Does It Pay for Firms to Invest in Their Workers’ Wellbeing?

Yves here. While the findings of this short paper on the merits of employers promoting their workers’ job conditions, that viewpoint is perversely unfashionable today. It is somehow seen as more beneficial to employers to keep their minions cowed and fearful. One of the most active threats is the ease of firing workers. And of course, the belief that employment is tenuous works against the notion of making any investment in employees, even ones that are actually self-serving. But notice that this article does have a specific definition as to what “wellbeing” amounts to, which is workplace satisfaction. A major element appears to be bosses not acting like jerks.

By Alex Bryson, Senior Research Fellow. John Forth, Principal Research Fellow, and Lucy Stokes, Senior Research Fellow, all at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. Originally published at VoxEU

It is generally agreed that firms can improve their employees’ wellbeing through improvements in job quality – but is it in their economic interests to do so? This column reports research showing that satisfied employees and higher productivity go together. Analysis of the British Workplace Employment Relations Survey finds that employee job satisfaction is positively associated with workplace financial performance, labour productivity, and the quality of output and service.

Citizens’ wellbeing is rising to the top of the political agenda in many countries. The British government, for example, recently announced a What Works Centre for Wellbeing, with initial funding of £3.5 million over three years to investigate the determinants of wellbeing and how to improve it. This follows government investments in wellbeing metrics developed and pioneered by Britain’s Office for National Statistics. Some argue that these metrics should be the basis for national accounts that provide an indication of how well the nation is doing, comparable to GDP estimates.

The idea that wellbeing should be a target for public policy has been promoted for some time by prominent economists, including Lord Layard (2011) and the Nobel laureates commissioned by the Sarkozy government in France (Stiglitz et al. 2009). Others are more sceptical and wonder, even if it’s a good idea to try to measure wellbeing, is it really appropriate or sensible for government to try to intervene to improve wellbeing?

Psychologists, economists, and others know a great deal about the determinants of individuals’ wellbeing, and one key element is what they do in their working life. One recent study found that work was among the worst activities for people’s momentary happiness – just above being sick in bed, in fact (Bryson and MacKerron 2013). But other studies indicate much depends on what type of job you do and how that job is designed by the employer.

New Evidence on Employees’ Wellbeing

A review we recently conducted for Britain’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) shows that employers can improve employees’ wellbeing through improvements in job quality (Bryson et al. 2014). Employees’ wellbeing will rise where they have control over the pace and content of work tasks; where demands placed on the worker are not excessive; where there is variety in their work; where there are opportunities for development; where supervisors are supportive; where pay and treatment is perceived as fair; and where the work environment is pleasant and safe.
Is improving employee wellbeing profitable?

But the key issue is not whether employers can improve employee wellbeing. Rather, it is whether it is in their economic interests to do so. After all, if, as is commonly assumed in economics, firms are profit-maximisers, they will take account of the costs associated with any improvement in employee wellbeing. Improving employee wellbeing may be a laudable goal for society as an end in itself. It may have positive externalities too, including reductions in expenditure on health services. But employers are only likely to invest in employee wellbeing where there is a clear business case for doing so. That business case rests on the returns to the firm.

The theory linking improvements in employee wellbeing to improvements in firms’ bottom line is ambiguous. Much depends on the firm’s production process, the types of workers it recruits, their ability to add value to the production process, and the extent to which their productivity is affected by their wellbeing.

For example, a firm’s output may be highly dependent on talented senior executives whose performance can affect the strategic direction of the firm and the productivity of workers lower down the chain of command. It may therefore make sense to invest in their wellbeing if this can be converted into motivation and effort. It is less clear whether firms will want to invest in the wellbeing of employees who perform mundane routine tasks, perhaps add little value to the firm, and are easily replaced by those recruited from the ranks of the unemployed.

Even if a firm is willing to invest in employees’ wellbeing, there is no certainty that higher subjective wellbeing will translate into greater profitability at the level of the workplace or organisation. First, one must factor in the costs an employer may have incurred to bring about the improvement in wellbeing. Second, many institutional and contextual factors may intervene, such that any improvements in performance dissipate. Third, group dynamics come into play when considering relationships at a workplace or organisation level that are not considered when focusing on individual effects.

The Link Between Wellbeing and Performance

There is empirical evidence linking employees’ wellbeing to their individual performance. For example, greater subjective wellbeing feeds through to individuals’ performance in the labour market (Judge et al. 2001, Lyubmirsky et al. 2005). There is also recent evidence of a causal link between increased wellbeing and improved worker productivity, at least in a laboratory experiment setting (Oswald et al. 2014). But the empirical evidence at the organisation level is extremely sparse.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence of a link comes from a survey of manufacturing in Finland, which found that mean workplace job satisfaction was independently associated with subsequent value-added per employee. A one point increase (on a six-point scale) in the average level of job satisfaction among workers at the plant increased the level of value-added per hour worked two years later by 3.6 percentage points, after controlling for other factors. This estimate rose to 9 percentage points in a two-stage estimation approach designed to account for unobserved establishment-level heterogeneity (Bockerman and Ilmakunnas 2012).

Our BIS report is the first study for Britain of the link between employee wellbeing and firm performance. Analysing the nationally representative 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS), we find that those workplaces with rising employee job satisfaction also experience improvements in workplace performance, while deteriorating employee job satisfaction is detrimental to workplace performance.

Employee job satisfaction is positively associated with workplace financial performance, labour productivity, the quality of output and service, and an additive scale combining all three aspects of performance. Workplaces experiencing an improvement in non-pecuniary job satisfaction – whether measured in terms of the average level of satisfaction in the workforce, or measured in terms of an increase in the proportion ‘very satisfied’ or a reduction in the proportion ‘very dissatisfied’ – also experience an improvement in performance.

These findings are consistent with the proposition that employers who are able to raise employees’ job satisfaction may see improvements in workplace profitability (financial performance), labour productivity, and the quality of output or service.

Although we cannot state definitively that the link between increasing job satisfaction and improved workplace performance is causal, the findings are robust to tests for reverse causation and persist within workplaces over time, so that we can discount the possibility that the results are driven by fixed unobservable differences between workplaces. There is therefore a prima facie case for employers to consider investing in the wellbeing of their employees on the basis of the likely performance benefits.

The link we find is between job satisfaction and workplace performance. It is not apparent for other aspects of employee subjective wellbeing such as job-related affect (measured in terms of the amount of time feeling tense, depressed, worried, gloomy, uneasy, and miserable). The analysis thus suggests that there is no clear case for employers investing in these other aspects of employee wellbeing – although equally we find no clear disadvantage to doing so.

Concluding Remarks

These are encouraging findings, but the scope of the analyses has not allowed us to explore the processes that could have been instrumental in forging the link between employee wellbeing and workplace performance. Further work is required to develop insights into how employers can facilitate the positive outcomes revealed in this study.

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  1. David Lentini

    ” There is therefore a prima facie case for employers to consider investing in the wellbeing of their employees on the basis of the likely performance benefits.”

    Not exactly a resounding conclusion. And it’s been a long time since businesses thought in terms of investing in making more and better products. Under our crapification philosophy, profits are driven by the cost side of hte ledger; so driving everyone to the bottom in terms of pay and benefits is the rule. Since it’s now a keystone of our business culture, there’s no competitive advantage to considering workplace happiness.

    1. McMike

      This effort to always cut costs is in danger of driving past the vanishing point. Or crawling up its own bung hole.

      I am reminded of a story, Ray Bradbury I think, of a woman who becomes obsessed with finding new short cuts driving back from their summer house. She eventually disappears into another dimension. [story remembered imperfectly I’m sure]

      1. susan the other

        Right. So if this “reasoning” (I’m being generous because this offends me to my maximum…) is taken to its limit – which by definition is far beyond a “minimal improvement in job satisfaction” which is code for a minimal improvement in profit – you end up at a point where labor and capital are equal. And profit is distributed to everyone. My Kingdom for a big picture.

  2. Ben Johannson

    Others are more sceptical and wonder, even if it’s a good idea to try to measure wellbeing, is it really appropriate or sensible for government to try to intervene to improve wellbeing?

    Economists have thought it sensible for government to intervene regarding everything else; you can’t make them shut up with all the things they want government doing until one suggests efforts to make the masses moderately-less miserable.

    This far sir, and no farther!

  3. Jesper

    The best way to stop bosses from being jerks is to a have a good job-market with plenty of jobs. Bad bosses will end up without employees. Survival of the fittest.

    In the current job-market it is possible for bosses to be jerks without hurting productivity, disgruntled workers will either suck it up or be told that they do not fit in with the corporate culture and let go before their probationary period is up. The end result in corporate culture is not pretty.

    & while I agree that ideas might need to be sold, I do find it demeaning that the well-being of humans (workers are humans) somehow needs to be justified in economic terms. But I suppose in the time when humans are referred to as resources that is to be expected.

    1. Banger

      We have a cultural prejudice towards jerkishness. Our mythology demands that people in authority are forceful, demanding, egotistical and arbitrary. As long as our “heroes” display those traits we will perpetuate them.

      1. roadrider

        Business, at least in the United Mistakes of America, is an inherently amoral activity. The biggest scumbag wins so bosses, investors, etc, all try to outdo each other in that respect justifying their scumbagginess with abstruse economic “theories” and denying any accountability for their behavior. If you’re not in the back-scratching old boy network of the upper managerial crust your “well-being” and job satisfaction are of no concern at all.

    2. diptherio

      My question is “does it pay for workers to invest in their firm’s wellbeing?” Spoiler Alert: NO

      Unless, of course, the workers are themselves the owners of the firm. And speaking of, here’s an interesting option from the guy who founded something called Abolish Human Rentals:

      Use derivatives to take down the slave-drivers!

    3. cabjoe

      The best way to stop bosses from being jerks is to a have a good job-market with plenty of jobs.

      This. Government policies that produced actual full employment (entirely feasible, see World War II) and a good job market where firms would actually have to worry about retaining staff would also mean higher wages, less inequality and in general a reduction in many of the social problems we see today. It would however lead to a reduction in the power of the CEO class, so that’s why it’s not going to happen under this status quo.

  4. Worker-Owner

    Good points all, so far, in the comments. The timidity of the language of the report and the weakness of the conclusions reflects the unpopularity of the predictable findings. This was very well studied and documented with much more assertive language in decades past. There is no question now, nor has there been any question in the past that worker wellbeing, confidence in the stability of hteir employment, working conditions, and fair pay all contribute to productivity and job satisfaction.
    Clearly “Upper Management” and “the Shareholders” don’t care. More frankly, productivity is a denigrated metric. Profitability can be maximized in a context of excessive numbers of workers by suppressing wages, job stability (especially for older or higher skilled workers), and working conditions. This only works for the larger enterprises with multi-national workforces, apparently. You need layers of subordinate supervisors/managers whose wellbeing is as unimportant to Senior Management and the Shareholders to be the bearers of the steady flow of bad messages.

    1. diptherio

      Which is why we need more worker-owners, right W-O? It doesn’t solve all the problems, but at least you don’t have to spend a bunch of time trying to convince the owners that the well-being of their workers is important.

      And by the bye, anyone interested in worker ownership or starting a worker co-op could do worse than to start by reading this book (which is printed by Collective Copies, a worker-owned business):

      Building Co-operative Power: Stories and Strategies from Worker Co-operatives in the Connecticut River Valley

    2. The Heretic

      Why would the power and money elite care for worker wellbeing in the West? Their plan to shift design and manufacturing to China and India is working well with no near term impediments or risks. Both China and India have compliant blue collar workforce that willing to accept less than humane work conditions. The white collar group is becoming increasingly skilled and capable (with infusion of western education and technology) and are willing to work under very demanding conditions and long hours. In fact, they would want Workplace conditions and wages to deteriorate in the West, to encourage emigration of expats back to China and India.

      The only time elites will have to cultivate a decent workplace is if they lose negotiating power relative to labour unions and individuals. This will only occur if the demand for labour outstrips supply AND labour has the will to demand better workplace conditions and wages. This can only occur if nation pushes the government to substantially modify the flow of trade and capital, and focus government spending to increase government employment and workplace wellbeing OR there is some truly unique capability or skill that exists in the West, that the elite see as vital to their future interests and cannot or has not yet been replicated in the East. (I.e. Computer/internet engineers during the 1990’s, or government lobbying and political PR machine industry today).

  5. Banger

    There have been many studies over the years that show that a less harried and stressed workplace makes for better work. We also know that working too long without breaks causes a decline in performance and that shorter work weeks and more vacation time improve productivity and so on and so on.

    So what’s going on here? To put it bluntly, employers and employees are playing out an S & M game. The bosses get a thrill from lording it over their peons in a society that values status and money as the final moral arbiters of value in American society. We don’t understand ourselves–we believe, through a mythology perpetrated by the media, that we are a pragmatic society that we seek practical solutions to our everyday problems but that is just not true. We are obsessed with the ideology of selfishness–that the goal of life is to maximize your potential, not to be of service to others, but to pursue your “dreams” and fantasies. And, the fantasy for most people who become bosses, is to dominate others because that is what the mysthology of our culture believes–dominance and submission.

    One of the more egregious examples of employees wanting to dominate their employees is how they will enforce a ban on marijuana on their employees by requiring drug tests which, in effect, are really marijuana tests since most other drugs wash out of your system pretty quickly. This is a drug that is one of the least harmful drugs we know about (unless smoked constantly) and have very little to do with performance on the job yet employees in my area often demand it. In my view they do that in order to humiliate their workers to show them that their body chemistry, their leisure time is still “owned” by the company.

    1. McMike

      I had thought that the drug testing practice traces back to a because-we-can mentality (the technology is cheap and available, so why not), but largely pushed by the insurance companies who allegedly required it (often trickling up as a blanket policy that is actually directed at drivers and line workers), and abetted by technocrat HR departments looking to justify their existence. At least that was the rumor spreading its use.

      It did indeed have the practical effect of cowing the workforce, making them subjugate themselves on day one (welcome to your new job: we don’t trust you; pee here), and then live under an arbitrary regime of random testing (or not-so-random) with an incredibly personal and demeaning test.

      Ironically, the only ones not affected were the people who actually smoked to excess. They came up with complicated ways to cheat, or just winged it and hoped for the best. They were used to living on the edge anyway.

      Meanwhile, the alcoholics and binge drinkers partied on.

      I have missed out on a couple “good” jobs because I have refused to work somewhere that tests. I don’t really even smoke. But if they are chickensh*t on testing, it will surely bleed into other areas.

    2. McMike

      I wonder…. does the general abdication to drug testing mark a tipping point in worker/employer power relations? While perhaps predated by other events, it is still a strong candidate.

      Fully prostrate before your employer, opening up your deepest personal affairs and yielding your body to investigation, under a blanket policy of presumed guilt, and all for a test of marginal impact on actual risk reduction overall.

      1. Banger

        Exactly it’s function. The idea here is that the oligarchs insist we should live in a world filled by the dominators and the dominated. If it were a matter of necessity and these people were merely misinformed–but it isn’t–it simply pleasurable for the bosses to act in that manner as well as those who take part in it (the HR departments).

    3. Lambert Strether

      “employers and employees are playing out an S & M game” Hmmm. I think that distorts the power relations. It’s not a game, and there are no “safe words” for the employees.

  6. seabos84

    I want a paycheck, period. I want my retirement SECURITY separate from my boss. I want my HEALTH CARE (and “health” insurance is JUNK) separate from my boss. I want by unemployment & retraining separate from my boss. IF the “leadership” in the Democratic Party & Big Unions hadn’t spent the last 30++ years fighting over the best seats on the Titanic, except when they were helicoptering off to pleasure yachts, pols would be terrified of doing anything to threaten the freedom of us lowly know nobodies by messing with our retirement, health care, or unemployment.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      Don’t blame the big unions. Their existence is directly tied to the 20th century economy that is now withering away and they are rightly obligated to their remaining working (and voting) members to do all they can to keep them employed. The history of organized labor in the US is the history of (eventually) organizing the leading workplaces and achieving a certain, temporary detente with those employers/industries, one that lasts only until those employers/industries figure out a way to get out of it (Jeff Cowie wrote a great book on RCA’s history of relocating work from NJ to Indiana to the south to Mexico to get away from its unions) or until the economy itself upends and those employers are no longer the leaders. Then there is a long period in the wilderness, until new, different unions (sometimes bankrolled by the old ones, as in John L Lewis of the mineworkers bankrolling the organization of the steelworkers) figure out how to organize the new leading workplaces. We are currently in one of those in-between periods.

      We don’t have a left/labor/political movement in this country that can look at the big picture and try to develop a forward-looking strategy. By design, organized labor in this country, organized into specific existing workplaces of specific existing employers, is backward-looking.

      Nothing good to say about the DP. Plouffe joining Uber says it all.

  7. twonine

    All that is needed is some of this altruistic capitalism.
    “…IWBI has a pioneering altruistic capitalism model that will address social responsibility and demonstrate a sustainable model for philanthropy.”
    I’m not sure why control fraud and Haitian sweat shops comes to mind; however, the downloadable Well Being Standard is quite good. I wouldn’t expect it to trickle down to your local crumbling public school or factory through.

  8. Jay

    This doesn’t take everything into account. There are real costs associated with a miserable workforce. Turnover in employees, training, etc. is a very real business cost. Moreover, miserable employees tend to find sneaky ways of shitting in the well that the company drinks from. Other important costs can be reflected in how an employee interacts with customers, especially in non-telephone recorded face-to-face interactions. How many times have you had a bad customer service experience with someone who is clearly not paid enough to care about anything? Alternatively, employees who feel they have repeatedly been given the shaft by management often try to find ways to prevent it from happening to customers by steering them into products or services that benefit the customers moreso than the company. Another cost is stress-induced absenteeism, including but not limited to brown bottle flu. Another cost is repetitional damage within an industrywide workforce. If XYZ widget company is a horrible place to work and everybody knows it, you only get entry-level yokels and morons applying there, creating yet another spiral of inexperience, incompetence, poor results, more misery, etc.

    The bottom line: None of this fits anywhere on a spreadsheet. You can’t put a dollar value on any of this. It’s squishy touchy-feely stuff, but poison nonetheless that can kill a company.

    What would it be like to work in a place that gets gradually better, instead of what we have become accustomed to?

    1. McMike

      When the crapified Gresham dynamic is the dominant paradigm, none of that matters.

      Companies are dumbing down all sides of the equation across the spectrum of industries, and it doesn’t seem to be hurting any of them.

      As with America’s political awakening, or the Fed’s ending low rates, someday never seems to come.

      So, if you’ll excuse us, we need to get back to dismantling civil service, education, and social security – while the masses of employees who are already treated like crap cheer from the gallery.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        Agreed. Also, when the typical upwardly mobile exec stays at one job I think on average 12-18 months and is only looking for quick fix ways to change some measure to prove their awesomeness, employee well-being tends to be neglected TSTL.

        1. McMike

          TSTL to the max.

          Any upwardly mobile mercenary exec would be an idiot to waste time, energy, and money on a wellness program that costs money and effort up front, the payback is dependent on sustained organization wide execution, takes a long time to manifest, and success is difficult to prove through measurements. NFW.

          Besides, the company is making money had over fist. If it ain’t broke….

          Nope. Things will not change until they bottom out. i,e. when there is no more money from profits and book cooking to reward mercenary execs to destroy companies on the backs of worker misery. Alas, as the outsourcing and work visa immigration race to the bottom has barely scratched the managerial, professional and technical class, we have a ways to go.

  9. DJG

    Isn’t this why we should have unions? [Although so much of the center-liberal consensus is that unions are out of date even as, somehow, the Gilded Age is not out of date.]
    And a larger question: I’m beginning to think that a defining characteristic of Anglo-American culture is a disdain for work. In American history, you had the reliance on slaves, as well as as on sharecroppers. You have the American fascination with things like Downton Abbey, a life based on servants. Every day, we have encounters with Taylorized workers who are robots with tasks. Does anyone want to work anymore? Does anyone still believe that work gives dignity? (Besides Wendell Berry and me, I suppose.)

    1. McMike

      I think Berry believes that work ought to bring dignity, but that has been systematically stripped away – along with the opportunity to do any meaningful work, and direct rewards for doing it.

      I believe people have quite rationally taken a dim view of work as it is currently defined, structured, and rewarded. And why not? Neoliberalism = pop nihilism. Nothing matters, nothing is real; only fools care, and will inevitably get punished for it.

      I think most people are perfectly willing to put their shoulder into actual meaningful work (and its payback both tangible and intangible), but have given up trying to find it.

      Re Unions: yes. (if we can find a way to keep them from becoming corrupt, pathological, self-aggrandizing institutions in their own right).

      1. DJG

        neoliberalism = pop nihilism. Never thought of it that way. Thanks. I tend to think of us as being stuck in a new baroque, an era that was/is irrational (and proud of it), panic-ridden, and inhumane.

  10. GlassHammer

    Doesn’t all of this start with the link between worker productivity and benefits/perks?

    Very few workers can advocate (either individually or collectively) for benefits/perks (many of which are necessary for improving their wellbeing) without first proving themselves worthy of such things. Vacation days, promotions, sick leave, favorable assignments, etc… have to be earned by sacrificing one’s mind, body, and social relationships (friends and family). Sure some companies reduce the degree of self-sacrifice (normally in one or two areas) but many have simply made it more tolerable.

  11. TheraP

    I like Banger’s theory about an employer/employee S&M game. And it points at the unspoken question, to my mind, underlying this research – which involves ends versus means issues and who has the power to impose/inflict them. It reminds me of the whole question of torture – whether we’re going to use a utilitarian or a moral field of inquiry/decision-making process.

    As a society we have, unfortunately from my point of view, become a culture of finance where business is allowed to decide what ends are vital. But what about the good of society? What about ends which bind us together rather than pit us against each other?

    We moved a year ago to a retirement community. And I see this problem playing out. The needs of residents and lower level employees (cleaners and servers, nursing assistants – the bottom rung of workers yet the front line providing daily assistance!) given “lip service” while workers (paid subsistence wages) are pressed into more work for less pay and residents are assessed mandatory fees for the near-indentured servitude used to provide them. So that residents with a conscience feel guilty for needing services. And workers often find survival requires two and three jobs!

    To make matters worse the newly-hired CEO voices contradictory objectives such as describing this place as “your home” and promising residents “person-centered care” while simultaneously using words like “this Industry” and blythly waving his hands as if illustrating a graph while discussing how lower-level workers “come and go” – as if he has no sense of common bonds between human persons in a so-called “community” setting. (What I mean is, what about “person-centered employment”? Does not “community” work both ways?)

    Torture, I hope you agree, is both morally wrong and counter-productive. But it became a business! And business/finance (as a malignant type of over-riding “culture”) pursues similar morally wrong aims all the time. Moral Aims which are hard to quantify are ignored and denigrated. But their absence powerfully contributes to the breaking of societal bonds, inequality, and whole swathes of our society becoming trapped in dead-end situations, over which they have little sense of control and bleak futures.

    A dreadful S&M game – to use Banger’s phrase again. Our society has gone so far off the rails! Every branch of government now serving the God of Mammon and human persons falling through the cracks.

    1. Banger

      One of the interesting facets of today’s culture is that people are quite comfortable in believing and articulating policies that are contradictory. Those who speak loudest about morality often live highly immoral lives (by any standard). The CEO gives money to a charity with one hand and with the other creates the conditions that require the charity to exist–and the myth-makers in the media ignore most of it.

      The idea is to see that the corporate-mediated culture is moving towards a kind of pure evil which, to me, means commodifying all human interactions thereby making the natural propensity we humans have to connect obsolete. The corporate forces work towards “professionalizing” interactions which means to have a technique replace our natural compassion. We don’t make workers who interact with others more compassionate or wiser–we make them follow a script that seeks to ignore their own feelings good or bad. Thus, we are force to show respect for people we have contempt for which enables us never to confront or real feelings. I know when someone respects me and when they don’t no matter what their professional demeanor is–and, in fact, I consider a professional demeanor in itself insulting–treating me like an item on a spreadsheet!

      1. TheraP

        Your last clause, Banger, that’s it exactly: “I consider a professional demeanor in itself insultingly–treating me like an item on a spreadsheet!” And for me, that includes “your” treatment (in its widest sense). Not just mine.

        And to my mind this professional “demeanor” goes back to language. Abstractions. Cliches. Words that subtract value and excise compassion. I think of how we inflate some and deflate others, terming some in our militarized society “warriors” or heroes, “the best and the brightest”, while euphemisms are coined for folks who are on the lower rungs of society or anyone who might stand up for compassion, justice, equality, sanity. I’m ranging far afield here, but, like you I see this all over. Indeed, the article today on problems related to universities is really about the same issues.

        Language is what is carefully parsed to sell us (as) commodities. It weaves nets to ensnare us. Logic itself is bent via slogans. It is inserted into politics and economics and “patriotism” and picked up unconsciously to be spread around even by churches, non-profits, healthcare, education… And the last is dumbed-down “the better to eat you, my dear.”

        Places of sanity are needed! Like this place.

      2. Vatch

        “Those who speak loudest about morality often live highly immoral lives (by any standard)”

        William Bennett, author/editor of The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories, was a high stakes gambler.

        And of course, TV preachers, who are, well, a never ending source of anecdotes about immoral behavior.

  12. Jesper

    I’ve read two theories explaining why Ford paid his workers well:

    1. He wanted to create a market for himself
    2. He had to pay high wages or his workers would quit as the working conditions were so bad

    I find the first theory to be unlikely.
    I believe the second theory has more merit. He paid no more than he had to and still remain profitable (the costs of replacing workers might well have been very high).

    For a company there might well be an optimum happiness/misery level for its employees. Letting the company alone to decide where that level is seems to be where we’re headed again….. That might be good for the company, but is it good for society?

  13. financial matters

    As has been mentioned society can take the power and also the burden from employers by providing medical care and pensions.

    Getting serious about climate change can be an enabler of better government but we probably need to replace people that are too tied to finance and fossil fuels. We can do much better to provide good employment than using ‘exit IPOs’ as a means to financing innovation. Society should share in the rewards and not only in the costs.

    Michael Hoexter outlines some of the jobs that could be created that seem to be mostly local by aggressively taking on climate change.

    In order for the climate-action building project to proceed these are some of the types of labor for which there will much higher demand than currently:

    Energy Planners
    Forestry workers
    Solar Panel Installers
    Wind-turbine Installers
    Construction Machine Operators
    Factory assembly workers
    Building Energy Analysts/Modelers
    Public transit workers
    Bicycle traffic law enforcement officers
    Building project public liaison workers
    Power Engineers
    Mechanical Engineers
    Structural Engineers
    Materials Scientists
    Urban Planners
    Project Managers
    Project finance specialists
    Environmental certification specialists
    Energy regulators
    Forest and agricultural carbon balance regulators
    Agronomists/Agricultural scientists
    Workforce training specialists

  14. Kunst

    I have long thought (now 45 full-time years in the workforce, including corporate management and business ownership) that every manager at every level should have to survive a yearly vote of confidence from all who work for him/her, directly or indirectly. For the first-line supervisor, that’s your immediate team. For the CEO, it’s the entire corporation. Most workers will vote thumbs-up unless there is a good reason not to. If you don’t have the support of half your subordinates, you need to go away and be replaced by someone else.

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