Why The Construction Industry Is A Toxic Place To Work
I've worked in the construction industry for most of my adult life, since I was 15 actually. And for a long time, it put money in my pocket.
I'm grateful for that.
I'm also grateful for what working in this business has taught me, and it has taught me plenty.
But it's a toxic game to operate in and everyone I speak to in the construction industry agrees with me.
Now that information isn't generally offered freely, I need to get away from the bureaucracy and the politics of the building site and have a quiet cup of coffee to reveal it.
But, when I do, both management and tradesmen I speak to say how much they are sick of the game.
It doesn't matter if you work on the design side of the fence or on the construction team, you don't escape this predominant driving force.
The construction industry is filled with people who are constantly at each other's throats.
Underlying the pseudo-atmosphere of cooperation and comradeship there is a poisonous mindset that is destructive and works counter-productively.
Sometimes I wonder how we get anything done.
Tradesmen Don't Become Wealthy
I couple years ago, just before I pulled the pin on this game the first time, I was running a small business with a 3 or 4 employees.
It was ok, I was getting by just about. But every day was a struggle.
After 15 years I had come to have my fill of working for people who wouldn't pay, guys who couldn't do their job, and a market that wanted the cheapest supplier available.
In frustration, I recorded this video.
Now that was a bit of a rant, and really I can't give blame for how I was feeling to anybody else. I made a choice to be in the construction industry and I had no choice in how it played out.
It's a dog eat dog game at every level of the business from small scale to large. So when you join it that's what you get.
Accepting that this is the way the game works can help you stay there longer than you otherwise would, but there is a danger in that.
You can become obedient to it.
You might eventually become accustomed to the nature of things and not give credence to the damage it does to your wellbeing.
Like a drop of poison taken every day, it slowly kills you.
The Artist's Manifesto
The Artist's Manifesto is a short book about staying true to our art. It is a call to Artists and Creatives like you to create from the heart with passion and integrity, disregarding the need for applause and recognition. It's available from 13th May 2017. Grab your FREE copy here.
Nobody Escapes It
Nobody escapes the poisonous environment.
Architects, consultant engineers, contractors, they all have one fundamental motivation based in fear which can be said to be two-pronged.
1. Cover my arse.
Whatever happens, I need to make sure that I (my company) doesn't get saddled with the blame. Things will get fucked up somewhere along the road and I need to make sure to see to it I'm not in the firing line. The emphasis is, therefore, more on the paperwork than backs up the work than the work itself. Once the paperwork is passed over I'm covered.
2. Make Sure I Look Good
Everyone wants to perform, I get that. But in the construction industry how one looks good is to expose other members of the team. It's a tear you down to build me up mentality. The most cynical of those on the building site will pretend to be your friend while speaking poorly of you to others.
So what to do about all that?
Well, do what you want lads, I'm outta here for the last time.
Someone has to design and build the buildings and juice them up so off you go. It's not for me any longer.
Articles You Missed This Week.
This week, although I've continued posting here, I've focused more of my attention on the Storymaker publication on Medium.
I've a couple of reasons for this;
- Medium is a much easier platform to post an article quickly.
- It has a big reach and so my stuff can get in front of more people.
- I want to grow Storymaker's readership
None of this takes away from the site here. After all, an artist is best served online by having their own platform over which we have complete control.
That's why I built my site on WordPress. But beware, you've got to be prepared to put the work in to build your platform. WordPress is not Wix or Squarespace.
Articles This Week
From Monday I was writing every day in The Editor's Journal on Storymaker. You can catch all those articles right here.
Monday – 001 – Is Rising Early Really The Secret To Success?
Tuesday – Why Hard Selling Is Bad Business & What To Do Instead
Wednesday – Posted here on Storymaker
Thursday – Go With The Flow Vs. Make It Happen, Which Is It?
Friday – What Is Creativity?
Saturday – How To Improve Creativity: A Single Simple Solution
Sunday – You're reading it. (+ here's this morning's article on Storymaker)
That's it for this week,
The sun is splitting the stones here in Dublin, I'm off to the beach!
Chance Cook says
I can see why looking good would be important in the construction industry. It sounds similar to other jobs. But it is a lot more physically taxing.
My son is a carpenter and just moved from one toxic workplace to the next . It’s so depressing . I don’t know how to advise him . He is 31 so it’s a bit late to switch careers now . He has no money and it’s a bit of a hand to mouth existence .
Any thoughts from those that have been there ? Appreciate it .
It’s never too late to change career Amanda. I was 42 when I started training as a Psychologist. Time will pass anyway, so better that we spend it doing something enjoyable and fulfilling.
Glad I found this article. I feel guilty that I find solace in the fact the everyone else is experiencing this. I have been in the industry for 10 years. I recently gained partnership at my company. I have re-structured the business to be humanitarian. My workers received their first raises in company history. My workers received first ever bonuses and vacation in company history. You think they are happy? NO! They treat me like absolute garbage. If I have to delegate an expectation for the team to work we experience weeks of drama. There is a huge issue with insubordination in this industry. I am a woman….
David Griffiths. says
Lauren, be persistent. You’re obviously a valued partner in your organisation.
Hopefully some of your peers can add weight to your efforts and get the message across that the business needs to remain competitive and this is where we are going to achieve this.
Sounds like you believe in the business. Keep at it.
The long standing culture of the organisation might be toxic and the staff themselves may be compliant unbeknownst to themselves. This can be really difficult for someone in your position Lauren. If I were in a similar position and I was fully committed to changing the organisation, I’d first start with finding others who I could influence and begin building a new culture that could spread to others. Like a Trojan horse from the inside out. However, if the other influencers – directors etc. – are unwilling to change then you might be wasting your time and energy and killing yourself in the process. In that case, starting your own business built on your own core values would be a better option.
David Griffiths says
You are so onto something here.
Just searched “toxic construction “. Found your story.
I’m in the electrical field. Learned years ago to steer clear of builders. Set myself to do maintenance. Not sure if it was a smart move or not.
Anyway. I’m still here. Last time I checked my ribs weren’t sticking out.
One of our illustrious leaders recently ranted in the media about this very thing. (Link Below)
We mistakenly see licensing as an answer to poor work.
We have simply succeeded in ensuring that all shoddy work is completed by licensed trades.
Hey licensing is a great revenue raiser for government departments though.
Thanks for your story.
Thanks for reading David. I used to think that bigger was better. Big business = good, small business = not so good. I learned the hard way that this was obviously flawed. But I was ambitious so couldn’t see. As such I fell into all the traps. These days I can stand outside it and be thankful for the experience. It’s a crazy environment to work in. and yes, licencing is a cash cow and doesn’t ensure proper standards.
Janis Jersovs says
Great read Larry, really says it all. I’m 20 years in trade and can’t take it any more, have nothing saved and nothing to show for it. And I’m not talking spending money on stuff, I’m talking tools, equipment, employees insurances, H&S etc. and all what’s left is little bit cash to pay bills.
Tradesman are modern day slaves if you do all true the books.
We’ve got to find a way to make the system work for us. The thing is that the guys who run the show play to our weaknesses. The are more skilled in business than us and take full advantage of that. I’ve come to understand that to play the game we’ve got to master it. These guys at the top have mastered it. So I made a decision. I would use the skills that I have mastered to make money on the outskirts of the game.
So what do I do then?
Well, I can keep doing that and squirrel away a few bob whatever way I can until I retire. Or I can begin to build something else completely different.
It’s a tough business and unless we are willing to play the game at the highest level, become a management company and hire subcontractors to do the work, then we will always be chasing our tail. We are too far down the food chain.
Alternatively, we can decide to focus in on a niche that does pay well. Become expert there, and choose to work with only certain people. Command a high rate and become so good at it that others are willing to comply with our terms of business – deposit, high rate, no retention etc.
There’s a lightning protection company here in Ireland, they are THE company to hire for this work. They are small and command a good rate. They have carved out a niche. So my advice if it’s worth anything is to stay in the game, upskill, carve out a strong niche and make it work for you. Or, make a plan to get out and do something that lights your fire again. The alternative is just not worth it.
All the best Janis, let me know how you go!