooden. On the open floor, as supervisors scanned the ranked as they filed, "time would not be given, but stolen".

Air conditioning, skyscrapers, file cabinets, Dictaphones, stenography, skylights, adjustable chairs: the innovations applied to this workplace may endure or fade, but as Saval narrates, "what passed for workers' welfare could with a little imagination be seen as social control". The words "system", "order", and "efficiency" proved to managers that the monotony of office work preserved its appeal. The less that salaried staff had to worry about on the job, went the rationale, the less fuss they made.

Could the typist pool or the steno staff revolt? It seemed doubtful, but fearing unions and Marxists, a "pop Freudianism" soothed managers. Their staffs feared not losing their jobs, as blue-collar workers did, but not getting credit for a job well done. "The way to counter the threat, the managers decided, was to design better offices." These "human relations" specialists favored environments conducive to cooperation rather than competition, to advance harmony. This led to more glass, alongside the steel. We see its results in Ayn Rand's Fountainhead and in Mad Men's Sterling Cooper advertising agency.

These postwar paeans to Cold War affluence, however, rose over cities. These, for many, discouraged rather than encouraged affection. Suburban office parks answered the need for more space, and more of a lateral rather than vertical presence as corporations led or followed the flight from the skyscraper. AT&T's Bell Labs in New Jersey pioneered the long corridor: this is where, subsequent management gurus suggested, ideas might be generated as colleagues passed each other many times daily. Yet, the totality of the corporate presence, epitomized even in the better-designed structures that sprawled, discouraged others in the 1950s. Lonely Crowds, Power Elites, Hidden Persuaders, and Organization Men in Gray Flannel Suits (to combine a few popular works of that era's social criticism), connoted a "soft totalitarianism" as advertisers and bosses colluded to lock up Americans in conforming cages.

The Crowd (1928) and The Apartment (1960) convey the effects of "gigantism" as consolidation eliminated small business and the individual's ambitions, unless for the bathroom key. IBM's dress code matched its punch-card mentality, and its uniformity that it trumpeted as the future. Such firms countered with a PR campaign assuring "more opportunities for better work", of course. As always, many welcomed the security of the corporation, the amenities of the office, and the steady salary. Justifying itself to the public, free enterprise via business-speak generated its own safe jargon.

Safety might spawn seduction, if not secure secrets. Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl (1962) and Sex and the Office (1964) beckoned working-class secretaries to snatch small joys during or after work, "through strategies of small subversion". Marriage need not be the goal, and staying single did not condemn a gal from climbing up the ladder at work in her own way, on her own time.

But closed doors and executive suites remained the domain of few in the office space. Jacques Tati's Playtime (1967) portrays in a futuristic but ramshackle Paris the cubes in which many of us work. In 1958, furniture maker Herman Miller furthered through ergonomics Robert Propst's Action Office, defined as "a mind-oriented living space" functioning as "a place for transacting abstractions". Theory-Y, advanced by Douglas McKenzie in 1960, pushed the ideal of Abraham Maslow's self-actualization into the realm of desks and chairs. Peter Drucker appealed as a management guru, reaching out to anxious if compliant "knowledge workers". "For businessmen who read no philosophy, Drucker was their philosopher." Such theorists, for a restless generation of managers seeking to boost productivity while streamlining movement, spurred the open-plan. Workstations fostered innovation, but installation led to cubicles, perpetuating what were invented as temporary partitions. Saval confirms the trade-off: the sounds of typing and phones could never be silenced by carpeting or sound screens. Introspection and concentration gave way to interactive communication.

Two decades after Propst's proposals, his humanistic vision of a flexible set-up at work had led to its opposite, as Tati had envisioned. By the end of the 1970s, "that beige, dishonest decade", conversion to cubicles and open-space confined as many workers as feasible in as small a blueprint as possible. Diversifying workers did not lead to diversifying workplaces. More office work was rationalized, requiring fewer specialized skills. But higher levels of education were required. Those frustrated as their ambitions met with drudgery blamed themselves along with the system for their lack of success.

They may have escaped the factories and farms of their forebears, but the same tedium awaited them.

The trend exalting whimsical post-modern rather than glass-and-steel modernism for the skyscrapers of the 1980s mattered little to those who rode the elevators. Corporations increasingly did not need the cubicles. Worried executives and pressured middle managers made bestsellers out of business books. But Japanese Theory-Z failed. Manufacturing was automated or offshored. White-collar "post-industrial" work, promised as security by Drucker, faltered. Meaner, leaner downsizing followed.

Even the cubicles shrank, between a fourth and half, between the mid-1980s and the 1990s. Some were built by prisoners, who at night might return to their own fabricated stalls. Apple's workers refused them, and they were removed. IBM kept reducing them; employees reasoned this was meant to increase their miserable conditions such that nobody would want to show up anymore, and thus the savings on office space would reward their employer. Saval observes how cubicles make workers close enough to "create serious social annoyances, but dividing them so they didn't actually feel that they were working together". No wonder satire rebounded with Dilbert then and Office Space soon.

Did the PC advance the liberation that the Action Office predicted? Keystrokes monitored, errors subtracted, talking tallied: this depersonalized routine deadened many who sought to save their clerical jobs as automation created fewer positions but more apathy along the digitized assembly-line. Administrative assistants, renamed, arguably enjoyed less status than secretaries, who by their relationships with their bosses might gain some autonomy and respect. By contrast, the predictable data entry into electronic devices allowed supervisors to watch this labor as a detached process.

Before the start-up crash, fantasies continued. The paperless office and the non-territorial workspace emerged as paradigms sought by disgruntled designers. Telecommuting met with skepticism as managers feared losing control over their workers. Silicon Valley, on the other hand, since the 1980s issues "utopian prognostications" about the workplace of the libertarian, decentralized future. Their cubicles, started in the 1960s, stood for a rebellion against hierarchy and an installation of equality. But soon, as IBM epitomized, this structure embedded conformity. Apple and Microsoft turned to more closed offices, as workers opted to stay home to work as the noise interfered in their cubicles.

Timed for the stock market's fall, 1999's Office Space sends up the dead-end jobs at "a grey tech company". The series The Office and novels by Ed Park (Personal Days) and Joshua Ferris (And Then We Came to the End) sustain this dark vision since that cult film appeared. Saval explains that it targeted "the unholy expectation of the modern workplace, which asked for dedication and commitment, offering none in return". Beyond the cubicle, the big-box retailers and chain diners betray the same homogenized failure. For a few, Saval shows, this disenchantment with corporate life led to another go around. TBWA/Chiat Day redesigned a bold campus for its staff after 1997. Their virtual Gehry-designed paperless office failed. They replaced it, but to Saval that still feels like Disneyland. The "cheerful haphazardness" of Google's headquarters perplexes him, but at least you can take your dog to work.

As the 2012 decision at Yahoo ordering workers to come to the office rather than work at home has demonstrated, the changing technologies that energize Silicon Valleys and Alleys alter the workplace. The "cloud" may puff up the temp economy even more; the Dutch insurance firm Interpolis displays a second option, which gives employees more power over whether they want to come to an office to work at a variety of spaces (they have only a locker), or stay at home for part of their workweek. Mobile phones connect workers, no matter where they choose. Still, as Saval listens to a Marx-quoting manager, he realizes what one may call "trust" based on "activity-based working" may for workers appear as tacit "consent" to what a boss wishes to implement to get all of the jobs done.

Saval's skepticism serves this book well. He keeps a wary eye on boosters from the business bestseller shelf, and he looks around where he is guided to check out the claims by managers and designers as tested against his own experience. He visits with Professor Richard Greenwald in Brooklyn, who champions the freedom while admitting the worry in contract work by freelancers. Fewer companies take on more workers, but a "frayed safety net" extends where no stability endures.

Open-source firm GitHub claims to be a non-managed, bossless office; like Interpolis, it breaks up its space into many configurations. Yet over seven out of every ten of its employees work at home. Many may come to the place once or twice a month, so the "serendipitous encounters" the designers hope to encourage by its innovative architecture may not happen much at all. Co-working shared spaces suggest another alternative, not beholden or built for one company, and this may lead, Saval reasons, to more rewarding "creative collisions" with other workers outside one's firm or field.

Autonomy persists as the worker's ideal. Promised by many managers and parroted by many gurus, its actual presence appears to diminish from a typical, however high-tech, work site. Freelancers and contingent labor, after all, may possess a degree of freedom not given to the salaried permanent staffer, but the uncertainty of living from one elusive paycheck to the next brings its own strictures. One may long to leave the cubicle as once one escaped the typing pool, but a corner office may not reward today's seeker who wants to make his or her workplace more than a location to log in or sit at.

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Lonely Crowds, Power Elites, Hidden Persuaders, and Organization Men in Gray Flannel Suits (to combine a few popular works of that era's social criticism), connoted a "soft totalitarianism" as advertisers and bosses colluded to lock up Americans in conforming cages.

Safety might spawn seduction, if not secure secrets. Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl (1962) and Sex and the Office (1964) beckoned working-class secretaries to snatch small joys during or after work, "through strategies of small subversion". Marriage need not be the goal, and staying single did not condemn a gal from climbing up the ladder at work in her own way, on her own time.

Timed for the stock market's fall, 1999's Office Space sends up the dead-end jobs at "a grey tech company". The series The Office and novels by Ed Park (Personal Days) and Joshua Ferris (And Then We Came to the End) sustain this dark vision since that cult film appeared. Saval explains that it targeted "the unholy expectation of the modern workplace, which asked for dedication and commitment, offering none in return".

Beyond the cubicle, the big-box retailers and chain diners betray the same homogenized failure. For a few, Saval shows, this disenchantment with corporate life led to another go around. TBWA/Chiat Day redesigned a bold campus for its staff after 1997. Their virtual Gehry-designed paperless office failed. They replaced it, but to Saval that still feels like Disneyland. The "cheerful haphazardness" of Google's headquarters perplexes him, but at least you can take your dog to work.
 

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