The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

There’s a story below the fold (apocryphal or true, I don’t know) that lives up to the old joke in the title.  An unnamed employer in Chicago took an attitude towards employees that left much to be desired.  The story has been making the rounds in Childfree circles, and a source of great mirth.

But there is an ounce of truth to it, whether the story is true or not: employers are more accomodating about scheduling and workload to people with children.  Just because people do not have children does not mean they have “free time and nothing to do”, or that they “don’t have families”.  (NB: Saying this does not diminish, excuse, nor pretend that discrimination by employers doesn’t exist, e.g. the glass ceiling and lack of advancement women are subjected to.)

It’s an arrogant assumption that people without kids have “unlimited free time”.  Childfree and childless people have just as much right to free time as those with kids.  The pandemic has exacerbated this with the attitude that Childfree and childless people “can’t pass it on if they get sick and should work from the office”, as if they have no contacts outside of work.

From CNBC:

Office smackdown: Parents vs. childless workers

In the career complaints category, few things can get people more worked up than the debate over who works harder, has it better or is given more preferential treatment: Workers with kids, or those without.

Parents will tell you that juggling work trips and presentations to the CEO with field trips and an unexpected vomiting episode is hard work, but they can make it work with a little co-worker understanding and a few nontraditional work hours.

But increasingly, some childless workers are countering with a similar lament: They say they deserve a life, too.

Workers without children often have been coveted by employers precisely because the assumption is that they have nothing better to do than to put in long hours, said Trina Jones, a professor at Duke University of Law whose research looks at whether efforts to produce family-friendly workplaces have had an adverse effect on single people without children.

In addition, some childless colleagues worry that they’ll face backlash if they ask for flexibility to pursue something outside of work, such as a part-time schedule to train for a marathon or flexible days off so they can volunteer at a pet shelter.

“What happens is the justifications are not viewed the same, and therefore the single person’s commitment to the workplace is questioned,” she said.

Another problem is that those with children are sometimes excused from work duties, and those without kids expected to take on a heavier share of the workload without extra pay.  From Harvard Business Review:

How Managers Can Be Fair About Flexibility for Parents and Non-Parents Alike

Bias against parents — and especially mothers — has been well documented. We call it the “Maternal Wall,” and we’ve been studying it for years, researching how women who have always been successful at work sometimes find their competence questioned when they take maternity leave or ask for a flexible work schedule. We know now that this bias can affect fathers, too, when they seek even modest accommodations for caregiving. For example, a consultant in one study reported that he was harassed for taking two weeks of paternity leave — but applauded for taking a three-week vacation to an exotic locale. Parents, studies consistently show, face extra scrutiny.

But while the data is clear that parents are more likely to face bias at work, sometimes we also hear about a different problem: that people without children find that their managers are more understanding of working parents’ need for flexibility, while expecting childless or unmarried staff to pick up the slack because they “have no life.” Indeed, research has found that women without children work the longest hours of any group.

[. . .]

If you have a work-from-home policy, it should be reason-neutral. It’s generally not a good idea to have to judge different peoples’ “reasons” for working from home. This leads to uncomfortable territory: does sick baby trump dying grandparent? Instead, when people work from home, just have them say “I’m working from home.” Don’t make people explain why.

If employees are given unequal workloads, scheduling flexibility, time off, and pay is not reflected by the work done, then resentment and friction is inevitable.  Childfree people are NOT “anti-child” or “anti-parent”.  What we are is people with the same expectations as those with kids.

From BBC:

Do companies lean harder on non-parents?

Leo Ramirez’s passion job is editing Grubby Cat, a cat-care website. But his main job is very different: coordinating inspections for a crane company in Florida, US. It’s there that he sometimes feels frustrated as a 47-year-old employee without children.

“It’s a very family-oriented workplace,” he explains, with frequent social events like employee picnics and parties. These are supposed to be fun occasions, but they can be dispiriting for him. “My co-workers will make me feel guilted – unintentionally I am sure – into staying [at work] those days later than everyone else… while everyone else has that ‘excuse’ to be unable to make it in because they have families and kids to prepare with.”

Ramirez reports that his colleagues say things like, “come on Leo, you know if you had kids or anything we would let you take the extra time you needed”. Yet when Ramirez and his lifelong best friend married earlier this year, his managers wouldn’t let him leave two hours early for last-minute wedding prep on the Friday before the wedding.

Ramirez is sympathetic to parents’ needs: “Me having to get my teeth worked on is never going to be as important as someone’s kid being hurt, I completely understand that.” He’s even happy to work on holidays so that his colleagues with kids can have uninterrupted family time at Christmas and Thanksgiving, for instance. But it can rankle that “I have been asked to pick up the ‘supervisor on call’ responsibility for others on multiple weekends when it should have been their turn to do so”.

“On call for our need until you breed” is not conducive to creating good morale.

The story goes, more than one Childfree employee of a company in Chicago gave notice simultaneously, one more after this went out.  Illegal threats, passive aggressive language, threatening to underpay, demanding overtime – I’ll bet he still can’t figure out why they’re leaving.



  1. Ridana says

    One thing I am sure I will not live to see is equal compensation for single and coupled (w/ or w/o children) people. Most employers that offer healthcare insurance pay for spouses’ and children’s coverage as well. That has a monetary value that exceeds what the employer pays to single workers. Single people should be paid that difference, to go toward expenses that already are unequal (two or more can be housed almost as cheaply as one, two-for-one and other family discounts, joint taxes can be less, shared travel costs, etc.), or to pay for healthcare for their own household employees (like cleaning services, e.g.) – or just being able to hire such.

    I realize that universal health care would fix much of that, and obviously single people don’t all (or even mostly) have people to clean and do maintenance for them, but you get the point: whatever an employer spends to have a coupled worker on staff, should be spent on single workers who do the same work, and if that means a cash supplement, then do that.

    • says

      It doesn’t even require equity in some cases. I’m sure you’ll agree that being Childfree or childless does not equate to or involve “libertarian” nonsense. I don’t object to my tax dollars funding public schools even though I’ll never have a kid who goes to one, never directly benefit from what I’m paying into. It’s an investment in society, and is worth the money. Finding a Childfree person who objects to public education funding is exceptionally rare.

  2. Allison says

    There’s a consistency here. If you’re childless, they use that as a pretext to screw you over. If you have children, they use that as a pretext to screw you over.

    Their goal is to extract the maximum amount of wealth out of you with the least amount of input or effort on their part. (“Everything but the squeal.”) Your humanity just gets in the way.

    And lately, they not only want to enrich themselves on your misery, they also enjoy your misery and so try to maximise that, beyond any profit. Who needs to invent a Satan when we’ve got Jeff Bezos or Michael Bloomberg?

    P.S.: as someone who has children — and has never regretted it — I say: unless you really want children, even after you have educated yourself as to what parents go through, please DON’T have children. Your hypothetical children will thank you. (Having kids is like joining the Marines, except you’re signing on for 18+ years of Paris Island instead of only 90 days. But, hey, some people love that stuff!)

  3. johnson catman says

    If that notice is an actual notice from an actual company, I would think it constitutes an illegal change in employment status by that manager/owner. And if I got such a notice from my employer, I would IMMEDIATELY put in my two-week (not three-month) notice.

  4. jrkrideau says

    Do you have a contact for that company? I cannot wait to apply.
    Teamsters’ Local $#$^%$

    I am amazed he has any employees. Does he keep them shackled to their desks after these resignations?

    I used to work in a place that operated 24/7 365 (or 6) days of the year. I was single and not a great Xmas person so I was happy to work Christmas and Boxing Day. It made travel to see family a lot easier if I went after. However, I was a volunteer.