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The Almighty Buck

Fewer Employees + Same Work = Higher Productivity 609

LiamRandall writes "Time magazine has an article discussing the effects that recent layoffs in corporate America has had on remaining workers. While I'm glad that I haven't been laid off (like 1/2 my group) I'm overloaded with all of my new responsibilities. On one hand I feel very fortunate to still have a job- I feel some what guilty complaining given that the computer industry is second in layoffs. While some former coworkers of mine got the axe because upper management didn't understand what their contributions to the company were, others were dead wood anyway. The Chinese symbol for crisis is danger + opportunity; in these turbulent times do you find yourself rising to the challenge or being overloaded with responsibility? Is your to-do list growing exponentially? What new work are you faced with and how are you dealing with it?"
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Fewer Employees + Same Work = Higher Productivity

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  • team dynamics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:48AM (#4677212) Homepage
    they dumped some wheat, and they dumped some chaffe.

    but they dumped the wheat here that made this job fun. im the lone developer now, and upper managements lack of desire to understand and know the folks in development drove my friend away.

    my productivity has gone down, tho my load has increased, only because i care less about my job now that the people that made it fun are gone.

    thats my 2 cents
    • Re:team dynamics (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      in a production environment like yours, yes productivity goes down.... in a non-productive like mine (administration/management of the equipment and networks (LAN and WAN and machines) Productivity must stay the same but QUALITY does go down...

      I dont have time to make the link from this office to the smaller offices better, I dont have time to come up with some of the great innovations I came up with the previous 2 years that increased the system reliability and speed or user productivity. I'm bogged with tasks that I shouldn't be doing but they must be done.

      So companies are gaining in keeping expenses down , but they are losing big-time in money making or money saving innovations... one of the big reasons I was hired for in the first place.

      but I dont worry, I've been with the It field for over 10 years (except for that stint for a few where I did microbiology/water chemistry) and this is normal... it's a cycle... wait 2-3 and it'll start ramping back up again.
  • by Shadowlion ( 18254 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:48AM (#4677215) Homepage
    Lisa Simpson: "Dad, do you know that the Chinese use the same word for crisis and opportunity?"

    Homer: "Yup - crisi-tunity!"
  • by Space Coyote ( 413320 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:48AM (#4677217) Homepage
    So does this Time article also mention that workers will be more productive if you switch to chains instead of leather whips? Does it give any indication of the minimum amound of gruel and / or pizza necessary to kee an IT worker productive?
  • by MrFenty ( 579353 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:48AM (#4677220)
    I don't do work - I'm a manager.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Fewer Employees + Same Work = Higher Productivity

    Who came up with this ridiculous title, Michael or the submitter? The title has nothing to do with the body of the article.
  • by SpecialAgentXXX ( 623692 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:49AM (#4677226)
    In my case, my to-do list has gone down. As we lost more clients we had to lay off more people.
    • Same thing is happening at my workplace. We do technical support for clients, and the number of clients has dropped pretty significantly. I'd say that it is about half of what it was two years ago. Despite having about half as many employees around I find that I am really doing less, which is why I get to hang out and BS with you guys all day. ;-)
  • by matrim99 ( 123693 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:49AM (#4677230) Homepage
    Whips + Threat of Impending Pain = Greater Productivity.

    • by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:12AM (#4677417)
      Greater Work != Greater Productivity
    • I stated: "Whips + Threat of Impending Pain = Greater Productivity."

      How in the *heck* was my comment moderated as a *troll*? Sure, it was terse and sarcastic, but my point was completely on-target.

      I will "read between the lines" of my comment for anyone who saw a pointless troll in my comment.

      Productivity can very easily be increased by applying a threat of negative consequences for lack of productivity increases. "Work harder or I kill you" will usually acheive a productivity increase. Productivity gains by negative consequence threats are hardly news, yet the story linked above makes this sound like it *is* news.

      I have survived many layoff cycles, and have had the work of up to 5 "former" employees delegated to me. Did I do all of their work? Yup. At the cost of me working frantic 16 hour days for months on end, under the fear that if I didn't complete their work, I would be the next to be laid off. To report that my productivity increased while at the same time neglecting to list the true costs of my productivity increase (my personal life suffered so much that I quit, leaving all of my work to be done by several undertrained co-workers who soon quit after I did) is to tell only 1/2 the story, and makes a net loss situation sound like a net gain in terms of productivity.

  • well.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pfhreakaz0id ( 82141 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:50AM (#4677232)
    my work list hasn't grown too bad. we're a government contractor and we're on site, which cuts down on requests to work overtime much (because the building isn't open late much. We can't stay without a federal employee here). Not that I work overtime anyway.

    But, what I have noticed is a reluctance to spend much on training/extras. I've read attendance at industry shows/dev conventions is down. I've talked to other people from my former company and all agree that it's tough to get the authorizations approved for travel and classes and stuff.

    It just goes along with the "less pampering" attittude. There's a bunch of guys they could hire to do your job (at least until you get detailed business knowledge that is tough to replace).
    • At our site ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by permaculture ( 567540 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:02AM (#4677349) Homepage Journal
      In the University I work at we had a new management regime imposed on us. After some months we brought out a grievance against the worst of them, who was a horrible bully. Astonishingly, he was not sacked in disgrace. The entire systems team left one by one until there was no-one left (for an entire week, until replacements started arriving).

      Then, the network started going tits up. Things got so bad the management were relieved of their responsibilities. One of them has now left under a cloud, and the other won't last past Xmas. Some of the original systems team have returned. The network is steadily improving to pre-management change levels. We have been vindicated!
  • by cliffiecee ( 136220 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:50AM (#4677237) Homepage Journal

    and we're still underworked. There's only 6 of us left, and in general six people got axed during each layoff round.


    I'd love to be overworked right now, instead of posting to slashdot...


    (No offense intended)

  • by lanner ( 107308 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:53AM (#4677253)

    Right now, I am jobless myself. My company went chapter 7 when their software product did not sell.

    I hear this a whole lot -- that the people who still have jobs have a lot of new work and that it is hard to keep up. They are being asked to work more hours on that salary pay, do more things than they ever did before. There is a big potential plus here in the recognition of doing that work -- you can add it to your resume and you gain experience from it.

    The second thing that I am hearing from a lot of people is that as soon as things get better, or they get a break into another job that pays better, they are gone, zero notice, no regrets. They are being milked by the management, they know it, and they are going to split as soon as things get better.

    Employee retention is going to be a big problem in the not so distant future in the technical fields. There is going to be a lot of people moving once the job market gets warmer. Unfortunately, I do not see that happening until sometime around 4th quarter 2003 or mid year 2004.

    I have to go an interview in ten minutes, so I have to go. The Orlando Florida job market is TERRIBLE for technical people. This may be my only break. Bye bye!

    • by waspleg ( 316038 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:09AM (#4677399) Journal
      yes finding a decent job in IT has become basically impossible in teh areas i have been in, so much so that i'm going back to school and trying to get a degree in something totally not related to IT at all.. I find it laughable and sickening simultaneously that, after having read the article, a lot of it focused on the belly aching of managers and others who were upset because they had been knocked down to telecommuting one day a week and had to go without their yoga instructors while other people have to sell their houses and make *real* sacrifices to survive.. good luck with your interview.. and dont' count on the job until you have the cash in your bank account.

    • by il_diablo ( 574683 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:12AM (#4677423) Homepage
      Two words exemplify this problem.

      Human. Resources.

      When people are treated as disposable/finite/exploitable/burn-uppable pieces of machinery, is it any wonder they lack any sort of the "loyalty" that was so prevalant in the past few decades? When they realize that they companies for which they work just don't give a rat's patootie about them as people, treating them instead like commodities that can easily be replaced by any sucker to email a resume, they stop caring.

      Of course, this is a vicious cycle. When the employees stop caring, management sees this, and is less likely to extend the resources necessary to support their personnel because "those employees just don't care." Which, in turn, makes the employees care less.

      Repeat ad infinitum.
      • My company, meanwhile, has repeatedly shown that when you make your employees your top priority, your customers and your shareholders end up being extremely happy too.

        It's not that the cycle is vicious, it's that most executives apparently combine the rapacity of a shark with the intellect of a teletubby.

        Mmm... sharkotubby... :9
  • by Havoc'ing ( 618273 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:53AM (#4677255)
    Having just managed and just laid off an entire office of 35 engineers and then myself this hits a little close to home. I think the largest problem faced by managers are those how acutally do the day to day but arent visable. Usually those individuals are targeted along with the drift wood and those responsibilities land on the remaining staff adding to the work load and ususally undermining thier capabilites. I've seen it time and time again, where the corporate structure simply doesnt understand the dynamics of its own work force or its functionality and suffers for it in the long run.
  • by HBPiper ( 472715 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:54AM (#4677266)
    In order for the company to survive, you have to survive. I look at my responsibilities at a job and decide whether they make sense. If they don't, I go to my boss. If I think they are requiring a level of responsibility that my pay does not compensate me for, I bring that up to the boss as well. If that doesn't sink in, I start sending out the resumes. If nothing else, the new responsibilities have given me experience the next boss is going to pay for.
  • fight or flight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mr_gerbik ( 122036 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:55AM (#4677273)
    I don't think this has much to do with group dynamics. I think it is a classic case of our natural fight or flight response to stress. If you think your head is on the chopping block, you have two options.. power through, work hard and try to stay alive.. or you are going to go the other route and give up and start looking for the next opportunity because you figure this one is over.

  • by clickety6 ( 141178 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:56AM (#4677282)

    Seems to be a vicious circle:

    Shareholders no longer want long term growth and stability, they want profits and dividends and they want them now! When they see dips, they panic and demand action.

    Companies see only one way to make short term gains - they "sell off" their easiest asset to drop - the employees.

    Employees levae, taking knowledge, expertise and experience with them. Remaining employees have greater stresses and workloads, so productivity drops, some leave, some gets sick.

    So profits drop, shareholders demand something be done NOW and so....

    • by rjstanford ( 69735 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:04AM (#4677362) Homepage Journal
      Shareholders no longer want long term growth and stability, they want profits and dividends and they want them now! When they see dips, they panic and demand action.


      Who are these mythical "shareholders" of whom you speak? In reality, they're everyone who has a 401(k) or other investments. Its funny how many of the same people (not a personal remark against the original poster, just a general one) who complain about employee treatment are the first in the crowd to complain when companies don't meet profit expectations (for whatever reason) and scream for them to do "whatever it takes" to get the numbers back.

      Just a thought...
      • Not me. I recognize that my 401K is a long-term thing, and I don't mess with it. Sometimes it's up, sometimes it's down. But in the long run, I seem to make out about the same as or slightly better than coworkers who constantly tweak theirs.

        So you may not be talking about 401K owners themselves, but rather the folks who run the 401K for the companies - essentially more of the short-term thinkers we disparage.
      • Shareholders (Score:3, Informative)

        by twitter ( 104583 )
        There are only two kinds of shareholders that count, large institutional shareholders and your boss. The first group are the ones "managing" your 401 plan and they have effectively co-opted your boss.

        Your company puts big heaping hunks of your money into 401k investment firms. In turn, these institutions talk to your boss's boss's boss and tel l them about "market expectations". When your company does not make it's earnings goals, they treaten to unload stocks, which would sink the price and your company. Your boss, and you too, have their savings wiped out.

        This is why I did not buy into my company's 401k plan. It's good when it's good, but I got in at a market peak. Did the US economy really grow five fold in the 90s? No, it did not, in fact manufacturing and other important segments contracted as we sold our souls to Chinese imports. John Kenedy senior got out of the market when a shoeboy gave him stock advice. The year was 1929. Today, shoeboy [slashdot.org] is a troll [kuro5hin.org] and his alterego, streetlawer, will be happy to give you stock advice [216.239.39.100]. I wish those two would do something interesting, their advice is evidence that they are underutilized and that we are all have less than we think we do.

        The 401k "managers" second guessing my company and creating incentives for my bosses to get rich quick with bonuses, unrealistic expectations, and other silly games has undone many great companies. Look forward to more accounting fraud, bankruptsies and other badness. The last place I worked had it's "grateful" people working 12 hour days to keep their jobs but they got fired anyway. Something really stinks about that.

  • Everyone's busy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rczyzewski ( 585306 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:56AM (#4677283)
    Everyone is busy. What I don't like is when employees complain how busy they are and yet sit around playing games and looking at their fantasy football stats. Obviously there is a problem if an employee needs to work 10-12 hour days with no lunch and things aren't getting done. However, most of the companies I've been with have employees who get about 3-5 hours of work done in an 8 hour day. Ball parking it, most of these unmotivated employees could get a few extra weeks of work done a year. I know a guy who's company cut their department from 3 to 2. So the 2 guys were each working 20 hours of overtime a week at time and 1/2. It took them two years to realize they could save a fistfull of dollars and improve their worker morale by getting them back up to 3.
  • I do lots of crap... (Score:5, Informative)

    by wumarkus420 ( 548138 ) <wumarkus&hotmail,com> on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:56AM (#4677286) Homepage
    Well, I was technically hired as the sys/network admin at a small company that does lobbying and software development. I also handle setting up projectors, working the phone system, fulfilling orders for a certain product we sell, updating the time sheet with new job codes, picking up donuts for an employee's birthday breakfast, ordering new equipment, setting up a wireless router in the boss's house, catching up on slashdot stories, update the company website, put together an intranet, mount the occasional whiteboard, handle DOD security procedures, build the devlopers' software to hand-off to the QA team, call the maintenance people when we have problems in the office, maintain the company inventory (not just computers), track all the keys in the office, and make sure the lusers know how to print to the right printer. This is in a company of about 30-something employees in two different offices in the same building. Yes, I was hired as the "Windows Admin" guy (but I also administer 5 Sun boxes), but it is safe to say that I do a whole lot more. I don't mind doing any of it. In fact, even with all of these responsibilities, I still have hours of free time to type these slashdot comments. And to be honest, we could probably lose a few more employees. While I can sometime grumble at having to do certain grunt work that others don't have to worry about, it gives me more face time with the bosses, and it shows that I am commited to making things run smoothly in all aspects of the company, and that's about as good as it gets for job security.
  • Funny you should ask (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Just yesterday my team's development staff was all whacked (4 people). That leaves us with operations and "transition team", translated roughly as "the guys who keep the place running, and the guys who have been around long enough that they know the most about the system." We're all dead very soon.

    What's happened to my workload? It's zero. Nobody has any sort of transition plan. Our major customer doesn't even know that he's about to inherit our product.

    So my workload now consists of downloading a bunch of open source software to my laptop and catching up some technologies I'm rusty on so that I can bullshit less on my resume (Struts and XSL-FO, primarily). Oh, and stealing every book I can get my hands on.

  • by geophile ( 16995 ) <jao@geop h i l e . c om> on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:58AM (#4677313) Homepage
    My company has been pretty fortunate in having minimal layoffs, although there was a salary reduction. However, the constant pressure to cut costs, skip essential infrastructure work (diagnostics, scalability, performance, reliability), and outsource work has led to a very disgruntled set of development engineers, QA engineers and sysadmins. Not just here, but at friends' companies too. A very talented engineer just left for a significant raise and basically told his new boss that he isn't really psyched about ths job and is hanging out for 1-2 years. The boss has exactly the same attitude. (No, my friend's job is not at risk due to his attitude -- he is a star, and his boss knows it because they worked together previously.) I have exactly the same attitude here, and my boss knows it.


    My conclusion is that once the job picture improves, even a little, techies everywhere are going to be streaming for the door. The survivors are very dissatisfied and would move in a hearbeat if only the could.

  • Quandries (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rjstanford ( 69735 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @10:58AM (#4677314) Homepage Journal
    Layoffs are unpleasant. Nobody, I feel, is going to argue against that. However, sometimes they are necessary, especially in the CS profession.

    For the past several years, the computer industry has faced a veritable flood of people rushing towards the promise of fast, good salaries -- easy money, so to speak. This has, regrettably, resulted in some pretty poor souls moving into positions that they really aren't suited for.

    My company has, like many others, had several rounds of layoffs. We're probably at about 60% of the staffing levels that we were at our heyday. However...

    I have to admit that some high percentage (80-90%) of those cuts were completely justified. We lost some really great people -- who were, unfortunately, unqualified for their positions. Sure, there were some few people who lost their jobs for social/political reasons, but for the most part they were few and far between.

    A lot can be seen by examining the workload of those who remain after a layoff. If its done well, there will be an inevitable period of floundering as knowledge transfer didn't happen cleanly, followed by a period of shuffling around and maybe rehiring a couple of people who, as it turned out, weren't that disposable after all. Most of those who remain, though, will find themselves working only slightly harder -- validating in a sense the layoffs that took place.

    This does bring up another good point. Productivity in the CS arena can vary drastically between people. Studies have shown order of magnitude differences in performance (see some of McConnell's books for good examples here). Many software companies/divisions would be (very much IMO) better off by taking their top 10% producers (architects, designers, coders, et cetera), canning the remainder, substantially increasing the salaries of those who remain, and giving them a support staff (interns, team secretary, et cetera). Something like the surgical team postulated by Brooks in the Mythical Man Month [amazon.com].

    Just an opinion, of course, and certainly not one that would foster the current swell of people, but then again, isn't competition supposed to be a good thing, both for the industry as a whole and those who are truly qualified to work well within it? If you're really good, knowing that you could make 80% of your salary by drooling over some VB code is hardly going to inspire you. And if you're doing the latter, well, why bother to excel for a relatively miniscule reward?

    Something to think about.
  • Pros/Cons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GeckoFood ( 585211 ) <geckofood AT gmail DOT com> on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:00AM (#4677323) Journal

    Not too long after I got into a position with an employer, part of my teammates were let go, some of them with more experience than me. The biggest problem was that the people on my specific project that were let go were more knowledgable than the rest of us.

    The effects on the rest of us were dramatic, and not all of the effects were bad. We all had to rise to the challenge and figure out what the hell we had to do to make this thing go, without the benefit of the in house expertise (BTW, we were enhancing a product we authored in house). There were many, many nights where we were here late into the night, more than once past 2:00am just to figure out what was going on.

    In the end, we pulled it off and emerged successful on the project, and we were regarded almost as heroes in house. We are regarded as can-do people that can rise to a challenge, but the cost to get there was enormous. We all were worse for the wear.

    I have seen a trend when it comes to layoffs that is echoed in the experience I had -- for some oddball reason, it seems the management likes to trim the knowledge base at the wrong points. It stands to reason that, when letting go a very knowledgeable person, someone else must be trained up to fill the shoes of that person. This, in turn costs more money. Which is better, spending the money on a more expensive employee, and make the deadlines on time, or spend about as much to miss the deadline and train up someone new?

    Yes, yes, some deadwooding goes on too, but I have seen all to often the productive ones with a higher salary cut loose solely on the basis of immediate salary concerns. I would be interested to know if others have observed the same, or if it's just been a matter of where I have been at the time...

    • Re:Pros/Cons (Score:3, Informative)

      by asrb ( 513512 )
      but I have seen all to often the productive ones with a higher salary cut loose solely on the basis of immediate salary concerns. I would be interested to know if others have observed the same

      I've certainly seen this before. It's happened to me, and to several other senior people at that company since I left. They encourage people to work hard, praise their efforts, and make it clear how valuable they are during the project. As soon as it's done, they fire the most senior people and replace them with college fresh H1B's. The H1B bit kinda violates the law, but who gives a shit about that anyhow?

      In the end, we pulled it off and emerged successful on the project, and we were regarded almost as heroes in house. We are regarded as can-do people that can rise to a challenge

      I bet the senior people who were axed before you did the same thing, were regarded as heroes, etc. It's quite probable it'll happen to you too.

      Unless you have no choice, working long hours at a company like this is just plain nuts. Your hard work & loyalty will _not_ be rewarded in the long run. After they dump you, they'll hire someone else who'll be telling this same story on /. in 6 months.

  • Not here.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xerithane ( 13482 ) <xerithaneNO@SPAMnerdfarm.org> on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:00AM (#4677330) Homepage Journal
    I work in an intelligent company that didn't hire 15 people to do 3 peoples job. I'm part of the IS group, even though I'm an application and server developer (New to this whole application development thing, releasing my first windows product soon.. thank you, QT) I have a pretty decent workload most of the time. There are 3 programmers here, and we're all kept pretty busy. The entire IS team is probably about 15 people, for thousands of computers, custom applications and servers.

    I remember the last company I worked at had redundancy even in it's employees. It seemed every position was filled at least twice. Strangest thing. Each person did slightly different things, but if someone actually works the majority of an 8 hour day they can accomplish a lot of stuff.

    Don't over-hire. Hire smart people. Hire people that work. 3 people can do what would otherwise take 15. The 3 of us do more than a development group of around 20 people at my old company.. but they aren't a good comparison, and that's why they are out of business now.
    • Re:Not here.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ThrasherTT ( 87841 ) <thrasher AT deathmatch DOT net> on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:15AM (#4677443) Homepage Journal
      Don't over-hire. Hire smart people. Hire people that work.

      This is much easier said than done. Have you ever had to interview people to fill a position? I have on several occasions. In one case, it got to the point where "management" was leaning on me to "just hire someone, goddamnit!" I had enough clout at the time to refuse to just hire some jackass, but we had plenty of jackasses coming in to interview. Once you've worked in the industry a while, you'll realize that 90-95% of the people in it are not worth their salary (or the other 5-10% are way underpaid). These massive layoffs are no surprise to me; they are just confirming the fact that management can be foolish, that the economic bubble made companies feel like they must grow to keep from being left behind. I just hope that the 5-10% of people that are actually worth a shit are the ones keeping their jobs.
      • This is much easier said than done. Have you ever had to interview people to fill a position? I have on several occasions. In one case, it got to the point where "management" was leaning on me to "just hire someone, goddamnit!" I had enough clout at the time to refuse to just hire some jackass, but we had plenty of jackasses coming in to interview.

        Yes, actually this is the first position where I don't have hiring authority. Even at my first job, I ascending quickly enough to be the interviewer for programming positions. I've made people cry in interviews. I don't waste time. In 5 minutes, if you have not impressed me, you walk out the door. It's easier to find better programmers now, than a few years ago.

        Once you've worked in the industry a while, you'll realize that 90-95% of the people in it are not worth their salary (or the other 5-10% are way underpaid).
        I don't think anyone in the IT field is worth their salary. What's the average pay now? $70K? Go look at how much post-doctorate researchers make, and you tell me how a $70K salary is justified. Not that I'm complaining, just disagreeing. I've been in the industry before the .com bubble, when a $55K position was really good.

        I just hope that the 5-10% of people that are actually worth a shit are the ones keeping their jobs.
        Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. The 5-10% of the people should be able to get better jobs because of networking. If I were to ever choose to go back to the bay area, I could find a job. Up in Portland it's much more difficult because I don't know enough people, but if I were to ever lose this job I have a couple places setup from people that I've worked with here that would set me up.

        Finding a job in a bad economy means you know the right people who know your skills. Resumes mean less when you are fighting amidst a flood of others who are just as qualified on paper but can't code their way out of a wet paper bag.

        There is too much bloat in the IT world, and that's why the current recession is a good thing. We need to weed out the massive amount of dead wood in the industry. All this people who came into being programmers in 98, 99 or whenever just because it was "Good Money" I look skeptical on anyone who has no development experience (whether educational, or hobby, doesn't matter) prior to 1995.

        I wish I had more to do today.. meetings cancelled, small application fixes, slooow day, too much slashdot.
        • Re:Not here.. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fishbowl ( 7759 )
          "Go look at how much post-doctorate researchers make, and you tell me how a $70K salary is justified."

          Um, I'm looking forward to the grad school existence. There's much more to it than salary. For one thing, the typical $30,000/year you'd be giving the university, is waived. For another thing, when you need the time to do academic work, take courses, field research, etc., there won't be a pinhead boss who fails to understand the importance of you doing all that "school stuff".

          All in all, it's not so bad making $40k as a postdoc, if you pick up all the perks. Especially in a recession, where you would not have a job anyway!

          There seems to be a widespread notion that school is some necessary evil, a stepping stone to something else. Rarely does anyone reflect to me the understanding that education is not something that one can ever "be done with."

  • yah right! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flynt ( 248848 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:01AM (#4677333)
    in these turbulent times do you find yourself rising to the challenge or being overloaded with responsibility? Is your to-do list growing exponentially? What new work are you faced with and how are you dealing with it?"

    Talk about asking the wrong crowd. Many of the people here (myself included) waste the day here simply because there is nothing else to do. See why we might not be the best ones to ask about overloaded responsibility??
  • by allism ( 457899 ) <alice.harrison@gmaAUDENil.com minus poet> on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:01AM (#4677335) Journal
    <rant>
    The company I work for is one of the few companies that has not been hit by the recession, as a matter of fact we are growing--we have had to almost double the size of our IS/IT and software development, and software testing departments. I think part of the reason our company has been able to grow is because salaries are a little less than market value, but we get semi-annual bonuses based on the company's profitability. (Well, once it was a small pay cut, but given the choice between asking everyone to take a small pay cut for three months, which we got back plus some three months later, or laying off three employees to cover the deficit, I think our company made the right choice). This gives us a huge incentive to make sure the company makes money - in everything from turning out a quality product to keeping our office supply orders reasonable.

    I am amazed at the poor attitudes I see in some of the new hires, though--the two people that were hired to help in my department are always grousing about how they make so much less money than they were making at their previous jobs and they can't wait for the recession to be over so they can go find 'real jobs'. Don't they understand that there is a reason the dot-bombs they worked for went out of business? These two new people are currently trying to convince upper management that we are sorely suffering because we are not using a $2000/seat configuration management tool. Let's just gut our company here and then they can move on to gut the next one...

    </rant>
  • Overloaded (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JSkills ( 69686 ) <jskills.goofball@com> on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:01AM (#4677337) Homepage Journal
    Well let's see. I was out of work at the end of 2001. It's a great feeling when you have a wife, 2 kids, and a mortagage. Fortunately, I was able to land a job after a month and a half with a fairly large company.

    I was brought in to architect and deploy an ecommerce system. Did I have a staff? No. Could I contract out any of the development? No. It was like this - here's ONE server (running NT I might add), now go build us a system.

    So I did. I wiped the machine clean, installed Linux, installed Perl and various libraries, Open SSL, mod_perl, Apache, and then compiled Apache with mod_perl and mod_ssl. I installed MySQL. I installed Tripwire and set up various accounts for people who needed to FTP graphics onto the machine.

    Based on the user specs (not written, but vervbally communicated), I designed the entire database schema, wrote all the code for a web-based administration tool, and wrote all the code to launch the ecommerce system for external customers.

    The system has been up and running for several months and bringing in over US $20K per day.

    Do you think the company's cutting costs? One server and one person who acts as business analyst, system architect, system adminstrator, DBA, and lead developer. Ya think?

    A more positive note: After close to a year, I've been granted additional resources (I was able to hire a junior developer) and additional servers. So maybe things are getting better???

  • Running lean (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lando ( 9348 ) <lando2+slash @ g m a i l . c om> on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:01AM (#4677339) Homepage Journal
    Yes in the short term you can run lean and have better productivity... But this is bad business in my opinion...

    If you have no training for your employees, not because of income, but because none of them can be spared, you are going to have to hire all of your talent new.

    If you people are streched so thin, then your going to have burnout and have to replace those workers.

    If your facing a 20-30% turnover rate... Your employees will have no loyalty to the company, because the company has no loyalty to them.

    Personally, I think that companied that have been in business for a while, say 10-20 years minimum and have built up a staff of experienced employees. Don't really realize how much this will cost them... Traing new employees is expensive for anything except menial jobs...

    If your company is dropping a lot of deadweight, that suggests managers that are not doing their jobs... But upper-management doing job cuts across the board are not doing their jobs properly either.

    When the big name business schools changed over from teaching business from looking 5, 10, and 20 years into the future and started concentrating on quarterly income it was a sad day.

    Trai
  • It's short-term (Score:2, Insightful)

    by shess ( 31691 )
    What happens is that all of the forward-looking projects get canned, and the remaining employees are focussed on finishing the half-done projects which were so awesome a year ago. Since you're maximizing return on sunk costs, that great in the short term. After awhile, though, you start to find that you're running out of gas, because nobody has been laying the foundations for future development.

    I've seen four layoffs in a year and a half, and I know that my productivity has plummetted each time. I have maybe half as many "good days" cranking out code, for a couple months afterwards. But, what code I do write is generally better targetted at immediate revenue opportunities.

    I'm interested in sustainable productivity gains, and those mostly come from growing at the right rate in the first place - hire-hire, rather than hire-hire-hire-hire-fire-fire.
  • Outsourcing Blues (Score:3, Interesting)

    by joel8x ( 324102 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:03AM (#4677350) Homepage
    My IT department was outsourced to IBM about 6 months ago. While my direct team was not affected by layoffs, our call center and its staff were completely replaced and moved to a new location. Since then my workload has quadrupled (no exaggeration) due to their lack of proper support and knowledge, and our user base has grown significantly without adding new staff to my department (field support).

    I don't mind the extra work so much, but what really bothers me is the attitude of the customer and its affect on me. Users are pissed off that it takes more than a day for them to be seen as opposed to an hour or so, and they have a very negative attitude towards us now. This is a major problem in my eyes because I find it harder to wake up in the morning and feel motivated to work. I really dread what possible long term affects this may have if it continues like this.
  • The #2 in CPU's is slashing 2,000 jobs worldwide, from the Americas to Asia, in all roles and levels. The article is here at News Factor. [newsfactor.com]
  • And I wrote all about it in my journal [slashdot.org]... [gratuitous plug]

    Sorry, I can't really give a lot more details than this... =(
  • Wrong formula. (Score:4, Informative)

    by FreeLinux ( 555387 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:04AM (#4677365)
    The formula that more correctly explains this phenomenon follows.

    Fewer Employees + Same Work + Greater Threat of Layoff + Derth of Other Jobs = Higher Productivity

    You see, there are additional contributing factors to the equation that offer significant motivation to the Fewer Remaining Employees. If you aren't more productive, there are numerous others that are presently unemployed who will happily be more productive. Basically, if you don't watch your ass, you're out of there!
  • Productivity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Malc ( 1751 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:05AM (#4677371)
    The US seems to like boasting to the rest of the world about how it keeps improving productivity. How is productivity measured? Are unpaid overtime hours taken in to consideration - I bet they're not. People seem to work more overtime, but companies don't pay for any extra hours (salaried) employees. Doesn't this make productivity gains just an illusion? Heh: I'm in danger of sounding like a unionist or something!
  • by Martigan80 ( 305400 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:07AM (#4677384) Journal
    I mean this ideology has been in the military for years...well since the 80's and the draw-downs. They claim that the military is more stream lined, yet they have put our military in the Middle east, Kosovo, Korea, and in Africa. They are doing more now then during the Cold War with a hell of a lot less people.
    Some might complain that the military has been getting some phat bonuses, but do you know the President Bush also cut about 75,000 people from the military to do this? I just ask that you don't forget the military when is comes to these issues.
  • by beacher ( 82033 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:08AM (#4677395) Homepage
    Lifted from a Dilbert book the chapter was on downsizing - Your workforce goes from "Lean and Mean" to "Skinny and Pissed" ..

    Gotta watch out when you overload an already stressed workforce....
  • by AAAWalrus ( 586930 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:10AM (#4677404)
    It seems pretty obvious that that would be the case. Imagine 5 computer programmers, worked together through the dotcom bubble, with high-paying secured jobs. Life was good - not terribly swamped in work, maybe surfed the web a little too much on the job, but still managed to get work done. The programmers, being the introvert sort, never really speak up about how their jobs were important, that what they were doing really mattered to the company. No need to - they did their work and the company was doing well. They just assumed that other people understood that they were contributing.

    Then the bubble bursts, economy's hurting everyone, layoffs start at the big companies. Our 5 programmers aren't worried - their small company is still running strong.

    Suddenly two bad quarters in a row, sales are down, cashflow gets weak, and suddenly the company is worried about being able to write everyone's paychecks. 2 of our 5 programmers, who might have had 2 or 3 bad marks (previously thought of as "minor") on their performance reviews, get canned. Our 3 remaining programmers start thinking, "Oh crap! I could be next!" Suddenly there's a real push for productivity and visibility from our programmers. Not only were they doing %40 more work, but they now make sure everyone knows about it.

    Wouldn't you?

    Scary thing is, if a company can scare employees into working harder with laying off a few, seemingly overpaid pieces of "deadwood", it certainly make business sense.

    Hits a little too close to home for some readers out there, doesn't it?

    -AAAWalrus
  • I've been fortunate enough to still have a job after a year of rough layoffs. I've found that, not only am I the only one left of an IT staff of four, but I have become much more efficient in what I do, to the point that I have been able to work for the R&D department in addition to my duties (oh yeah, and more time to read /. too). I've found that in times like this, you're job-attitude changes. At first, it may seem that you will be swamped with extra work, but we humans are great at adapting, and it all sorts iself out in the end, often for the better.
  • by lostboy2 ( 194153 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:11AM (#4677416)
    As layoffs rise, so does productivity. The Department of Labor reported last week that nonfarm business productivity clocked an annualized gain in the third quarter of 4% over the preceding quarter.

    This makes me wonder what measurement they used to quantify 'productivity'. My guess is that it is somehow related to the number of businesses, more like a per capita amount rather than an absolute value.

    If so, I can understand the value increasing as companies who were riding the dot.com wave crashed -- like thinning the herd raises the average strength of the remaining beasts.

    However, I also think that it's simplistic to assume that the staff who remain were slacking prior to the layoffs. More likely, they remain because they *weren't* the ones who were slacking. At least, I hope that's the way it is.
  • While productivity may be higher, so is depression, divorce, suicide, and crime. Most shooting rampages happen right after someone gets laid off.

    Perhaps if corporations used the "employed for life" strategy that the federal government practices, they would alleviate potential stressors to their employees and avoid the possibility of someone busting into the office and shooting everything but the water cooler.

    The ultimate problem is, when corporations treat people as if they're disposable, they feel disposable. No one ever gets laid off in Japan. And there haven't been ANY fatal shootings in offices there since right after World War II.

  • by Lysol ( 11150 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:13AM (#4677426)
    is top executive pay. What else is new...

    Granted, times are lean, but during layoffs at my last company, I saw more top people still doing well. All us employees lost all our stock while the top execs got new stock and pay raises with the new company that bought us. My co-worker called it 'gift wrapping a turd'. How true.

    I'm sure this is a very unpopular view, but I personally feel that if the belt needs to be tightened, we all need to do it. Not just a few.

    My new company pays less and has me working more - like those in the article. I'm not sure how wise this is since this makes all of us here more stressed and burnt out. Sure, we're more productive, but people can only handle so much rhetoric, 50/60 hr weeks for 2/3 of the price before they just say 'screw this'.

    One thing this has done for me is to galvanize my resolve to do something on my own. I personally still feel money is out there to be made. Epecially if you have good talents that Joe-first-year-college-dropout-100k-webmaster can't match. There will always be a need for people that know their stuff. Question is, will one be able to find it?
  • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:14AM (#4677439)
    Honestly, I think for the most part, the layoffs haven't changed the way people work. That is something I have found to hold pretty true, that people (at least here in the US) have a pretty short memory.

    (pardon the Katzian reference)
    Shortly after Sep11,2001, I wondered how soon it would be before people got over the genuine shock and horror of what happened, stop being friendly to each other in solidarity, and start in with the Bin Laden jokes. I knew it wouldn't be long. Sure enough, about 2 months after it happened, I saw my first Tshirt with Bin Laden's face in the crosshairs. Sure, there is natural bad sentiment towards someone who did something that tragic, but the REAL gravity of what happened dissipated quickly. It was back to NASCAR and lawsuits.

    Granted, this isn't true of everyone, but overall we as a country are back to business as usual. (unfortunately) I think the same can be said of the tech industry, at least from my experience. Sure, we have trimmed budgets, and cut the work force, but I really don't see any difference in how people look at their jobs as a result of that. There are still lazy people who do just enough to get by. After a layoff, people scurry around, and try to prove that they are valuable, but that subsides quickly. No sooner has the sigh of relief that you still have a job been breathed than you just settle down in your chair and get back to same old routine.

    Maybe I am a bit jaded, because I was able to get a job a month after the company I worked for went under. But that was 2 years ago, on the front side of the massive meltdown. I was lucky to get with a large company that has had only one layoff since then, and it was relatively small. But I see things going the same as they were when I got here. In general, people aren't worried about losing their jobs. Not that you need to be worried about losing your job in order to do a good job, but it doesn't seem like there is an urgency anymore. I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

    Jeez, where am I going with this? Well, I kind of follow a Zen style of work. I do my job, I do it as good as I can. If I get laid off, I get laid off. I have confidence that I can do my job as good or better than my coworkers, and if not, then at least I did my best. I don't do just what it takes to get by, I try not to settle in for the long haul and cruise. I have been here 2 years, and I am still trying to improve myself and my skills. This skill is lost on a lot of people, and I think it is a valuable one. I think if you are working in a manner just to keep your job, then you aren't being genuine. Be genuine, and just be. There is no prize to keep your eye on. Develop yourself, improve yourself, because you are the asset, and others will see that.

  • Chinese (Score:5, Informative)

    by rawshark ( 603493 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:15AM (#4677445)
    I am Chinese, and I have the following things to say about the "Crisis = Danger + Opportunity" link.

    First of all, the guy's handwriting is Not Very Good, or at least he was writing in a calligraphic style which I've never seen before :). It took me quite some time to parse the writing. You can see a better version of the word here:
    http://www.mandarintools.com/faq.html#crisi s

    That same page says that the story about "crisis equals danger + opportunity" is not true. "Danger" and "Opportunity" were not the original meanings of those characters. The web page does not say, and I do not know, what the original meanings are. I speculate that "Danger" originally meant "guarded" or "careful" and "Opportunity" originally meant "craft, intelligence", but don't quote me on that.

    I am inclined to agree with the web page and place this under the "interesting coincidences of the language which are taken way out of proportion" category.
  • I work for a very large semiconductor company. The last time (and only time) that there were any layoffs here was in the mid 1980's.


    Obviously things are pretty tough in this industry right now, so there is definitely no hiring going on here. That means that if somebody quits, the rest of us have to pick up the slack. I'm not complaining, mind you, because, as LiamRandall said, I'm also happy to have a job.


    I think that the interesting thing about this company is that when times are flush, they don't hire willy-nilly. Every proposed position is scrutinized to make sure that a new hire is really needed. Generally, that means that even in good times the rate of hiring is not all that high, yet this is an 18,000 employee company. The executives here make no bones about the fact that they are managing the company looking ahead 5 to 10 years, not one or two quarters. That also means that they recognize that the high tech industry runs in cycles and to lay off employees means playing catch-up in terms of training and hiring when the low cycle ends.


    So, for the near term, as the tech economy slumps, we work harder to deal with attrition, but when the economy recovers (as it will), we'll be a step ahead of other companies that have to scramble to hire and train new employees. The obvious consequence is that the stock price takes a beating because it appears that we aren't being as "proactive" as other short-term managed companies in reducing costs.


    -h-

  • by hey! ( 33014 )
    in these turbulent times do you find yourself rising to the challenge or being overloaded with responsibility?

    I suppose that if by the phrasing of the question you mean to imply in comparison to the pre dot-com bust period the answer is no. I've always given 100%, so nobody can ask more of me. Good times or bad, if you are the go-to guy (not the goto guy) you can have all the responsibility you can handle. What's different now is that if I left my job, I can count on being unemployed for a long period.

  • by sabinm ( 447146 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:18AM (#4677468) Homepage Journal
    I don't think that it is such a bad idea. I was laid off from a job (I don't blame the employer, i know I was dead wood and not the best.) I decided to move away from tech altogether. A better question is "How many people realized that there are unlimited opportunities to use you skills besides coding/admining/project managing/hardware devel. Serious. I had a very good friend, who had the brain the size of a small satelite who was laid off from hp. He designed high end micropocessors for hp/s multi processor iron boxes. He's going back to school now to get his masters in EE ( he was recruited in his sophomore year) While I decided to go the way of the anti-geek. Go figure. Anyway, how many decided to get out of tech altogether (be honest) because you didn't cut it, or you found something more fulfilling?
  • The opportunity... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Damek ( 515688 ) <{adam} {at} {damek.org}> on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:18AM (#4677469) Homepage
    Do you love your job? A lot of slashdotters are bound to say they do, if they work with computers, so let me rephrase that - do you love your employer? Do you go to work each day because you love what your company does and you want to devote your life to forwarding their mission? If so, fine, then buckle in and do the extra work because you're working towards a goal you believe in.

    If, however, you don't care too much what your company does, and you just need a salary, a paycheck - then why do you do it? You just need the salary, the paycheck, to pay bills and buy necessities, right? And to purchase some entertainment from time to time?

    Then why do you need to pay those bills? OK, so you want some electricity. You need to eat. You want to enjoy some entertainment now and then. How much of this can you provide yourself? And how much entertainment (movies, DVDs, vegging out to TV, buying new CDs) do you *need*? I mean, do you buy any of this stuff to counteract stress from work? Then wouldn't structuring your life differently result in less need for entertainment?

    So learn to become more self-reliant for those things. Grow some of your own food if you can. Install some solar panels, use an energy co-op instead of an energy company, learn some trade skills, the sorts of things that people need to build the necessities of life.

    I'm not saying go back to the trees. I'm not even saying do everything I say. I'm just tossing out food for thought...

    I think many people have a job they don't like just because they think "that's the way things are, that's the nature of work - work is dull and hard, a necessary responsibility." But I think work should enrich the spirit - work should not be that thing you have to do so that you can live when you get off work. Work should be your life! You should enjoy it! If you don't enjoy your work, the answer is not "well, I gotta earn a paycheck somehow". It should be "ok, so I don't enjoy my current employment - what might I enjoy instead?"
  • It's fairly obtuse how an economist defines productivity -- versus the purely technical definition. If 1/2 the chicken can produce double their output, each chicken is more productive. However, the downside, of course, is that the chicken dies in six months. Run your car at 85 all the time, you cut it's life span in half. From a technical perspective -- and I argue this with my boss all the time -- we are actually LESS productive. Mostly, due in part, to the fact each person is no longer working vertically -- but horizontally. A knower of all things -- master of none.

    But you all may disagree...
  • My Experience (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Beatnick ( 560520 )
    My company promoted some to VP status and then laid off several folks my level to compensate for their increase in pay. Our work level has tripled and our SLAs are really starting to show the strain. No one wants to bat for us when it comes to raises or discuss the killer schedules. I'm working every weekend until the end of January. My family doesn't understand but are coping. They state that I'm too valuable to lose but I cannot take much more of the load. There are some individuals here I would classify as friends but my loyalty in staying is really running thin lately. You wanted my 2 cents worth and experiences.
  • Slack is necessary (Score:2, Informative)

    by wka ( 23275 )
    The book Slack: Getting past burnout, busywork and the myth of total efficiency was reviewed [slashdot.org] on /. just last month.

    A blurb from the book quoted in the review:

    To most companies, efficiency means profits and growth. But what if your 'efficient' company - the one with the reduced headcount and the 'stretch' goals -- is actually slowing down and losing money? What if your employees are burning out doing the work of two or more people, leaving them no time for planning, prioritizing, or even lunch? What if your super-efficient company is suddenly falling behind?

    Read the review [slashdot.org] for more info.

  • Extra hats... (Score:2, Interesting)

    I was an "Automation Analyst" for a mainframe-based system a few years back, when upper management decided that they could "fix" all our IT problems by outsourcing the datacenter (our management was always 5-10 years behind on the business trend curve). When this was announced, almost a third of the datacenter staff bailed right away (the severence packages they offered were pretty insubstantial unless you were a lifer). Those that remained were interviewed by the outsourcing company and offered jobs or the option of waiting it out until the cut-off.

    My ex-boss (one of the first to bail) offered me a position at his new gig, and I negotiated what I thought was the best of both worlds; I would continue to work my old job until the cut-off, collect severance, then go and work for my ex-boss at a substantial increase in pay.

    It seemed like a good idea at the time.

    What followed was six months of hell. Because my background included a little bit of everything, instead of just doing my job for those six months, I did my job, I helped out in operations, I helped out tech support (including network, security, and some really nasty legacy systems), and when I wasn't otherwise occupied, I worked with the outsourcers explaining where the bodies were buried. I developed insomnia, a nervous twitch and grey hair (in my 30's!) by the time I and the rest of the hold-outs were finally laid off and the outsourcing company officially took over.

    On the plus side, it was a good kick in the metaphorical seat; because of that little trauma I finally got up off my duff and finished my BS and now I'm working on my masters.

    Though I do still take a little guilty pleasure when I hear from former coworkers about the stunningly bad job the outsourcing company has been doing...

  • People keep talking about how grateful they are about still having a job, etc., but what it really comes down to is holding on to jobs by snitching on coworkers, and doing crappy work at the behest of their pimps --err-- managers. It feels terrible. Sure you keep your job, but the effects linger beyond the period of scarce job opportunities. Once the famine is over you find yourself continuing to do crappy work. The whole experience is poisonous to the pursuit of excellence, which is crucial to personal job satisfaction.
  • Old Old Trick (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Etrigan_696 ( 192479 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:29AM (#4677549)
    This is an old trick. Happened to my dad several times in the 80s (luckily, he was one of the ones that was left in the shop to do the work of two employees the company just laid off)
    I'm not a reflex "Proud To Be Union"-bumper-sticker-posting moron, but Corporate Greed is the greatest of those two evils.
    Corporate Greed knowns no shame. And since Enron, it knows no fear. Sure - this happened in the past, but they (being greedy corporate officers) had to at least hide it - which made it less noticable or insulting. Airlines in the 80s did similar things on a smaller scale. Today we have CEOs that lay-off thousands of employees just to "make the company more 'nimble'" (Jack Welsh, of General Electric) who then -on the way to his retirement mansion- starts stuffing his pockets with money while asking "You don't mind, do you?"

    So - here's a bit of help for the greedy corporate butt-pirates out there:
    Don't hire anyone to a permanent position. Get all your employees as contractors or, better yet, as "temps".
    If possible, hire half to 2/3rds the employees you need, and then guilt/guile/corral/cajole them into doing the work of two people. Make it well known that they need the paycheck more than you need the job done.
    Don't forget to line your pockets.
    Make sure your HR person knows how to write the job description you post so that you can easily tell the few experienced applicants that they are overqualified (read that as "cost too much") and make the other applicants feel inferior, so they feel lucky to have the job, don't complain, and work harder for less money.
    Quality? Fuck it. Honesty? Laugh at that, then fuck it. Quantity? Fuck it too. Employee moral? Fuck that hard. Money? Money is god. And you, being the High Priest, cannot suffer to allow anyone other than you to have god. So make sure you take god away from them and put god back in the temple (your pocket) where it belongs.

    Oh shit, there goes the Karma.....
  • by rayd75 ( 258138 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:29AM (#4677550)
    I'll be the first to admit that the market is tougher than it was a couple of years ago but is it really because there are fewer jobs? My experience has been that the number of jobs is the same but the ones out there are less desirable. Suddenly every entry in the classifieds is asking for a CCNE, MSCE, and a master's degree regardless of the skill level. Additionally everything is being contracted out and often requires enormous amounts of travel. I just turned down a 20K raise because I didn't want to be away from my fiancée for three weeks out of the month. In any case, I can only hope that companies will suffer because of the outsourcing trend and realize the value of retaining highly-intelligent, well-trained individuals that are actually familiar with their specific business and goals.
  • layoff strategies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:31AM (#4677570) Journal
    One thing that really bothers me is that layoffs are done by upper management. Some guy with his tie constricting him in an office miles away decides that employee A isn't "company material" and axes him. Upper manager doesn't even know who employee A is. All the people working with employee A talk about what a mistake it was to lay him off. Those who should go stay, and those who should stay go. I propose bringing layoffs down to the employee level.

    Rather than making shots in the dark, why not use a survivor-style method of getting rid of people? Why not have tribal council once a week to vote someone off? That would give a person motivation to find themselves useful, otherwise those around the person would give the axe. Justice in its finest form, sounds good to me.
  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:32AM (#4677576) Homepage
    What happens is that they make a bunch of layoffs and in the short run their productivity goes up because the same amount of work is being done by less people. While that is true, this is a temporary phenomenon. What ends up happening is that people, who are now overworked, begin looking for other opportunities. In a tight market these may be hard to find, but they'll begin to trickle in.

    Companies who don't overwork their employees in this manner will find that it's easier for them to find top notch talent as people seek to jump ship from companies that do overwork them. The companies who do overwork their employees discover in the meantime that they have a number of key defections and that these people end up being replaced by less qualified people, becuase the best people won't put up with them. So they go out and hire more people because the less qualified people can't do the job as effectively as one qualified person.

    So, they eventually end up with a large work force, some of whom have, in the mean time, become quite good at their jobs. Then they realize that they've now got all this dead weight again. Layoffs happen.

    Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

    Smart companies show their employees some loyalty in the bad times because it will be reciprocated in the good times. This leads to an overall more qualified and stable staff. That leads to increased productivity in the long run.

    or so my theory goes...
  • by Anthony Boyd ( 242971 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:32AM (#4677577) Homepage

    Well, one of my employees and /. regular, Mr. eDrugtrader, could probably comment at a developer level, and we'll see if he gets up early enough to see this post and comment. But I know that from a management perspective, while we're fairly productive with what we do, we have also had to say "no" to a massive number of projects, including projects that came from the CEO or were marked "necessary." Everyone is frustrated -- our CEO has huge plans, but he doesn't have the staff to do it. Or at least, things are getting done at a snail's pace. One of my employees has a backlog of about 2 years of projects -- great for job security, but it can be frustrating and overwhelming. Here are some bits of the fallout:

    • Because resources are scarce, people get nasty in their efforts to trump eachother. If two projects are "urgent" and only one can get done, I have to deal with people running to the CEO and complaining, and often using seniority to force the issue ("I'm a VP, so screw all the Directors asking for your time").
    • Because projects are under scrutiny, there is little tolerance for side projects. I know that one of my employees hates the project he's on, and would love to squeeze in even a few 4-hour quick-fix fun projects, but the company counts hours too tightly now. I wish I could fix this, but when you have meeting after meeting to agree on the priorities, there is a point where you make your commitments and have to do what you agreed to do.
    • While we may be productive short-term, long-term people get frustrated. They get jealous if they see another group gets our time, and they get jealous if they see one group getting to hire a new employee while everyone else cuts back. The employees get tired of having their time micromanaged. Inefficiencies in scheduling and production are highlighted.
    • Finally, although my current job hasn't gotten nasty like this (whew!), I've had experiences at other companies where the overloaded employees who miss deadlines get blamed for EVERYTHING. I've been that employee. It is NOT fun, not good, and a sure sign that it's time to leave. For instance, I can almost guarantee that the employees at Actuate Software are feeling that pressure right now -- highly competitive company, with plently of people willing to scream and blame others like mad. Which only makes a tough situation worse.
  • Ghost work (Score:3, Informative)

    by PseudonymousCoward ( 161283 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:38AM (#4677655)
    The Word Spy this week had a term for this phenomenon:

    Ghost work [wordspy.com]
    "After a round of layoffs or firings, the work that used to be done by the former employees and that must now be handled by the remaining staff."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:47AM (#4677750)
    Over here on the hardware side of things its a royal pain and then some. Shareholders want profits. CEO institues hiring freeze. Thats cool--at least no one is getting the axe.

    Except Problem 1) New Wafer plant is opening to produce all those shiny new Pentium 4s. Problem 2) They fellas over at AMD are puttin the heat on you and you company wants "increase market segment share" so they ask your division to hit overdrive in producing new processors and megahertz.

    So we are increasing workload and performance and have also have no people to put in our shiny new Fab. To say we are understaffed at the moment is an understatement. and the current staff is nearing burnout. Then the stock options become worthless and your incentive for busting ye olde hiney is gone. Its a vicous cycle of more work, less people. Then some people burnout and there is even more work and even less people. The same people who covered 1 plant must now staff 2 factories. Add in the switch to 300 mm wafers and our energy is sapped. Something is going to give sooner or later. Look for it sooner (and employers, do us a favor--hire an Intel process engineer and release us from bondage!).......

    I don't think this is a unique situation--lets be honest-chip sales is where Intel makes its money and we support the rest of the goons around here. One would think we could get an exemption to the hiring freeze, but nooooooo. Aparently that half billion dollars per week we bring in isn't enough (7 billion per quarter or 13 weeks)--
    CEOs always fund there little pet projects by squeezing the profitable divisions.

    And since I'm posting about work--views do nessecarily reflect those of the Intel corporate yes-men.
  • by Viking Coder ( 102287 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:48AM (#4677761)
    "Fewer Employees + Same Work = Higher Productivity"

    The real title of the article should be:

    "Fear Of Losing Job + Same Work = Higher Productivity"

    Fear is the greatest motivator.
  • by emptybody ( 12341 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:48AM (#4677767) Homepage Journal
    Management asks for cuts in the budget. Honest teams comply truthfully, accurately. Deceptive Teams cut 1/4 of what they could. Management is happy all around. Time passes. Management asks for more cuts. Honest teams already cut as far as they could. Deceptive teams have fat to spare. They cut 1/4 of their potential cuts again (1/2 of what the did before still leaving a huge margin for later cuts). Management is unpleased with honest teams. Management makes arbitrary cuts or layoffs to honest teams to cut costs. Deceptive Teams are rewarded. They still have spare cash AND full employment.

    lesson learned:: do not be truthful about how much you can cut.

    Management lays off people. Honest groups Survivors pick up the pieces and work harder to keep the company going. Deceptive groups people do not pick up the pieces and intentionally let projects slip and service quality drop. Management transfers people from Honest Teams into Deceptive Teams to cover their "losses" OR lays off people in honest teams so they can hire people back into the deceptive teams.

    lesson learned:: do not pick up the pieces. Let management feel the pain of reductions.

    This was also true in the good times.
    A person who does exemplary work all the time is expected to always do exemplary work. The one day they come in with a cold and do average work they are criticized for laziness.
    However, A person who always does the bare minimum on a day that they are unusually focused and produces average work (drank Jolt not water) gets praised for being a real go-getter! and gets a bonus for such wonderful work.

    Every time we are asked to do our best and do so, we are punished. Every time other groups perform below average they are rewarded.

  • Prioritize! (Score:5, Informative)

    by d3xt3r ( 527989 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @11:49AM (#4677773)
    I am faced with a similiar situation, the size of my team has been drasically reduced and now I am carrying out the reposiblilies of two former co-workers, plus my own work load.

    While the added work load can be overwhelming at times, I find it rewarding to have a broader responsibility for other areas of the company that I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to be involved with.

    If you are in a similiar situation, I have some recommendations for coping with the challenges of handling your increased work load.

    1. Prioritize! I can't stress this enough. I used to priortize my tasks by most interesting project or most nagging co-working needing a task completed, or "what the boss says to do." If you're overworked it's likely that your boss is overwhelmed as well, trying her/his best to get you the tasks that need to be done. However, their increased burden means that they cannot necessarily manage your time as efficiently as they once could.
    2. Make a to-do list. Seriously! Order that list everyday by top priorities. Keep the list around for the week so that you can check off what you've accomplished. When overworked, it's too easy to feel like you're not getting anything done b/c your plate is always full. If you keep a list, you can sit down and see what you've actaully accomplished and you'll realize that it was a hell of a lot too! This keeps you motivated.
    3. Take a day off. If you feel overwhelmed, step away for a day. Clear your head. You'll come back the next day and get more done than you would have without the break.
    4. Stay focused on one task. I really hate the phone calls when everyone is asking "do this for me", "do that", "i need this...", yada yada yada. Tell them you'll get too it soon. Add it to your to-do list, priorize it, and check it off when you finish!
    5. Last but not least:
      sudo vi /etc/hosts


      Add:
      127.0.0.1 slashdot.org

    Good luck!

  • I'll say this... (Score:5, Informative)

    by macdaddy ( 38372 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @12:10PM (#4678019) Homepage Journal
    ...I could honestly get more done if some of my co-workers were given the boot. Deadwood isn't the same as someone who intentionally causes problems and slows down productivity. Deadwood is more synonymous with "dead weight". Those that intentionally cause problems are the real burden on IT institutions. Those are people in power positions that do not know everything (or anything) technical but think they do. They try to slow things down and cause problems to have these tasks put under their incompetent selves or try to improve their competency standing by questioning others. They try to make technical decisions that they have absolutely no right to make. If management would take 3 steps back and let the grunts do the job, everything would get done a lot faster and a lot better. However this is not to say that there aren't problematic grunts. Grunts that do not want to change are a big problem. Grunts that want everything technical to be funneled through them are another problem. Cutting or controlling the fat in IT groups would greatly increase productivity.

    I might also add that I think people with colleagues that have been axed work harder and take on more responsibility with no additional pay just to try and keep their own jobs. In the end what suffers is their health and the quality of their work.

  • Fuck productivity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @12:18PM (#4678086)
    You know, with just about every increase in productivity, we lose. It means that we are doing more work in the same amount of time as before, and while some of that is due to more management efficiency and technology, most of it is just making the wage-slaves work faster and goof off less. Isn't anybody angry? I mean, this really sucks.

    It seems to me that a high quality of life is incompatible with high productivity, that all this productivity crap is making us lose our humanity. We are expected to be pleased that productivity is constantly increasing, but I'm not. Anthropologists claim that hunter-gatherers spent four hours a day "working" and the rest of the time they were goofing off, telling stories, having sex, etc. Oh, how far we have fallen from those days!

  • by ppetrakis ( 51087 ) <peter.petrakis@gmail.com> on Friday November 15, 2002 @12:49PM (#4678360) Homepage
    Like others have said. Companies aren't loyal to their employees so their employees return the favor. There's no such thing as "taking one for the team" . There is no team though you will end up "taking it". The conclusion is no one is going to look out for number one except you. So take your financial destiny out of these guys hands and strike out on your own. Do any kind of work you're able. Take myself for example. I have a background in embedded systems development, QA, and support. Know what I'm doing most of the time these days? Designing & building websites for well below the competion but plenty enough for me :).

    Turns out there are alot of self important/proclaimed "artists" for web design firms around my area and their customers are sick of the poor turnaround time and lacking professionalism, long story short I'm eating their lunch. Yeah it's mind numbing work, effortless, and boring though it's helped me come to a realization. Work to live, not live to work.

    So in my free time I work on my Alphas and write firmware. That comes -after- I spend time with my friends and 'live'. Guys, You're life outside of work must be more engaging than work itself otherwise you'll always have this split loyalty. Fuck what you do for a living. Make money any way you can and live your life.

    If the economy swings the other way and I can get a job doing what I used to do. I'll have to seriously reconsider leaving what I'm doing now for that instead. After all, It's just work.

    Peter

  • The future? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Badgerman ( 19207 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @12:58PM (#4678443)
    I'll be first to admit I'm sure the downsizing did trim deadwood. In fact, having been in IT some seven years, I can definitely say I've worked with a few too many people who shouldn't be in the profession. A third of my job has been cleaning up after them.

    However, I don't think the trimming went too well. I lost my job, became a contractor, and then did two contracts where extremely expereinced developers were needed. The companies in question didn't have people to fill these positions - so they spent more on me (on one contract the company probably paid 250% to 225% of what it'd have cost to have me as a regular employee).

    Yet I've run into complete incompetents with stable jobs. Some of them the very people whose bad code and designs I had to fix.

    The downsizings weren't that rational, from what I've seen. I dearly wish more of the deadwood had been cut, but I keep running into it.

    IT seems to have a pretty high turnover rate - and I'd hate to think how recent grads are doing. When the economy improves, when companies add to their IT staff, what will they be left with?

    My guess? A mix of the high-powered people who managed to survive the downturn, the lucky, and the improperly retained incompetents. The glow will be off of IT, so I don't expect people to rush back.

    Then what will hiring be like?
  • Voodoo Economics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 3ryon ( 415000 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @01:42PM (#4678843)
    Fewer Employees + Same Work = Higher Productivity
    Fewer Employees + Same Work = Lower Morale
    Lower Morale = Lower Productivity
    Lower Morale + More Employees = Same Productiviy

    Wash, rinse, repeat.
  • by my_second_fish ( 559508 ) on Friday November 15, 2002 @02:26PM (#4679248) Homepage

    The bottom line is the bottom line.

    A stratification class I am in, demonstrated some rather alarming figures regarding the corporate elite, as compared to the corporate prole. In 2001, Lawrence Ellison made $706 million dollars for the year. Thats almost $2 million a -day-, 160 times that of the highest paid CEO in 1950 (Charles Wilson of General Motors). "The average CEO of a major corporation made $11 million in 2001, including salary, bonus and other compensation such as exercised stock options"

    If workers pay increased with inflation, and productivity gains, average hourly earnings would be $21.71, not $14.33 that they are today. In fact, workers make on average, 9% -less- than they did in 1973, if you adjust for inflation. Minimum wage earners, earn 38% less than 1968 workers. "It takes more than 3 jobs at the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour -- $10,712 a year -- to support a family." Since the last minimum wage increase, Congress has raised their salaries by more than $16,400, and have another $5000 raise pending.

    But I got off topic. The GATT, NAFTA, IMF and the World Bank are all attempts to allow the shipping of jobs to other, cheaper countries. It makes business sense to move that factory in El Paso, across the river to Juarez, and go from paying $8/hr, to $8/day for employees. Throw in corrupt officials, less stringent environmental controls, the dropping of benefits and retirement, and you have a vastly cheaper production cost.

    Furthermore, if executives can shuffle more workload onto a smaller workforce, in an economy that has a large available workforce (too many of you damn CS ppl out there :), those who want to protest, can be replaced. So people bear the brunt, because they know they will be replaced. But People have no collective long-term memory. They remember when their skills were in demand, and they could set the bars that they wanted. Desks made from legos, workstations that pivot slightly over the course of the day, nerf guns strapped to their chairs, Aqua Joe in the water cooler.. People also got lazy. They knew that if they slacked off, the job'd still be there, because they were indispensible. Unfortunately, things changed.. and it seems that nobody remembers the 1980s. When there was struggle for the good paying jobs, and good paying jobs meant you worked your ass off.

    Hell, computer professionals now get to realize the crush teachers have always felt. More and more work, without any added compensation.

    Quotes are from a commentary by Holly Sklar, co-author of Raise The Floor: Wages and Policies That Work for All Of Us [raisethefloor.com] and can be reached via email: hsklarATaolDOTcom (she had it at the end of the commentary, so i figured i'd share)

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