Fear Increases Productivity and the Old

We live in a throw-away world where we don’t repair and as soon as things start looking a bit shabby round the edges and curled up as if they were sandwiches left over from the night before, with the hangover thrown in for good measure, we just bin them. No point trying to repair what’s got past its sell-by date is it? Enough to make you ill. Anyhow, reheating left-overs was never the forte of people in society and we might well wonder why we all have microwaves.

Well, we treat the old people like that in society. Past their sell-by date which is coming down lower and lower each year, there’s really no point keeping them on. They guzzle salaries like a Hummer on heat and they are far too demanding. They always need more and more and we all know that salaries are not even satisfying. They are just disatisfiers. That was proved long-ago. You are happy with your salary for about a year, then you ask for a pay-rise because you have got used to what you are earning and living within (or beyond) your means. At some point, you just aren’t going to get the pay-raise you want. The boss will just turn you down. Saying ‘no’ always keeps people in check and on their toes. Just the right amount of fear that you are going to lose your job makes for a good worker.  But, when it comes to that crunch-time and you don’t get the pay-increase, then your salary will become a source of dissatisfaction; nothing else.

Productivity: Work!

Productivity: Work!

But, maybe all of that is not quite true. Apparently, we have to make do with nothing during times of crisis and we do often better under the pressure of that than in times when the fat cows are grazing on the lush pastures. Lean times focus our attention on what we have to get done, some say. Being old too is not the throw-away Kleenex replacement that it once was either.

According to studies that were carried out in the USA and in Germany regarding how we work during the crises that hit the companies we have been taken on by show that first of all we work better under pressure and make do with less when we have to and secondly a company with just young people in it does less well than companies that have older workers.


The research shows that when the crunch comes to the crunch in times of crisis like the financial crisis that caused production to plummet and the economy to tank all over the place, then workers know what will happen: the least productive guy gets the boot first. It has been shown through the research of three economists (Edward P. Lazear, Kathryn L. Shaw and Christopher Stanton) that workers know this only too full well and consequently they step up their production and work harder for fear of getting the boot.

It’s only in times of economic prosperity that the good-will employer that thinks that four-day weeks or Friday casual-dress days with an office full of toys and couches are motivating factors. That all goes out of the window when the money starts going down the tubes. It’s back to basics in the office. The harder the chair you sit on, the worse the economic times are for the company you’re working in.

As the following graph shows, worker productivity increased at the height of the economic crisis. We made do with less then, worked harder and it was the recession. According to the analysts that carried out the study in the USA, 85% of increased productivity came through only due to workers’ increasing the effort that they were making. Does that mean we are lazy otherwise? We could soon be asking for more recession, I fear.



It was also shown by the research that in states where unemployment was higher than the US national average at the time, people worked even harder and provided even more effort than in other states. Those workers were able to weigh up the relative difficulty of finding a job elsewhere if they lost the one they were in and so it was less ‘costly’ to work harder and to provide more effort in their present job.

Increase the pressure of your job security and you increase the productivity of the workers.  But not only that.

  • Another study shows that when surveillance cameras were installed in the workplace in a chain of restaurants in the US (to stop pilfering from the tills), savings were only very modest (on average $100 per week and per restaurant in 392 restaurants across 39 states).
  • However, surprisingly, revenue per restaurant increased by 7% across the board. Were those employees working harder because they were being watched?

I guess the majority of us would rather be without the surveillance. We get enough of that at home already and every time we connect to the Internet or use our mobiles thanks to the National Security Agency.


The ZEW Institute in Germany has carried out studies that show that old is good still. Nobody can deny that the German economy is leaving the rest of the EU behind as it blazes a trail. The rest of them shall probably be consumed by those flames if they are not careful.  German is pulling the rest of Europe up for the moment, with other countries desperately trying to latch on such as the sluggish and weak French economy that is showing very little gains (France lost two places just today in the World Economic Forum ranking of competitive countries in the world, falling from 21st to 23rd place). So, the Germans must be doing something right.

According to the ZEW Institute’s studies, the findings show that if a company employs workers between the ages of 45 and 50, then productivity increases by 0.5%.  That should be good news. We are told every day that we are living longer and so we have to apparently work longer. Except past the sell-by date nobody wants that, do they? Least of employers. They still believe that old is bad. But, we do it every day when we rummage at the back of the chilled counter down the grocery store for the date on that pack that lasts the longest.

Germany needs a study like that anyhow.

  • It has the biggest ageing population of the European Union today, with 20 million retirees today.
  • 7.7 million people between the ages of 50 and 65 are at work in Germany.
  • 40% of workers were aged 60-64 in Germany in 2010.
  • That increased by 2.4% in 2011.
  • But, even in Germany, despite all of these factors, there are still 800, 000 people aged 55 to 64 in the country that have nothing more than a part-time job that is temporary with great precarity and a small salary, worth nothing more than pin-money (on average 400 euros).

What now?

It seems that being old and grey is the answer to increasing the productivity of a company with just a dose of fear from a financial recession that you won’t be able to pay the mortgage anymore (don’t forget, you might be old, but you have taken out the mortgage over an extended period due to the increase in house prices, haven’t you?).

But, productivity doesn’t only have a connection with the fact that we’re in a rut economically. But it also has something to with the fact that our boss is good or not. A good boss boosts output and productivity of the workers studies have shown. Doughnut-stuffing coffee-drinking bosses don’t motivate their workers and slackers only produce slackers. I wonder why we might be in an economic recession. Did the slackers start this all?

But, how many employers actually consider that older people are the ones that make the productivity of a accompany increase, anyhow. Very few. If they did, they wouldn’t be making them redundant or given them a retirement party (early, of course).

It’s a shame that certain people at the top of the countries we live in are not older than they already are. Perhaps if we restricted them to make up for their lack of ageing, they might just do better than they are currently doing. I’d give it a go! MOAR restriction please, Sir!
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1 Comment

  • tom kauser

    Reply Reply September 8, 2013

    It would be very unfair if federal laws are maintained based on the 40 hour workweek rules. If the 40 hour week is history and 29 hours is the goal than I want overtime after 29 or let me go? I do believe when push comes employers will balk out maintaining productivity with their labor!

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