Kids These Days Have No Morality:

No, wait, it's AARP Magazine, giving advice to its presumably mature readers. From 50 Things You Need to Know by 50:

44. Score a Day Off

Claim back pain. It's an easy injury to get medical documentation for, says Joe L., a workers' comp exec. "There's a 70 percent chance an MRI will show something wrong in your lower back, even if you feel fine."

So the advice is: Get a day off (just for fun, presumably, rather than because you have a genuine medical condition) by (1) lying to your employer, and (2) undergoing an unnecessary medical test, at the expense either of taxpayers or your fellow policy holders. (It's also possible that such tests would slow down service to genuinely ill people, though presumably over time more machines and demand would come available to serve the greater demand, and the long-term effect would just be higher cost.) Lovely.

Having spent 15 years of my life in Human Resources, I've seen a lot of this sort of thing. I think it's really a side effect of America's screwed-up attitudes about work. Over the years I've called numerous bosses to say I just don't feel like coming in today. And yeah, it's probably hurt my career but it's sure made my life a lot better.
6.11.2007 2:17pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
A whole generation grew believing that morality was just something that got in the way of doing what you wanted. No surprise.
6.11.2007 2:19pm
Ken Arromdee:
Jobs in which people cannot get days off by cheating will be less attractive in a free market, and will have to offer benefits equivalent to the ones the employees would otherwise get by cheating in order to attract employees. Net effect: nothing (aside from the text cost).
6.11.2007 2:22pm
Yeah, MRIs are only 3 grand a pop. Well worth a day off!

When we get socialized health care and you sit in the MRI queue for 3 months to get your popped ACL scanned, you'll have plenty of time to ruminate on external costs.
6.11.2007 2:27pm
Aside from recommending quite unethical behavior, Number 44 is only one of several items in that list that are worse than worthless.

You must read "Fountainhead"? "War and Peace"? Please. Some folks may get something out of those books, but they are hardly must-reads.

And Hogan's advice to hold your breath when you take a fall is terrible. You'll get the wind knocked out of you if you do so and be stunned. The better method is to exhale when you fall to release pressure on your lungs.

But there are a few items in the list worth listening to... it's definitely a good idea to make peace with your parents and have that "Driving Talk".
6.11.2007 2:31pm
JosephSlater (mail):
While I think this is mountain-out-of-molehill territory, the historian in me feels obliged to counter Clayton Cramer's "it's the HIPPIE generation, that's the problem" guff. As with most claims about the good old days when we all had morals and gosh ain't kids spoiled these days, it's demonstrably untrue here.

As any historian of work relations could tell you, people have been skipping out of work for no "good" (read, "excused according to the rules of the employer") reason for centuries. Heck, one of the biggest problems in mid-late 19th century manufacturing was imposing "time discipline" on American workers. Throughout this century, workers tend to get sick much more often on Mondays and Fridays than on other days of the week.

So, as to the AARP piece, one can decide this is scurrilous, immoral advice, or just a little of the old, "you have to break the rules every once and awhile" and/or "take time for yourself" sort of "wisdom." But it's in no way a product of any particular generation.
6.11.2007 2:41pm
Yeah, MRIs are only 3 grand a pop. Well worth a day off!

I think the point was that MRIs are next to worthless for debunking false claims of back pain, so your employer will probably just go along with whatever you say you feel.

Well, I mean, actually, he'll probably start looking for an excuse to get rid of you, but it sure is sunny outside!
6.11.2007 2:42pm
Erasmus (mail):
Geez people. Lighten up. The whole thing is light hearted. Do you really think somebody is going to read this and take the advice in that column? Do you really think the author expects anyone to go get an MRI to get a day off from work?

(And yes Clayton, this damn generation and its lax attitude toward morality! If only things were like they were a generation ago, when people took morality seriously! Alas, we're stuck with an entire generation of people who don't believe blacks and women are inferior. I wonder if there was ever time people didn't think "this generation" took morality more seriously than its predecessor generation.)
6.11.2007 2:44pm
frankcross (mail):
The generation arguably grew up believing that morality meant that discrimination based on race was wrong.

The baby boomer generation was famously relaxed about conventional matters of sexual morality and drug taking. But I find it odd that people equate that with morality more generally and ignore all the other moral issues.
6.11.2007 2:51pm
Zywicki (mail):
The real question is why in the heck is Eugene reading AARP Magazine?
6.11.2007 3:06pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Throughout this century, workers tend to get sick much more often on Mondays and Fridays than on other days of the week.
Yes, as much as 40% of the time.

Joseph: of course people have been faking illness to skip work forever; I think the point is that in the past it is unlikely an organization such as the AARP would have openly suggested that people do so -- and worse, suggested that people commit insurance (or Medicare) fraud to justify it.
6.11.2007 3:25pm
JLR (mail):
Remember, on "The Sopranos," Tony gets a cut from the MRI centers.
6.11.2007 3:41pm
Dave N (mail):
For some reason this reminds me of an old episode of The Flintstones where Fred and Barney decide to play hooky from work but one of them has to be seen by a doctor so they put a lighter to the thermometer, etc. Hilarity ensues as one actually ends up hospitalized over it with fake symptoms.

I realize The Flintstones was only a television program (and a cartoon at that) but it was made when "the hippie generation" were not yet hippies--and many were not yet even in puberty.

That said, Erasmus had it right--it is lighthearted, so lighten up. After all, the list also instructs you on how to ask where the bathroom is in Klingon.
6.11.2007 3:43pm
JosephSlater (mail):
David M. N.:

I still think this is making a mountain out of a molehill. I don't read AARP as advocating insurance/medicare fraud. I don't think they were advocating that people go out and get unnecessary MRIs -- you would lose at least a chunk of your "day off" getting that done. I agree with RLB that the point was likely that an employer couldn't disprove the back pain with an MRI.

As for AARP's advice, I still find that to be in the rather unremarkable category of "it's OK to break a rule once and take a day to have some time for yourself." Especially given that for most folks, taking "a day off" probably won't cause all that much trouble.

And I don't think this is new, historically. The sheer prevalence of folks missing work for reasons the employer wouldn't formally permit throughout history indicates to me there wasn't some big social opprobrium attached to it.
6.11.2007 3:44pm
Why would anyone claim lower back pain and get an MRI when they could just claim a stomach bug? How odd.
6.11.2007 3:50pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Dave N.:

Yeah, now that I've read the list, I also note that it advises how to score (underserved) upgrades on flights, and is passing on Donald Trump's advice on how to fire people. So, what you said.
6.11.2007 3:50pm
Dave N (mail):
The Klingon language bit reminds me of an episode from another television program, Frasier, where Frasier gives his son's Bar Mitzvah blessing in Klingon instead of Hebrew (don't ask).

Bottom line--the AARP article wasn't taking itself seriously, and no one else should take it seriously, either.
6.11.2007 3:51pm
Connie (mail):
Well, let's start a discussion about which side was the first to break the employment contract. Just possibly we could look to employers who increasingly rely on non-benefitted, contract employees (exhibit #1: Microsoft, till they got slapped down), and who turned a blind eye when upper management slipped out early to golf but came down hard on parents (i.e., moms) with sick kids.
6.11.2007 3:54pm
uh clem (mail):
Wow. Look at the number one item on the list:

1. How to Have Great Sex After 30 Years of Marriage

It's those damn sex-obsessed baby boomers again, ruining our country's morality. I'm embarrased to be on the same internet with them.
6.11.2007 4:02pm

1. How to Have Great Sex After 30 Years of Marriage

It's those damn sex-obsessed baby boomers again, ruining our country's morality. I'm embarrased to be on the same internet with them.

Yeah, don't they know that after 30 years of marriage the chip in your hand starts blinking and that after that in order to have more sex you need to run from the sandmen.
6.11.2007 4:23pm
DustyR (mail) (www):
I remember my Dad telling about how Eastman Kodak Co's policy was no sick time accrual but the employee would still get paid when they called in sick. Those who did, however, had to expect a greater than 50-50 chance a EKC registered nurse would come to check if you were getting the proper medical care.

Just reminiscing.
6.11.2007 4:23pm

I've never had to document sick time. And I have real problems: Sciatica that makes all of my previous back injuries look like sprained piggie-toes.

I'm from the Slacker Generation, and I honestly would prefer not to have to work at all. It's just my luck that my time out for back pain is legitimate.
6.11.2007 4:37pm
My problem with that advice is the deceptive title. You're not really scoring a day off, you're just using one of the sick days you already had. Where's the score in that?

Employment law really is getting out of hand. We've evolved a system that encourages people to make up excuses. We've got vacation days, holidays, sick days, personal days, family leave days, short term disability, long term disability, paid leaves of absence, sabbaticals, etc., etc. It's a bit ridiculous. I'd just as soon eliminate the lot of them.

I don't have a problem with taking time off, I'd just replace the whole lot with "I'm an adult and can make decisions and take responsibility for my actions" days.

Besides, where's the advice to all those people who by the time they are 50 have managed to become supervisors or even owners and have employees of their own to worry about? Does AARP assume that those people don't read their magazine? Or does AARP actively advocate an hourly-wage mentality?

Here's my suggestion:

44. If an employee wants a day off, instead of treating them like a child and demanding some sort of excuse, just let them take it and focus on the relevant question - how to get the job done under the circumstances. If you can't answer that one, whether it's a sick day or vacation really doesn't matter. But if you're flexible enough, your employees will probably appreciate it. Heck, they might even be willing to make up some hours if they need to. At least you won't have to hear about all their health problems.
6.11.2007 4:48pm
Eliza (mail):
It's frightening to see AARP licking its lips at the prospect of getting its hands on the boomer generation. Harnessing their numerousity and greed will make it an unstoppable political force. AARP is powerful now? My God! They'll saddle us up and ride us into our graves. Nothing is beneath them; they corrupt everything they touch.
6.11.2007 4:48pm
In the current issue of Atlantic Monthly James Fallows has a fabulous piece on Chinese industrialization. Here's a quote worth remembering: "These employees [Chinese factory workers, mostly young women] are disciplined and hard working. There is none of this 'I have to leave early to get the kids' stuff you get in the States."

So, on the one hand we have a fairly lazy base population. On the other hand, we have a senior citizen base that is so rapacious it will bankrupt america with its obscene demands for regressive inter-generational wealth transfers. Nice. I'm getting a chinese nanny to tutor my kids.
6.11.2007 4:55pm
speedwell (mail):
I work for a multinational company. My boss, who is based un the UK but travels more than he's at home, says that Americans are much less lazy compared to most other people he deals with regularly (not slamming anyone here, but he specifically picks on the Norwegians and the folks in the Dubai location).
6.11.2007 5:04pm
speedwell (mail):
(after all, what do you call them? Dubaiians?)
6.11.2007 5:05pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
JBL seems to be laboring under the misimpression that sick days are yours to take whether you're sick or not.
6.11.2007 5:27pm
No one's noted the ethically questionable advice from the entry three slots above this one?

41. Law of Pain Medicine
When the doc asks how bad it hurts on a scale of 1 to 10, say 8.

Why be honest about your symptoms when you can exaggerate them?
6.11.2007 5:32pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
They're speaking Plaintiffese.
6.11.2007 5:53pm
JosephSlater (mail):

I don't think "employment law" is getting out of hand. Most of the things you describe are rights (or benefits) that employees get pursuant to company policies, not to laws. Yeah, I guess the FMLA gives time to some employees in companies that have at least 50 employees for some medical conditions, but that's time without pay, so I don't think that's what you're thinking of.

But in JBL's defense, a number of companies are moving toward the "you have X number of days off per year" (often called "personal days"), to avoid the rigamarole of "are you REALLY sick, or do you just need a day off here and there."


Wanting to have time with your kids = lazy? Nice.
6.11.2007 5:58pm
Everybody writes as if nobody's aware of "go to hell days." One or two days each year when an employee simply takes a day off because work is not a priority.
6.11.2007 6:12pm
In response to JosephSlater's comments, I hereby clarify:

Wanting to have time with your kids on your employer's dime = lazy thief.
6.11.2007 8:11pm