Unemployment is a Growth Industry

You might be tempted to think the new policy of the freelancer platform Upwork is unique. Charging individuals to apply for jobs is a spectacular business model if you’re in a position to gatekeep those applications. It’s exactly like the lottery. You’re monetizing desperation. You are plugging your income potential right in to the human survival instinct. It doesn’t take much for the average person to notice the similarity “pay to apply” to the Internet’s other big business model.

Now let us all ponder a question together. If your income and growth model depends on monetizing job applications, do you have any incentive to get someone a job? Let me make it even more sinister. If your income and growth model depends on monetizing job applications, do you have any incentive to verify ads for freelancers or employees are even genuine? Once you have crossed the line between the productive incentive of earning based on success and rent-seeking, you have no incentive to do anything except make sure you collect a larger and larger share.

I once proposed that you are more valuable unemployed than employed. This would neatly explain the rise of the professionally jobless in our country. There are roughly six million of them, and they will never work again. Why? Because it is better for the rent-seekers that way. They have concluded there is more economic opportunity in keeping them out. The exact same dynamics were in play when equity firms decided to burn Toys R Us to the ground and destroy 30,000 jobs. Toys R Us was worth more dead than alive.

From an employment standpoint, so are you.

The overarching problem that we face here is that practical economic reality is not responding to market forces any more. If you have more experience, more demonstrated achievements and more skill, you should have a multiplicity of job opportunities. Firms should be competing for your talents. But they aren’t. Why? They don’t have to. Most companies have no idea how to convert your skills into anything productive, and that’s fine because they likely have a stable, entrenched business and have long since done away with their competition.

For example, what real boots-on-the-ground incentive does Google have to hire anyone, regardless of their talents? They have none. Google brings in $372 million a day. The company has been on auto-pilot for at least ten years. They make few, if any, physical products. They don’t even have a phone number. Their entire company is made up of people babysitting computers. Any hiring they do, if they do any hiring at all, is guaranteed to be for some middle manager’s hobby project. They have no competition, so there is no reason for them to compete for talent.

The same is true of nearly all the other companies in the Fortune 500. Disney, Apple, Nike, Verizon. Their revenues are on auto-pilot. Their competition is either non-existent or limited to a handful of other companies that are neither a short or long-term threat. Ultimately, the only time any of these companies experiences any real need to hire is if someone in the management hierarchy retires or moves on, and those openings can be easily filled after everyone in that branch moves up a level and the entry level desk is filled with a visit to the nearest Ivy League campus. Or the job can just be discontinued and the money pocketed by shareholders.

If you’re making $372 million a day why would you even answer your phone? You wouldn’t. You wouldn’t take even a remote chance on upsetting the status quo.

Unemployment is a growth industry. Imagine the money that can be made if we get a really big sponge and just soak up everyone’s last dollar! Resumes, new clothes for the five interviews you have to endure, books and seminars on how to improve your personal brand, premium memberships for all those online sites that promise you offers from multiple companies at once. Just think of the power you could wield with a platinum membership!

How do these “we’ll find you a job, little camper” companies stay in business if their customers are successful and cancel their monthly plans? They don’t. They have a direct, vested financial interest in keeping you unemployed.

In other words “We make $372 million a day and no, you can’t have a job.” Leaving aside the fact wages have been stagnant in this country for 46 years, if that is what we get from every major employer in the United States, we’re adrift on the ocean. Water everywhere and we still die of thirst.

And while the rent-seekers cultivate their vested financial interest, they show you a prize gallery of jobs and tell you success is only a credit card number away.

While You Face the Inquisition

Following up on my last post, I just wanted to point out something. We’ve all experienced how– conscientious employers are about getting that absolute top candidate. They are put through four interviews and meet every level of management before a hiring decision. They get their offer in writing, to emphasize how fortunate they are to have achieved this greatest of all summits in our ultra-competitive global economy. They got the job!

And on their first day, they are issued a toy gun and invited to go play with the other employees.

Clearly the hundreds of applicants who didn’t get the job weren’t quite Ivy League enough. It neatly closes the door on any challenge to my assertion the modern workplace has no adult supervision.

Don’t you wish you could go play toy guns with all the other kids (and get paid) while six million people are trapped in that unique pride-swallowing siege that is our mental hospital job market?

Black out.

The American Job Market is a Mental Hospital

By the time you finish reading this article, someone will have committed suicide. There is a 20% chance they will have taken their own life because they couldn’t find a job.

We labor under a number of myths in these United States. Among them is the belief that any man who can’t find a job is either defective or has himself to blame. It’s his fault. Either he doesn’t have the skills, or failed to get an education, or isn’t likable, or has a bad attitude. There’s a reason he can’t find a job, and whatever that reason might be, it must be his fault.

It’s certainly a convenient conclusion if you stand to gain from that man’s desperation. After all, how much easier and cheaper is it to hire a man who has no confidence in his worth as an employee? Once you’ve done away with his hard-won qualifications (and their effect on his price), you can portray your reluctant offer of employment as an act of unusual generosity instead of a transaction of money for labor. In the former, the man is expected to be grateful for your benevolent forbearance. In the latter, it’s an arrangement between equals.

Well, the very last thing some people want is arrangements between equals.

To say this disease has reached a perverse and sadistic magnitude in the American job market would be kind. The fact is teenagers are now being asked if they have experience when they apply for part-time summer employment serving bagels. As we all know, training someone to serve bagels is expensive and not always successful, and Heaven help us and the stock price if Timmy or Susie forgets to upsell that second $0.75 tablespoon of cream cheese.

Some might be tempted to put this sudden scrutiny of every defect a human might possess down to malice or hostility. But it’s simpler than that. Hiring managers are not playing keepaway with your livelihood. They are avoiding their responsibility because they are paranoid and mentally stunted. The American job market is corrupt to its core because these people are never held accountable for the arbitrary decisions they make about other people and their careers.

When I apply for a job, I assume I have about 30 seconds to explain how I can use decades of intricate senior-level technology skills and achievements to provide synergy and enterprise value to deliver cross-media solutions for an ever-changing market and an expanding global supply chain. That or I can say something like “my technical talents are just like Lord of the Rings but with dinosaurs.” The truth is it doesn’t matter what I say. The person reading my resume doesn’t have the slightest clue what any of it means. All they know is I’m not qualified. For any job.

Workers of the past, like my parents, had a very powerful tool at their disposal. It was called the “benefit of the doubt.” Hiring managers didn’t assume they were liars, nor did they assume they were unable to do the job, or for that matter, any job. They weren’t treated with suspicion. They weren’t accused of being grown adults who somehow managed to accumulate a ten-year employment history and a graduate degree without a single “marketable skill.” When they sat down for a interview, the hiring manager took what they had to say at face value. That’s why they got good jobs and kept them long enough to pay off their houses. It’s why I grew up in a stable two-parent home with enough to eat and a swimming pool.

Workers of today, by contrast, are presumed to be filthy, scheming frauds. That’s one reason, among many, employers so often schedule interview tribunals that resemble confirmation hearings for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Employers are on a mission, you see, lest one of you unqualified mongrels get past them and get your grubby hands on a paycheck or two. Once you’re employed, you have legitimacy, and that simply cannot be allowed to stand. They know you’re hiding something, and by God they’re going to make you admit it if they have to schedule second and third interviews and require a security clearance as part of your background and credit check.

And while this shrill, accusatory circus drags on, nearly six million working-age people who want jobs in the United States sit idle, unable to support themselves or anyone else. That’s more than the combined populations of Chicago, Houston and Sacramento. Think of the immense volume of productivity going to waste right now in this country! What could those people be contributing if they weren’t being blocked from getting a job by childish, irresponsible “managers” who won’t accept the responsibility that comes with employing adults? Everybody thinks the gig economy is some new innovation. It isn’t. The gig economy is six million people holding the employment equivalent of a garage sale so they can feed themselves.

The paranoid American workplace is nothing if not profitable. Wages have been stagnant for 46 years. Hiring people sight unseen from 11,000 miles away to pretend to do jobs in American companies sure looks impressive on a spreadsheet. The fact that it is yet another example of the kind of magical thinking that gave us the professional disaster we are currently experiencing is never acknowledged. It’s much easier to blame the guy with no job than it is to face facts. You’ll notice the candidate from overseas doesn’t have to sit in front of a tribunal and answer questions about ping-pong balls.

The starvation and suffocation underway in our nation isn’t helped by the continual celebration of the so-called “unemployment rate.” The brilliant numbers would seem to indicate anyone who wants a job can get one, when nothing could be further from the truth. Just ask around. It won’t take long for you to find a number of people who are qualified for numerous jobs and yet have been looking for weeks, months or even years with no success. Not only have they failed to find jobs, they have very likely failed to get a response of any kind from dozens, hundreds or even thousands of applications.

Even if they do manage to get past the fortress between them and a human being who actually took the time to read their resume, they’re certain to run into the aforementioned inquisition, where they will be politely informed by the nine people interviewing them their application has been turned down in a 5-4 decision over font preference.

And even if they manage to get an offer, what do they really have in a world where companies posting record revenues turn around and fire hundreds of highly trained and established employees a few weeks later? A job is the foundation upon which grown adults build marriages, families, homes, educations and retirements. Those are lifetime achievements they expect to fund with their paycheck from a job likely to end abruptly for reasons completely beyond their control. They’d be better off building a greeting card factory in a volcano.

Since nobody wants to face the unemployment disaster, it might be instructive to move on to the people who are employed and see if they can find any joy in their work day. I’m fairly certain I don’t have to explain to you how fast that investigation will end without success.

You might be tempted to think my flippant tone is meant to be funny. It isn’t. This isn’t funny. This isn’t funny at all. It is estimated that 20% of all suicides are the result of inability to find a paying job, and suicides in the U.S. are up 30% in the last 18 years.

American hiring managers are paranoid and corrupt, and they have turned our workplaces into a psychiatric ward where half the employees are being driven insane by impossible workloads and the other half are terrified they are going to lose their jobs and homes at any moment.

This state of affairs will be the end of us if it isn’t addressed. Leaving aside the deteriorating morals of our society and the increasingly adversarial political climate, no nation can survive if its wealth and opportunity are cheap prizes won over a roulette wheel guarded by a psychotropic-addicted mental patient.

Black out.

Start with Incompetence

The more I consider the current state of the American job market, the more I realize that its most astonishing failures are simply the result of incompetence.

American business management doesn’t train employees. Why? Because they don’t know how. They can’t find qualified candidates for jobs? They don’t know how. They can’t build a quality product and make money with it? They don’t know how. They use layoffs as a routine cost-cutting measure? They don’t know any other way.

This is all quite strange considering the obsessive and paranoid mechanisms workplaces have established to weed out anyone who isn’t quite frankly perfect in every possible way. We’ve all been treated to stories of how employers scour social media, conduct paid background checks, perform credit checks, insist on excessive references and so on. It’s almost as if they are more interested in disqualifying candidates than hiring them.

Anyone who has looked for a job in the last five to ten years has experienced the inexplicable delays, the unresponsive hiring managers and recruiters and the cumbersome, exhausting siege job candidates are forced to endure. And even if they succeed, what do they have? They are guaranteed to be underpaid, overworked and have no job security at all.

From a social and political standpoint, America is a warehouse full of gunpowder and dynamite right now. People are angry, frustrated and scared out of their minds. And when I say people I mean a lot of people. This broken thing we call the employment market is the box of matches in that warehouse. This is the thing that will be the end of us if we don’t get it locked down in a right now hurry.

It’s a complex problem, which means there are no easy solutions, but the one thing we need to put an abrupt stop to right this second is this perfidious myth that it’s the workers who are to blame. We have the best educated and most skilled workforce in the history of the human race in this country. Tens of millions of Americans have college educations, and the overwhelming majority of the workforce is literate and capable of all kinds of creative solutions to the problems we need to solve as a country.

This alternative theory that Americans are a bunch of feckless layabouts with worthless degrees and no skills is a message designed to consume what’s left of your hope for a brighter future. It’s patent nonsense perpetrated by lazy managers and shareholders who don’t want to pay their dinner check.

Our future may be as simple as something I read in a discussion of automated hiring the other day: “In the future, nobody has a job, but they can’t find anyone to blame but themselves, so they just starve to death quietly.”

While I don’t want to encourage people to spend all their time looking for someone to blame, I will point out there are millions of people in this country who not only want work, but are qualified to do amazing things, and they are all sitting idle because there is no practical way to penetrate the fortress of confusion corporate America has erected around gainful employment. And again, even if someone manages to achieve the impossible, they have only layoffs and pay cuts to look forward to.

Is that the country you want your kids to grow up in? Me neither.

LadyStar for Warrior Moms and Warrior Dads Chapter Four: Seeing Themselves in the Story

One of the great strengths of the ensemble model or the “classic” team of superheroes is the wide range of personalities and powers they can develop through the story. Authors like myself recognize many young readers are looking for someone they can identify with and root for through the adventure. That’s why I believe my character ensemble is one of LadyStar’s greatest strengths.

Simply put, everyone who reads LadyStar books will find a character they can follow. Whether they like seeing a shy girl like Talitha Casey navigate a mystery, or they like to laugh at a joke-telling firecracker like Ranko Whelan, there will be at least one hero they will find appealing, and that character will make them feel like they have something to offer too.

Middle grade readers are at a point in life where they are asking important questions about themselves like “where do I belong?” and “what can I do?” These can be confusing questions, especially for someone with little experience, few social skills and the ever present feeling maybe they don’t really fit in. What LadyStar will teach them is to be patient with themselves. It will show every reader that even the 11-year-old “annoying little kid” can be part of the older girls’ adventure and might even have something unique to contribute.

Things don’t always work out for the Ajan Warriors right away, but Jessica and her friends find a way to get the job done. They don’t quit. More often than not, the solution is found when everyone contributes. All the girls find their own answers to the questions of where they belong and what they can do. I wrote these books to give readers a sense of participating in exactly these kinds of adventures, so they can learn what it takes to overcome challenges, put their unique talents to work and achieve the same things my characters do.

Then I discovered I was telling a Noblebright Story.

Skywatch Warship Hull BBV 740


Jacks Full of Aces by Shane Lochlann Black

Design

Defender Starship Argent is a Citadel-class strike battleship. She is the third ship of her class, following DSS Citadel and DSS Bushido. Argent was constructed at the War Memorial Star Yard under the authority of Core Two’s Skywatch Operations Base.

She is a hybrid design, incorporating a modified main battery of eight heavy anti-proton guns and four kinetic-reactive capital missile launchers combined with two class B and one class A flight decks. Argent carries a standard medium-engagement-radius star wing of 90 fighters, 24 gunships, 12 corvettes, four super-heavy transports and 70 surface mechs organized into one bomber wing, three mechanized marine infantry squadrons and one marine orbital combat engineering squadron. Argent’s ground forces also include one super-heavy armor company, one mobile security company and one electronic warfare platoon. Among her other armaments are 64 Oerlikon multi-role point defense energy cannon and 12 short-range kinetic rocket launchers.

Dimension

Hull BBV-740 displaces 5.07 million tons and is 2480 feet long and 1710 feet at the beam from flight bay to flight bay. She is 72 stories tall from her ventral armor plates to the top of the Skywatch tower. Her main hull is 543 feet tall from bay mounts to deck one. Her class B external flight bays are 18 stories tall and cover more than 21 acres each. Her class A internal flight bay is more than twice that size, covering more than fifty acres and rising 21 stories from the primary deck.

Argent is equipped with eight magnetically-activated rail-tunnel spacecraft launchers. The six along her flanks are capable of launching strike fighters including Wildcat and 2G Yellowjacket designs plus the new 3G Superjacks. The two on either side of her internal bay are much larger, designed to launch transports, corvettes and gunships. The interior volume of Argent’s primary hull and flight decks is sufficient to contain 32 Ford-class wet navy aircraft carriers.

Officers and Crew

A strike battleship’s crew is organized into six major commands, each with a senior officer reporting to the vessel’s executive officer. Her total complement at full load is approximately 4300 personnel.

The commanding officer of a strike battleship must hold the rank of captain, commodore or rear admiral, and must be both a line officer and a flight officer. The executive officer holds the rank of commander or captain. Although the XO is not strictly required to have flight status, they must at minimum be eligible for a line command.

All senior officers aboard report to the executive officer, who in turn reports to the captain. Executive officers are informally addressed as “Force Commander” (FORCECOM) aboard capital ships with star wings or marine brigades, as they are often tasked with deploying and managing away forces like strike fighters, surface formations and other spacecraft. Aboard “pure” capital platforms like battleships, heavy battleships and dreadnoughts, the XO is informally nicknamed “Gunnery Commander” (GUNCOM).

Skywatch line vessels maintain a post for the ranking enlisted officer, who must hold the rank of Chief Petty Officer or higher, regardless of ship class. This officer is addressed as “Chief of the Boat” (COB) and is the ranking enlisted officer aboard the vessel. Skywatch chiefs are considered senior officers for purposes of command and precedence. On destroyer and frigate-class vessels, they often serve as engineers and section chiefs as well.

Capital ships are required by law to appoint an enlisted crew member with the rank of Senior or Master Chief Petty Officer to the post of “Chief of the Deck” (COD) aboard carriers or “Chief of the Battleship” (COB) aboard battleships. Capital ship chiefs may not hold active senior ratings for other commands aboard a capital ship. Because those vessels have officers posted to lead each command, chiefs serve as close advisors to the captain and advocates for the ship’s enlisted personnel instead.

Argent’s star wing is generally under the command of a senior lieutenant or higher with the title Commander Star Wing (SCOM), assisted by a Deputy Commander Star Wing (DSCOM). They must both be flight officers and squadron leaders responsible for strike fighter, gunship, bomber, corvette and spacelift operations.

Argent’s Marine Ground Forces Commander (MCOM) usually holds the rank of major or higher and is responsible for her mechanized infantry, armor, orbital combat engineering and electronic warfare companies. The ranking marine officer is assisted by an enlisted Master-At-Arms (ARMSCOM) with the rank of tech sergeant or higher who is generally in charge of security aboard the battleship.

Argent’s medical and science personnel are led by a Chief Medical (MEDCOM) or Chief Sciences Officer (SCICOM) with the rank of lieutenant commander or higher. Medical officers are tasked with the operation and maintenance of life support and airlock systems. As capital ships, strike battleships often have best-in-fleet medical facilities and peerless scientific loadouts complete with laboratory facilities, synthesis equipment, medical transport capacity and specialized space, surface and subspace scientific exploration capabilities.

Engineering is supervised by a Chief Engineer (ENCOM) with the rank of senior lieutenant or higher. The engineering section is responsible for the proper operation of the vessel’s engines, reactors, powered armor, battle screens, fusion matrix, electrical systems, cephalon core, computer systems, maneuvering thrusters, drive field generators, flight mode sequencers, batteries, energy transfer systems, main and auxiliary control and damage control personnel. Engineering often coordinates with other commands aboard a strike battleship for purposes of providing technical assistance and personnel for repair and maintenance of other shipboard electronics, spacecraft and equipment.

The battleship signals section is supervised by a Chief Signals Officer (SATCOM) with the rank of senior lieutenant or higher. A signals officer is responsible for the operation of all communications, electronic warfare, subspace warfare, alert, tactical, scanner, sensor, sight-sound synthesis, navigational and cryptographic systems. If a vessel has an intelligence section, their officers and crew members will most often coordinate their operations with the signals section.

Argent’s weapons section is supervised by a Chief Weapons Officer (WEPCOM) with the rank of senior lieutenant or higher. The weapons officer or “WEPS” is responsible for the operation of the main battery, point-defense, battle computer, missile and kinetics systems aboard the vessel. Aboard smaller vessels, weapons are often manned in series, with crews transferring from energy to missile systems between salvoes. Cruiser-class and heavier vessels are always manned with sufficient numbers to operate both types of weapons at the same time.

The commanding officer of the battleship Argent is Captain Jason Hunter, former flight leader of Yellowjacket Nine, also known as the infamous Bandit Jacks. He is a winner of the Skyshield Legion and the youngest confirmed ace strike fighter pilot in Skywatch history, which earned him the nickname “Ace.”

Argent’s Executive Officer is Acting Commander Sabrina Mallory, former operations officer aboard the advanced strike cruiser Fury.

The marine ground forces officer is Lieutenant Colonel Lucas Moody, who is Captain Hunter’s former academy rival and also the former fifth slotted pilot in Hunter’s squadron, callsign “Clubs.”

Commander Annora Doverly, M.D. is the former executive officer aboard Argent. She was assigned as the battleship’s Chief Medical Officer prior to the Monarch Squadron engagement over Bayone Three. Doctor Doverly was Captain Hunter’s wing during her time with the Bandit Jacks, and is also the only officer to have completed the Skywatch’s brutal Search and Rescue (SAR) training. Her callsign is “Hearts.”

Lieutenant Commander Yili Curtiss is Argent’s Chief Engineer. As a certified Orbital Combat Engineer, Yili is in charge of Argent’s Copernicus wing and demolitions teams, which coordinate with the marine OCE mech squadron in combat. Her callsign is “Spades.”

Acting Lieutenant Commander Zony Tixia is Argent’s Chief Signals Officer. She is arguably the best combat pilot among the Bandit Jacks, having earned nicknames like “Red Duchess” “Diamond Jack” and “Rabbit with a Gun” during her time as one of the most feared strike fighter pilots in space. Zony’s callsign is “Diamonds.”

DSS Argent is home to numerous “embarked” units, each with its own command structure and mission aboard the battleship. Among her embarked units are:

  • Wildcat Squadron One-Six “Fighting 16th” DSS Song of Heaven
  • Yellowjacket Squadron 994 “The Red Bucanneers”
  • Wildcat 85th “Los Gatos”
  • Wildcat 22nd “Archangels”
  • Yellowjacket One “Tigersharks”
  • Gunship Squadron Tarantula-Hawk Black
  • Heavy Gunship Squadron Tarantula-Hawk Green
  • Nemesis Electronic Warfare Squadron 880 “Ghost Hunters”
  • 17th Copernicus Orbital Combat Engineering Squadron
  • Fifth Tranquility Search and Rescue (SAR) Squadron
  • Heavy Paladin 99th Marine Amphibious Company “Rolling Thunder”
  • Heavy Paladin 12th Marine Mechanized
  • Paladin Seventh Strategic Air Group/Bomber Wing
  • Paladin 40th Marine Airborne
  • Razorback Sixth Superheavy Armor Company “Death by Bacon”

It Has to be Said

I have withheld much of what I’m sure I should be writing on the grounds that it might not be what my ostensible middle grade fantasy audience and their moms want to read, but the truth is those middle graders may not have much of a life to look forward to if we don’t fix some of the problems we are facing in these United States.

I’m a science fiction and fantasy novelist. As much as I would prefer to avoid political debate in the interests of not upsetting my readers, we’re rapidly reaching a point where nothing else I or anyone else does at our day job is going to matter. If we keep avoiding the room-sized elephant, the situation will continue to deteriorate. I’d like to think my characters and stories would influence society for the better, but I can’t help but wondering if I am holding one of those little battery-powered propeller fans on the beach during a category four.

So far, I have written around the edges of the problem. I wrote an article on the problems faced by gifted children and followed up with an article about the colorful personalities populating our workplaces.

Nevertheless, we live in a society where a man who wants to work and who is clearly qualified for many a vocation is treated with such skepticism that even amateur psychologists inadvertently bark the word “paranoid” when describing their associated hiring managers. It is not hard to imagine a man applying to work at a supermarket and being asked by an alleged grown-up if they have any shelf-stocking experience.

I have considered and may yet pursue a series of articles making fun of certain online job ads. In fact, I’ve recently written about the special kind of paranoia that inspires most employment ads these days. It is not hard to imagine the people engaged in this juvenile suspicion club to be participating in some kind of informal contest where actually hiring someone counts as a penalty. By all other criteria, they certainly have no interest in placing qualified people in productive roles.

You see, I grew up in an America where it took my mom a grand total of about 40 minutes to get hired into a career-track job she held for 36 years. It was no different for my father. My mom’s title was “Features Editor.” My father’s was “Investigative Reporter.” Their actual grown-up adult jobs with real paychecks and no layoffs or workplace stupidity are two of the main reasons I grew up in a four-bedroom house with a swimming pool and graduated from college debt-free. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived anywhere with four bedrooms that wasn’t a hotel. The opportunities my parents had, like jobs with grown-up titles and managers who were adults with character and integrity, are sadly no longer available.

The truth is our job market is a mental hospital. When combined with the total absence of job security, the chronic underpayment of employees and the tightening hand around the neck of the Internet in general, the future is becoming rather grim. One need only look at the recent news from Activision/Blizzard to see what happens to employees who do a good job. The senior executives at that company only consider their spreadsheets when they make destructive decisions like that. They don’t consider the corrosive effect it has on the rest of society. If doing a good job no longer matters, and the proof is being published under loud headlines all over the web, see if you can guess what happens next?

We’ve all been entertained over the years by extinction events on the big and small screens that populate the short-range distances between our noses and the rest of the world. This persistent disconnect between employers and the rest of us is exactly like that Texas-sized asteroid. There ain’t no Bruce Willis to save us this time, and that rock isn’t slowing down either. It is no different than the near-disaster the credit markets experienced after the housing crisis. Nobody trusts anyone else and everyone is trying to protect what little they have left.

With the credit market crisis, it was the end of capital. If nobody can find or keep a job, it’s the end of the republic.

Black out.

Is Arrested Adolescence the Problem?

Occasionally I come across a video on YouTube that inspires me to consider a problem from a different angle. Last night was one of those videos. It was on the subject of personal development and its host correctly observed that some people are never taught responsibility.

One of the problems I have long struggled with are the broken, paranoid workplaces we tolerate in these United States, but I believe I am slowly zeroing in on the problem.

I discovered relatively early that I would never be able to rely on a job to provide for myself or a family. It wasn’t long after the CFO of the gigantic company where I had just started my 401k became the target of an investigation for cooking the books that any hope of a long-term career was swept away into ashes like the unfortunate heroes in the last Avengers film. We all live in a short-term economy now where jobs are acquired and discarded (or swiped) like paper towels, and are about as valuable.

Because my working life started out in a brokerage firm, I’m a little more sensitive to money topics than most. I recognize, for example, that motives gravitate to money. If something makes a person $2 rather than $1, they will do the former in almost every circumstance, no matter how theoretically destructive it may be to themselves or others. Money is the lens through which you can accurately discern nearly any motive.

So when trying to determine the why of a situation, I almost always start by asking “which option gets the decision maker more money right now?” Why was Toys-R-Us burned to the ground? Because it was worth more cash dead than alive. Why are so many women working now? Because employers can keep more money if they use 100% more staff as an excuse to underpay both men and women.

Why are so many people having trouble finding stable careers? Is it possible you’re worth more unemployed than employed?

This isn’t a simple topic, because it weaves together a number of problems into a cohesive whole. For openers, we have tremendous trouble getting people to take anything seriously in this country right now. The juvenile constituency we apparently turned the Internet over to at some point is far more interested in making rude noises and throwing things at others than they are in tolerating grown-ups or their boring ideas. That’s why sites like The Onion and Reddit and imbeciles like John Oliver have a place at the table (and a perceived security council-esque veto) in our vital public discourse. People who behave in a grown-up manner are treated with either ridicule or suspicion, at least until everything goes to hell, then all the kids run to dad to make it all better. That’s fine in the average family. When the kids outnumber the dads three million to one it’s a little tougher.

This is a symptom of the larger problem of arrested adolescence. Much of the confusion we are experiencing in this country right now is a result of the total absence of grown-ups. The rest is the result of the hostile and bitter reaction many have to the sudden introduction of grown-ups into what was previously adolescent chaos, much like the early return of parents to a teenage house party.

These problems are most pronounced in our workplaces, where the absence of grown-ups isn’t just an entertaining diversion, but a direct threat to your family’s survival. I’m fairly certain I don’t have to go into the dangers that await the average family with no income in America. Forty years ago, a man or woman could rely on their career as the anchor in their life. Today, a job is more often a liability, since its sudden withdrawal can create far more intense problems than just poverty.

If it is the case your boss is one of these arrested adolescents pretending to be a grown-up in our society, is it possible that he or she is motivated more by avoiding mistakes than failure? Most people realize you can do everything right and still fail. This is proven in every athletic championship. Sometimes you just get outplayed. It is for this reason we can conclude failure isn’t necessarily a mistake. Failure doesn’t demand blame.

Mistakes, on the other hand, always invite blame, and in the workplace, blame can be fatal, especially if it is wielded by an over-emotional adolescent obsessed with protecting themselves. We’ve all witnessed the favorite defense of every child in the court of parental law: “He made me do it!” Well, if those kids never grow up, this can become a theme in the workplace. Where these kinds of people gather, all productive enterprise is replaced by frenzied attempts to gain political advantage, and the best way to gain political advantage is to mold blame into a weapon and use it to corruptly dispatch rivals. Sound familiar?

It reaches a point where people will do anything or say anything to avoid taking responsibility. They become paranoid and pledge their very souls to choosing failure over mistakes whenever possible. The reason they do this is because they were never taught that the proper response to a mistake is not to overturn the table, but to evaluate it and learn to avoid it in the future.

The alternative relegates everyone to a life of idle waste or missed opportunity, because none dare act unless forced. When these people are put in a position where they have to hire people, they face the ultimate risk of having to trust others, which intensifies their paranoia to unbearable levels. How can you trust anyone in a world where all is lost if anyone makes even the slightest mistake?

We have all experienced being perfectly qualified for a job and not being hired, only to find the same job re-advertised days later. Why does this happen? Because the hiring manager is paranoid about being blamed. The hiring manager is very likely an arrested adolescent who is terrified they will be exposed as someone who really doesn’t know how to do their job. They don’t know how to lead others, because they were never trained to be a leader. They can’t take responsibility for a mistake. They can’t look their boss in the eye and say “I made the call because I thought it was the right thing to do and I was wrong.” It’s completely beyond them, because they never grew up. They were never taught to be responsible. There are 19-year-old privates first class in the U.S. Marines more capable of taking responsibility for a mistake. Why? Because that PFC outranks other marines. He or she was trained to be a leader and to be responsible.

So these hiring managers make the backwards decision to pass on a perfectly qualified employee on the off chance they might be mistaken. Either that or they ask that candidate for evidence of such unattainable perfection that it can’t possibly be delivered truthfully.

As a result we all end up living in a world where, at least as far as a corps of adolescent hiring managers are concerned, we are more valuable unemployed.