The Bias Against Seasonal Workers

I wish I had something more pleasant to write about, I really do.  Unfortunately I do not, so I am going to go ahead and write about an issue I have been dancing around for many years.  This post is based on what I personally have seen and experienced, and I am fully aware that there may be some seasonal jobs where this bias does not exist, but I have yet to see it for myself.

What do I mean by bias? The idea is that seasonal workers, especially in the work-kamping world, are only capable of doing certain things.  That’s not even exactly true.  Most employers recognize that many seasonal workers have prior experience and skills that are valuable, but are extremely hesitant to harness those skills.

Initially I thought the problem was managers/owners were reticent to give responsibilities to workers who were in their lives temporarily.  I know a few people who returned to the same jobs year after year and managed to eventually work their way into a more upper level position.  Even those situations though are extremely limited and the extra oversight is crazy.  I have come to the conclusion it is not about length of time working with a company.  It is about bias.

Let me give you an example.  A few years ago Lee and I wanted to try working at an amusement park.  We both thought that would be fun, and when I saw that the park had a job opening for a video technician, I thought how perfect was that.  Unfortunately when I reached out to the hiring manager, I was told the video technician job was only available for local people.  Basically they would rather hire a local kid straight from high school with zero to minimal experience than hire a guy who ran a television station for 15 years. Why? Bias.

I can’t tell you how many times we have run into this, and it continues to be crazy frustrating.  I have been told numerous times by “older work kampers” that I just needed to get over it.  We are hired as “bodies” for a specific purpose and our employers have a limited interest in any ideas or thoughts we might have. The advice I have received more times than I can count is put in your time and quit worrying about stuff.  I’ve tried…I really have…but as I have stated before it is just not in my nature. (I don’t even try. I am always quick to point out where I think things can be improved. Value added. – Lee)

And that’s where things get a little strange.  It’s not like employers aren’t more than happy to take advantage of the parts of your personality that work for them.  For example, most work kampers have a tremendous work ethic, and will often work off the clock to finish tasks.  No one complains about that.  Employers aren’t interested in hearing ideas that might stop the inefficiency, but they are fine with getting that extra labor for free.

Same with higher customer service standards.  Employers are thrilled with the positive comment cards, emails etc, but not as interested in ways to improve the customer experience.  Well, that’s not exactly true either.  They are sort of interested in ideas, and will pick the low hanging fruit, but anything expensive or complicated gets put into the bad idea bin.

Those of us who work kamp get used to this.  And some can disconnect themselves from the experience and not let it get to them.  But for me, at times, it can be almost painful.  I’ll give you another example.  Many years ago I was a waitress and a restaurant manager.  Because of my background I can’t help but notice certain things when I go into restaurants.  Most of the time it’s a minor annoyance, but there are times when I am watching a place fall apart around me that I have to physically stop myself from jumping up and pitching in.  It’s really hard for me to watch.  Worse to just sit there. Like I said, sometimes it is painful.

This year for some reason is especially tough for me.  I think it is because there are a couple of big projects happening where my skill set would be particularly valuable.  They are rolling out a massive new software program, creating training documents, and teaching people who are not tech savvy to use mobile devices.  I spent ten very successful years doing exactly that, and being completely left out is driving me a bit crazy.  If things were going well with the projects I definitely could handle it, as an observer.  But they are not going well, and having my skill set left untapped is nuts to me. (I know nothing about this crap, but even I can tell they need a project manager. I think it says a lot about the person at the top, if they cannot get the job done, and refuse to allow someone who can get the job done to just do it. – Lee)

And yes, before you ask, they know what I am capable of doing.  For whatever reason they would rather have permanent employees with minimal related skill sets tackle them than a seasonal who has worked for them for three years.  Is it ego?  I don’t know.  They can’t be worried that I would in any way cause them a problem because in three years they have seen my work ethic.  Is it simply that they cannot get past the seasonal bias?  That seasonal people don’t do certain things?  I think so.  No other explanation makes sense.

And yes, I will continue to hang in there, but it’s all very demotivating.  It makes me sad.

(I am in agreement with her on most of this. It’s just stupid, and wasteful. I’m sure some people will think or comment that this is part of the deal, that we “gave all that up” when we hit the road, but that’s just absurd. The big difference though is that these are not long term relationships. If we connect with someone who doesn’t have enough sense to put us to good use, they will be out of our lives and another opportunity will be along. I think this is another argument for not returning to the same place summer after summer. Too much like regular life. – Lee)


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24 thoughts on “The Bias Against Seasonal Workers

  1. I think one of the themes that you are touching on that I can relate to, is the importance to feel that what we are doing has a purpose, makes a difference, helps the world be a better place. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be…all I can think of is “it is a huge waste of talent”…YOURS

  2. Yes! My husband offered to help fix ongoing software issues at the non profit we worked for last season. They kept having IT people walk out. Nope. We all had to suffer with the POS (literally) system ring items wring ($2,000 for a magnet) all summer. With lines of 50 people wondering what was the issue.

  3. Boy, I can relate! But not as a seasonal employee — as a substitute teacher. After 30 years in the classroom to step back in as a “sub” has been demoralizing on more than one occasion. And then when I see things that could directly affect the safety of the kids and not be taken seriously has been especially hard. Example: Not providing subs with the ability to lock down rooms in emergency situations. How stupid is that!

    For me, and I’m wondering if it might be the same for you, I’ve found that I can only offer my opinion/expertise and then let it go. And when I have the opportunity to make my concern(s) known again, I do so. But as my spouse says, “Not my circus, not my monkey”. I chose to retire from teaching for a myriad of reasons, and that choice came with effects that I can either let drive me crazy or relax and let go.

    My hope for you is that you can find ways to let your supervisors know how you can help. After that, it’s out of your hands.

    Hang in there. In the grand scheme of your life, you’ve got the best deal — the ability to walk away from their craziness in a few weeks. Those working full-time have to live with the repercussions of poorly implemented plans/programs.

    • Laura thank you VERY much for writing this. A big part of the problem I think is we didn’t retire. We have to work it’s not optional. Maybe I would feel better about it in that circumstance but then again maybe not. Again thanks for the examples. Much appreciated.

      • Tracy, I think the point I was making was that I made the decision to retire, just as you’ve made the decision to full-time. And sometimes those decisions have unforeseen outcomes/consequences.

        Maybe trying to find a job where you can work remotely would be a better fit. There might be occasional travel involved, but that’s manageable, too. My spouse works remotely, and even though we don’t full-time we can travel, and if she needs to fly somewhere for business it’s fairly easy to get to an airport. She can be gone for 2-3 days and I can hang out in the rig or move down the road to another airport she can fly into when she’s done.

        I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that you can think outside the box for job opportunities that might not be your traditional full-time, seasonal worker types. There’s GOT to be something out there!

        As an aside, I’m sure you participate in LinkedIn, right? 😉

      • I appreciate your thoughts about looking outside of the box and will continue to do so. I will say that over the last four years I have spent a considerable amount of time looking for remote jobs. Believe it or not being mobile is a huge disadvantage. Recruiters don’t get it and companies don’t necessarily want to pay for you to travel for a variety of locations. Basically it’s just not that simple.

  4. So sorry you are going through this. Wish I had something more helpful to say. Next summer will be their loss and someone else’s gain. Maybe you need to find a situation like Mikki & Jay had in Q – Owner wasn’t even on site and they took care of the whole place. Somewhere near that new grandbaby!

      • Tracy – a regular job can work! There are challenges with connectivity and schedules, but having the ability to use your skills and knowledge is important. I know every situation is different but I have no regrets continuing the corporate work from home job. Happy to chat if you ever just need a sounding board.

      • Thanks Ruth appreciate that. I think about you often and appreciate your example of how it can work. What Lee needs may not be the same as Dale though, that is what we are trying to figure out.

  5. A pair of thoughts, from a 60-year-old fairly recent retiree…
    First, people (employers, co-workers) may not want to invest in a relationship that is likely to end. When I joined UPS in my late twenties, to pay for school, there was one guy who rebuffed every attempt I made to be sociable, to the point where I asked him Why? He told me he didn’t want to build friendships only to see them disappear when his co-workers quit. He had been with UPS / going to school for three years; what I learned was that UPS loses 80% of its new hires within three months. It’s tough work unloading trailers at 3:30 AM for four hours. I assured him I was there until graduation, three years hence, and we became friends.
    The second thought is likely related to the first. In my professional life, particularly toward the end of my last job, I had one heck of a time getting any professional dues paid, or any continuing ed classes, though my co-workers received both. I believe that was due to my being 20+years older than almost all of my co-workers. I did get the best revenge, though: I retired. I too found it extremely frustrating to have my talents sit on the shelf. Instead of receiving new projects, I got all the stuff no one wanted, because it was difficult and unrewarding. My bosses knew I had a good work ethic and would do it.
    If I had to make money now, I’d find a small company, or just drive for someone. We tend to remember the good things from the past, without the bad. In this case, the politics were miserable. If I wanted a better situation, I would have to leave – and I did. And every place varies – before my last job, I worked for a small public company that I would have retired from, or might still be with, were it not for a serious downturn.
    You might want to look specifically and exclusively for jobs where you can work remote, or possibly, traveling. I know there is beauty in almost every place, but sometimes it takes time to find.
    Best wishes!!!! Mac

    • Thanks Marc. That was interesting. I agree we look back on things fondly and only remember the good. I am also aware that as I get older things may definitely change. If that’s the cause…age versus seasonality well that really stinks. Personally I’ll fight that with everything I’ve got.

  6. You guys have experienced a variety of jobs over the years and it sure seems like in many cases your employers view you almost as day laborers and not really in it for the long haul so they are not tapping your valuable experience and life skills. What a shame and a loss for them but I guess that’s the way it is.
    I have been fortunate to be able to fulltime and travel for the company I work for pre-retirement for quite sometime. Now the trade off is I can only travel in the areas we do business but it has been ok as they are paying the bills. Things have changed at work and now they are keeping us local / stationary for longer periods but still allowing us to travel 3 to 6 months a year.
    With the changes in general at the company I work for, I am ready retirement and at this point I only have about 650 days till retirement so there is light at the end of the tunnel. Now my company’s president is asking if I would be a consultant for them after I retire, guess we will see what the consultant plan / offer is.
    We have talked about the possibility of some work camping or hosting in retirement but we will see how it goes expense / income wise as you never know what tomorrow holds in this every changing world we live in.

    • What’s interesting is those same employers do want seasonal to come back year after year. That is a huge advantage for them. Yet they don’t seem to make the connection between how people are treated and their willingness to come back.

  7. Where we are they use temp agencies a lot to hire people, so I know a lot of people who have temped. What you are describing is very typical of how a temp worker is treated.

  8. WOW we sure can relate. We have been workampers now for several years and we finally have encountered our first “unhappy” position….for the exact reasons you discuss in your blog. We will honor our commitment thru the end of the season but we would never return to this business and I will be writing a review and posting same on several sites. No one is going to devalue my or my partners skills or brain power. Thank heavens it is a temporary position and we can move on. It reminds me too much of the BS I had to deal with in my full time job…..we know more than the owner and he’s so afraid of letting anyone in, all we want to do is improve the place. Example: unhappy customer over size of his site, owner told him I’ll give you your money back and get out…..then the owner came in the office and complained he was just out $700 for the site. I jumped in, found the customer another site, approached him asked if he would be willing to stay with a different site. He said yes, after he told me what an “a__ __h_ _l_ the owner is. I then approached the Owner and asked if he would be willing to allow me to save the reservation with the change, he agreed. This has happened numerous time during this gig we have. All I care about is the customer but it would be nice to hear a “thank you” once in a while. Of course I got the thank you from the customer more than once but never the boss! Hang in there the world is a very different place than what you and I grew up in.

    • Thanks for sharing. I am really customer focused as well which seems to be an old fashioned attitude these days. Appreciate your thought Susan and glad you reached out.

  9. Sometimes the ego of a self proclaimed expert is greater than their knowledge. Peter a friend who lives in a seniors condo told me some volunteers had dazzled the building manager with their vast knowledge and were replacing all the wall receptacles and light fixtures. When Peter questioned the quality of their work he was told he could either help or mind his own business, what they didn’t know is he’s a recently retired licensed electrical contractor.
    Peter informed the building manager he would be contacting the local electrical inspector, turns out none of the volunteer experts were licensed plus the work and materials didn’t meet code. Peter’s position is licensed contractors pay taxes, carry liability insurance, follow the electrical code and give people jobs with benefits. What an individual does in their own home is none of his business but in a building with tenants safety is paramount.
    Park owners and managers might appear clueless but they are smart enough to own or manage a park. If a seasonal worker can’t accept their specialized skills being declined, not being compensated for working beyond quitting time or being restricted to just the tasks in their job description maybe they should consider returning to their field of expertise.
    Your blog is informative, honest, revealing and a must read by anyone considering full timing plus you’re nice people. Considering finances are an ongoing concern returning to a full time job where your skills will be utilized and appreciated is a smart move.

  10. Pingback: It’s Just Not That Easy – Camper Chronicles

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