21 thoughts on “Worker Abuse”

  1. I would posit that good engineering requires incredible focus. For the most part it cannot be done in a union mandated 8 hour shift.

  2. It needs pointing out that 1:1 parity is not achievable without coercing men out of these fields.

    Doh. And it’s being done everywhere now, even without title 9.
    Nobody seems particularly upset that the Financial “Reform” bill mandates gender and race quotas on private companies, and laying off your white male older workers and bringing in younger victim class workers lowers the payroll.

    . . . . . . This would be a disaster.

    Only if the aim of the exercise is a prosperous and efficient economy. If it’s keeping the ruling class in power over a pliant populace then it works great.

  3. For the most part it cannot be done in a union mandated 8 hour shift.

    Because 8 hours is not enough? Because you cannot fit 8 hours of intense concentration into 8 hours of wall clock time? When doing pair-programming I can achieve hours of intense concentration, but after about six hours I’m exhausted. I could work another couple of hours on the same day, but only after a break of a few hours.

  4. What Martijn said. My husband always says that there are at most 6 good hours in the day for thinking jobs. The rest of the time is filler or bs. My working hours are somewhat longer than they were in grad school because I have more filler (meetings, aargh).

  5. Women in engineering? Jeez, Rand, what’s next.

    My wife is an lead engineer at a large firm, I encouraged her to go into it in college – 35 years ago. She has more published papers and more patents than I do.

    What does she hate most about her working environment? The fact that she’s surrounded by women who have been affirmative actioned into their jobs, have a sense of entitlement about it and blame every setback on gender bias. She gets to fight against the assumption that she is in her position, not because she earned it but because the feds have mandated it.

    Gender and sexual quotas are Jim Crow sexism and racism straight up. It’s not about accepting women in the workplace, it’s about political gain for political voting blocks. That and the exquisite irony of having a more racist country now than we did in the 50s.

  6. …the general feeling at the time that programming was something that should be doable by uneducated morons picked from the street… – Edsger W. Dijkstra

    An attitude that hasn’t changed much in decades. More accurately, people that that have no feel for programming think they are quite capable of managing programmers and in there mind minimize what’s involved in doing a professional job of it.

    Nobody I know cares about the gender of the programmer, just the quality of their work. Politicians wanting to ‘fix’ a non-existent problem are sure to screw things up.

  7. Dennis,

    First read the comments by Martjin and Astra. Then read Peopleware by Demarco and Lister.

    Personally I am fed up with the wackos who think working 120 hours a week is anything more than wacko mental illness.

  8. I’ve been a programmer — a contract programmer — for over thirty years. And I have never worked an hour — nay, not a minute — of unpaid overtime. Because my contracts have specified that I get paid in cold, hard cash for every hour worked. At the end of the month, not at the end of the contract, or sometime before the Sun blows up into a red giant.

    In fact, I have worked no more than 40 hours/week for the past four years. The thousands of hours of overtime? They go to the internals who can be paid in attaboys instead of dollars.

  9. I do believe people can work more than 6 hours a day, but not much more than that for most people and not consecutively. A very good friend of mine routinely works more than 60 or 70 hours a week, but he runs his own company, works from his home, can take multi-hour breaks to spend time with his family whenever he needs to and is doing something he is passionate about. Those are rather special circumstances. Even so, I think he can only do it because he has extraordinary stamina.

  10. Re: the mainframe update, I am still awaiting the time when I will be one of the “last of the COBOL programmers” and be able to demand the commiserate billing rate.

  11. You do look the part, that’s one serious beard you’ve got there! You look like a bona-fide kernel hacker or COBOL guru. 😉

  12. “Personally I am fed up with the wackos who think working 120 hours a week is anything more than wacko mental illness.”

    120 hours a week? There are only 168 hours in a week as it is. That leaves less than 7 hours a day to do everything else, including sleep. I have a very interesting tutorial on aircraft crew rest rules that cites numerous studies showing that less than on 7 hours sleep a night, a human being can only operate at 80% effectiveness (no matter what the measure of effectiveness is).

    I have put in some rather mind-boggling hours in my life, but aside from a single stretch of five days awake (at the end of which I was hallucinating), I don’t think I have sustained 120 hour weeks for more than 3 weeks at a time. I may have almost done it during the three week stretch where I was finishing my thesis. But I also slept for two solid days afterward.

  13. I fondly remember one of my managers at the large megacorp where I pushed electrons around for 9 years. He was the manager of engineering, even though he had no degree in engineering or science. But he did have a Masters degree in Child Psychology, and he played golf with the bean counters. His nickname was “Muskrat”, which I now realize is an insult to muskrats.

  14. During the pioneering years people in the US worked around 50% longer hours (as did the English during the industrial revolution). They worked longer hours than the average Chinese person does today. I have come to suspect that there is actually a strong correlation between number of hours worked and increasing prosperity.

    I expect space pioneers will work very longs hours, historically, it is what pioneers/immigrants do, and eventually, they tend to get very well rewarded for it.

  15. There are different kinds of work and what a pioneer or an industrial line worker does is different from what you are doing when you are intensely thinking (coding, data analysis, writing, etc.). It is the latter I was referring to when I said that 6 hours a day is typically the best you can expect for sustainable effort. Short intense bursts for deadlines, etc. are different, but in my experience, many of the people who continually work very long hours are either inefficient or working their way to burnout.

    (There is the third type in science: the true obsessives who, like Newton, only remember to eat and sleep when they notice their cognitive powers declining. It is trying to keep up with these folks that gives many others burnout.)

  16. MfK, All,

    Do read my commentary An Interesting Side Comment by Michael Griffin. I will warn everyone that it is much longer than Rand’s postings. I’m learning how to write quality shorter pieces. Some people have also suggested that the piece is more about me than Griffin. I don’t agree.

    Yes, Mike Griffin did say in public that he worked 18 hours a day 7 days a week. One or two people here (don’t you just love understatement?) have occasionally said negative things about Griffin’s leadership of NASA. If Griffin was anywhere near keeping that kind of schedule, that can explain a great deal of his performance.

  17. Rand, no he didn’t have pointy hair, aka Dilbert. But he was a thoroughly unpleasant man. One of his specialties was to mimeograph what were called Drafting Rabbit guidelines about things that mattered to him. Most of the time they were about ridiculous things, such as people forgetting to turn their Applicon or CALMA workstations off at the end of the shift or the electricity wasted by people listening to radios. He hated people talking on non work related topics. These came out about once a week, and were derisively known as either as Dumb Bunny Grams or Rabbit Droppings. We had a lot of contract employees at the time, and they just wouldn’t put up with the stuff.

    Regarding technical decisions, he knew nothing of the field, was proud of this, and always went with the cheapest option.

    Frankly, the pointy haired boss would have been an improvement. BTW, he HATED Dilbert with a passion. Several of us submitted Dumb Bunny Grams to Mr. Adams, and I recall that he used a few of them.

    As to the article, my current client really gets the directs to work uncompensated time, to the tune of about 20 hours per week. A few of them work six 12 hour days for the 40 hours pay. Suckers.

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