December 25, 2009

Ode to the Temp

I'm currently trying to maintain good karma by containing my elation at the final termination of a particularly vexing contract employee. This would be at least the 4th in the last year whose departure has filled me with joy and glee sufficient to make me want to burst forth in song and dance. And I'm sure it won't be the last.

An aside: I spent a summer as a temp working for 3 or 4 different companies for different lengths of time. It sucked. The full-time employees are bitter because you take time to train, you're going to be gone soon, and they KNOW that the company is paying more for you than they're making. Also, most temps suck at their jobs.

If you're a temp, I want you to reread that last paragraph and bear in mind that I was a temp and I honestly believe I was pretty damned good at conducting telephone surveys, taking complaints over the phone, contacting seasonal construction workers and whatever other crap jobs I had to do. But not only was I the exception, I was a college student who was under no illusions that this was going to be anything more than a 14-week diversion from school. And even then, I only ended up with about 6 or 7 weeks of low-paying, dismal, menial, degrading work.

Of course, the temporary or contract-to-hire employee for a degree and/or job experience required gig is a completely different kettle of fish. For one thing, there is a certain group of them who do it because the money is good, the responsibility is minimal and the scenery changes every 12-24 months. And for another thing, a simple desire to get paid isn't in and of itself enough to get a job.

Most of the time.

See, big companies have staffing shortages. Precisely because they have these god-awful hiring processes where 2 HR people, 5 managers, 2 upper-level managers, a lawyer and an accountant have to sign off on each hire and you can't use the same 5 managers in any 7-year period. And when some VP of Something Minimally Useful finally got tired of his management chain kvetching about not having any employees and instituted a shortcut of being able to hire temps/contractors. Of course, since they're temporary, HR decided that the process can't cost as much as it does for a Real Employee, so now temps and contractors are interviewed by the person closest to the interested manager's bathroom at the time that the contractor calls. This is, of course, more often than not, the custodial staff or the guy who hides out in the bathroom to avoid work.

And to make things worse, while there IS this cadre of skilled contractors, anyone not interested in spending half of his or her life finding the next gig frequently decides to try to retire from the contracting gig into full-time employment. And what does that mean? It means that during economic downturns, a disproportionate number of good contractors aren't looking for work.

Even more interesting is if you have a company in, say, the hills of West Virginia or some equally remote place that is a long drive from any respectable center of industry, technology or whatever the hell it is that your company does. Because if you were a contract employee who had to find a new job every year or two, would you rather live in an area where there were lots of jobs and you didn't have to move every year or two or would you rather move to the West Virginia when you know that you're going to have to move again in a year? Unless of course, you REALLY wanted to live in West Virginia for a year... in which case, you're dumber than you look.

So yeah, I'm trying to keep my good karma... but I'm pretty sure that I'm losing.


Posted by Vengeful Cynic at December 25, 2009 06:54 PM | TrackBack