toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

July 10, 2010

snakes and ladders at work

Daisy is 65, recently retired from a low level job that no ambitious young person would want to rot in for a month, let alone their entire working life as she has done, and she is very glad to be leaving work at a time when the global financial crisis has exacerbated workplace generational tension, causing many young people to lash out at older workers for snakily pulling up the ladder they climbed, robbing them of jobs and the rosy future they believe is entitled to them by their superior education.

"I started work in 1960 at the age of 15 and have been through many periods of unemployment similar to the one we're having now," says Daisy, "but this is the first time I've actually heard young people seriously advocating making euthanasia compulsory at the age of 55 or 60 so that they can not only gain the good jobs that older people are holding, but also their inheritance before their parents spend it."

"I'm not sure which age group is worse – the 40-50s or the 20-30s," sighs Daisy, "but they are at each other's throats like vipers and suddenly nobody is talking glass ceilings any more, it's all about ladders and educational entitlement."

"My age group, the 60-70s, is largely out of the workforce right now, and nobody I know started off with a university education and great expectations," says Daisy. "Sure, there were plenty of jobs available in the 1960s, but they were all low level jobs, nothing that the kids of today with their qualifications would want."

"I think those jobs are still out there, but the 20-30 age group want the good jobs that the 40-50 age group is hogging," laughs Daisy, "and I know I shouldn't laugh, because things are nasty out there, but people should understand that if ladders ever existed they have a nasty habit of getting very slippery and disappearing overnight – and nobody is guaranteed a rosy future, educated or not.”

"I don't remember anyone in my age group being particularly ambitious or materialistic," says Daisy. "We were all into creativity back then – as well as drugs, sex and rock n'roll – and having a job, any job, was a drudge, not something you identified your whole existence with like people do today."

"Remember the song? We had Friday on our mind from Monday morning!"

"What's more, when women fell pregnant, they were required to leave work and no woman ever held a management position when I first started work," says Daisy. "There was no such thing as paid parental leave, and it was tough relying on your partner, your parents or the state for your survival during the early years of motherhood – but the old feminists finally won some rights for women. It was good seeing Margaret Thatcher become prime minister in the 80s, and the glass ceiling being cracked.”

"As I see it, times are always changing and it's unfair to blame one age-group over another for economic disasters," says Daisy. "There are snakes in each age-group, each sex, each religion and each race and they are in every workplace and government across the globe; and with increasing population, and more competition, we can expect these changes to happen more rapidly than they do now and the snakes to become more active and venomous."

"I remember work becoming harder to get, and tougher when you got it, when the bulk of the boomers, those born in the 50s, moved into the workforce during the 70s and 80s," says Daisy. "There were hundreds of thousands of them, and they are still in the workplace, hogging the jobs that the young want."

"Back in those days, promotion was based purely and simply on seniority and I just imagined, stupidly, that if I just hung on in there, constantly updating my skills, that my time would come when my superior age-group retired," explains Daisy. "That was the 'ladder' I guess that the young people are talking about today."

"Well, it all happened in 1995 when I was 50," laughs Daisy. "My superiors retired, but rather than giving my age-group the vacated top positions, those old bastards pulled up the ladder they climbed (actually they climbed nothing, they just sat their time out like I did) and then they handed power over not to the next generation (mine) but to the one after. My new boss was 28, the first generation of whiz kids, two years younger than my son!”

"Right now, that guy would be 43 and, facing the onslaught of the latest generation of lean, mean and hungry whiz kids – old enough to be his kids – he is going to do whatever it takes to hang on to his position of power," says Daisy. "He must necessarily become a more venomous type of snake."

"He's too young to retire, and so are the mass of older workers whose noses were put out of joint like mine was when he was promoted over us," explains Daisy. "So, playing on their fears of job loss, he will form a formidable coalition with them to rob the young of the sort of future he was given on a plate."

"I believe all workplace ladders are going to be removed completely," says Daisy. "Not so much to stop the young kids climbing up them, but to prevent older people like my old boss and former colleagues from falling down them."

Read more of Daisy’s stories about this issue:

  • Is the dice loaded against the young?
  • did the boomers have it all good?
  • cohorts and generations
  • growing up in smoggy post-war Britain
  • vulture circling young estate agents
  • materialism vs motherhood
  • the ponzi welfare system

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