Obama's victory in Iowa sheds light on today’s workplace

, ,

My brother just started school at the University of Iowa, and this was his first caucus. He describes a room totally crammed full of young people: “It was basically all the students caucusing for Obama and the adults dispersing among the other candidates.”

In the end, in his Iowa City precinct, the students sat victorious at the Obama camp with 70% of the votes, while the caucuses for Edwards and Clinton were shouting over to the Kucinich supporters to abandon camp and come to them.

This is a metaphor for the workplace. The young people have, effectively, shifted the balance of power to themselves, and the older people squabble between each other, as if their power structures still matter.

Millennials are fundamentally conservative

The victories of Generation Y will not look like the Boston Tea Party or Kent State. They will look like this Iowa caucus: Gen Y, playing by the rules, and winning.

When Gen-Xers were this age, we were so overwhelmed with trying to earn a living that voting was the last thing on our minds. And when baby boomers were this age, they were protesting, and dodging the draft, and disrupting the establishment. So in a way, it’s remarkable how engaged, optimistic, and rule-abiding Millennials are during their twenties.

But as a group, Gen Y is fundamentally conservative, so it’s not surprising that they come out and vote in droves. Voting is a way for people who color-within-the-lines to instigate change. Voting is a fundamentally conservative way to tell the establishment to get out of the way.

Baby boomers are being forced out, in a non-disruptive way

And this is the exact same way that generation Y is telling baby boomers to get out of their way at work. Gen Y plays by the rules, meets expectations, and in the same step, pulls the rug out from under the people with power. How? By refusing to pay dues, by customizing their own career paths instead of lusting after a promotion, and by job hopping when learning curves get flat.

When USA Today wrote “Gen Y has already made its mark” the story was about entrepreneurship – Gen Y is ambitious, driven, and success-oriented, and since hierarchical structures of corporate life allow for so little mobility, young people are turning to entrepreneurship and are starting businesses at a blistering rate not seen among young people earlier.

This is not exactly the Civil Rights movement or grunge music. But Gen Y doesn’t need to rebel because, as I wrote in Time magazine, young people are already in the driver’s seat at the workplace. They can work within the established lines of business to get what they want, but they get it faster than we expect.

The gender divide is an antiquated view of the world

So many times I give a speech and explain to the room why women should not report sexual harassment. Invariably, the room divides. The millennials think the advice makes sense, the baby boomers are outraged.

Baby boomers perceive that there is a gender war going on at work, and women are fighting for equality: “The glass ceiling still exists!” But millennials are entering a workforce where women are making more than men in major cities, and the salary gap is essentially gone in most fields of business for this demographic. Nearly 50% of millennial girls were sexually harassed in their summer job, and by the time they are of voting age, sexual harassment is old news– it doesn’t scare them because they have plenty of power at work.

Early pundit posts declare that the results in Iowa hinged on the votes of young women. The Clinton campaign assumed women would vote for women. But young people did not make this election about gender, they made it about age. They want change. They want a chance to do things differently, within the established structures of power.

And this is true of the workplace as well. There are not women fighting for women in Generation Y. The gender divide ended when Gen X dads started giving up promotions to stay at home with their kids. Today there is a generational divide, and it’s happening at work and in politics and the balance of power has shifted to Generation Y.

98 replies
« Older Comments
  1. finance girl
    finance girl says:

    Millenials are fundamentally conservative?


    The ones I know, and I paint with a broad brush stroke here, are socially liberal and don’t know enough about fiscal policy to determine if they are fiscally conservative or fiscally liberal.

    * * * * * *

    I linked to the post about this above.

    By conservative I am not talking politically per se. I am talking about risk-taking profile and also about buying into the status quo vs. for example, using anti-establishment methods to change the status quo.


  2. Josh Lavik
    Josh Lavik says:

    I think what I like about Obama is that it’s not about attacking each other. I’m so sick of politics turning into this mudslinging dogfight of hell. Obama truly appears to be in the best interest of the all parties in the United States and finding ways for all of us to come together. Similarly I cringe when debates in the workplace turn to old gender issues (men vs. women) because I agree that it’s old news. The divide is no longer there. Get over it. The best employees will be chosen based on their merits. Likewise, politically the issue is no longer one party versus another, but how can we finally come together on issues that can really make an impact. Change is possible and I think it’s essential as we look to the future. Because if nothing changes, then nothing changes.

  3. leslie
    leslie says:

    @John Feier

    A friend of mine applied for a position via a head-hunter as a software architect. He e-mailed his résumé to him. There were a number of misspellings including resume. The head-hunter asked him to proof-read it, correct the spelling, and re-submit.
    My friend got the job.

    Another, anecdote. I know someone who interviews candidates for engineering positions all the time. His biggest complaint is that so many of the candidates do not have verbal communication skills even though they know C++ etc. Jobs are going overseas to people who are strictly programmers but the ones that require management, and invention, and the ability to explain those things to a venture capitalist are staying in the U.S. Who do you want to compete with and how much do you want to make?

    I agree with you that a minor misspelling seems unimportant until you realize that employers really do want literate individuals.

  4. John Feier
    John Feier says:

    It’s not what the EMPLOYERS want. It’s what the APPLICANTS want that matters. The employers are trying to get employees. We don’t NEED employers to get by. There are too many alternatives that applicants have for employers to be calling all of the shots, including starting a small business of their own and networking with their friends to meet needs that they may have while they’re trying to start that small business.

    Consultants are younger now because of the wide availability of information on the Internet. If some of these graduates would use their heads, they would get some kind of certification, specialize in a particular area by reading as much as they can about that field on the Internet and become a consultant. They don’t even need to worry about not having enough work-related experience if they can sell themselves well-enough. Now, if we’re talking about selling ourselves, then we ARE talking about being able to spell correctly. If I go to a website, for instance, and I’m going to give them money, they will not get any money from me if I see a lot of spelling and punctuation errors on their website.

    So, you see, it’s not that they don’t realize the importance of the details. It’s just that they want to make sure that the efforts that they make toward ensuring adherence to the details will be made in a economical manner as far as time and attention are concerned and directly towards the revenue that they want. The money that an employee gets is not necessarily tied directly to consumer demand and therefore, the applicant feels that the employer should cut them a little slack. But if they themselves were out there dealing directly with the customer and their livelihoods depended directly on meeting the expectations of the consumer, then that apple is going to get polished really well.

  5. Karen M
    Karen M says:

    you said it isn’t what the employers want but what the candidates want.

    When I read that, coffee came out of my nose because I was laughing so hard.

    You realize that unemployment just went up to 5%. Since Earlier than mid last year there has been an Extreme drop in in payroll (meaning new jobs to the economy) – and the LONG term unemployed is at the Highest it has ever been

    Companies are being extremely selective in regards to the employees they want to hire, and are willing to take a much longer time to hire that “right” individual. So, indeed it is a Companies Market, not an applicant market contrary to what many may believe.

  6. leslie
    leslie says:

    I find this topic so fascinating. Details in themselves are trivial and boring but what they represent to a prospective client or employer is that you care. Its a matter of attitude. If it takes 2 minutes longer to do something right than in a half-hearted way it says alot about the applicant. No one wants to hire someone who is lazy.

  7. John Feier
    John Feier says:


    Despite the socially-ingrained belief that we all have to work for someone else, it is not necessarily so. People can be self-employed.

    If you look at the general trend of American industry, companies are not hiring anyway. They’re looking to reduce labor costs by outsourcing overseas.

    I bet that in the fifteen to twenty years after I become a CPA, that the salary of a CPA won’t be anywhere near what it is today simply because other people in other parts of the world will be able to provide any accounting and consulting services that a firm may need. This will really begin to happen when international accounting standards are universally accepted and implemented. Does that make it right? Does that mean that we have to put up with it? And I don’t have to explain the bloodletting that has occurred with MIS, do I?

    Everything we do that we think is special and unique and something only we can do, there will always be someone else in another part of the world that will be able to do it for cheaper. Then, once everyone is reduced to minimum wage, they’ll all start to see what low income people have been complaining about. Then, and only then, will something be done about those factors which help to produce poverty. Just who are they expecting will buy all of these products and services if everyone has low wages? They will cannibalize themselves out of existence.

    So you see, not only are the factory and low skill jobs going overseas, but also professional positions. American industry has effectively turned their back on the American worker and professional. We’re eventually headed for a minimum wage planet. Doesn’t matter what your field is. Doesn’t matter how many years in school you spent studying for it.

    At some point, dignity has to enter the picture. Their arrogance simply must come to a halt. If we stand up and tell ’em to put it where the sun don’t shine and be willing to sleep under interstate bridges, we can take control of it all. Especially, since the workers are the same people doing the consuming.

    It’s not going to get better until the natural market forces which are driven by self-interest are either regulated by those same forces collectively acting in the long-term interests of itself or the government. It’s coming down to that.

    Currently, it may be a “company market” but, like I said, who are they expecting will buy all of these goods and services if everyone has low wages? Could that be the reason Americans owe $14 trillion credit cards? That means that the arrogance of employers and their “company market” is worth $14 trillion to us. We’re going into debt to cover for wages that they won’t give us. How does any of this make sense?

  8. leslie
    leslie says:

    There are so many good points that you brought up regarding the abuse of power by today’s employers. Thanks for reminding me why I am self-employed.

  9. Sidney
    Sidney says:


    The total amount of consumer debt (including installment debt but not including mortgages) is $2.4 trillion (as of June 2007) not $14 trillion. Revolving debt is approx. $900 billion. More than half of the US, including me, has no CC debt. The median amount for those who have CC debt is $2,200. When you realize the US GDP is $15 trillion, kinda puts those numbers in perspective.

    Besides the statistical errors, I have credibility issues with the rest of the blanket statements on your last comment. Hmm, all corporations are bad? All corporations are shipping out jobs? Been drinking some of the kool-aid have we.

    Sorry, but, if someone can do your job cheaper in another country and no consumer values your services enough to pay the higher rate you think you are entitled to, then say bye-bye to your job. Yes, there needs to be more policies in place to mitigate the effects of globalization on workers affected but change is coming whether you like it or not and no amount of “protectionism” is going to stop it. The world is too small, read Thomas Friedman to get a glimpse.

    No one is entitled to a high wage unless the market values whatever it is you do. And what about that worker overseas who could have a nice life at a lower wage with your job? Why isn’t he entitled to your CPA job if he can do it just as well at a lower cost?

    And don’t just blame the corporations. Remember it is consumers demanding lower prices on clothes, electronics, toys, etc, etc that have pushed the jobs out. Are the majority of consumers willing to pay higher prices to buy American? They certainly don’t do it on a large scale for environmental or organic products. And how will you mitigate the effects of the higher prices? Even higher wages? Hello inflation and making the US even less competitive…now what do you do?

    It is nice living in a fantasy world of black and white but it’s actually quite gray in the real world.

    I will agree with you on one thing; having worked for myself as well as in the private and public sectors (my current gig), I prefer self-employment. However, the perks in a large organization (bonuses, expenses paid, pensions, healthcare) can be tremendously rewarding plus the resources available can help you make a far greater difference.

  10. John Feier
    John Feier says:

    Here’s a link explaining the $14 trillion figure.


    And while that figure does include car, mortgage and credit card debt, it is still all consumer debt. My point was and still is that I do not see how they expect people to continue buying things with low wages. When you questioned the $14 trillion figure, it seemed as if you were saying that people racking up all this debt was a good thing without even addressing the low wages causing people to use credit in the first place. Didn’t someone tell me a long time ago that I should use credit only when I really need to? Today, the establishment encourages people to use debt to help make up for falling wages.

    While you have great points, you seem to have missed the entire point of my post and went off into a totally different direction. I am simply saying that, all things being constant, because everyone acts out of their own self-interest in a capitalist model, when that model is applied to the world, everyone’s wages, no matter what it is, brain surgeon or ditch digger, eventually comes down. Hence, my phrase, “minimum wage planet.”

    I didn’t want to put anyone into a position where they would be forced to apologize for the corporate and free market system. I was merely trying to point out that, so far, nothing is on the near horizon that can possibly prevent this “minimum wage planet” from occurring. Even one’s smug little world of “self-employment” will eventually have to deal with this downward pressure on income and wages.

    I am not saying protectionism is the answer here.

    I can see, however, that once all wages, salaries and revenue do go down to the level of the third world, that maybe, there would be international agreement amongst workers and professionals that there would be a basic minimum for whatever products and services being offered. But that is a long way off.

    We still have to go through some hard times in adjusting our wages to the rest of the world and maybe it won’t be so hard. But in a sense, Karl Marx will have the last word, because everybody’s wages, salaries and revenue will be the same.

    The adjustment getting there, however, is going to be painful.

  11. leslie
    leslie says:

    “It's not what the EMPLOYERS want. It's what the APPLICANTS want that matters. The employers are trying to get employees. We don't NEED employers to get by.”

    The above statement you made is contradictory to your last post.

  12. John Feier
    John Feier says:


    How does that contradict?

    In a minimum wage planet scenario, employees will be liberated from having to impress one employer over another because employers will not be able offer more for prospective employees because competition will keep margins low.

    Employers, on the other hand, will face a global commodification of everything from toothpicks to computers. If something is commodified, like grain and agricultural products, then that entails less and less margins simply because there’s enough competition to keep the prices low.

    It will be a world where the employee/consumer will have the upper hand, perhaps moreso than what they do today.

  13. Carolyn Ann
    Carolyn Ann says:

    Politics aside (I’m not American, although I live in the States, and have done for a number of years, and I’m intensely interested in US politics, and current affairs around the globe), and the rather scathing, ill-informed blanket statements you make, Penelope, I have to ask about the “don’t report sexual harassment” bit you propose. I disagree pretty much with everything you stated.

    I have to ask: have you never heard of equality? Of not working in an environment that you fear entering?

    Sexual harassment isn’t just a minor inconvenience, it’s a legal issue and an issue of equal rights. It’s also something that women fought for, and they fought hard and long to get the necessary legislation passed. You trivialize their efforts as so much dander!

    Your advice is reckless and insensitive.

    Carolyn Ann

  14. Natalie Bond
    Natalie Bond says:

    In university I had the same view as university students now: gender inequality was virtually a thing of the past. I’m now in my early 40s and have a very different view. It’s pretty hard to work on the trading floor of an investment bank, where 95% of my colleagues are male, and see that the top is all but closed to a few token females. It’s not because of an old school “get me the coffee, woman” mentality. The fact is that people hire people like themselves whether they realise it or not. Male bonding is a force that has a real impact on the demographics of my firm and many others. It’s not evil – it’s human nature. And it’s something that’s not going to change for a very long time.

  15. GwhizHR
    GwhizHR says:

    Looking forward to your thoughts on how Hillary’s New Hampshire win relates to the new workplace dynamic.

    While doing some consulting for one of the campaigns recently, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of post graduate educated millenials about living wages. All of them agreed that every job in the US should be a living wage job no matter if the job could be filled by a 17 year old high school drop out. The concensus was that $38k per year was the minimum standard for a living wage. However, not one of them could comprehend that the price of their Big Mac would immediately inflate, that all prices would sky rocket. They seemed to think that the new costs of providing these wages to low skilled, entry level workers would somehow magically come from the “bad, evil company” profits and the CEO’s salary. Did the “do it our own way/we rule now” class take the place of ECON 101?

  16. Sidney
    Sidney says:


    Your statement “Could that be the reason Americans owe $14 trillion credit cards” seems to be referring to credit card debt. And with a GDP of $15 trillion, it can be argued that a $14 trillion total debt (including mortgages) is not such a huge outlier.

    Your other statement “It's not going to get better until the natural market forces which are driven by self-interest are either regulated by those same forces collectively acting in the long-term interests of itself or the government” seems to be arguing for protectionism which is why I responded to your statements.

    And how exactly how are you going to be exporting brain surgery?

    And Marx’s downward pressure on incomes and wages is only true in a stagnant or closed system. It doesn’t account for marketing or consumer preference. Computers may be a commodity but are Macs? MP3 players may be a commodity but are IPOD’s? Coffee is a commodity but is Starbucks? (McDonald’s is hoping they can commodify that experience). Are planes a commodity? Military weapons? Farm Equipment, why is John Deere and Caterpillar two of our most successful exporters? Cars? Why do people prefer Toyota’s over GM?

    Read Caught In The Middle by Richard Longsworth to see that a lot of the ill effects of globalization frankly are self-inflicted.

    For the US to stay ahead of the curve and maintain as a high-wage country means education (for everyone, not just the ones lucky enough to go to a good school), it means investment in job training and retraining, it means an energy policy that gets us out of the Middle East so we can stop misallocating our resources in stupid wars with cave dwellers, it means investment in our infrastructure. That is where your high wages will come from. Creativity is not a commodity.

    There is a reason why Marxism is dead and his theories discredited. The world is an infinitely more dynamic and interconnected world from when Marx was alive (and the telephone and automobile had just been invented). This is not saying that Capitalism is perfect, but with the right amount of regulation and oversight to mitigate economic externalities, it certainly has worked better than the communist model.

  17. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    @Penelope, I don’t think what you are describing has anything to do with generations. It has everything to do with numbers (and the fact that the US has a first past the post voting system). Obama had the numbers so of course the two runners up were shouting for the last-place supporters to come and bolster their numbers. If Hillary had been in the lead, then it would have been supporters of John Edwards and Obama doing the same thing. It’s just politics.

    @Jenflex who said: “it's a little scary to think about a former President using his spouse to circumvent the Constitution”.
    Regardless of whether you like or support Hillary or not, this is an insulting and demeaning thing to say. Why assume that a woman will be controlled by her husband? Did you assume that George W Bush would be controlled by his father? Probably not and that’s because, whatever his shortcomings, he is an adult human being. So is Hillary.

    @Carmen, the dictionary lists “resume” as a variant spelling of “résumé”. Linguists are divided on whether English does or does not retain the accents of words imported from foreign languages. For example, do you buy your coffee in a café or a cafe? In French, it’s café. In English, either is correct.

    @JohnFeier: I hate to be the bearer of bad news but there’s a recession on the way. Applicants have the balance of power right now but it’s not going to stay that way and you need to start preparing now.

  18. John Feier
    John Feier says:

    “And with a GDP of $15 trillion, it can be argued that a $14 trillion total debt (including mortgages) is not such a huge outlier.”

    uhhhmmmmm …. Run that by me again? LOL Or are you too busy trying to apologize for corporate America?

    “Your other statement…seems to be arguing for protectionism which is why I responded to your statements.”

    I would hope that we could get it done without resorting to protectionism. But apologists like absolutely insist that everybody go through hell just so that you can be able to say that you have a free market economy. There’s only so much that people can endure. The reason that government intervention and socialism exists is because of the abuses of capitalists. Why is that such a foreign idea? Capitalism is actually the natural economic reality, but just because something is of nature, does that necessarily mean that we don’t do anything about the things that we don’t like about it? Does that mean that we don’t live in houses because the natural thing for us to do is to live in trees? That’s the way nature intended it, right? So why not?

    “And how exactly how are you going to be exporting brain surgery?”

    Give them time and they’ll figure out a way. No job is safe, including yours.

    “And Marx's downward pressure on incomes and wages is only true in a stagnant or closed system.”

    And that world’s economy is a closed system. That’s the part you don’t seem to get.

    “Read Caught In The Middle by Richard Longsworth to see that a lot of the ill effects of globalization frankly are self-inflicted.”

    And when the economy collapses, will feel the same way?

    “Creativity is not a commodity.”

    YES IT IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    THAT’S another point you don’t seem to get. There is nothing special about or the way you do something. Just get over it. If I can’t have wages that support the special stuff you sell, then you’re gonna be out of a job.

    “There is a reason why Marxism is dead and his theories discredited.”

    I’m not supporting Marxism anymore than I supporting black holes or influenza. It’s just reality global competition is driving down wages. Just get over it. Everyone will have the same wages eventually…even you…just like Karl wanted it. He saw things in the long term. Eventually, everything levels and there’s nothing and nobody special in this world. The fact that everyone is acting out of their own self interest will alter the growth strategies of all firms everywhere.

  19. John Feier
    John Feier says:


    “Applicants have the balance of power right now but it's not going to stay that way and you need to start preparing now.”

    Applicants are going to be getting more power BECAUSE of the coming economic depression. Applicants are consumers, right? If we’re not working, we’re not consuming, right? So there…applicants will have more authority under a “minimum wage planet” than what you think.

    Then, once everyone’s wages are level, they’ll have it within their power to raise them if they are willing to work with others. If they don’t, then they’re back to square one.

    So in the long run, applicants DO have power if they know how to use it. There is strength in numbers and we can use the internet to organize those numbers.

  20. Sidney
    Sidney says:


    Thanks for the nice laugh this morning. I discredit your statistics, highlight inconsistencies in your statements, list sources of material and the best you can come up with is “Just Get Over It” or keep calling me a “corporate apologist” or keep saying “you just don’t get it”. Typical Gen Y response. No substance or research and immature indignation when someone actually challenges them on their poorly thought out assumptions. Your response is why I am always thrilled when I get to negotiate a finance deal with a Gen Y’er. They are usually so over their head that I end up getting all the terms I want.

    Hmm, so what is it that you are so afraid of? Too scared that you can’t make it in today’s world without protection from Mom and Dad (or the government)? Currently I do affordable housing finance which helps the less fortunate get better homes so their children can have a leg up to better compete in your “scary world”. Previously I owned a toy company and prior to that was a successful sales rep. I have more than enough confidence to know I can handle whatever the global economy throws at me.

    So you just stay in that “recently graduated from college, still reading stuff that affirms my world view and doesn’t challenge me” bubble you seem to be in. Those of us in the real world know that life has a few more possibilities than just what is presented in the latest James Kunstler or Mike Davis screed.

    And applicants have all the power? Yeah, you just tell that to the 100 people I didn’t hire for one spot, including one cliche of a Gen Y’er (from Harvard!) who came in to his one and only interview with us drinking a Starbucks, wearing the requisite goatee and attitude. After destroying his puffed up resume in the interview and his pretense that he knew anything about building affordable housing, we sent him on his way in abject humiliation as we laughed the rest of the day about his initial demands for a six figure salary, which he demanded because well I guess everybody just told him how special he was his whole life. Now those are the type of people the global economy will not deal too kindly with.

  21. karen m
    karen m says:

    I agreed with part of your post – Mainly the ” I am always thrilled when I get to negotiate a finance deal with a Gen Y'er. They are usually so over their head that I end up getting all the terms I want” — As much as I don’t agree with the premise, it happens more often than not, and it is because unfortuantely, They just won’t get it yet will they???

    John, Candidates get the short end of the Stick EVEN when the economy is good, and when it is Bad AS IT IS NOW it is Virtually impossible, and I don’t mean Virtual as in internet. — and don’t just look at the Unemployment Statistics, as they don’t represent the true numbers.. but instead look at the PayRoll Per Population numbers..

    Candidates are NOT consumers, where Do you get that, candidates are NOT even future employees. ALL a candidate is, unfortunate as it sounds, is a Piece of paper, if you are lucky to have your resume even printed out, if it wasn’t it went to File 13 (you do know what that is right/)

    No, this isn’t fair, no it isn’t right, but that is just how it is. You fit the job specs, you are in for an interview, and even then you are not seen as a “person” just another name and number.. till you get that job. And even then there is the PROBATION PERIOD.

    You know what that is? That is when you get to PROVE YOURSELF that you are a human being that ‘deserves’ To be considered an employee at a company.

    sure, you can decide to become your own employer, that is what you mentioned earlier right.. But, I would suggest maybe you consider following some suggestions on here first, and get a Grip as to what REALITY is – because like Sidney suggested, you will make a lot of people Really happy in the business world, and it wouldn’t be to your benefit is.

    By the wAy, reality, it is Real World, not always fair, not always nice, and it definitely isn’t going to work just for You, cause you think you are the consumer — it is about Free enterprise, the kind that keeps American’s in debt and bankrupt… and the Income Gap between the haves and have nots wider than ever. The Real World where the Middle Class in America is disappearing as we no longer can afford the Elusive American Dream..
    Yes, Free enterprise also keeps the wages down, so that they make profit, and we continue to lose.. Blame Us in America for that, not the foreigners..

    FYI, it has BEEN 20 YEARS since we have had minimum wages raised.. 20 YEARS — So, you really may want to reconsider that Globalization is what is keeping down our wages.

    To Sidney, there is something that I do disagree with you in regards.. The Bankruptcy Rate has gone through the roof, here in CA it went up 85 Percent this year alone. That was because of some individuals who pushed Credit to those Who could NOT afford it, trying to give them the American Dream that they Really could not afford, and today We the American Public have now to salvage that hell.

    The Mortgage and Finance Industry crashed and Burned last year – firing 750k in less than a mth, all because of these funky loans.

    karen mattonen..

  22. Sidney
    Sidney says:


    Excellent post. You are right that the facts show a pretty dismal period for the average American worker…wages are stagnant, in spite of the housing crash rents and housing prices are still expensive in a lot of the US, our health care industry is in a state of collapse, tuition is skyrocketing, and now we have a looming recession. In spite of our overall prosperity, a large segment is frankly living on the economic edge.

    But, is is not just the “evil corporations” as John thinks or even globalization that is fueling this. The American Public needs to bear some of the responsibility. From the “I’m entitled to a high paying job because I’m special” philosophy of John’s original postings to the group that spends more then they make to the group who votes for ideology against the common interest to farmers who hate affordable housing or “welfare queens” but love them government subsidies to the people who want a free ride with no work (as long as the ride comes with Wi-Fi) to a lot of other unmentioned special interest groups; there are a bunch of people with a hand in creating the mess we are in.

    One of the things that is great about the Obama phenomenon is how the people voting for him seem to be excited and hopeful about this moment and their chance to make a difference. And that is where the answers to our problems are going to come from.

    It is a far cry from, not only the fear idealogy of the Bush years, but from the opposite camp on the Far Left who are just as dangerous and fear mongering as their counterparts on the right. I personaly think the Democrats best ticket is HRC/Pres and Obama/VP but would not be upset if Obama ends up winning the nomination.

  23. John Feier
    John Feier says:


    At the risk of sounding condescending, all I can say is that you’re going off in a totally different direction than what I was talking about.

    Necessity is the mother of invention, not creativity. What good is creativity if it can’t be marketed?

    Mass customization and the resultant flattening of the Western-style corporate hierarchy has resulted in some dramatic changes in the job market. American business is being forced to accept a more one on one style of management, requiring management to listen to their employees and work with them instead of saying, “Oh well, there’s a whole stack of applications on my desk….blah, blah, blah…” That’s an irresponsible attitude. Those types keep running away from people who don’t fit their own personal style and that just doesn’t go in today’s world. I wish I didn’t have to work with people that I don’t like also, but I have to in order to pay the bills. You need to look a little harder at some of the deeper qualities of people instead of dismissing them because they don’t fit your particular view of what an “employee” should look or act like. Even your concepts of “responsibility” and “maturity” are entirely relative. It is in THAT sense the applicants have the power in the job market.

    For instance, if an Asian firm is competing against an American firm, the worldviews of Asian culture reinforce a group-oriented, collaborative approach to workflow issues. If they produce a product that is superior in quality and cheaper in price as a result of this collaborative worldview, should they factor into the price a handicap for Americans because they don’t work quite as well in groups and it would be more fair? Of course they don’t.

    Forget all about these personal differences because the competition has and because they have, that increase in productivity speaks for itself. We live in a multicultural society and this forces us to accept differences, not only the legally-protected differences such as gender, ethnicity, age, etc., but also in differences of abilities and yes…attitudes.

    You are selling yourself short in the global marketplace when you do not hire people who you personally disagree with. No longer do employers have that kind of luxury. Diversity of attitude DOES increase the bottom line and the only real reason that you didn’t that guy from Harvard is because he didn’t fit your personality. How immature.

  24. John Feier
    John Feier says:


    Don’t take this as an insult, but you really need to sharpen your writing skills. While I did manage to get the main ideas that you were talking about, it came across as someone who did not read what they wrote before hitting “Submit Comment.” What I like to do is read it aloud before submitting. If it sounds conversational and it flows really well, then I submit. It was difficult at times trying to keep track of the flow of your thoughts.

    Karen, the applicant, consumer, citizen, taxpayer, human being are all the same people. Whether they get hired is irrelevant in the final analysis. If companies do not hire enough people, then those people don’t have the money to buy the products that the company sells. So I think you really need to reconsider your position that the “candidate” and the consumer are two totally different people.

  25. John Feier
    John Feier says:


    “The American Public needs to bear some of the responsibility.”

    Oh, without a doubt. But let’s make sure that it’s YOU who makes the first sacrifice. See how that works?

    Americans buy products from overseas, for the most part, because they’re cheaper. This has resulted, as I’m sure you’re well aware, in huge trade imbalances, but it also, as a consequence of the downward pressure on wages, given us huge debts ($14 trillion in consumer debt, to be exact). So, if you’re going to say we all should lessen our standard of living, then let’s make sure that you’re the first one to do so, “Mr. I don’t work with anyone I disagree with.” :)

    And for your information, I am NOT a Gen Yer. I am a Gen Xer. Click on the link above, and you’ll see my picture.

    If it is, as you say, a mutual fault–that is, a result of the relationship between consumer and corporation, then please do not make fun of any attempt on the part of the people to dislodge themselves from the power of corporations through the use internet activism because they’re simply trying to solve the problem that you have, so far, produced no answers for.

  26. leslie
    leslie says:

    “You are selling yourself short in the global marketplace when you do not hire people who you personally disagree with. No longer do employers have that kind of luxury. Diversity of attitude DOES increase the bottom line and the only real reason that you didn't that guy from Harvard is because he didn't fit your personality. How immature”.

    I have noticed over the years working for corporations and independently that people often hire those they feel comfortable with and who agree with them on many points regarding the general work culture. It is one of the things that Karen pointed out as being an uncomfortable reality we all deal with when looking for a job or trying to land a new client. Nevertheless, I believe it is up to the candidate to find common ground with the employer not the other way around. And, the person that Sidney described sounded like he was too self-involved to be a team player. Please keep in mind, he was competing against 100 other applicants so, in fact, Sidney did have the luxury of choosing someone who he felt would contribute the most to his company.

  27. Sidney
    Sidney says:


    Alright, we will shoot for a 100 comments here.

    First, on the corporation argument, I’ll stop that train here because John, you seem to be arguing in circles. This is the comment that gave me the biggest laugh this morning:

    “then please do not make fun of any attempt on the part of the people to dislodge themselves from the power of corporations through the use internet activism because they're simply trying to solve the problem that you have, so far, produced no answers for”

    Where John did I make fun of internet activism? I made fun of your world view, sure that was easy, but never did I make fun of people who want to rise up and take on “the man”. John, this is the blog comment section, it’s not supposed to be taken so seriously. Lighten up and have some fun with it.

    And I love how you mischaracterized my comment about hiring for the open position. You brag about how all the applicants have the power, I gave you an example of one person who thought that and how it hurt them, and you then label me “immature”. That was the second laugh you gave me this morning. Did you not read about how he brought a Starbucks coffee into the interview and drank it? Did you not read how we found out his resume was puffed up and he didn’t know anything about what we do? To paraphrase the Godfather: “It was not personal, it was strictly business”. I negotiate against multi-billion developers that could give a rat’s ass about affordable housing except for the tax credits. They want as much public money as possible and build the fewest units. I’m negotiating the opposite. I need someone with some gravitas. You think I want to send some kid into a developer meeting who isn’t even smart enough to throw out the coffee before interviewing or who has no experience or who didn’t even bother researching to make up for it?

    John, I have enjoyed most of my jobs, even the crappy ones through college because they were always a means to an end (McDonald’s certainly bit but I was a teenager and there were always girls to meet at the restaurant). No one here is telling you that you cannot have your dream job. But an MBA is nothing unless you have some value to add, and yes, a team-player personality (especially in a collaborative environment) is a must.

  28. karen m
    karen m says:

    John, that is the best you could come up with — criticism of my writing skills.. no reference to the context.

    Sidney indeed the American Public Does need to Take Full Responsibility. A PRIME EXAMPLE — there is a Voters Recount in New Hampshire, due to possible claims of voter fraud or at the least possible issues (again) with the Voting machines.

    Now, how many people here know about the Recount that is to take place on the 16th? How many knew that the elections really appeared to be compromised?

    How many are missing the biggest question of all, who asked for the recount. Is it the candidates who are in the front running of the presidency? the ones who are supposed to represent us, and care about our well being? Uh, No!! Nope, they were no where to be found. Instead it was a Republican and Democrat whom I have Never heard about. What a shame.

    So, as American’s are losing the American Dream, as even less new jobs are being added to the economy, and we have concerns about our economy and wonder who will help pull us out of this mess.. We have no clue about something as important as possible election fraud? But, we can definitely stay up to dat with all the grand shenanigans of Britney Spears

    John, companies hire people who help build the product, they don’t care if they buy the product or not. If that were the case, well housing, autos, and medicine would be a heck of a lot cheaper today, No? Even in Walmart, many of the people who work there cannot afford to shop there.. how sad is that.

    You have a very ideolgical belief about what is and what should be. What is, America’s middle class is no longer, we don’t exist. The american Dream is no longer, it dosen’t exist. 2 Percent of Americans control our wealth, and we are a nation of Haves and have nots — great article by Pew Research by the way.. Seems I have a problem with links, so look up in Google.

    Anyways, there comes a time when one nose needs to become browner with your employer… there are times when you say it isn’t worth it, but make sure you pick your battles really carefully. For every job You apply to, there are about 1000 more who will also be applying. Sometimes, a company is willing to train for the Right attitude, the right team player, the person who just knows how to fit in and play right. Oh yes, Job History, it does play a Huge Part in the companies decisions as well..

    You may be better suited owning your own business, but again, I say, be careful. Even then, one needs to learn how to work with others, and how not to upset the cart. As some have suggested to you.. you may become your own nightmare..

    I close with this.. my momma always said, if you hear somethign more than once, there must be some truth to it, and maybe one should consider taking heed..

    Karen Mattonen

  29. Brandon
    Brandon says:



    Kucinich called for the recount and has to pay for it. The election in NH was not compromised at all.

    As for your mother’s advice: a lie perpetuated is still a lie, no matter how many times it is told.

  30. karen m
    karen m says:

    This is why I am shocked. No, it isn’t just One individual who asked for the Recount.. Wow!!! THIS IS INDEED WHAT TERRIFIES ME many don’t really know the facts –
    so it might be imperative to mention that Both Democrat Dennis Kucinich and Republican Albert Howard requested and were granted the recount – allegedly it was after a watchdog found the discrepencies between the hand votes versus the Machine Votes – these votes Did Affect BOTH the republican and Democratic Party. This is Not a secular issue.

    Also, the issues are based upon Machine Irregularities. HBO did a documentary “Hacking Democracy.” This documentary which exposed the vulnerability of the Diebold Electronic Voting Machines to hacking, fraud and faulty manufacturing

    How many people even know about that, that we have had continual problems and errors with those machines???? Name the States even.. what about when the hackers were able to determine issues with the machines in California, when the Secretary of State comissioned a study on this matter.. that study was done last year

    There have been technical problems noted in the following states PA, MI, NJ, Florida, CO to name a very few..

    And How many knew that Diebold tried to SELL off the voting machines? and they ended up changing the name???

    Same problem just under a different name..

  31. John Feier
    John Feier says:

    One more point I’m going to make on this topic and I’ll leave it alone.

    What was (is) the reason that unions developed (develop)?

    Wasn’t it because employers, to put it lightly, were simply not listening to their employees? So, why do we still insist that employers and employees be mortal enemies in the job market? Why? Do you enjoy reinventing the wheel? Why can’t employers at least meet us halfway? Would that hurt their pride? Do they ENJOY fighting the threat of unions? Do they ENJOY being perceived in industry as an entity that doesn’t listen to the agents they hire to help them meet their financial goals? In today’s world, that’s some expensive pride to maintain, Sidney. In business school, they would call that opportunity cost.

    It just seems to me that if they wanted to avoid the threat of unions or anything that resembles unions, such as the kind of internet activism that I’m calling for, then they’d come down off their high horse and engage with their employees as well as prospective employees. Hasn’t it dawned upon them that employees and prospective employees that are treated rudely can do far more damage to the image of a firm than that which is immediately foreseeable? Didn’t they watch the very end of the movie, “It’s a wonderful life,” where George Bailey’s lifetime investment of time and relationship-building helped him to bridge the gap in his time of need?

    It just seems like some employers are just begging for unions and then when the threat of unions arise, they complain bitterly. What gives?

    Part of the unwritten social contract in the aftermath of both the influence of unions and the disintegration of that influence is that employees should be given enough breathing room and compensation to do a job that they may not like doing, but for which the economy says that they must do. Such must be taken into account in the development of the compensation for a position.

    If it’s something that the employee enjoys doing, then that puts less emphasis on financial compensation. I can’t begin to count the amount of research papers I’ve seen and read which conclude that financial compensation is not nearly as important as a job placement which helps the individual fulfill post-survival needs on Maslow’s pyramid. Employers may see initial gains immediately after a raise in compensation, but after that surge of enthusiasm, it eventually wanes back to the previous level.

    So Sidney, maybe instead of looking at the goatee and the Starbuck’s coffee, you should instead look at whether or not that individual is going to ENJOY the job? If they ENJOY the job, then whatever extra training is needed will come a lot easier. If they ENJOY the job, then whatever personal differences that you have with that individual will dissipate and lose its impact in your overall assessment of their performance.

  32. Brandon
    Brandon says:

    Of course they were granted a recount, but they have to pay for it -don’t hear that much.

    Snowballs have a better chance than Kucinich (who BTW, bankrupted Cleveland when he was mayor) and Albert Howard(who won’t be on many ballots and polls lower than Duncan Hunter).

    I know about Diebold, I live in MD. That documentary was pushing a leftist agenda. Karen there is no conspiracy. Sorry to disappoint you.

  33. karen m
    karen m says:

    Hmm, not so sure.. it is the Queen’s English of which I am familiar. Personally, I think I do pretty darn well for someone who has been free form writing without the safety of spell check.. ;)

    RE I really do suggest that though You are In MD, a state that utilizes those very machines, (remember the name change), that this is a topic of which you should be aware.

    Regarding the Documentary, Well, you may want to be aware before stating those inaccurate facts —the SAME Research was Performed in the State of CA, by the Local Government, and the Same Results were found, and even MD has requested results of California’s research. Lamone requested the information from Diebold as well in 2006

    In regards to the Documentary – and your comment regarding it pushing a leftist agenda, I will definitely venture that you did not see that film, or you would not have made that comment.

  34. Sidney
    Sidney says:

    A hundred is within site…

    And thanks for the advice John. Instead of asking if an interviewee is qualified for the job, a team player and/or has a passion for affordable housing, I’ll just ask them if they would enjoy doing the job and if they say yes; I’ll stop the interview right there and immediately hire them. I’ll even drive down the street and buy them a Frappucino.

    There are plenty of corporations and agencies that are great places to work just as there are many that are lousy places to work. A corporation or agency is only as good as the people who work there and the direction that is set from the top. Instead of being a round peg in a square hole maybe your best opportunity is to make your mark in a small company or as a business owner. Or, find a small division like I did where you have more control and less bureaucratic involvement but still have the resources of a large organization. There are many ways to be part of the machine but still be outside of it or above it.

    I wish you luck on your internet activism. The occasional revolution is a good thing. I do miss the days though when people took to the streets to effect change instead of sending emails or posting to a blog.

  35. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Caitlin, good point. Thank you. I admit to missing the problem here. My rule of thumb is that everyone gets two comments per post. Otherwise, the comments section becomes a side conversation instead of a community conversation. And, as Caitlin rightly points out, I have cut her off before. So, John, Leslie and Karen and Brandon, I really appreciate that you are commenting — I but no more comments for you on this post, please.

    Thanks, Penelope

  36. S.B.
    S.B. says:

    Very good article! Life has always been “sink or swim,” but the rules are different, which is something I think a lot of baby boomers cannot or don’t care to grasp.

    I wonder if there is a psychological link between the different goals of the baby boomers vs. Gen Y. The goals and ambitions of Gen. Y are not only linked to the changing job market, but to their own experiences growing up (a.k.a, not having a close relationship with the working parent, usually the father.) This was my own situation, as it was for many of my college friends.

    So what will happen with the children of Gen. Y? If they have a more rewarding home environment will their career ambitions cycle back to those of our parents? I know that can’t be predicted, but it’s interesting to think about!

  37. Brandon
    Brandon says:

    I appreciate the rule limiting postings to two per person, but I thought it important to update readers on the vote recount from the NH primary.

    The recount results of the NH Primary are in, and the hand count matches the machine count.

  38. Oyibo
    Oyibo says:

    I was wondering if we can get the presidential candidates to address Comparable Pay, the pay gap between working men and women.

    Thank you,


« Older Comments

Comments are closed.