Can Your Words Hurt You?

Yes. I am sure of it. Why am I so sure? Well, things you say in public forums, such as Facebook groups and pages, Twitter, etc., can be read by anyone. “Anyone” includes potential employers, people doing background checks, etc.

I now commence to lecture people who probably won’t read this. Bear with me. It will make me feel better, and hey, it’s my forum.

I hereby mount my soapbox.

So, if you threaten to kill people who don’t agree with you, declare that every member of some other group is stupid or evil, or declare that everyone who does something for a living should suffer or die, all kinds of folks will read it and form opinions about you, not just your in-group members.

I’m seeing this more and more as people become increasingly frustrated these days. I see it a lot in people who currently aren’t working, but will want to be re-hired back at their old jobs or find new ones as soon as it’s possible or safe. I read a lot, because I’m interested in how other people think. So, I follow along on the adventures of some people so far left they make me look like Ronald Reagan and I read many things said by people so far right they make the current US President look like Jimmy Carter.

Are all these people entitled to their opinions (as am I)? Sure thing! And do they have every right to express it? Yes, indeed they do. Is it wise to share those opinions in ways that denigrate or threaten others, even if they “don’t really mean it?” I don’t think so.

You see (and I know most of you readers actually DO see, because I’m venting), we’re sorta stuck here in some weird capitalist oligarchy, which means that the people who hire us are probably business owners or people invested in the success of a business. So, if you think all businesses are evil, that might not go over well. Some business owners may well be of the opposite political party from yours, with advanced degrees, a long history of helping the less fortunate, and a strong desire to hire qualified people, even if they disagree with them personally. But, if you repeatedly insult them, call them stupid, and threaten people like them, guess what? They might think twice about hiring you. (And yes, indeed, I have specific individuals in mind.)

Now, if your opinions about the evils of capitalists, liberals (excuse, me, I mean libtards), MAGA fans, or Fox News viewers are more important than your ability to earn a living, feel free. Your devotion to your cause is, to be honest, sort of admirable in a self-destructive way.

I have some opinions of my own that I feel pretty strongly about., too. But you know what? I can tone it down publicly out of respect for people who graciously pay me a lot of money to write for them. I think it IS possible to express my opinions in a way that are true to my beliefs but not rude, insulting, or threatening to others. And in any case, I’m pretty sure I won’t convince anyone to come around to my point of view by repeatedly calling them stupid, no matter how good that might make me feel.

Let’s take a deep breath and enjoy some orange cactus flowers.

Oh well, people are like that. They love to divide themselves into us versus them, as I repeat endlessly. But remember, those in power know that, too, and they know that a divided populace is much easier to control than one that figures out who’s actually pulling the strings.

And it isn’t evil liberal capitalist me who pulls the strings, potential employees. I just want to give people jobs, but would prefer to hire people who don’t denigrate me in public. And, while en employer can’t discriminate against sex, age, disability status, they certainly CAN choose to hire people who are respectful, open minded, and non violent.

I feel better.

Your words CAN hurt you in the job market. They can also cause people to look at your entire family and set of friends with suspicion. In an ideal world, maybe disrespect and threatening behavior wouldn’t affect people’s impressions of others. But, they do. Right now a lot of us aren’t happy about how things are. We have every right to express that. But, maybe we can try to express it rationally?

A Digression on Working in Austin

Resumes are on my mind, since I looked at dozens yesterday. Today, I need to digress from posting about nature and my endless “deep thoughts” to share some observations I’ve had about people in my field (broadly, technical writing and instructional design).

My notebook full of resumes for job interviews.

There’s a job opening on my team where I work in Austin. It’s a rare opportunity in these times when downsizing is the norm. I’m lucky that I work for a company that values its written documentation and resources for customers, since training and technical writing are often among the first folks to be let go when pennies get pinched. So, hooray, it was my turn to bring my instructional design team back up to the level it used to be.

So, I looked at resumes. It was humbling to see how many people with amazing skills and experiences applied (if you’ve hired people lately, I bet you’ve seen the same thing). There were two types, people who have only been in the workforce a few years, then people whose resumes strangely resembled mine.

The pattern is that people have a career at a large corporation that lasts a decade or so, then there is a new contract job every year or so after that. I have so much respect for the people who keep working to find contract work, year after year, because it seemed to me like as soon as you started on job, you had to start looking for the next.

You have got to respect contractors for dealing with these challenges and still getting lots of good work done, with a good attitude.

And here is my rant

Did you notice that everyone was just dandy that government workers got back pay after the recent shutdown? Did you realize that there were actually MORE contract workers who didn’t get to work, and most of them did NOT get back pay.

Yes, more and more companies turn to contractors to do their work, because it’s easier to ramp up and back down as needed. Also, you don’t have to pay contractors benefits. Ka-ching. A poll taken last year showed 1 in 5 workers were contractors.

Here are the actual statistics from a Marist polllast year, reported by NPR.

What does that mean? It means millions of people who don’t get paid sick days, vacation, or most important, health insurance. A lot of these people end up just one illness away from disaster. It does not pay to be a sickly contractor.

When I did my years of contracting (2007-2011), there were at least a few companies that offered health insurance that I could afford, so I didn’t worry about it, but now that’s just about impossible to find. And even though some of the companies you contract throug do offer health insurance, for more than one of my friends it’s turned out to be over half of their earnings.

And don’t get me started on taxes. I’ve heard people go on and on about how highly paid contract workers are. Well, that’s because they have to pay self employment tax on their earnings. They have to save a third of their income to hand over to the IRS.

Thanks, Dell, for introducing me to my husband of ten years! A contractor benefit.

The other thing that can drag you down as a contractor is that feeling like you just don’t belong, like you are an unwelcome guest. You sit at the tiniest desk in the building (I even had to use my own computer at one job). When there’s a free lunch, you don’t get it. You don’t get to go to the corporate gym. When there’s a team-building event, you sit at your desk, typing away. Don’t get me wrong, I have made great friends and had wonderful bosses when I was a contractor. I even married one, so it’s not all bad!

All of this can take its toll on you mentally and physically. I had tics in my eye, a tingling neck, and stomach issues. A woman who suffered from a pinched nerve from contracting stress said:

“As a contractor, the expectations of you are much higher than if you were an employee,” she says. “They’re moving so quickly and they have so little consideration or awareness for you that they sometimes forget that you’re actually human.”

https://www.npr.org/2018/01/23/579720874/will-work-for-no-benefits-the-challenges-of-being-in-the-new-contract-workforce

So, think about the contract workers who you know, who you work with, or who you once were yourself. They work hard, have to ramp up fast, and often don’t get to see their projects through to completion. I will be happy if the best person for the position we’re hiring for turns out to be one of the people who’ve been contracting a long time. They tend to be versatile, have a variety of experiences, and very grateful for a full-time job with benefits.

I’m grateful to the team who brought me on where I work now. I will be happy to pay it forward.