A financial writer documents the transformation over the past two decades in the demands and rewards of working in corporate America.
Fraser spent some four years researching the subject, visiting online chat rooms and hosting Internet discussion groups to tap into the work-related concerns of white-collar employees. She interviewed men and women at a variety of positions in large corporations involved in computer technology, banking, publishing, finance, retail, telecommunications, and other industries. Here she uses their personal stories, as well as government labor statistics, press releases, business books and journals, and speeches and texts by corporate executives to paint a dark picture of the changed status of white-collar workers in America. Among the negatives she reports are longer workdays; salary stagnation; increased contingency employment (that is, part-time and temporary jobs); increasing job losses through downsizing and layoffs; and declining benefits, such as reductions in health insurance, sick days, holidays, vacations, and pensions. Add to these the technology of cell phones, pagers, Internet-linked computers, and laptops, keeping people on the job even when at home or in transit, and the result, she notes, is overwork and job stress. Fraser examines the regulatory and investment conditions that in the 1980s began to bring about these changes in the once-paternalistic atmosphere at many of America’s large corporations; such changes do not promote growth and prosperity, she argues, but may actually handicap companies by destabilizing and demoralizing their workforces. White-collar discontent at dozens of well-known US companies is chronicled, with Intel getting especially close attention. In a concluding chapter, Fraser offers her own suggestions for reversing the trend toward what she terms “sweatshop” management practices.
The title may be a bit of an exaggeration, but this is a convincing demonstration that as once-bloated corporations have turned lean and mean, many white-collar workers have been shaken by the change.