How Not to Get Screwed if You Have to Work for The Man

How Not to Get Screwed if You Have to Work for The Man - Vegan Dogfood

A commie bastard’s guide to navigating workplace treachery.


Greetings, comrade! Pull up a seat and stay for a while, won’t you? I know it can be taxing promulgating the ideals of Marx and Weber to the bootlicking masses—wage slaves, eerily content under the crushing weight of a capitalist leviathan, easily placated by mantras of picking themselves up by the bootstraps (boy, we communists sure enjoy a strangely boot-centric lexicon, don’t we?) Well, fear not! Vegan Dogfood is a safe space for all proles to commiserate.

We, like you, would like nothing more than to overthrow a system that perpetually invents ever-changing constructs meant to devalue your ideas and commodify your labor. Also, like you, we’ll still be clocking in for our awful day jobs tomorrow and paying off our cars. But hey, just because nobody’s occupying this or that anymore doesn’t mean we have to take it all lying down! Throughout this article you will find a list of malicious workplace situations and their corresponding defenses for that next time you find yourself on the business end of your place of business.

Scope Creep

Scope Creep, Job Creep, Responsibility Creep are all more or less interchangeable terms for being asked (read: required) to do something that falls outside of your job description. It is a symptom of the Great Recession of the late 2000s—at least, that is how employers justified it. However, even though every economist in America agrees that things are way less fucked now, corporations have gotten used to all this free labor.

You’ve probably been dealing with scope creep ever since your first real job. Remember when you were sixteen and selling prepaid phones to obvious drug dealers at Media Play. Just me on that one? Whatever. Well it turns out you were so good at explaining the intricacies of early 2000’s flip phone technology that you got promoted to “Keyholder” in your department. Make no mistake, you were made a manager. However, because minors are only ever expected to earn minimum wage, you still got about the same hourly rate.

How Not to Get Screwed if You Have to Work for The Man - Vegan Dogfood - Kid Boss
Yeah, it’s only a five cent raise but isn’t bossing around grownups its own reward?

Another common example of scope creep in an administrative setting is when someone on your team takes maternity/paternity leave. Your employer probably pats himself on the back for meeting the basic requirement of human decency by allowing this leave of absence but fails to hire a temp in the meantime. Guess who’s about to be effectively working 1 ½ jobs for the next month or so.

These are some of the more grievous examples, but scope creep can even be as seemingly benign as being asked to restock the toilet paper or liquid soap in the bathrooms. The more you prove yourself to be capable of taking on more responsibilities, the more your employer will expect of you.

Help, comrade!

Make sure that your job duties (ha! Duty) are clearly defined. If you notice that you are being required to expend a significant amount of effort on anything not on the agreed upon list, and you feel as though further compensation is deserved, tactfully bring this to your boss’ attention. Managers generally don’t recognize that you have absorbed the extra responsibilities. Most of the time it’s not even a sinister power play on their end, rather sheer ineptitude.

If that doesn’t work, or if a raise is out of the question, you can check with HR. Most companies have a human resource function that allows for job reclassification. Be careful going over a supervisor’s head though! Even if you get your way, they could make your time there suck even worse if you wound their fragile egos. If you can’t convince them to give you a raise, your case should at least be strong enough that you can negotiate a more prestigious title from HR. Now you have the option to quit knowing you’ll be better off when searching for your next job.

Organizational Citizenship Behavior

OCB, never to be confused with ODB, is pretty closely related to scope creep. It is the phenomenon of individuals within an organization to willingly make concessions for the betterment of said organization. If that doesn’t sound like such a terrible thing, that’s because it kind of isn’t. Society depends on this type of behavior in order to thrive. However, when a place of business manipulates our innate human desire to make purposeful contributions, we see exploitation.

Exploitative Organizational Citizenship Behavior (also known as Compulsory Citizenship Behavior or Citizenship Pressure) is when an individual is well aware that anything they may contribute above and beyond of what is expected of them will not be recognized, but also understand that by refusing the added responsibilities they will be somehow worse off.

This can take the form of a wide range of added inconveniences to a worker’s daily load, such as proofreading emails when you aren’t an editor or answering phones when you aren’t a receptionist. Whatever form OCB materializes itself, the consequences are always the same: in order to stay caught up on your main job functions, extra hours are required.

Help, comrade!

Pretty soon this problem will solve itself! Effective December 1st, 2016 the Fair Labor Standards Act will be updated to provide overtime to millions of workers who were previously ineligible. If you pull in a penny less than $913.00 per week, your employers must pay you time-and-a-half for any time above 40 hours or risk getting skull-fucked by a bald eagle.

How Not to Get Screwed if You Have to Work for The Man - Vegan Dogfood - Obama
Mark Wilson/Getty
Thanks, Obama! No, really. Thank you.

Caution! There are always loopholes and if you are working for a particularly evil corporation, they will try to assess your job as exempt from this new law. Normally, I would never advocate the process of snitchin’ but if corporate greed is what’s getting in the way of your livelihood, by all means report that shit.

Postponing your yearly review

This one is relatively self-explanatory. If you know you are in a position to be considered for a yearly raise, don’t let it slip through the cracks. Every single day, past 365, that you work without completing your formal review is literally your company stealing money from you. It’s kind of shitty to think in those black and white terms of time = money, and if you’re reading this then I’m guessing it’s not your default thought process by any means. Still, you know that is exactly how they view you. Why not turn the tables?

Help, comrade!

Speak up! Granted, you don’t want to come off as a total wiener about this sort of thing, it is still something you’ll have to be assertive about. Resist the urge to shriek drunkenly at upper management, hammer and sickle in tow, about seizing the means of production. In this case a simple email, sent two weeks ahead of your review date should suffice. They’ll probably even mistake it for enthusiasm and look more favorably on you.

How Not to Get Screwed if You Have to Work for The Man - Vegan Dogfood - Communist
Dress for the job that you want, not the job that you have.

Emotional Labor

Like it wasn’t bad enough that women get paid on average 80% of men’s salaries in the same roles, there is an even sneakier workplace machination that’s much harder to classify. Emotional Labor is when a workplace takes advantage of how society has conditioned us into our respective gender roles. Just like scope creep and OCB can result in added, thankless jobs, Emotional Labor (EL) takes it one step further.

This compendium of EL’s definitions and examples is well worth your read, no matter who you are. It defines Emotional Labor with the following example:

I often talk about emotional labor as being the work of caring. And it’s not just being caring, it’s that thing where someone says “I’ll clean if you just tell me what to clean!” because they don’t want to do the mental work of figuring it out. Caring about all the moving parts required to feed the occupants at dinnertime, caring about social management. Caring about noticing that something has changed – like, it’s not there anymore, or it’s on fire, or it’s broken.

It’s a substantial amount of overhead, having to care about everything. It ought to be a shared burden, but half the planet is socialized to trick other people into doing more of the work.

Emotional Labor is watering the office plants late on a Friday. It is making coffee at ass o’clock for shitty coworkers. It is being expected to do all of these things and having the people who benefit from your actions acknowledge none of them.

Help, comrade!

Probably in the next hundred years, the concept of gender will be a joke. But, uh, that doesn’t really help much now. Hopefully the people in your personal life acknowledge and share in these responsibilities with you—at work though…

If you notice that shit just straight up wouldn’t get done without you, bring it up. HR does not want to deal with any kind of sexist practices that are going to make them look bad. You might have a few good ol’ boys in the office who don’t get it but for the most part, anyone who is explicitly told that their actions (or lack thereof) are causing pain will shape up.

How Not to Get Screwed if You Have to Work for The Man - Vegan Dogfood - Chore Wheel
NBC Studios
If not, there is always the chore wheel.

What sucks the most is that even bringing up that you are performing this unpaid emotional labor is itself emotional labor.

I’m sorry if this answer seems like kind of a copout. There are plenty of articles that address the problem, but none that offer any concrete steps to fixing it within a professional setting. I’d love to discuss some ideas with you in the comments if any come to mind!

Don’t use study drugs

Mark McGuire got kicked out of baseball for using steroids, Oprah got crazy on Lance Armstrong for using steroids, and has anyone checked in on Hulk Hogan lately? So how is it any different to take unprescribed Adderal to get a performance boost at work?

Not only is it unethical to unnaturally outperform our peers, it’s stripping away at our humanity. Maybe it’s the Huxley in me but I don’t want to live in a world where employers reap the benefits of my drug-addled mind.

If we keep changing our brain chemistry to optimize ourselves within this flawed system, we’re inviting the science fiction dystopia we all fear so much.

Help, comrade!

For starters, definitely don’t Microdose for Your Last Week at a Failing Startup.

Author: Brian Fox

Brian's waking hours are dominated by pop culture, interspersed with humankind’s search for meaning. He founded this site out of contempt for excessive consumerism as well as a futile effort to reclaim culture from the 1990's blood-soaked talons. You can blame him on Ohio.

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