Thomas Lopez was fired from his lifeguard job two weeks ago in Hallandale, Florida. He saw someone struggling in the water, got someone to cover his beat, and ran to help the swimmer.
For this he was fired.
You see, Thomas didn’t follow corporate procedures, which require that he not leave his designated patrol area. Thomas wasn’t working for the town, but for Jeff Ellis Management Company, to whom the town outsources its lifeguard services. By outsourcing the town has cut its lifeguard budget in half and there have been no drownings in the nine years that the management company has had the contract.
So let’s not blame Jeff Ellis Management.
The real issue to me is what happens to people who work for outsourcers.
Outsourcers hire low skill workers, pay them low skill wages, and require that they simply follow company procedures. No thinking, please.
The intelligence to do the job correctly is built into the procedures, whether it’s lifeguarding, call centers, making hamburgers, or manufacturing. Highly skilled, highly paid people design these predictable systems, so that low wage, low skill workers don’t need to think or be paid much.
That’s why outsourcers save companies and governments so much money.
The question I’ve been pondering is what happens when we make more and more people automatons, paying them NOT to think. Punishing them when they do. Like what happened to lifeguard Thomas Lopez, who was making $8.25 an hour.
Do they become depressed, lose self-esteem, anesthetize themselves with food, video games or worse?
Or do they become really angry, rebelling in negative ways that help neither them nor their employer?
Or do they suck it up, figure a job’s a job, and find meaning from doing things in the hours they’re not working, like church or music or volunteer work?
What happens to us as a society by rewarding people to just follow the procedures? New ideas not wanted. Never leave your stand. Never have much of a career path, except one low paying automaton job after another.
Aside from the obvious widening wage gap, what happens to the soul of our society?