Jubak's Journal is a great way to gain insights into the forces that are impacting the landscape of American workers. His recent column Firing Workers isn't Fixing Problems addresses an issue that is of concern to many these days - workforce reductions and white collar layoffs. He comments on the generous bonuses CEO's often stand to gain from these "turnaround" efforts even as they are disrupting the lives of countless workers and notes:
"For this kind of money, investors -- let alone the workers who are being fired -- deserve something a little more imaginative as a turnaround strategy. Cutting jobs has become a reflex, not because it works especially well at fixing the real problems at companies like these but because firings produce the kind of immediate earnings improvements that help CEOs keep their jobs."
And then he goes straight to the core of the issues facing our workforce and economy today and reveals what we need to do to turn the tide:
"None of this has anything to do with fixing the problem facing both two companies: a failure to innovate. Neither company has been able to figure out how to come up with a steady stream of new products -- despite spending big on research and development -- to replace aging big sellers facing crushing competition. You could even argue that firing 5% and 10% of your work force, as Motorola and Pfizer did, throws a company into turmoil just at the time when it needs everybody to pull together."
From my "in the trenches" perspective, I translate his comments as:
- Masses of American workers are on the slippery slope of entitlement mentality. We have taken for granted the innovative forces that got us to where we are, and we're resting on them rather than building on them. Sure our glossy business magazines are full of photos and stories of innovative, entrepreneurial businesses, but the average white collar worker is moving widgets around. It's time to wake up and start figuring out how we can actively contribute to the organic growth or our companies.
- We need to release our individualistic approach toward work and think more broadly about the collective American workforce. I regularly see workers who have worked their way into a particular position they are comfortable with refuse any attempts to expand their job duties. They simply dig in their heels and hang on long after a position has demonstrated any usefulness to the company. 5 years later they wonder why their job is on the chopping block. We can't afford to just think about our own work satisfaction - if we want to have thriving careers, we need to be helping to created an active, growing organization for our co-workers as well. It's up to each one of us to constantly be asking ourselves, "How does my role make a difference at this company?" and "How can I use my talents well to make a positive contribution here?"
There is opportunity all around us, and there is no end to the amount of good we can do and the fun we can have in our work. It's a daunting proposition to think that by changing your own mentality and approach to work you are actually elevating the entire workforce, but remember you don't have to do it all - you just have to do what you can.