Bernie Marcus, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, is the latest billionaire to lament the current workforce, stating, “nobody works. Nobody gives a damn. ‘Just give it to me. Send me money. I don’t want to work—I’m too lazy, I’m too fat, I’m too stupid.’’
Mr. Marcus joins a list of uber rich people who have complained about the state of the current workforce, their lack of understanding of capitalism, and the hardships many companies are having in filling positions.
Capitalism Isn’t The Same These Days
As a 30 plus year Human Resources professional with experience across a wide range of industries, I’m tired of hearing it. With that many working years in my rear view mirror, it’s clear that I’m not a millennial or Gen Z. I’m a Gen Xer. I grew up in the 70’s, and saw American industry at it’s boom. I saw workers get good, well paying jobs that offered full benefits, retirement accounts, overtime pay for extra work hours, and opportunities for education and advancement. To me, this was capitalism, where the rich still got richer, but there was appreciation for their workforce and the fact that they were the reason they were rich. I also watched all those things slowly dry up through the 80’s and beyond. I watched good paying jobs leave America for cheaper labor overseas, salaries get outpaced by inflation, and working conditions deteriorate to the point where many workers were not safe in their jobs. I watched capitalism morph into a new me-generation, where it became mostly about the gain of a few at the expense of the masses.
Good Practices Trump Bad Workers
Now let’s be fair. There are a lot of bad workers out there. There are people who don’t want to work hard and are looking for any way to get something for nothing. But in my experience, those people are the exception, not the rule. In addition, if your company has good hiring practices, good training, and good policies to handle them when they do slip through the cracks, they don’t create big problems.
The Main Problem, Dear Billionaires
But they’re not the main problem in this country. And, capitalism in and of itself isn’t the problem. Capitalism overall has proven itself to be a superior system to socialism or communism. The main problem is greed. Pure and simple, the main problem is greed, and what rich people have done to capitalism. So many of the uber wealthy people who founded and ran/run companies could themselves be put into the category of bad workers. The wealth and power they have come from the hard work of their ancestors, creating individuals who have massive means and influence to create and run the companies that they do. As a result, they themselves don’t truly understand the expectations they put on their staff in comparison with what they are providing in return. They’ve never had to put in the work, instead growing up in the lap of luxury with enough money to pay others to do for them.
Taking More and Giving Less Is Not Capitalism
Many companies have not maintained salary levels and benefits on par with what they expect in return from their staff. Companies have chipped away at work-life balance, expecting workers to value their jobs over their families, friends, even mental or physical health. For many years, workers silently obliged them, in many cases literally working themselves into an early grave. My father was one of these people. I watched him dedicate so much of his time and energy to his job for decades, to be rewarded with a terrible disease, most likely from exposure at his workplace, that forced retirement and took his life before he got a chance to truly enjoy being retired.
A New Mindset in the New Generations
The younger generations have also seen this, and they’re not accepting it. They’re speaking up and demanding better working conditions, better salaries, and a work-life balance. In order words, they’re making the rich owners, executives and stockholders cut into their staggering profit margins and take better care of their workers. They’re rewarded with name calling and stereotyping.
I for one am proud of the younger generation for standing up for themselves and demanding better. I’ve stated dozens of times through the years that my job entailed changing the mindset of executives much more than it did changing the behaviors of line workers. And every time I hear yet another rich person complain about the current workforce and their lack of understanding of capitalism I realize that my workload is getting bigger.
I believe the younger generations have a great understanding of capitalism, possibly even better than the rich people complaining. They are just not willing to stand by and watch the continual decline of communities, the environment, and a great country because of the rampant greed of a few.