Exploitation of workers becomes more socially acceptable if the workers are perceived as "passionate" about their jobs

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/05/22/weaponized-satisfaction.html


My employer knew that our department’s (and the company’s) morale was in the shitter, knew that the workplace was toxic, etc etc. So, they put a big whiteboard up and would have people respond to questions like “What random act of kindness did you do lately”" or “What are you most proud of in your work?” As they say, I can’t even.


Exploitation of workers becomes more socially acceptable if the workers are perceived as “passionate” about their jobs.

Oh I’m passionate, PASSIONATE to get the f’ out’a this loony bin as soon as I can!


As both an artist and a teacher I have experienced this. And, to a degree, it’s working. But I think we are close to a teacher tipping point where we are going to have to treat teachers better and pay them more, or find that there are no teachers.


This is the logic of capitalism. Wages are determined by what people will work for. Everything has a dollar value. So jobs that people get personal satisfaction out of pay less. And the effect is that people who care for other people are poorly treated - teachers, daycare workers, even doctors make less than others with comparable education and experience. We’re pillaging the commons, but the commons is our caring for one another.


Working in the non-profit sector serving early childhood educators, can confirm. My boss says “But we aren’t in this for the money, right?” at least once per leadership team meeting.


I manage a studio of contractors in Cupertino. They’re very passionate.

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We didn’t need a study for this.

Additionally “team players” never get their paid time off approved.


I see what u did there, internet elves…


The “passionate” workers are supposed to be so dedictated they will put up with the shit that the beaten down ones won’t.


Passion or desperation are just two more resources for the machine to exploit.


Former journalist here offering additional confirmation.

It’s also the logic of the Puritan Work Ethic: if you find an activity enjoyable or personally fulfilling it must be inherently sinful, therefore punishment must be meted out.


I moved to another state to pursue my passion (brewing). Seven years later, after living like a pauper and working my ass off for the privilege, I went back to my previous line of work (consulting), that I have way less passion for, but that pays way better. During my stint as a brewer, I remember joking all the time with other people in my industry. Stuff like, “glad I love beer - it’s not like I do it for the money! Ha ha!”

Ha. Now I’m funding my passions with a job I don’t care about. Yay?


Do what you love and you’ll never be paid a day in your life?


It’s like Neal Stephenson says in Snow Crash:

Mom works for the Feds. Feds don’t make much money, but they have to work hard, to show their loyalty.


Not many cars are taking the off-ramp into Fedland. Her mother does it every morning, as do a bunch of other Feds. But all Feds go to work early and stay late. It’s a loyalty thing with them. The Feds have a fetish for loyalty — since they don’t make a lot of money or get a lot of respect, you have to prove you’re personally committed and that you don’t care about those trappings.

Snow Crash


The idea that you have to have a job that you love is just more Boomer horseshit that they shoved down our throats. In fairness, fool me once and all that.


I’d argue that the study is about something slightly different: I strongly suspect that paying people less when you can get away with it because of their non-monetary motivation is a very common thing; and paying as close to what the market will bear and no more is certainly capitalist pricing; but the study was about approval of/perceived legitimacy of the logic; not the logic itself.

The two are obviously related; but there’s a distinction between an ideology and whatever motivates some people to sincerely endorse it; rather than merely recognizing it as empirically the case or unfortunate but please presently in inescapable.

I’d be very curious to know if what motivates the acceptance is actually capitalist spirit “the equilibrium price of video game developers is lower than that of java line-of-business developers; praise the invisible hand!”; whether it’s a (misplaced and dangerously deceptive) social signalling artifact “If they are passionate about the job it must be hedonically satisfactory so why would I oppose that?”; or whether it’s everyone’s favorite Hallmark card monster, the just world theory: “clearly people getting exploited deserve it; because my careful selective-thinking skills make a world where people don’t always receive just outcomes seem way more horrible than one where some people ontologically deserve to get screwed.”


The charity sector as well. The number of times I heard donors saying that if staff really cared about the cause they would volunteer full time instead of receiving a salary was mind boggling.


If my landlord were really passionate about housing he’d give it to me for free!

…Am I doing it right?