Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Whose Job Is It Anyway?

A few days ago I saw a tweet from somebody who was essentially inviting people to post tweets ragging on their employers. Bad idea, it seems to me. I looked at a few more of his posts and saw other tweets decrying employers' "power" over their employees, and so on.

An employer has something of value--cash for example, and is in need of something of value--a skill, a task to be performed. An employee has something of value--a skill, and is in need of something of value--cash for instance.

The employer cannot hold a gun to the employee's head and demand his skill: that would be slavery. Likewise, the employee cannot hold a gun to the employer's head and demand his money: that would be robbery. An arrangement that works to their mutual benefit is for them to trade: the employer's cash for the employee's skill.

The employer and employee both come to terms when they agree that the cost of giving up the valuable thing they possess is worth the benefit of receiving the thing of value the other possesses. Nobody is forcing anybody to do anything. If, to the employee, the cost of trading his skill is not worth the value of the cash he receives, he's free to walk away from the arrangement; if to the employer, the cost of trading his cash is not worth the value of the skill he receives, he is free to break the arrangement as well.

If the employee thinks he cannot break the arrangement, the truth is simply that he believes the cost of giving the employer his skill is still worth the benefit of the cash he receives. When the benefit is no longer worth the cost, he should leave. By staying and contributing little more than gripes and complaints, the employee risks raising the employer's cost of continuing the agreement.

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