Hanes HallbirnFriday,8 February 2013

The Snap:

I’m exposed to a lot of curious behavior in my various freelancing gigs. Overzealous ass-covering. Odd corporate propaganda machines. Subcultures of employees who eat in parking lots. Management teams that force Fox “News” upon employees. And now, in my current role — a “content strategist” (lolz, I know) with a large manufacturing company — I’m struggling to process a set behaviors from some co-workers that I’ve never before witnessed in my so-called “career.”

The Download:

Specifically, I’m talking about attitudes toward pension plans.

First, let me say that I get why pension plans are attractive to employees. With fewer companies offering defined benefit pension plans than ever before, it may be hard to see grass that looks greener elsewhere. They definitely factor into the decision-making process of the co-workers with whom I’ve been discussing career planning lately.

But I’m deeply troubled by the relative weight that pensions are given compared with other factors, especially for those age 50 and younger. I mean, if you’re 50 years old, it’s likely that you’re going to have to work for another 20-25 years. And if you’re 45? You’ve got about 3 decades still to go, buddy. And yet, a common refrain from my break room compatriots is something along the lines of, “I really hate this place and want to get out of here, but you know, I’d lose my pension.”

That’s what comes out of one side of their mouths. And the other side(s) are saying:

“They treat me like a dog.”

“It’s clear that the management team has no respect for my opinions and ideas.”

“I could be doing so much more for this company.”

“All the creative parts of my job are gone.”

Perhaps my colleagues have simply “Gone Toast,” but I’m somewhat depressed to witness them trade fulfillment for illusory stability. For all they know, the bell will toll for them during the next round of layoffs — and over the next few decades, there are likely to be several. And yet, they’re willing to take being treated “like a dog” and with “no respect” for an extra monthly stipend during their respective golden years.

Look, for all I know, the numbers may add up, and gutting out decades of daily misery may be a perfectly rational economic choice. Admittedly, I haven’t calculated the probability of not losing a job multiplied by the financial return of pension payments, and compared it against the expected financial return of a new job (with, say, a 20% pay increase) that doesn’t have a defined benefit pension plan. And even if I had, Lord knows that I tend to get creative with my math, so let’s just assume that staying put makes financial sense for my peers.

But watching them attempt to run out the clock on careers that have decades left in them reminds me of perhaps the most famous example of clock-killing in sports history: the 1985 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, pitting Villanova against Georgetown. While describing Villanova’s time-wasting tactics, Brent Musburger noted, “What you are watching… is a relic. Almost everyone agrees.”

But unlike the joy that re-living that relic of a game evokes, watching this game unfold live brings only sadness.

Hat Tips:

YouTube,, Going Toast, Image Credit: Flickr


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