Nobody wants to work? It’s more than that.

Nobody wants to work? It’s more than that.

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If you’ve been in public at all lately, you know many places are short staffed. You know there are many places offering crazy hiring bonuses for people who want to apply. You know there is a lot of “stuff” currently going on with employers, employees, and keeping the world running.

We were at Dairy Queen the other day and the gal behind the counter really struggled with our order. She messed it up quite a bit, and when they brought the food out to where we were sitting, she’d forgotten my food completely. I went back up to the counter to say hey, this part of the order is missing, and the gal turned 13 shades of red, and fell all over herself apologizing. It was clear she still trying to figure out the register and where to find stuff on the screen. She looked at me like she was going to cry and then said, “I’m so sorry. It’s my second day.”

I told her it was all good, and she was doing fine.

And while I sat and waited for my food, I started thinking about all the people I hear complaining that no one is working, but then they come upon the people who are working and they’re jerks to them. Absolute jerks.

Listen. If you’re going off about “nobody working” but you’re also a complete ass to the people who *are* working, you should maybe just sit down.

Employee shortages? It’s a complicated argument.

In the employee shortage discussion,  there are generally two basic arguments I hear tossed around.

There’s the people would work if you would pay people what they’re worth! You need to keep up with the cost of living! side, versus the people need to stop being lazy and do what needs to done. If we raise the wage, we have to raise the costs of the product to cover the wages and then we’re not really getting ahead side.

Now, since I’ve got a little farm, I’m going to (loosely) relate these monetary arguments to that for a bit. If I don’t have enough money to pay for all the feed, I can’t buy all the feed. It is good to start out with enough money to pay for the feed. That’s one side of the argument.

The other side of the argument is sort of like I have enough money to pay for the feed, but my costs suddenly go up. If the price of feed shoots through the roof, I have to change what I’m doing. That’s not a commentary on anything, that’s not a political statement, there’s no emotion in that. It’s just a fact of life.

Every change brings about another change.

That might mean less animals on my farm which means less animals in my freezer. Or it might mean I keep the same amount of animals, but shift money from other places to cover the new cost of feed. And that shift of money affects the other things I’m shifting it from—maybe something I was saving towards or another project I’m working to fix on the farm.

Every change brings about another change. 

So, first… this whole wage/cost argument.

If an employer doesn’t raise their wage, they may lose workers to other places that have raised their wage. People are starting to see this in some areas. But, what if an employer does raise their wage, but then can only afford to employ half the people? If there are six employees trying to do work that requires 12 people to be done efficiently, aren’t you then dealing with the same issues there are with employee shortages right now?

Or what if they raise their wage, employ the same amount of people, but say now we can’t offer this or we’re cutting our hours of operation. A lot of businesses local to me have changed their hours permanently, and there are very few 24-hour anythings around us anymore. Additionally, many places have discontinued programs they used to offer—not because there isn’t a need, but because there’s no funding available or people to carry them out. A business needs to get the core stuff running before they focus on extras, right?

So my take on this whole, “pay people more, don’t pay people more” thing? I see both sides.

I understand people who are frustrated that someone just entering the workforce is going to make close to or the same amount as someone who has been working longer. Way back in the day I experienced that when a gal coming into the same position I was working, with less experience than me, started at the same hourly wage I was making at that moment—which I’d gotten to through hard work and raises—so I totally get it. And it sucks.

But, I’m gonna be honest: I also understand my kids working at the places they are working at, and me looking at other local places that are suddenly paying $6-$8 more an hour (with hiring bonuses!) for the same kind of work my kids are currently doing, and I’m wondering why don’t you go work there?

So I absolutely see both sides of it.

Second, the whole nObOdy wANts tO wORk argument.

Besides the argument between “pay people a livable wage” and “we will have to raise prices on everything”, you know what I hear a LOT of? There’s a shortage because, simply put, “nobody wants to work.”

Now, I know there are people out there who don’t want to work. They don’t want to be responsible or productive in any way to their household or their family. They have always existed, and they always will. There will always be that leech on society, there has always been that leech on society.

We all probably know folks who have never really worked, or never held a job for long. We all know people who aren’t super responsible. They don’t have a lot of initiative and they’re just happy to mooch off someone else, whether that’s their friend’s basement couch or the government.

And you know what? Those people have always been that way.

The. pandemic. mess. didn’t. change. that.

But there are too many places with openings, shortages, or places that have flat out closed for this to just be a “hey, people are making more on unemployment/stimulus checks so they’re just sitting back eating Cheetos and raking in the dough.”

There’s more to it than that.

The work environment—and the world—has changed.

Here’s the thing I don’t see being discussed in many conversations yet when the nObOdy wANts tO wOrK thing comes up.

The world has changed. And the work environment people are in now (or are going back to) is not the same work environment they were in (or left) the beginning of the pandemic.

If I wanted to sock away extra money to pay off some debt or put in savings or put towards a project, I could walk into any number of local places right now and I could get have a job before lunch. It would be a freaking cakewalk, you guys. There has never been an easier time to get hired somewhere.

But am I going to do that? No.

Is it that I don’t want to work? Absolutely not.

But do I want to deal with the public and the constantly changing rules and the attitudes and the shortages of product and people?

Nope. I don’t. 

I know people who have quit their jobs in the last couple months. I also know people who are trying to figure out how to retire early—not because they don’t want to work, but because they’re saying screw this. I’m not doing this anymore, it’s not worth it to me. Covid and the pandemic changed everything; employers are changing the way they do things because of new rules (that change every time you turn your head) or the constant shortages, managers are having to demand more of the people who are working, and some people are just saying I’m too old for this shit. I put in my time. I’m done. Life is too short. I don’t need this.

Some people are saying this is the perfect time to start my side hustle.

Some people are saying this is the perfect time to see if we can live on one income.

Some people are saying this is the perfect time for me to see if I can stay home with my kids.

During the height of the pandemic, how many people started up that side hustle and don’t need full time work anymore? Or don’t need any work? Or they’ve become part of some undergroundish gig economy? How many people became stay at home moms and dads and just didn’t go back to work because they realized they could make that work for their family? How many people were told by their employers if you want to keep your job you have to be willing to work remotely, so they did that for however many months… and realized they liked that better, so now they’re looking for some place they can do that permanently?

And every single one of those people is someone who now isn’t answering the call of the “help wanted” signs you see on businesses.

Shortages are everywhere

This is not just a fast food and grocery store and bar/restaurant problem. These shortages aren’t just happening for the person taking your money when you pick up your 12 pack of White Claws. It’s not just a shortage of people collecting carts at the local Walmart. These shortages are in lots of different places, but you don’t see them unless it’s a business or industry that you deal with.

Have you seen the posts talking about the health care workers who are now being told get vaccinated or get fired? I have many family and friends who work in health care. Some of them have flat out said I will quit if my boss makes me get the jab. I have friends who are teachers and substitute teachers in the public school system who have said the same thing: If I’m required to be vaccinated, I’m done.  Will we have a health-care worker shortage in a year? A teacher shortage? A law enforcement shortage? A postal carrier shortage? I don’t know. And if we do, will people be saying things like, “gosh, people just don’t want to work?”

There have always been people who don’t want to work. But not like this. There is more to it, you guys.

I saw an article a few days ago that was talking about a certain 911 call center currently dealing with a significant shortage of workers. If they can find the people who want to take on that job, they have to train them. And it’s a slow process. There are some jobs that you can’t just fill and the next day all is well. 

Shortages are everywhere. And shortages affect businesses in different ways. A shortage of workers can look and feel different, depending on the industry and the job description.

There is no easy answer.

What we are dealing with right now is a bigger thing than I think most people want to have a conversation about. And the problem is that no one is willing to have a conversation. On one side the easy answer is, “no one wants to work because they’re all lazy and stupid and irresponsible and they’re mooching off the government”. The other side’s easy answer is, “no one wants to work until we’re paid what we’re worth”.

Those answers are cop-outs. 

Sometimes there isn’t an easy answer. Sometimes it’s just hard. And I find that the things that have the hardest solutions are the ones where there is truth on both sides of the argument, but both sides have blinders on.

All I’m asking is this:

Regardless of where you’re working or not working, you’re still patronizing these businesses. You’re still dealing with people who are employed. All I ask is that you don’t be an ass.

You have no idea if that server just started. You have no idea if that employee was supposed to go home six hours ago but is still working because there isn’t anyone else to cover that shift. You don’t know if this was supposed to be their weekend off but their employer is so short and because this particular employee happens to be a super helpful person, they’re working again. You don’t know if the cashier is also wondering why there isn’t another checkout line open. 

And if you happen to be one of those people who has been yelling that “nobody wants to work”, when you encounter an issue with a server or a receptionist or a cashier or anybody, I don’t want your first thought to be who to blame for the short staffing or the schedule screw up or the inefficiency. I want your first thought to be, “at least they’re working”.

I came across a picture on social media a couple days ago that I liked. It said, “The whole world is short staffed. Be kind to those who showed up.” I agree, but to that I would add, “and understand that sometimes there’s a really valid reason for those who didn’t show up”

— Amy Dingmann, 8-3-21

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A help wanted sign sitting against an empty chair.

3 thoughts on “Nobody wants to work? It’s more than that.”

  • Hi!

    This is a really good point of view. I agree that things changing and people saying fuck this to certain job conditions, however the real bigger problem is actually just a shortage of people. These massive vacant position numbers were predicted in seminars I went to for hiring and retaining practices 5 years ago BEFORE covid. A large portion of the population are retiring and younger generations have less kids later in life etc etc.

    I really love the main point of this article – be nicer to people and have a conversation about the issues instead of just making the worst assumptions. Can never go wrong with that 🙂

  • Ohhhh yes and I also will bookmark this website and your podcast because I am one of those that said fuck it, but before covid. I’m living on a farm and doing some tourism here and there. Cheers!

  • Personally I find that most people are such narcissistic douchebags (talking about customers here) that I have no interest in helping them. I work in a job with minimal interaction with other workers and no customers to deal with
    But if a customer was getting upset (as many of them did) that wist times on orders are long (even though everyone else is trying to order because it’s New Years Eve and they know everyone is short staffed and they’re lucky were open at all) I would tell them to fuck themselves, to their face, because we don’t need their business and they have no other options. “Learn how to make pizza, or screw yourself, I don’t care which – no matter what you do we’re going to get more business than we can handle”. Crony corporate bureaucracy has forced employees to put up with shitty customers for years and now the tables have turned – they can’t fire you, and even if they do, you can get another job that pays more tomorrow! I am loving this labor shortage because it’s finally given us the opportunity to tell the customer that he’s usually wrong and, no, we don’t need your business. When it comes to who I work with, work for, hire or do business with I no longer have to put up with assholes, and their impotent rage is worth more than a raise.

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