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In defense of desk rage

By Jonathan David Morris
web posted December 11, 2006

My local news station recently did a piece on something called "desk rage," which is apparently supposed to be like road rage, only at work instead of on the roads.

According to the reporter, desk rage can manifest in several ways: aggression; poor productivity; abuse of sick days; stealing supplies; and irritability or depression.

My problem with this report isn't that it's untrue. It's that they say it like it's a bad thing.

Workers are being aggressive towards each other? Slacking off? Stealing? Abusing sick days? Great! I've always felt the desk job environment is unnatural -- even inhuman. What this news tells me is thousands of fellow human beings believe it's unnatural and even inhuman, too.

Take poor productivity, for instance. The very tone of the phrase, "poor productivity," strikes me as negative spin.

When was the last time you got a new job? How much did your new employer pay you? Most companies want to pay their employees the least amount of money they're willing to work for. This isn't because those companies are devious cheapskates; it's just the basic idea behind having employees.

Poor productivity is the same thing in reverse. Employees are extracting the most amount of money from the least amount of work. This is a bad thing? Why? The time and energy you save just from being inefficient are like money in the bank. After all, time is money. Wise employees turn a profit by paying themselves in time.

Then there's abuse of sick days. Who's really abusing sick days here?

Some companies are quite generous with their sick day policies. Others offer employees as little as five or fewer sick days per year. Both of these situations are equally ridiculous, because both are based on the flimsy idea that you can guess ahead of time how many days out of 365 you'll be sick.

Since sick days are paid days off, you'd be a sucker for letting those days run out at the end of the year. Companies shouldn't staff themselves with suckers. They should staff themselves with people who call out sick even when they aren't.

Anytime you use a sick day, you're basically saying, "Hey! This is why you hired me."

Finally, this brings me to stealing supplies. I can't endorse embezzlement or skimming a bit off the top of petty cash here. But if we're talking about little more than paperclips, ballpoint pens, and Post-It Notes, where's the problem?

The real workplace thievery takes place when you get a bonus check and find fully half of your earnings taken out for taxes.

Maybe that bonus was your paper clip money, but you can't afford paperclips because of taxes now. What are you supposed to do -- continue living a paperclip-less existence? Wouldn't that in some way be bad for the economy?

The way I figure, there are two kinds of people who end up holding desk jobs. The kind who want to hold desk jobs, and the kind who hold desk jobs because holding desk jobs is what people in their social class are supposed to do. The second group outnumbers the first by roughly the same margin as bosses outnumber employees.

This is why most people work 9-to-5 jobs that in no way, shape, or form resemble what they want to get out of life. And this is why repressive work environments turn ordinarily fun, happy people into aggressive, irritable, and possibly depressed white collar workers.

The only way to survive this world is to make the most of it. And the only way to make the most of it is to make it work for you.

Anything less would be unnatural. ESR

Jonathan David Morris writes from Philadelphia. He can be reached at jdm@readjdm.com.

 

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