I know the purpose of this thread is to vent against our specific unproductive coworkers and marinate in middle-distance smugness, but it mostly makes me sad. Every unproductive, overpaid employee is someone who would probably be better off doing something else, something they enjoyed more and were better at.
I think this phenomenon—people sleepwalking through their jobs—becomes an increasing problem in mid- and late-career employees, and I think it’s caused by a combination of America’s lack of a safety net for workers who quit or are fired and the extreme difficulty of switching careers after you have significant experience in one field.
People who realize at age 36 that their current job is not their passion have few options for finding another one. Going back to school is risky and financially ruinous. Leaving your current job means giving up healthcare. Employers are unlikely to hire a 40-year-old for an entry-level job. There might not be any better jobs in the city where you live and your kids go to school, etc.
We’ve built a whole labour market and economy on the assumption that workers enter and leave employment purely on the basis of their preferences and worth, but that’s rarely the case. Spending eight hours a day doing something you don’t enjoy is preferable to gambling your home, pension and security on a career change.
The real question isn’t why bad employees don’t get fired. It’s why they can’t quit.