One of the most common causes of anxiety I see is that which is caused by one’s job. Either the work relationships, the work atmosphere, work demands, or job security, are factors in creating employee-worker anxiety.
Today’s story in the New York Times about how Chinese workers are mistreated by Apple Company reminds one of those times before the turn of the 20th century when the great industrialists abused the labor force long before 8 hour work days and child labor laws were passed -- presumably in an alleged and revered ‘free market’. While the relevance such a story has for an American wage earner, employed or unemployed, is questionable,
the one thing in common with such alleged abuses by Big Business over the employee wage earner, aside from unnecessary mental duress and physical ill health, is the great consternation of the worker as to whether they can produce the demand from management regardless of whether the work can be, on a practical
level, logistically accomplished or not.
This morning a friend shared with me that CableOne, a company owned by the Washington Post, and presumably the Washington Post itself, is currently engaged in a work force strategy to downsize their labor force by attrition. When a worker retires or moves on, the position is not hired out but instead the duties of the departing worker is spread out among the remaining workers, increasing the work demand, and stress, on each worker, ad infinitum until someone either screams, quits or until productivity suffers.
Spreading the duties of one departing worker over several is not the only cause of occupational anxiety. Job security and ethnic competition is another.
A few months ago two patients shared with me that they and 13 other bookkeeper/accountants working in the Finance Department at the Biloxi Grand Casino were instructed to train Indonesians in their work. After the 90-day training period they were all called in and given a six month severance pay. Their jobs were given to the Indonesians they had just trained. As a 58 year old, one was very anxious over not being able to find another job. They are now befuddled over the national debate about the need for more jobs. “For whom?” they ask.
A bricklayer, married with two children paying a mortgage, was told his previous bid for performing a fixed amount of brickwork for a long-term general contractor on the Coast was reneged in favor of three Hispanic bricklayers who came behind him and undercut his discounted wage. The Hispanic workers work as
a unit and offered the contractor lower labor wages. Interestingly, the three Hispanic families lived together in the same house, sharing expenses.
A master welder and long time county resident shared with me last year that, out of work and at the end of his savings, he offered to work/weld for tug boat builders Gulf Ship, Inc. well below his $21/hour wage but was denied work even though there were ‘For Hire’ posters hanging because he was told Armenians were doing the welding at $9/hour. This from a company which was given a 10-year tax exemption by county supervisors for establishing their tug boat building business on county (taxpayer-owned) 13-acre plot.
Other work related issues causing anxiety and stress shared by other patients include being denied work at a large nursery in Stone County in favor of an ethnic crew that worked for cash-only 14 hour days. An employee at Northrop-Grumman shared that they were told to learn Spanish in order to train incoming Puerto Ricans to work in the shipyard.
Is any of it fair? Legal? Ethical? It probably doesn’t matter with respect to addressing the feelings of job-related anxiousness. The only thing that matters is how, if you find yourself in one of these situations, how well you will adjust and accommodate yourself to the challenges before you. Unless of course you are able to lead a group or organization, or participate in a meaningful way, in addressing the changes, by way of politics and legislation, that are necessary in making Big Business and/or the system to adhere those values that we know are more enduring to the betterment of all than those that currently drive the existing model.
Medication can treat how one feels, and can help one think clearer or organize their thoughts better, but it doesn’t have one iota’s effect on the prevailing work environment, Big Business attitude, or the financial incentives that are causing worker-anxiety. Only each and everyone of us, pulling together, in some form or fashion, can make or begin to make the changes we hope will one day make a promising situation even better.