Greedy Goblin

Friday, January 30, 2009

Karoshi and unemployment

Karoshi is Japanese word meaning "death from overwork". The government officially acknowledged that in 2007 147 people died from working insane amount (often 70-90 hours/week). And these are just those whose family filed a complaint. The latency of such issues are very high.

While there is no word for the same in the western world, the working stress and it's resulting cardiovascular illnesses are prime death causes for mid-aged males, especially among managers who also work lot of overtime (even if not in a Japanese scale).

Surprisingly, in the same countries there is unemployment. In the mentioned Japan, even officially there are 4% unemployment, although they calculate it very strange (if you work just 1 week you are considered employed for that year) and high amount of woman chooses to be a housewife.

So we have a strange thing: some people work insane amount and others can't work at all. Wouldn't it be better for all if not one person would work 70 hours a week while the other lives on welfare but both would work 35 hours a week?
  • The overworker could spend much more time with relaxing activities. I doubt if the loss of salary-fraction would hit him
  • The unemployed could earn money
  • The taxpayers wouldn't have to pay tax for his welfare
Everyone happy right?
Well... no. The employer is not happy for several reasons:
  • He have to train two people instead of one (2x higher training costs)
  • There is a loss of work time over transition. There must be a time when both employees are in the office (therefore payed) but produce nothing. The one who finished the shift briefs the one who is starting, tells what work has to be done, what information came in. Since no one have to brief himself, such transition is not needed if there is just one guy.
  • The more time you spend doing something, the more skilled you are in, so the better work you do. The overworking guy can produce faster or with less errors than either of the normal-time guys
This seem to be a simple case of Marxian class struggle, but it's not. Theoretically there is no tool in the hand of the employer to enforce overwork.
  • He cannot reward the overtime worker, since he is already earning his normal salary, which is enough in the Western world. Every next dollar worth less and less, in countries with non-flat tax, this is true even literally. Not to mention the fact that the overtime worker has no time enjoying his salary.
  • The employer can nor threaten the employee. "Work even more or I fire you" sounds silly since he would lose the currently done work. The new guy he employs in the fired one's place must be trained in, so he lost exactly that training cost he wanted to save. He is also risking that the new employee turns out to be useless, wasting training money, 1-2 month of salary and loss of income due to non-produced products, damaged tools or ruined customer opinions.
So the worker could easily say "no" to overtime work, and I did it countless times in my RL carrier without any negative consequences (except for the loss of overtime-payment, which I don't need).

Why does overwork exists? And why does it plague Japan more than the USA? Because of the group mentality. The overworker does not do it for a reward or in fear of punishment but to support his group. In Japan people have more social connections with their workplaces. They do the extra work for their colleagues, managers (who are often father-figures), and the company as a whole. They feel it's the right thing.

Is this story rings a bell to someone? No? Than let's see a more familiar story:
Players join raid groups to see raid content and gear up for the next dungeons. They do it for the challenge and the gear (salary). After 1 or 2 raids the challenge is over, the bosses do exactly the same as the previous time. After 3-4 raids the gear is collected. Maybe 1-2 items could have minor upgrades, but hey, Ensidia proved that you can beat anything in lvl 70 stuff, so why bother?

Why do they keep on raiding after that? Aren't they bored? Of course they are! But they "suck it up for the team". In the same time players with enough gear and skill to start (as opposed to bash) the current raid content cannot get into raid groups due to lack of raid spots.

The old raider is better for the guild than the new one, since he is experienced in the fights, not just watched the video, and he is overgeared for it, making it a faster kill. They cannot reward him, due to lack of further upgrades, nor they can threaten him since he can find a new guild in minutes in that gear. They need him, he does not need them.

Yet they try - and due to ape-mindedness - often succeed to socially pressurize him to stay and boost them. People wish to be liked and wish to feel they belong to a group. So they threaten to "call him selfish" and threaten to kick him, which means "no more green letters with your friends". Some "friends" they are, if they threat you this way.

I left my guild since they did not progressed. I still can PuG VoA, Sath+0, Naxx when I want (and don't raid when I don't). Granted I can't PuG Sath+2, but hey, if I'd stay in that guild, I couldn't do it either so lost nothing.

About reputation: I have "Greedy" with big green letters on the top of the blog, yet you come here and read it, in much higher numbers than any guild could contain. Did I lost anything?

Would you lose anything if you would refuse to raid when you don't want to?

Remember you are not just saving yourself from a boring and no-loot raid, but also give a chance to a new player to have his first thrilling raid and some really big upgrades.

What about the "team"? Let them taste their own medicine: "suck it up"! BTW it's not surely bad for them if they work for their gear (as opposed to receive it from boosting). If (big IF) a harder dungeon comes out, you won't be able to pull weight for them, so they better get used to fights where they have to do more than loot badges and roll for purples.

PS: only comments that have arguments to attack (or improve) this posts are welcomed.
"I am always ready to do it for the team" comments are irrelevant, since no one cares about your personal preferences, if you want to rant about them, start your own blog. "You are a selfish piece of s..." comments are also pointless, since "greedy" is already in the title.

Note: "boosting" means going to a dungeon with overgeared players who do the big part of the job. This "big part" can range to 100% in the case of lvl80 in RFC/Deadmines to 2-3x more damage in Naxx. If most of the boss drops are no or just insignificant upgrades then the player is considered overgeared, even if certain drops (DPS trinket of Gruul for T6 warrior) would be good for him.


Tal said...

You seem to have ignored the biggest factor why the employer doesn't just get another employee - he'd have to pay 2 wages instead of 1. They don't only work crazy overtime here, but it's generally not paid overtime either.

Unknown said...

Actually, one of the more effective variations that I've seen is "if you don't do overtime and deliver the product in time, our company is in jeopardy!" You don't want to be That Guy who made everyone lose their jobs, do you? Likewise, you don't want to be That Guy who got the raid canceled and eventually the guild disbanded, because people couldn't raid. Main Tanks in particular get pigeonholed into this. If the MT dies, the raid dies, so it makes sense in the short term to give all possible gear upgrades to the MT first. In the long term, that's putting all your eggs into one basket. Healers get the same to a lesser degree, but DPS classes are generally replaceable parts in the great machine that is a well-performing raid group.

Anonymous said...

An interesting analysis for individual cases. How would things alter, I wonder, for a small group (say a 5 man team). That is boosting the rest of the 25, either in regard to skill, gear, or general preparation? It may be anecdote rather than evidence, but being able to leave for another guild seems to be less of an option at this point, as few guilds appear to want to absorb a clique, even one that works well.

Anonymous said...

Just an observation on the costs of multiple employees vs. a single one.

The difference in salary is not so much of an issue as is the additional premiums for health care and other benefits.

Employees (at least in the US) that are fortunate enough to get health care through thier work pay a portion of the fees from thier salary. The fee is a flat one per pay period however, not based on hours worked.

Based on that it is often less expensive an employer to either:

1. have one employee with good benefits and get all the work they can from them.

2. hire several "part time" employees to spread the work over and do not offer benefits until they become "full time".

Generally option 1 will get the company better quality work while option 2 will save the company more money.

Many actually us a combination of the two. By having a few full time persons with good benefits they can have many part time employees without.

The incentive to the full timers is to work hard or you will lose your benefits.

The message to the part timers is work harder than the other part timers so that when a full time slot opens you can get the benefits.

Yes this is a drastic oversimplification, and no I have not had enough coffee yet this morning. I do however see this as a big part of the picture.

Now I'll go back to writing about Wow.

Sun CRm said...

"I left my guild since they did not progressed. I still can PuG VoA, Sath+0, Naxx when I want (and don't raid when I don't). Granted I can't PuG Sath+2, but hey, if I'd stay in that guild, I couldn't do it either so lost nothing."

- is one of your facts that puts smile on my face.
Question: do you progress now?
So yes, you lost nothing, but gained "0" as well becoming a Freelancer (wonderful game by Microsoft :))

Guild run.
What happens when you refuse and promote some other less equiped guy to take your place instead?
The roof is on fire? Then sorry mate - i dont know what kind of guild you were in. Based on your article (which i loved tbh :) ) you are "USA team worker", but there are also guilds "Japanese style" - where everyone is like family, close circle of friends which does not round about just a RAID etc. There are things always to talk over besides WoW.
But yes. Back to Raids..
For example - our guild does not even have 20 raiding ppl (yet, and we are trying to get complete list to start 25ppl content, without PUGing it anymore.(as PUGs suck so much)), but we still switch places when going raid for a loot. And noone have any problems with it, everyone happy. Especialy the new guys - cause the feeling of learning something in new RAid is grate, and we try to deliver it as much as possible. And this is talking only about ONE raiding Group.
What about 2 or 3 ? or 4? There so many variables you can change here.

But wait, maybe it is you, who dont want to go to Raid with "weak" guys, as you will be boosting them and..wipe`s.
Yes, noone likes wipe.
"is the worst investment of money"

Then use guild bank for repairs, unless you are in the guild which feels hell more than home to you.
- in case you have doubts

Skroo said...

You are forgetting the reason a lot of people raid, which is easy to do when you forget this is actually a game. My number one reason for raiding is that I like the people in my raid. I enjoy hanging out with them in vent, joking around in /ra, and making rude comments about their mothers. We are far from the fastest progressing raid on our server. I'm a damn good healer in decent gear. I COULD find another raid that goes faster. I don't want to though, because I wouldn't know anyone

Billy Wallace said...

"The more time you spend doing something, the more skilled you are in, so the better work you do."

This is true, however...

"The overworking guy can produce faster or with less errors than either of the normal-time guys."

I'm not sure about that. There is an undeniable connection between on the job errors and one being overworked. Being in the medical field, I have seen this. One report ( discusses this occurrance in the medical field.

I'm not sure if there is a difference between mandatory overtime and someone feeling the need to contribute to their team.

I'm not saying you're completely right or wrong. This is just something to think about.

Anonymous said...

Often times casual guilds can't afford for some members to stop raiding once they get gear. I agree with what you were saying in that it gives someone else a chance but often times there is no one else in the guild to fill that role. I know my guild in particular has a no pug policy and it pisses me off to no end. They would sooner cancel a raid because they are short 1 person then to go and find a replacement pug from another guild. Additionally people who pug with friends are looked down upon. I pug anyway. I can't allways mee the times they set out but if I have time to raid I'm going to do it whether with them or anyone else. They don't like it then they can kick me from the guild. Not like they or I would be losing anything.

Anonymous said...

A better analogy for a raid group, especially one that has cleared all content, is a sports team - yes, this is the offseason, and no, you don't need the money for playing in these exhibitions before the next season (new content, ulduar, etc.) comes along, but if you refuse to come along with the team, you're falling behind the team in terms of conditioning, in terms of honed group reflexes etc. This isn't so much a case of groupthink as it is one of it being desirable for any team that hopes to remain competitive to remain in condition - baseball players have Spring Training, and raiders have Farm Content.

Hatch said...

About 12 members of my old guild (including me) recently split off from our larger more casual guild. What you describe in your article, Gevlon, is one of the reasons.

We were basically the progression team. We were ready the earliest, played the best, and cleared all of the new bosses for the guild in ten-mans.

It would have been easy for them to keep us. We felt loyalty, and liked many people in the guild. We welcomed any player, even if undergeared or inexperienced, if they wanted to learn and put in the effort to gear up via craftables and heroics and to bring consumables, as well as learning their class.

But we were driven away because we were expected to boost people who couldn't be bothered to put in any effort, and thought they were ENTITLED to all of the rewards. The rest of the guild, led by the guildmaster, DEMANDED that we boost them through everything with the gear and experience we earned.

And on top of that, they rejected our suggestions of loot systems and demanded that everything be on random roll or given out based on the greatest need (socialist/communist), so the people who prepared and worked the least would have the same or better chance to get loot over the people who worked the hardest.

Those of us who left were the ones who brought consumables and crafted everything we could. And we were being told we now had to carry people who couldn't be bothered to run a heroic, let alone pay for a flask or craft a single upgrade.

I'm not a sucker. So when it became clear that this is what the majority of the guild (ie all the M&S players) wanted, it was a big factor in me leaving.

And you were right, Gevlon. It turned out that people who ask for that aren't really my friends. As soon as I stopped being their gravy train to free epics, they turned on me viciously.

Hagu said...

Your employer analogies are incorrect, at least for my experience in the U.S. software development business.

1) While incentives are used, employers most certainly can/do threaten people to work harder. Both explicitly and more frequently implicitly.

2) There is a non-linear decline in efficiency with larger groups. ( E.g., there were a lot of very smart people working hard on Microsoft Vista yet ... ) If you have a smaller team, there is less waste in inter-team communication. ( E.g., some Blizzard designer needing to remind the tooltip team that the tooltip needs to be updated after the change. )

3) Michael Crichton said in one of his novels something like intelligence, ability, and desire were about equal components of success and it is so much easier to measure desire.

Kinzlayer said...

In your post you ask why a guild member would stay and run the same repetitive boss kill over and over when they already have their gear upgrades. Well then I would have to say that he owe in some part to his fellow guildies for running with him to get him his gears, so in fact by RNG they boosted him to his higher numbers so he in part has to pay back some of that by gearing his guildies.

Ideally we all pug for gears and then run Heroics with friends/guild members, like your last post.

Syd said...

Well Gevlon,

At least you're finally admitting it! Yes, "greedy" is in the blog title, and this is another fine showing of it. I will say, I read this blog when I want something to make me mad--it's a good inspiration for response posts.

How can any of your commenters convince you to behave differently? They can't. No one can argue against absolute selfishness, right? But, I can tell you, that there are good reasons that employers and guilds wouldn't champion your particular attitude. It's not good for anyone long-term--not the employee, not the firm, not anyone.

No man is an island, but perhaps a goblin can be one. WoW is a specialized enough environment to support one--but just one. A whole Goblin guild would implode pretty much immediately.

I guess all this is to say that I wouldn't get any satisfaction out of playing the game without regard for others. There are lovely single-player games out there--no need to behave in an MMO as if no one else existed.

Larísa said...

I know you're not one of them, but there actually are people out there who enjoy teaching other people, to see them learn and develop. Matticus, for instance, often declares his love for teaching others.

I'm not good enough to be one who teach out things, but I really wish I was. I would enjoy it, I'm sure.

A second thing: I'm not sure that all of those players who are superior at for instance dmg charts feel "used". Actually I think many of them enjoy it pretty much. How many times haven't I got happy, proud whispers from friends sending over the Recount charts after a PUG, showing that they did twice as much damage as anyone else? People love to excel, no matter if it's out of gear or knowledge and dedication to the game. I have yet to hear someone complain "damned, I topped the meters again, I've been used once again and tricked into boosting the other M&S for free".

Gevlon said...

@Larísa and Sydera: there will be a post from both of your comments. (two posts)

Christina said...

Actually, there are at least 2 valid reasons for boosting other players in the guild.

1. - a good 25 man raid requires 25 people plus an additional 5 to 10 geared bench players. (And classes matter - you _need_ extra healers & an extra OT or 2.) RL happens, and the raid fails without extra players to fill in. Your bench players don't get chances at the good 25 man loots often, so boosting them in the wind down cycle (when other players have their loots & have seen the new content) is a payment for them be willing to stick around and be bench players, and a help to you when the next level of progression happens and they need to fill in in a more difficult raid.

2. Reputation. It's intangible and hard to measure. But good Reputation keeps you as a primary raider, gets you better deals on stuff with friends and guildies, and allows you to leverage people into doing what you want them to do. Reputation is based on the willingness to raid AFTER you get your loots, competence while raiding, general attitude towards people, and a host of other intangibles.

But if you stop raiding and refuse to boost, then when Ulduar comes around, the raid leader will remember that he had a harder time filling his raid because you quit, people who have been regulars will remember that you weren't, and quite possibly the slightly less stellar bench warmer who has been filling your slot and who is in practice where you are not will have that slot, and you will be the bench warmer.

3. This is a nominal reason - some guilds need it, some don't. (mine does) Practice and repetition hones skills. The more times I run the Heigan safety dance, the less often I die. The more times I work with a tank, the fewer times I pull aggro as I learn his timing and he learns mine. The healers learn to trust that I won't dump aggro onto them, and I know which ones will keep me alive in a crunch. We all learn who to combat rez for the most effective end run at a boss - and who is just going to run up a bigger repair bill. When Ulduar opens up, the knowledge and practice we get not only in the progression nights but all those boosting nights will pay off with more progression and better gear.

The strength of a guild (the payoff) is teamwork for smooth raiding. But teamwork means practice, even when there is no short term profit.

Anonymous said...

I never really understood "raid guilds".

I play with my RL friends, or people that i just like. I raided with them becuase i enjoyed spending time with them, nothing more. The loot was something that enables the game, not the object of it.

So, guilds made up spesificly to raid..? I never even understood how that works, or why. Why raid with people you dont like? The only reason to get the gear is so you can raid better, but if its not with your friends, why bother? I'm not going out drinking with people i dont like, and i see no reason to kill dragons with them.

Anonymous said...

As someone that has been in several "work teams", both in RL and in WoW, it seems that there's dafferent situations en each case. Is one thing work with a nice group of people AND that everybody is in the same page (be it casual or hardcore raiding). Another one is working with a bunch of M&S that just want to suck the blood of those who really do all the work.
There's isn't a "universal rule" for all cases is more a situational thing

Anonymous said...

I’ve been reading your blog for some weeks now and I must say that I likeit. The analytical and down-to-earth approach combined with findingsimilarities between WoW and real-life is excellent. For this post however I felt the urge to comment. Indeed a great part of the people who do a lot of overtime consists ofmanagers. As I read it you give the example of a manager who works 70hours a week and it would be better to ‘replace’ him by 2 managers (theold one and a new one) who both do the old job but for 50% of the time.As you state this situation would never work (you don’t want to have tosemi-managers) and in my opinion the following applies:1) You can ask yourself the question whether the manager has to do allthe work by himself. He is a manager and by that title he should dividethe work under his (skilled) employees.2) Most likely he is a control freak and as a result wants to do all thework by himself. Furthermore he is likely to be addicted to the work,besides the income he receives satisfaction from the work (who doesn’tget pleasure from the work he’s doing should really find another job,money isn't everything if you spend 40 unpleasent hours per week toobtain it, but that’s a different discussion altogether). Although theJapanese workers might form an exception and, as you mentioned, feelresponsible to work harder then they get paid for. And that brings me to your statement about overgeared raiders: Why do they keep on raiding after that? Aren't they bored? Of coursethey are! But they "suck it up for the team". What I miss is the fact that there are overgeared guild players (maybeyou call time-wasting idiots) who join in raids not because they arethreatened or are afraid they are bypassed when the guild progresses toa more difficult raid. But they still raid because they feel the guildwon’t manage without them (they’re control freaks like a GM who thinkshe needs to be present at every run to guide things) or that they’re soin love with or addicted to the game that they don’t mind doing Naxxagain and again and again even if it doesn’t add value in the sense ofgear or gold.

Rich said...

i just cleared 25 naxx last night and didn't roll on any drops. there were a few items I guess would have been an upgrade, but i didn't really care. on a few fights, i even topped meters wearing some iLevel 200 blues.

amazing, and i know this will BLOW PEOPLES FUCKING MINDS, but the purple pixels weren't why I was there.

regarding Karoshi, I'm not sure how much exposure you have to japan, but in the elementary school where i work, we don't have a father-figure or anything silly like what you've mentioned... the japanese here stay at work till 9pm because everyone else does. it's some ridiculous never ending cycle of PEER PRESSURE, more than a "familial bond" or "father figure boss" mentality. they figure if they're the first one to leave, then everyone will look down on them, so they stay at their desks and READ MAGAZINES or do crosswords, just to stay "past leaving time". it's ridiculous.

i leave at 5. good luck with that.

Blimp said...

There are various selfish reasons for players to stick with their guild.

The first one is simply that finding another guild can be difficult. You need to write an application. You need to find a guild that is looking for your class, that has a raiding schedule that suits you (number of raids per week, number of hours per raiding night, raid starting hour, etc.), these are the basics. It is even more difficult if you're looking for a good raiding guild with a good management, a low M&S ratio and people who can write full sentences and don't use leet speak as these guilds are much rarer.

The second reason is that being in a guild provides you with various perks such as access to high level craft (without the risk of getting scammed), players to go with on an heroic or a Naxx 10 for you or your alts, etc. Being guildless means that you have to pug everything...

Finally, leaving your guild because you've seen all the content and got all the loots you wanted will ternish your reputation. There is a risk that when you'll be applying to a new guild when Ulduar is about to arrive, an officer of your previous guild posts a message explaining that you're not a team player, etc. This wouldn't look good on your application. Such a risk is fairly limited if you're applying to an average raiding guild full of M&S players, they are dime a dozen and, in my experience, don't look at other guilds application forum, top raiding guilds on the other hand always keep an eye on these forums.

So the question twofold: is your guild worth spending one night or two clearing existing content or not? How difficult will it be to find a new guild when Ulduar comes?

Anonymous said...

Keep writing! Fantastic stuff! I'm sending this to RL people that don't get it!!!!

Yaggle said...

Here in the United States, one big reason for overtime is that an employee wants to be promoted. Not only do they work very hard, but they try to work long hours too to prove to the boss that they are dedicated to the company and are valuable enough to be promoted. In many cases, companies reward employees not with more money for doing the same job, but with the possibility of a promotion to a higher post that will pay better money. Personally I believe that individuals should make a stand and not work overtime, because I do not think it is best for individuals, and it's laziness for the company to make one person work extra instead of train another person to do the job. The company will keep doing it unless the workers refuse to work the overtime, however there will always be workers who want to get ahead and get promoted before the other workers, so they will always work the overtime when asked.