Monday, July 6, 2015

Is a Worker With Baggage Like a Plant That Has Bolted?

In this post, I want to ask the deliberately limited question of whether or not a “more experienced worker with baggage” is similar in some ways to a plant that has bolted.

First lets define our terms. To a human resources person, a potential employee with baggage is someone who has accumulated behavior, ideas, concepts and so forth during his or her previous employment or personal life which might complicate their working smoothly in the present situation. This is my impression of what the term means, it is not a formal definition from a human resources guide.  God only knows what these guardians of corporate propriety think.

On the other hand, everyone who has had a garden know what “bolted” or “to bolt” means. It means that for one of a variety of reasons,  usually water stress or change of season but sometimes just maturity, a plant enters a different stage of life that is usually not very useful to the gardener.  Generally, the plant prepares to get the hell out of there by preparing to generate seeds. It is very similar to the concept of “going to seed” and it implies that the previously useful plant is now nearly useless unless of course the goal is to generate seeds. Lettuce, which previously was great, is now bitter. Basil, which was amazing, changes flavor to a much lesser form, and so forth.

Is this romaine lettuce about to become unemployable because of its work experience?

In other words, our theory goes, that instead of becoming more colorful, more experienced, more valuable because of things that one has learned that only life can teach you, the potential employee instead appears to be bolted, too concerned about past battles, too filled with preconception about certain types of people or certain businesses, that it interferes with getting the job done with enthusiasm and initiative.

This is an important question because pretty much every interesting person I know who has worked in a field for a while, all of these people have experience that is very real and which will affect their future work. Is that experience positive, or does it make them bolted, or appear bolted?

Furthermore, the judgement, the final judgement of whether the experienced worker unit has value is made, and must be made by people who have neither the experience or knowledge necessary to make a judgement as that might be conventionally thought of.  Rather these keepers of the just and the right have a HR handbook and relevant HR experience to be able to judge.

Sadly the experienced worker comes in with about 10 strikes against them as they have almost certainly been guilty of the unforgivable sin of not making enough money in their previous endeavors.  This is self evident because if they had been successful, defined in the beautifully elegant American manner of accumulating cash, they would not be applying for a job here, but would be in Paris or Bangkok or Manhattan or Aspen managing their certificates of deposit or frolicking with splendid examples of the appropriate gender or genders as the case may be.

The issue of whether experience is the same as baggage, negative and not positive, is just one of the many issues that the meta-concept of baggage brings up.   Can baggage be turned into useful experience through a change in attitude?  Is it fair to attribute baggage to someone without understanding what led to this belief or issue which is now being called baggage?   Is learning from ones experiences baggage?  Is what the human resources person or corporation looking for is not really a person without baggage, but someone who is merely naive?

Indeed, naivete might be the very greatest virtue in a situation like this.  The work output of the virgin is all too likely to be more effusive and extravagant than the work output of the jaded or the sophisticated cosmopolitan who has seen it all.   Those who have not been wounded in love and life are perhaps more likely to go over the top with a rebel yell onto the killing fields and the line of bullets then those who have been there, done that, and knows how much it hurts.

Once a person has this real experience, are they irretrievably "bolted" and unfit for duty in the Globalized Workplace?  Is work experience necessarily a form of disability?

One thing is certain.  In America, business has no responsibility to this wounded and arguably disabled victim of the workplace.  Having fallen in the field of battle but not having the decency of dying and / or going away, he or she degrades themselves by attempting to return to the front lines attempting to fight, that is, to get a job.  Why don't these wounded soldiers just go away and die?  It would be better for them and far less embarrassing.  Business owes nothing to these impoverished survivors.

In America, at least, that much is clear.

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