Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The German Labor Ministry Episode

The German Labor Ministry has announced that it's funding a study over employees being stressed out during off-periods (weekends, after-work, and leave periods) when the boss calls them to ask questions.  The general belief by some government political folks....is that across the spectrum....Germans are all stressed out.

Around sixty-six thousand Germans are on stress-disability.  This is generally interpreted as a worker who has gotten various doctors and mental health experts to sign off on their paperwork and declare that this employee cannot function anymore within the work-place.  Up until 2005.....it had lagged along with forty-odd thousand people on such retirements.  They've added twenty thousand more over the past decade, and there is some fear that the number will continue to grow.

The anticipated outcome of this funded Labor Ministry study?  Basically, they will find some conclusion that warrants a law that says no employer can call their employees after work, on weekends, or while on leave.  The anticipated outcome?  It'll fix all this stress-related chaos and early retirement.

Bogus thinking?  Yeah, but this is an American saying it....not a German.

I've come to note over the years that in each German office or shop that you come to deal with.....people tend to have bordered off their private area of expertise.  Instead of having six people who all know a bit about each other's area of requirements, with written instructions on how to do things....Germans divide their work up and forbid anyone else in the shop or office from knowing the various processes of doing a requirement.

This kinda guarantees that you become essential and important...even when you aren't there.  So when your three-week period of leave comes up in June....you can imagine the hectic nature of the office when two or three issues come up and they need to answer a problem today.  It means the boss calls you up while you sit on a beach in southern France, and asks six stupid questions about paperwork, where it's filed, how it's done, and the general process (which you seem to have never written any instructions down anywhere).  Imagine that.....utter dependency....and no way around calling you.

I worked with an American back in the 1990s who had a German warranty issue with some refrigerator.  He contacted the local salesman who he'd bought the item from and wanted some action.  The salesman was eager to help....but the lady who did all the major warranty paperwork wasn't there (on vacation).  No one else in the shop dealt with this stuff.....so for ten days, my associate waited patiently for the return of this gal (this was before smart-phones and e-mail).

Yeah, there's a problem here, but just simply making a law up out of thin air, and telling bosses they are forbidden from calling or emailing someone while they are on off-time.....is pretty bogus.  Will the same political figures figure in a waiver for themselves.....so they can't call or email their ministry employees?  I kinda doubt it.

My general bet is that the German Labor Ministry will toss up a law and settle back to ten years, then discover another forty-thousand Germans have applied for early retirement because of stress-related issues.  At that point, they might admit that these phone calls and emails from the boss.....really weren't the key issue to stress.  Then what?

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