Steven Slater JetBlue Flight Attendant Quits -- A Sign of Our Times?
Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who is now famous for quitting his job in one of the most outrageous ways imaginable -- screaming at passengers and jumping down an emergency slide -- may become the best-known face of worker misery since the fictional character Howard Beale screamed he was "mad as hell" in the film 'Network.'
Who knows if Slater felt overworked in his job at JetBlue -- although he did snap after being hit on the head by a bag that a passenger was pulling out early -- but if he felt overwhelmed at work, it's a sign of the economy.
The Labor Department reported Tuesday that worker productivity fell 0.9 percent in the second quarter of 2010 -- the first decline in 18 months. The amount of hours worked rose 3.6 percent, or faster than the 2.6 percent jump in economic output, showing that people are working hard but that companies can no longer rely on getting them to work harder to increase profits.
Workers feeling the brunt
With all of the layoffs and extra work there is to do, the remaining employees are finding themselves stretched too thin, while employers are discovering that laying off workers and other cost-cutting measures won't lead to long-term profits.
Productivity rose 3.5 percent last year, much higher than normal averages of around 2 percent, CNNMoney reported. Companies did more with less during the worst of the recession -- and, as anyone still working knows, the workload falls on their shoulders.
"What's happened is a lot of U.S. companies have reached the limit of how much they can slash their work force and work existing employees to the bone," Nariman Behravesh, chief economist with IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass., told CNNMoney. "At some point, even weak spending growth will require businesses to hire more people to meet the demand."
Slater may be the first of many workers to do what many workers dream of -- quit in an outrageous way.
Giving in to the pressure
Paul Bruno told AOL Jobs that his worst day on the job at a national restaurant chain was when he was slapped in the face by his kitchen manager. "I walked away and didn't fight him," Bruno wrote in an e-mail exchange, and he told the general manager, who laughed at him. "I proceeded to put in my 2-week notice because of the disrespect."
Amy, a worker who didn't want her full name used, told AOL Jobs in an e-mail that she quit after years of mistreatment and understands how people can quit their jobs in a huff.
"I think this flight attendant was slightly out of control, but I understand where he's coming from," she wrote. "While I believe the customer is always right, people forget that just because we're in a recession doesn't mean you can take advantage of other people."
She said she quit her job at a marketing firm after "being talked down to, being subjected to e-mails about the boss's antics involving a threesome during a professional conference, libel about employees and competitors, receiving e-mailed pornography from co-workers, and a general prevailing hostile and passive-aggressive attitude from the company owner."
She said she was asked to inflate hourly billing times for some of the company's biggest clients after being yelled at at all week. So, when her boss went to lunch, she quit. "I wrote a resignation letter, and left," she said. "No notice, no back-up plan, I just left."
That's probably the best way to go about quitting, no matter how bad the worst day on the job gets -- quietly.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.