Occupy Wall Street? You Probably Just Work Hard and Occupy Your Cube

I’ve been trying to come up with a “take” on this whole “Occupy Wall Street” thing, and I really haven’t been able to.

I get that people are upset at the economy, but I struggle to see how our nation’s economic problems are the responsibility of the richest 1 percent of our nation. Who arbitrarily decided that it was the top 1 percent and not the top 2 percent?!

That kind of thinking makes me insane. I really think it should be the top 2 percent and I’m not joining their movement until someone changes that!

But seriously, who decided that? No one really ever asks that. They just break down the fence and start following the herd and yelling whatever chant the guy/girl in front of them is yelling, and pretty soon we have a movement! “Hell no, we won’t go!”

“I want to make it on my own”

Here’s my issue: I’m not anywhere close to the top 1 percent – wish I was, because I come to work every day working hard to get there — but I mean, I’m a scorecard guy, and the top 1 percent seems like the winners and I hate losing.

Now, I could go around and see if someone would change the rules and give me a bunch of money from the top 1 percent, but that seems very, well, un-American. I would rather get there myself – pull up my bootstraps, batten down the hatches, rub some dirt on it, and all that grandfatherly advice type stuff. I want to make it on my own, and I work hard each and every day to try and make that happen.

If I didn’t have this job, right now, would I feel different? Don’t know about that because I’m not in that position.

I have been without a job, though. You want to know what I did? I worked 24 hours-a-day to get another one! I’ve had to take steps backward to move forward. I’ve also been down and had to pick myself up, and in all of those times, I never spent a minute thinking, “well, if only those rich bastards would pay more in taxes, I could get more unemployment, or maybe even a job or anything else.”

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I’m responsible for me, not some rich person who I don’t even know.

I work in a career, and in a company, and every day we have to work. Every day I face the real possibility of losing income if we don’t keep working, taking care of our clients, getting new clients, and basically outworking our competition. Each morning I choose to get up, come to work and “occupy my cube” (I actually have an office, but I’ve had a cube, no big difference).

It’s not that I don’t support the “Occupy Wall Street” folks; it’s just that I don’t understand them.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


5 Comments on “Occupy Wall Street? You Probably Just Work Hard and Occupy Your Cube

  1. Tim, I am in the same line of business as you are. I work hard and as a result I find that most of my projects are overwhelmingly successful, in large part thanks to my involvement and dedication to my job and my career, which I realize I need to nurture in order to support my family and realize my other personal goals.
    Yet, my hard work and dedication are only necessary but not exclusive pre-conditions to success. I feel that it used to be that with hard work and a bit of luck one could make it to the top, whatever that top is, whether on your own (self-employed, own business ) or within a corporate structure. I don’t think that way anymore and I think those protesters may represent many of those who feel the same but who chose a different way to show it.
    The recession of 2008 was a crisis of liquidity. It had nothing to do with the Western demographics (increasingly old or aging), nothing to do with social attitudes towards consumption spending (people were more than happy to consume as they have for the past several decades and there were no wars to scare them into their basements), and nothing to do with key macro-economic indicators (healthy productivity, low inflation, overall good corporate books in America).
    All it really had to do was with major banks self-inflicted wounds caused by financial sector greed, aggressive compensation models associated with trading in instruments no one, including Treasury Department, truly understood, or business transactions that were simply a case in major corporate fraud (several Ponzi schemes, energy futures trading at Enron shown off balance sheet etc).
    What all of it did do, however, was throw us all, fools who thought all we needed was to work hard, pray and with a bit of luck make it in the end, back in the red.  Our work contracts were terminated as governments and client organizations could not finance projects on previously available rates of financing, clients backed out of or delayed execution of their project commitments as recession unfolded, start-up could not raise money anymore, and in the end it was the proverbial 99% who got the real beating in this whole story.
    Worse of all, many of us who bounced back and worked their way through the tough labour market, lost faith in the institutions that supposed to “regulate”, “supervise” and “monitor” the financial institutions, so things of this nature would not repeat. At the present time I do not believe the governments will be able to provide me and my wife with the modest standard of living when we retire without us having to work until a really old age (pass 70, part-time, if health permits). I am relatively young (close to 40 but no there yet), so things might turn around when I get there but I don’t count it at all. I think inability to safely retire it is a major step backwards in terms of development of our civilization, something we, in the West, should really, really look at with a sense of shame.
    Unlike my Wall Street counterparts, who originally invented and happily traded in those crazy instruments, I have no major fund set aside to help me retire or survive a year without income. As to the proverbial 1%, I have no issue and no desire for anyone to redistribute their sometimes self-made but mostly inherited wealth. Many of those are rich because of the hard work ethics and luck of their fathers but that’s fine, that’s the way it goes and I have no real problem with that, I am not a socialist but I do have social conscience and therefore I understand those who might be upset with the way the world is set up.
    I think this movement reflects deep need for a proper mea culpa from the financial institutions, something I haven’t heard. What I do hear is that many of them ended up advising Obama administration with many others drawing excessive compensation again, while the economy and the markets remain really fragile. So the “optics” on Wall Street isn’t good at all and I wouldn’t call those who chose to protest lunatics.
    Their lack of coherent set of demands is not a problem to me; the fact they are there and they protest is a sufficient proof that things aren’t what they used to be and that we should start paying attention at the intellectual and political level. Pretending these people aren’t there just because there are no riots and the mainstream folks haven’t joined them may turn out to be a major mistake. Only time will tell.

    1. Michael –

      I feel your frustration – I’m just not willing to give up on the American dream yet.  There are still millions around the world you try legally and illegally to enter our borders each year for the simple fact – we might not have it perfect, but it’s freaking better than most.  We still do live in a world where, while it might not be a 100% fair shot, you still have a shot to make something of yourself through hard work and determination.  Sure the scales are weighted towards those with money, the proper family connections, etc. – but guess what – that has always been the case. 

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, I’m sure there are many more people who feel exactly the same way you do – I to am frustrated by our government and the partisan politics we see play out each and every day.  Our bloating government is broken – our financial system is broken – but my spirit is not yet broken!   I have a dream – that one day – my 3 sons will get to live in a country where their hard work, determination will pay off for them – I have a dream today! I least I have that…


  2. Hi Tim –
    The BLS shows that the projected number of job openings in August was just around 3 million.  And the number of unemployed (again, according to BLS) is 14 million.  Health insurance for a family (according to Kaiser) now runs over $15,000 per year.  Average hourly earnings get to an annual salary of just over $48,000 per year.  And that’s for full-time work, if you can get it.  Over 9 million people are working part-time because their hours have been cut back or because they can’t find full-time work.

    Citibank just posted quarterly profits of $4 billion.  That’s $4,000,000,000.00.  Profits.  For 3 months worth of work.

    I think the OWS is about many things, but what it is NOT about is people not working hard.

    Thanks for the space for my 2 cents.

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