I am actually not a shitty employee. I'm a rare combination of creative and organized, and if you as an employer endear me to your vision, I will work tirelessly and with undead agility to make you more successful than even your wildest dreams. There's nothing more ecstatic to me than a shared victory. What I am is an at will employee, in every sense of the term, not just in the legal sense. Capital and labor often use the same words, but everyone knows they mean very different things by them.

"At will" employment, to employers, usually means that they can fire with relative agility. To workers, it means they have very little job security. Employers take great pains to document "willingness" on the part of their employees. Rarely (OK never) have I ever seen or heard of a career workshop, though, to discuss the philosophical meaning of the word "will" in "at will employment."

Late in my "career," I became increasingly unable to stomach the mendacity at work anymore. I am fine with entering, willingly, into a contract of service. I am even fine with a certain amount of redundant supplication: "Yes sir, no sir, thank you sir." But I don't like to be treated like a moron. I am not the right audience, because I simply am no moron. I don't like being told that "the company values flexibility," when there is zero evidence beyond the PowerPoints. I don't like being told that the company "values wellness" when it rewards profoundly unhealthy people. I don't like being told that "this company has a start-up mentality" when I don't get equity shares and plus its a massive entrenched gatekeeper to the empirical currency (literally). There is an army of lawyers standing between the average entrepreneur and extended discount windows. I don't want to hear about how an intensely hierarchical feudal empire is a "flat organization." Don't tell me you value women when "it's against company policy to discuss compensation."

I've hired people. I sort of get it: If a contractor tells me he's going to work ninety hour weeks building me my dream kitchen, and only charge me for forty hour weeks, hell I'd maybe take it? Even if I know that it will break his body and ruin his finances, if it means I'd get my dream kitchen for half the price, shouldn't I take it? I would feel a bit bad about it... I would wonder whether I'm taking advantage of a mentally ill person. But do you know what I could do with the extra 50K? A LOT. To date no contractor has ever offered me these terms on a contract...a few extras here and there to create good will and precipitate a positive Google review, maybe. Giving me his whole life for nothing? Hasn't happened. And yet this is what young people routinely do, and what managers routinely expect, in the "white collar" world, and nobody bats an eyelash.

It's about paying your dues! Furthering your career, impressing management, taking one for the team, having a positive attitude, having an exceptional work ethic! Etc. In so many other aspects of life, it would be called sad, pathetic, mentally ill, sado-masochistic, twisted, sick etc. to "bend over and grab your ankles," as Rush Limbaugh would say (I don't actually listen to Rush Limbaugh, mind you, but I know that this one line is his signature homophobic/misogynistic metaphor for eager "willingness," which he feeds to his rabid listeners). But I say, I don't actually owe anybody anything, except for maybe my parents and mentors. If I owe my work anything, it's because they pay me. Why would anyone want to further their careers at the cost of literally everything meaningful in life? Nobody is a good person if he is willing to take disturbingly generous gifts from sick people. And the team would really rather that you drew a line, instead of lowering the bar on human dignity. I mean, can it even get any lower at this point??

I am an at will employee because I'm not in any debt that I can't readily liquidate, I have inherited money, I have a pretty good support network of family and friends, I got one of those pesky degrees that teaches you how to think, and taken together, all of this means I call bullshit. I can't help it. Bullshit doesn't help productivity. What it does is make for a toxic environment. A house of lies. Mendacity aka bullshit-centered environments would be most familiar to a German person living in Stasi-controlled East Germany, or a survivor of the Soviet Union. Mendacity is just the academic word for bullshit. Mendacity is when lies are so pervasive that they become the truth: Not because people believe the lies. The lies become the truth because people know that there is no point in challenging them anymore. After all, everyone is being watched by their closest friends and neighbors, any of whom will call HR if the the lies are challenged. Pick up Hannah Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism and find it there. Oh wait, your job doesn't give you time to read and you're barely literate now... I forgot.

I am an at will employee because I watched my brother die of despair at the age of 25 (I was 23). His death taught me that one's own stupid story can change overnight from petty office politics to, Game Over. It became urgent to me to make sure right now that I am living a life I consider worth living, even if the realization didn't hit me like a voice from God or some clear omen. His death made me into a person who could not stomach the lies any longer; slowly at first, and then at a flash point. I still remember going to a "Millenials Flexibility Seminar" at one of the bulge bracket investment banking firms, where I worked. Only one girl raised her hand during Q&A, to present a meek challenge to the "flexibility" line. Something like, "How can I have a flexible life when there is not enough time?" The managers on the panel basically pretended they didn't understand her question. I went home that night and wept. Wept. This is the generation that is supposed to save the world? The next time HR put out an email requesting feedback, I replied that they should do a poll: "How many of you would stay at this job, if you had no student loans?"

I wept big blubbering salty tears that night. I didn't understand why at the time. I wasn't even used to crying anymore. It had been a long time since I could cry. I wept like I wept when I watched Philandro Castile die on Facebook, a few days after I finally left that job. I had read about countless black men who had been shot by police. I'd watched the videos. But with Castile, I remember the silence. That hair-raising silence. Diamond begging him not to die, while keeping her hands on the wheel, and giving the officer "Yes sir and no sir." The self-control! And from Philandro Castile? This father, this beloved man in his community, this person whom I would have been so lucky to have as a friend (I know I don't need to list these things)? Nothing. Just that eerie silence and icy electricity in the air. I remembered when it was just me left on the floor of my parent's basement hovering over my brother's soon-to-be corpse, when the seizing stopped, and that silence. I wept for Philandro Castile, and my generation, with abandon. I wept with something I barely recognized anymore: Feeling.

There was recently a viral piece in Buzzfeed about Millenial Burnout. Anne Petersen, the author, has made the rounds interviewing about her piece. Her revelation, which constitutes the core of the article, is that burnout is not a passing state, like being sick with a virus, but is a "baseline condition." When asked why this is a specifically Millenial phenomenon, Petersen lists a family of conditions that affect millenials, but has trouble articulating why this revelation is a specifically "millenial" problem. Of course, Petersen is clear about the fact that she isn't lazy: "To be clear, I was doing all the things I was supposed to be doing at work. You know, this is something that has gotten mixed up, like somehow, I was being lazy...I am a Type A Person who would kill a To-Do list, so what is going on? The problem was that I was conceiving of burnout as something that you kind of come down with like it's the flu or something...That's not what burnout is. Instead it became clear to me that burnout had been my base condition for the last 8-10 years."

The lady doth protest too much, right? Another misogynist classic! But actually I believe Anne Petersen that she is not lazy. Lazy people don't write long form pieces that get published in major publications. You think that's easy to do? Go ahead. Try it. Her protestations, though, point to the deeper reason why burnout is specific to the Millenial generation. It's the reason why it it is a baseline condition, that makes it so toxic: Mendacity. Petersen says as much, but in another interview: "It's hard in a way that there's this expectation that we should be thrilled with how life is right now. So why is there a disconnect with how we are experiencing the world, and how we are expected to experience the world?" The reason burnout is a baseline condition, is the house of lies we live in...is that we can never seek the absolution of confession or commiseration. We are supposed to die of cancer, but do so while posting skinny pictures on Instagram: "The Cancer Diet! Yay!"

Politically, philosophically, spiritually, those persons who have yielded to the idea that human value is predicated on what they do at work have no right to complain so long as they are employed. The fact that somebody pays you justifies your value, and by extension your right, to exist. To find a workplace free from this bullshit is to win the lottery. It's what I've tried to do ever since the Financial Fraud Crisis of 2008 sucked me into Finance, from which I would not escape. But I highly doubt the bullshit is limited to Finance. To me mendacity and hopelessness are synonymous. Nobody even bothers to challenge the lies anymore, because they think that the public domain is lost. The result is that everyone lives as a castaway in his own private island. The inner voice, the writing voice, is disconnected from everything, has no sense of proportion, time or connection. Is it any wonder why civility on the internet has totally collapsed? This public square where we are all supposed to interact as images plus our written words? Most people haven't actually spoken in years if ever. It's no wonder they come out screaming.

Why even bother? Why do companies even bother to market the reality of their enterprise as literally the opposite of what it is? I literally had a manager tell me, when I was chastised for the umpteenth time for "not going through the propert channels," that "this organization is flat, yes. It's as flat as a pancake draped over a bowling ball." Yet, I had been told over and over again, from the recruiting process to the orientation process to countless panel discussions that "this is a flat organization." I had an OK job before with better benefits. Why the hell did you entice me to uproot my entire life for a lie? It costs time and money to spread these lies, and all they do is confuse and discourage honest people like me. So what is the point of investing in these lies? Like a bad dating profile that uses photoshopped images, recruiting people who want flat organizations into a feudal empire is a recipe for failure. No, they won't fall in love with you once they realize how nice the people are.

Why even bother is a rhetorical question, clearly. I know why organizations market themselves as flat. Because everyone wants to work at a flat organization. Nobody likes to have their good ideas and feedback silenced and stifled by people who haven't earned their authority. Marketing a "highly rigid, political and layered organization" is a tough sell, and you'd only be able to recruit people who are desperate. These orgs need to understand, though, that they will inherently be awful hopeless places to work. The first step to healing is acceptance. You can push every single employee in your entire organization so far down into his sunken place that he will walk, talk, and breathe the lies. But know that inside each one, there will always be a voice, begging to be heard. If you have the choice, ask yourself, is that a life worth living?

The lies are falling apart. The dam is breaking. And wherever you are, you better damned well hope that I'm right. Because nobody, not even you miserable seething self-loathing office workers, wants to live in a world in which hopelessness is the baseline condition. So let's be honest about work, first of all. Work is work. Much work produces zero or negative social value. Just because you're getting paid, doesn't mean your life is worthwhile. Just because you're not getting paid, doesn't mean your life isn't worthwhile. Everybody gets it that value is a good worth seeking. It is the structure of seeking itself, from which there is no escape. "Social Value" doesn't mean that you're saving the world, it means that you're creating products and services that people "at will" want and need. If you sell beauty products, for instance, use safe chemicals and don't design ads to make your customers first hate themselves in order to trick them into buying your product. It's happening. Some people are starting to stand up.

If you're still reading this, thank you. Most people would have filed me under "lazy whiner" by now, if they would even have made it this far. But let's reframe the debate. Why always the fear of being called lazy? Why not the fear of losing who you are and your whole world? That little voice inside of you? That just is who you are. You are the one looking out at the mirror, as much as and maybe more than your reflection. It's only cliché because clichés happen when powerful people shit on valuable truths. So let's be honest about what I know about you if you work eighty hour weeks at a bullshit job:

  1. You have no real friends.
  2. Any "friends" you do have will drop off the map soon.
  3. You're not literate anymore.
  4. You don't invest the time to be a responsible citizen of a functioning democracy.
  5. You're probably a shell of who you were in college.

If you can have a more productive workplace by being upfront with your employees and respecting your audience, why not do that?