I’m feeling a bit fed up with the world right now. It’s transient; it’ll pass. But in the last couple of days there’ve been a lot of downsides demonstrated to living off shift work in a service industry: I’m not likely to get weekends off on a rota, and the system for booking time off is deliberately difficult to access. I’m stuck outside plans with friends and sad.  

Let’s analyse this shit, though.

So, I’m working in a cafe in a big old retail establishment, and the place is designed as a little self-contained business with its own supply chain and protocol and line management system. But, in a great stroke of middle-management overcontrolling invention, hours are allocated by someone outside that system, so the place is critically short-staffed more days than not.

Making sure the place works despite that is a skilled and complicated and exhausting job, but the system’s designed to maintain it that way while removing all significant decisions from anyone with the information to make them best. Uniformity is valued and tested for while even the most pedantic bits of day-to-day operations – the keys to the COSHH cupboard, say – are out of reach without a appeal up a chain of hierarchy. Seems like a great way to foster resentment, right?

I genuinely was not sure what the rationale behind it was. Keeping all power in the hands of the managers makes them busier and doesn’t garner more than the most symbolic kind of control. But it makes the fact that workers and their line managers are required to tick every box and jump every hoop routine; it’s a concrete demonstration that no skills need be recognised other than the ability to replicate an ideal system which takes no notice of the actual resources available.

It’d be easy to say “well, that’s stupid”. At a time when the people looking to work fulltime in a job that pays less than a living wage have run their own businesses and graduated with good degrees, you’re clearly not making the most out of available resources. But asking for good work makes you more likely to have to recognise it somehow. Asking for standardised bad work and expecting to get it when you haven’t provided the tools for that mould? That leaves you a lot more control, and there’s more than enough evidence that’s what the people in charge are after.