A Christmas Story that really happened

A bad year?

Punish the blue collar workers.

Celebrate the white collar workers.

A Christmas Story that really happened.

the blue collar Christmas vs white collar Christmas

The Blue Collar Christmas Story

In 1995 I flunked out of university and had to work in a blue collar factory for 3 years

My co-workers, many of them being my friends, worked hard and took their jobs seriously.

In the processing section of the factory there were many machines and each machine had one person running it. There were 5 big machines and a total of 5 operators.

Running a machine was a lot of work for one person. So there were 2 general utility people assigned to help the 5 operators.

The total number of workers was 7. One for each machine and 2 additional helpers.

Each of these workers were paid $33k per year.

The company had a bad year.

The low level white collar managers did their part to help the company's bottom line. They turned into hatchet men. Someone had to pay for the bad year and it was going to be the blue collar workers.

They followed the machine operators around, wrote down everything they did, and recored how long it took with their stopwatches.

The hatchet men did this analysis for a month.

In December that year they announced that one of the general utility positions would be eliminated.

Merry Christmas. You're fired.

All this to save $33k per year times 3 shifts. Fire three guys and save $100k a year. The white collar hatchet man got a promotion, naturally.

The White Collar Christmas Story

In 1997 I quit the factory job, went back to university, and graduated in 1999.

I went to work at a prestigious management consulting firm.

The consulting company had a bad year. No layoffs. No punishment.

In fact, they didn't even scale down or cancel their annual Christmas party.

I go to the Christmas Party. I enter the building and what I see takes my breath away.

It's held at one of the most famous museums in the world. They closed the museum early and hosted our company's Christmas party.

We walked and saw every exhibit.

Many of the consultants there were dressed in tuxedos.

Drinks flowed generously and food was plentiful.

I tried to estimate the cost of the party. Given how many employees were there, it was easily over $100k.

The down year for blue collar workers? Fire 3 people and save 100k per year.

The down year for white collar workers? Who cares? Throw an extravagant Christmas party that cost more than $100k.

The contrast between firing workers to save $100k and the $100k Christmas party was hard for me to understand. As I write this, I still have a hard time with it.

It's weirdly emotional to write this 25 years later.

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