The Nahployment 'Crisis'

Believe me, most managers are lazy and would love nothing more than putting everybody on a fixed schedule. But people aren’t robots… they get sick, they days off, have to take a child to the doctor, get hired, get fired, quit, need training, grandmother dies. Most people don’t like night shift or second shift, so they have to rotate staff through it.

Besides, doing the schedule is really only hard if you give a shit about your employees. Most managers just tick through a list of names, call them up, and say “hope you weren’t doing anything on Saturday night.” Employees are used to it.

If it sounds like this isn’t in anyone’s best interests, spare a thought for the shareholders.

I think a lot of people, forced to stay home and ‘family’ in a new way, discovered some surprising things about their own lives.

Like they CAN afford to live on one income if they aren’t shopping at the mall every few days, paying for 4 sports/activities, or the daily commute/parking/lunch, etc. Or that heaps of anxiety, hair loss, weight gain, high blood pressure, was actually directly connected to their job environment or commuting demands. Some will have cut back on their vices, forced by finances, lack of exposure/opportunity, etc.

A not insignificant number of families will have noticed the marriage/home life is happier, less stressful. The kids may be thriving without that stress, with added parental interaction, more play together, more work/play together. Symptoms of ongoing anxiety/depression, in adults and children may have diminished or resolved entirely.

I just think some families will have caught a glimpse of what life could be like without a lot of the things they took for granted as necessary. I also think a lot of people will have benefited from being away from the imaginary judgement of others.

I believe some are having epiphanies, recognizing, “I guess I didn’t really need/want XX.” A slight salary increase isn’t likely to bring that person back, in my opinion.

Taking people off a schedule without notice due to unforeseen circumstances is understandable and unfortunately a regular thing for me over the past couple years. It’s putting people on the schedule without notice that strikes me as bad management. If I did that I would be essentially saying, “keeping the office open is more important to me than respecting you and your commitments”.

I believe you, I myself am a manager and try very hard to keep staff on a fixed schedule. But stuff happens, and for the past year+ we’ve had a barebones employee count. Two people out on the same day means we have to close an office and two other employees are out of work for so many hours that week.

I’ll move people from one office to the other without notice - that’s my prerogative, if you’re on the clock I get to choose where you go so long as I cover the cost of travel. If you actually have something scheduled right after work I’ll let you leave in time to make up for the extra distance, because as far as I’m concerned closing an office 15 minutes early is a whole lot better than closing the whole day. I won’t (and can’t) make someone come in on their off-day.

An aside, I’ve had employee applicants who turned down the job (and quit their previous job) because we weren’t fully staffed.


In many areas, inflation in house pricing has very little to do with how many low to medium income people are looking for housing. It has to do with a combination of housing being taken off the market for actual living in so that it can be used for short-term rentals by the week or less at high prices (therefore also making it possible to sell housing at high prices for that purpose), combined with builders preferring to produce high-priced housing including when much of it winds up being used as second homes or, again, as short-term rentals. And often, as has been said, zoning and/or other approval processes that prioritize or even require high-priced housing.

Maybe they need to rethink the qualifications being required, including being willing to train on the job? Or is it not legal to hire people for those positions who don’t already have all the right pieces of paper?

Some of them may be dead.

Others may have too much brain fog, or other long-covid problems, to be able to do the work. Or they may be caring for people in that state; or, as has been said, they may be providing care to children or others who they used to have reliable alternative care for, but that care is no longer reliably available.

Some of them may have become self-employed.

Oh, and are those nice people wearing masks when around others in the office? Are the clients? Are the clients nice people or at least required to behave as such while dealing with the company, and/or are the people who would be doing the jobs the company can’t fill protected from having to deal with the nasty ones?

Are the people they can hire expected to do large amounts of extra work because of the unfilled positions? (That one can admittedly be a nasty catch-22 for the employers; at least, presuming that those employers have already taken on all the work they themselves can shoulder, which many have.)

And this isn’t new, though it may well have gotten worse. I had a waitressing job in the 1970’s that was like that. And which I quit, in significant part for that reason; I kept getting promised a regular schedule, but one never materialized, I was just supposed to show up for work whenever they decided they needed me and go home whenever they thought they didn’t.

And some of them just plain finally got enough sleep, possibly for the first time since they were small children; discovered that much of their problems were due to chronic sleep deprival; and were able to think clearly enough, once they were awake, to sort out possible alternative ways to live their lives.

This is the part I really don’t get. Don’t these restaurants have any kind of “usual” flow of business? I can understand sometimes needing to add a new shift if another employee is out sick or on vacation that week, or something, but that shouldn’t be happening every week (at least, not unless you’re in the middle of a pandemic :smiley:)

I used to work at Pizza Hut in high school. We pretty much knew which days/shifts would be busy, and which would be slow. There was some variance in the schedule because most employees were in highschool, but for the older staff, they pretty much knew from week to week when they’d be working. Friday and Saturday evenings, sure, lots of pizzas get sold. Every other Wednesday (Government payday in a government town), yeah, lots of pizzas get sold. Schedule more staff those nights, less on others.

The local pub I hang out at these days, you can tell the day of the week by who is working the bar. Start drinking at 3pm on a Saturday, and you know you’ll have to cash out with person X when the shift changes around 5 and person Y takes over. It’s like that every week, unless it’s a big day like Superb Owl Sunday.

Do other restaurants just have completely random changes in how busy they are week to week?

OT but this was the most amazing thing about retirement. I didn’t know how tired I was all the time because I was used to it. Life looks much different when you are well rested.

I don’t know about all of them. That particular place had two family member waitresses who did get regular schedules. I think the boss just thought that he was entitled to screw anybody else around. If he’d told me to start with that he was thinking of me just as occasional fill-in and that I’d never have regular hours, I wouldn’t have been so ticked off at him (though I might not have taken the job; and by the time I quit I had additional reasons to be ticked off at him.) But he kept telling me that after the first couple of weeks he’d give me a regular schedule; and after the first couple of weeks I kept asking for one, and he’d say he’d have it for me soon, and it just kept not materializing.

The place closed down at some point within the next couple of years, I no longer remember when; but I don’t know whether that had anything to do with how he treated the waitstaff. It might have had more to do with things like serving undercooked pork and then getting annoyed at customers who complained.

Yeah. I get caught up sometimes in the winter, at least; so I can tell the difference. A lot of people never get properly caught up. A day or two isn’t enough to do it, if you’ve been running short for more than a couple of days; and many people spend their vacations also being busy, just at different things, and hauling themselves out of bed so they can fit into their “vacation” all of the things they wanted to do.

Because, assuming the job market is such that they can get workers to put up with it, it saves them on labor costs. Busy? Call Fred and say I need you here in an hour. Not busy? Send Darla home, even if she’s only worked an hour (and maybe had no tables and therefor no tips).

I feel so fortunate. My last job was for a 24/7 call center and my days off were Friday and Saturday. One Saturday I got a call from the manager who actually sounded apologetic. “A lot of people called in sick and we’re getting slammed. Would you mind coming in?”

“I don’t mind but I’m in [town] – an hour east of where I live.” He already knew I lived another half hour east of where work was so I was an hour and a half from showing up.

“Ah, never mind, then.”

It’s all related. If you run a crappy restaurant, customers won’t come back. Without a steady stream of customers, you won’t be able to run your business with any degree of predictability. Without any predictability, you won’t staff appropriately. If you don’t have the right staff, your service will be crap and so on.

Mother Jones has a series of articles on all these issues this month. There’s a graph in one of them that I think is interesting.

Scroll down to the graph “Workers are quitting at the highest rates in a decade”.

From 2013-2019, the number of quits was already trending upwards, and by amounts that can’t be explained merely by population growth over that time. The US went from about 1.5 million quits/month to about 2.3-2.4 quits/month, a jump of about 60%. The pandemic seems to have just accelerated a trend that already existed.

There’s something in the culture of work in the US that is gradually driving more and more people to tell their bosses to shove it, and it’s not just the pandemic.

I wonder whether some of it has to do with cell phones?

For most jobs, it used to be that when you were off work, you were off work. Your boss might have wanted to call you up to ask you questions or to demand you come in to work – but your phone was a land line, and it just wasn’t practical to expect most people to always be where they could answer it. So the expectation wasn’t there that workers could be called up at any time about work.

It seems now that for an increasing number of jobs there’s no such thing as being off work. There were always some jobs like that; but not as many of them.

It also used to be that a job that required you to be on-call 24/7 paid more money than jobs that didn’t. That is no longer true.

I walked out in the middle of my work day in August 2019. As a result, I am not eligible for re-hire with the state for the rest of my life. I guess I’ll just have to live with that.

They were also more likely to be jobs for which that made sense. My father was a doctor. He wasn’t always on call on his days off, but often he was; and when he was, he needed to be within range of a phone, or at least within range of someone who could call him to it. If we went out to eat, for instance, before we left he’d call the restaurant and tell them they might get a call for him, and call the medical answering service and tell them where he was going, so that he’d only be out of reach for the length of the drive. But it was obvious why there needed to be some doctors on call at any given moment, even on Sunday or at three in the morning.

My boss just last weekend sent me a text message at 8:30pm last nigh asking for something, prefaced by “Don’t let this take time away from your family, blah, blah, blah”

Then at 11am she send an email “following up on my request from last night”

The only reason she put in the “Do not let this take time …” BS is that they are required to do so by a corporate directive after a further deterioration in “engagement score” related to work-life balance. Anyone taking it literally is going to find themselves out of a job.

ETA: My job has NO features that require weekend work beyond “making your boss look good”

Sure, remember that scene in Office Space where his boss leaves him like 40 messages to come in on Saturday?

Personally, I think the main issue is people are having a harder time reconciling the “bullshitification” of work with the reality. And it creates a cognitive dissonance that stresses people out.

Like if I just “do my job”, somehow that’s not enough. So they don’t really explain what your job actually is and what it isn’t.

As much as my company frets about turnover, that’s pretty much the reason. If you aren’t quite sure what the next phase of your job entails and someone else comes along and says “I’ll pay you more to do xyz”, it’s tough to make a case not to take it.

A long article from the MIT Sloan Management Review about what is driving the great resignation. It’s really too long for me to summarize, but here’s their list of what’s driving quits

  • A toxic corporate culture is 10 times more important than pay in predicting resignations. They say “toxic cultures include failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior.”
  • job insecurity and reorganization
  • high levels of innovation. “we found that the more positively employees talked about innovation at their company, the more likely they were to quit.” This is possibly being driven by data from Nvidia, Tesla, and SpaceX; three extremely innovative companies that are having trouble retaining employees. My thought is innovative companies may have in demand workers with many job offers.
  • failure to recognize employee performance
  • poor COVID-19 response

Their list of things to “boost short term retention”

  • lateral career opportunities
  • remote work opportunities
  • company sponsored social events
  • offering predictable schedules

Glad it’s not my problem to balance “social events” and “poor COVID-19 response.”

I suspect that “company sponsored social events” are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Social events are fine. The problem is when the powers that be think those are a solution rather than a band-aid.

I saw a quote from a manager that was surprised that ‘millenials’, i.e. anybody younger than himself, didn’t really want ping pong tables and bean-bag chairs - they wanted decent pay, work/life balance, and benefits. At some point, the people in charge lose touch with what it was like to be those folks - or they never had a clue in the first place.

I personally had a manager like that. We had a “rightsizing” (why does the ‘right’ size never involve hiring people to fill needed positions?) and a year later we needed to hire some people because, surprise of surprises, we were falling behind. One of the layoffs had, in the interim, moved to Canada and got a decent contract position. When contacted about coming back and working not full time but on contract, he declined and my manager complained about why they weren’t willing to come back to this ‘great’ opportunity to work on contract for no more than 3 months guaranteed and no guarantee of eventual permanent employment. It takes all of 5 seconds to see why somebody with socialized health care, better unemployment benefits, etc wouldn’t cross borders again for a position where they’d have to pay gobs of money out of pocket for health insurance (not health care but insurance), out of pocket for social security, out of pocket for any vacation time they might want to take. It’s freaking clueless. Of course, that manager was about 6 months shy of retirement and thinking things were still like the 70s.