Employers Have a Very Low Bar for Being Considered “Good”

I woke up thinking about this today. 

A friend of mine recently started a new job and has been thrilled with it, because they feel like they are being appreciated by their employer for one of the first times in their lives.

It’s a good feeling, I’ve been there. Many times. 

But I have also noticed that my friend has been working pretty regularly and pretty vocally on the weekends. Not complaining about it… but I know what it’s like to be the eager new person, wanting to do as much as you can to fit in and do well at work. 

So, I naturally worry about that their employer is taking advantage of them, because I let it happen to myself so often.

You know the feeling, you’re at a new job that you’re grateful to have and feel like you’re being creatively fulfilled for the first time in your life. So when they add more work to your plate, you say “yes”. Partly because you love the work that you’re doing, but mostly because you are at a job that you’re not miserable at and you have to earn money and you’re afraid if you say “no” you’ll get fired. 

To earn money to survive, right? Cause we ain’t got Universal Basic Income yet. (not that I think America ever will, but I’m putting it into the universe.) I think it would solve many issues and make things a lot easier on many people. Then it will make it easier for humans to pursue careers they love instead of “needing a job” and taking whatever job simply to survive. That’s what I did a lot. Because I had to. 

And I know I’m not the only one that has been part of this cycle of employer abuse. 

I know that’s a big word, but that’s what it is, no question. It’s very clear to me. 

Is it not abusive of an employer to open a whole ass other location when they only offer new employees $12 an hour to begin? And if you want to apply for the soul sucking job of supervisor, you’ll get offered $15 an hour! And not compensating their current, long term employees much more than that. It feels gross, but, hey, capitalists gonna capitalism, right?

Could you survive on $24,960 a year? What about $31,200?

Let’s say you’re lucky enough to find rent for $1000 a month. Let’s pretend you’re a supervisor and are bringing home the “big bucks”. 

That leaves you $19,200 to live on for an entire year. 

But you also have to have utilities, like water and electricity and gas and stuff. 

I pulled the national averages for these and have listed them here:

  • Average monthly electric bill: $121.01 (U.S. Energy Information Administration, December 2021)
  • Average monthly gas bill: $63.42 (American Gas Association, December 2021)
  • Average monthly water bill: $45.44 (Statista, December 2022)
  • Average monthly waterwaste bill: $66.2 (Statista, December 2022)
  • Average monthly broadband internet bill: $59.99 (Statista, December 2022)
  • Average monthly phone bill: $114 (Statista, December 2022)

Now, most of these seem to be lower than I’m currently paying, but we’ll use them cause I ain’t know what’s going on in the rest of the country, you know?

So after paying all those bills, here’s what my very cool and awesome (and probably very good at their job if the C Suite would get out of their way) supervisor would be left with every year after paying all those bills. 

$13,599 for the entire year.

Hopefully they ain’t got no kids. Especially ones that would like to do extracurricular activities or, you know, anything but survive!

Oh, but Jacki, you ask, how is this mystery supervisor even gonna get to work! I don’t see a car in that breakdown – or gas – or insurance. 

So here’s what I’m gonna do. I’ll look up the average monthly car payment.

It is a lot.

$700 for new cars and obviously our example is not a richo, so we’re going used, which is $545 a month.

Like wtf are folks doing? I’ve never paid more than $300 a month for my car and I had terrible credit! I also exclusively picked economy cars. 

So I’ll split the difference and say $400 a month for a car payment. Deal? Deal. 

That’s another $4800 gone, which leaves my supervisor with less than $10k to survive on for an entire year. 

Oh, shit they do need to insure that car though, don’t they? The national average on that is $2148 per year. Yeah, they can probably find lesser coverage for cheaper, but I have an important question to ask you. 

WHY SHOULD THEY HAVE TO? They are a human that deserves full and complete coverage, just like you!

So now we’re down to $6611.28. And they still need gas to get back and forth to work. 

Well, the average monthly gas cost is $177.85, which breaks down to 2,134.20. 

We’ve got just over $4k left for the year. For a supervisor, who isn’t giving any monetary consideration to their body yet. All of these expenses are simply to survive and get back and forth to a job that obviously doesn’t value them as a human being. 

But you need food to survive riight? 

Near the end of 2022, the average cost for food monthly is $438 per month. That tracks – about $100 a week for the staples and a couple little treats if the budget allows. 

But you know what also happens when you spend money on food? That puts our supervisor over budget. 

Now they are in the hole -754.92

You know what isn’t insured? Their human form. So let’s just go ahead and pay the yearly fee for not having insurance, cause fuck knows we can’t afford actual health insurance. Better hope nothing goes wrong, right?!

That’s another $695 deleted from our now non-existent budget. -1449.92

So, here’s where my brain breaks. How is it okay to offer humans jobs that they can’t live on? Why are companies allowed to exist like this?

I mean, I realize the answer is capitalism, but boy does this make my stomach turn. Even more stomach turning is thinking about the people with more “established” careers and college degrees that are offered a bit more money for a lot more work. 

But here’s the thing – it’s not really “a lot” more work. It’s just different work. Retail and fast food work is hard, y’all. Have you ever worked it?

Not only are you on your feet all day, with little to no rest, you’re also dealing with customers for the entirety of your shift. And, I dunno if you’ve been around people lately, but a lot of them are dicks. 

And now, in the middle of a goddamned pandemic, they are literally putting their lives at risk. Coronavirus is not over – and very few businesses are still requiring masks. 

To me that says, businesses don’t care about their immunocompromised employees – or customers! But this is also a blog post for an entire different time. 

And now let’s talk about overtime, this is an item that many employers abuse. 

I’ve worked as both an hourly and salaried employee and I think overtime was, um, overlooked, in both situations. 

NOW, I will say this – I realize I am at fault for putting up with this bullshit for so long. I should have spoken up and stood up for myself. But I needed the money, so I needed the job, so I stfu out of fear. 

To quote my brilliant comedian of a friend, Simon, “That’s how they make their money. That’s how they getcha!”

I weep to think of the thousands of dollars I should have demanded. 

When I was an hourly employee (at most hourly places I’ve worked, save for Blockbuster – that place was TRULY a joy to work and I haven’t really reflected on it properly), the most frequent way to abuse overtime work was to expect it, but then question the fuck out of it when you turn your timecard in.

Like they don’t believe you worked the overtime hours they asked you to. 

“But we can’t afford all this overtime!” they cry. 

Well, then maybe you can’t afford a business? I mean, the employee did the work, pay them for it. 

But it’s always presented as, “helping out” or “being a team” or “being part of the family.”

Girl, you ain’t part of the family until they have given you a share of the profits. 

I’m not talking about a bonus that has near impossible goals to reach or even commission. I’m talking at the end of the year, they break down how well or how bad the company did and pay out dividends to shareholders. 

You know, truly share the profits of all the hard work everyone is doing. 

So if you are hourly and working more hours than your agreed upon schedule, make sure you are being compensated for the hours you are actually working. 

And if it goes over 40 hours a week, make sure you are getting overtime pay. It’s the law. THE LITERAL LAW. I’m so mad I didn’t know this for most of my life. 

There were a few jobs that I had where I was a salaried employee. However, for all of these, I don’t think my job title fit the description of an exempt employee. 

First off the first rule for being an exempt employee is that you need to earn more than $684 a week. I know for a fact for one of my “salaried” positions I did not earn that much money. 

I did, however, work a lot of overtime hours that I was not compensated for. 

One of the other rules for being an “exempt” employee is that it “generally only applies to employees who hold professional roles that require a higher level of expertise and knowledge.”

Okay, I can make the argument for at least one of my exempt positions. 

But here’s how I let that job take advantage of me – Whenever they asked me to add a new task or recurring job to my plate, I just said yes. 

Without asking for additional compensation for the additional work. I mean, that seems obvious to do, doesn’t it? It felt wrong to me, like I was asking for something that wasn’t mine. 

And I’m not talking about little things like, “Jacki can you run this errand” or “Jacki can you make copies for this meeting”

These are little things and I’m happy to do them.

What I’m talking about is things like when employers pull the “Oh I know we hired you to fill this specific role, but here is something else we think you would be good at. For this example, let’s say our imaginary person was hired to do social media and they get told “Oh we also need you to create flyers, design entire displays, send newsletters, place ads, write radio copy, screen resumes, and on and on and on and on and on. 

Like I was doing so much work outside the job description I got hired for. My brain rationalized that they fell under “other duties as required” aka a bullshit catchall. 

And also everytime I tried to say “no” I would get so much pushback and let myself get talked into it. This happened so frequently, I realized it was pointless to say no and just took on whatever it was.

I’d rather burn myself out by working more than I should than have my feelings repeatedly invalidated. It’s soul crushing.

So, I kept adding things to my plate until I got burned out and one of two things happened – 

Either I got let go because I “couldn’t keep up with my workload” or I quit because I couldn’t do it mentally anymore. 

Of course, I couldn’t have a gap between jobs, so if I quit, I had another job lined up to start the next Monday. I never gave myself a break.

And that’s because, the way our society is set up, there was no way for me to take one. I needed to work to survive. And even the times where I got let go and had to take “time off” to look for a job, there was no break. I was still running a household. I made my job finding a job. 

I couldn’t take a break for my mental health. 

And that’s a luxury the more well-to-do folks do not understand. When they are in between jobs, they have a cushion of money so that they can take the time to find a job that fits their skills and ideals perfectly. And recover from the previous job. 

Now, wouldn’t the world run a little better if every single human got that luxury? Businesses would run better because people actually want to work for THEM, not just looking for a job to earn money to survive. People could figure out what work they actually ENJOY doing rather than trying to make their round human shape fit into a high-paying square hole.

I think so much would improve for so many humans. 

Yeah, some corporations will fold – but, I mean, if they aren’t treating their employees like humans, I think they should fold.

And paying a living wage is the first step. 

Full disclosure, I’ve never made more than $50k a year (and that was one temp job for one year of my life) and at one point (for over 6 years)I was single-handedly acting as the entire marketing department for a small chain of retail stores. 

I let so many people take advantage of me. I can’t be the only one. 

And that’s not even touching on the fact that one of the reasons I let them do it is because they seemed like they “liked” me as a person.They were “nice” to me. 

Okay, but were they, though?

Sure, they were friendly, but I mean, based on the way I let myself be treated as an employee, they were not nice to me as a human. Not one that they wanted to see succeed and thrive. 

And I think that’s the key – most companies do not care about your success as a human being, they care about your success for their bottom line. 

It comes down, again, to caring about money more than people.

That’s the grossest thing in the world to me and I hate it a lot. 

And I’ll never shut up about it. Never. 

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