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Straight Talk By Al Jacobs

By Al Jacobs

The Associated Press article titled “Many find U.S. workplace hostile” is revealing. It reports on an in-depth study by the Rand Corporation, the Harvard Medical School and UCLA, of American workers’ attitude toward their employment. Nearly three quarters of those surveyed reported their dissatisfaction that substantial time on the job required “intense or repetitive physical labor.” To add to their displeasure, 78 percent of those interviewed expressed consternation at being “required to be present at their workplaces during working hours.” Apparently the most onerous aspect of employment for many workers is they may not “work on their own time to meet the demands of their job,” or of being unable to “take a break whenever they want to.”

As to intense or repetitive physical labor, I recall the several years in the late 1940s I worked as a bowling alley pinsetter. Setting double lanes for six to eight hours each night enabled me to go home with a princely wage, often as much as $15. I don’t recall ever complaining about the intensity or repetitiveness. As for setting my own hours and taking breaks when I chose, that never seemed an option when I later served as a deck seaman aboard a Navy destroyer. More specifically, I always felt the employer for whom I worked had the right to set the rules. I retained the option to accept or reject the employment. In retrospect, that attitude served me well. Over the decades I’ve prospered handsomely. I never resented the terms of the employment I chose to accept; I matured in a society with different values. Whether or not the worker is better served in today’s permissive environment is questionable … somehow, I doubt it.

The business I operate, rental real estate, requires I employ a variety of persons: resident managers, rental agents, maintenance workers and clerical employees. Some of these jobs are physically demanding or time-consuming. Others require a favorable professional appearance. Although visible tattoos, facial piercings and bizarre clothing or hair styles may be fashionable, job applicants who show up in such a manner may expect to be promptly rejected. We expect those who publicly represent us will do so favorably. Thus far no laws prevent us from supervising our employees rationally.

A final thought: Though both the government and societal pressure may be adversely affecting worker attitudes, the employer may still set reasonable rules. The ancient adage is accurate: Whoever has his thumb on the purse runs the show.

Al Jacobs, a professional investor for nearly a half-century, distributes a monthly newsletter in which he shares his financial knowledge and experience. You may view it on

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About The Author Dana Point Times

comments (1)

  • I’m tired of Jacobs’ continual insinuation that other generations are wimps. He needs to be reminded that his generation matured during a time that intense physical labor (40 hours a week) could pay the rent and feed the family. It was also much more common to have your 40 hour week and be done with work and have time off. Today’s employment force often has more than one job, 2 parents working, and being at the whim of the employer’s timetable. My dad (born in 1922) was able to parlay a single middle class income (sheriff’s dept) into a nearly upper middle class situation because of his timeline in California’s real estate market, i.e. buying a small home, moving to a beach area and buying the next home for $25,000, etc). Good luck doing that now! My daughter has had several jobs. Her first few jobs had owners/managers who would never set a schedule, but post one on Sunday night for the following work week. It never made sense….you’d work mornings one day, an afternoon or evening another, never the same days one week to the next. And this was tiny part-time work (less than 20 hours a week). In effect, the businesses would not allow employees to have other jobs, because they never knew what their hours would be!! This happened at Pier 1 and a yogurt shop in town. The “boss” is not always right or fair. Often, employees are treated like underpaid chattel.

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