DO YOU LIKE YOUR JOB? IF YOU DO, YOU ARE IN A MINORITY
IS THERE SOMETHING FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG WITH U.S. MANAGEMENT CULTURE—SUBJECT TO SOME IMPRESSIVE EXCEPTIONS?
Recently I ran across an article by Mark C. Crowley—in www.fastcompany.com —in which he which he stated that according to research by the Conference Board and Gallup, more than half the U.S. population hate their jobs. That is a truly worrying statement.
It adds up to quite an indictment of American management—particularly because a great deal of research, not to mention common sense—has shown that unhappy workers don’t work nearly as well as contented ones. The value of this loss of enthusiasm has been estimated at $300 billion, but I suspect the reality is much, much higher—and that is before you count in human misery and the other consequences of stress (illness and death being just two outcomes).
Worse—generally speaking—U.S. management seems to be largely indifferent to this situation. Instead, it seems to be quite content to engage in management by coercion, to drive down earnings wherever possible, to destroy unions, and to steadily degrade the quality of workers’ lives. The defined pension is going the way of the dodo; the cost of healthcare is increasingly being dumped on workers; and the U.S. remains the only country in the developed world where the law does not mandate adequate vacation time—if any—and most workers can be discharged on a whim. The majority of non-government American jobs offer virtually no security.
Management will respond that corporations survived The Great Recession in surprisingly good shape, and that corporate profits are now at an all time high. Very true. But meanwhile the U.S. market, which underpins U.S. demand, is steadily being drained of purchasing power—thus undermining longer term corporate prospects (if they are dependent on the home market).
I don’t think it is an accident that Americans live substantially shorter lives than those of other developed nation—and get sicker as we age. There is no one reason. There is a multiplicity of reasons ranging from lack of healthcare to pollution—but I have no doubt at all that unhappiness with working conditions plays a significant role.
The truly disturbing aspect of all this is there seems to be no outcry at this situation. The unions have been virtually crushed. Politicians rarely discuss such issues any more—and workers are afraid to raise such matters because they fear—quite rightly—that they will be fired if they do. That is a truly ironic situation in The Land of The Free and suggests that our much talked about freedoms are heavily compromised in reality
All I can say is that this is a genuinely great country, and we should be able to do vastly better than this if for no other reason than treating your workers well can lead to vastly greater profitability. And it happens to be the right thing to do.
Some corporation do much better, and reap the financial rewards. Arguably there are many of them, though they are certainly in a minority. Google is widely considered to be one of them, but The Great Place To Work Institute considers analytics giant SAS to be the best of the bunch. There, vast effort is put into making sure workers feel both happy and secure. As a consequence, personnel turnover is 2-3% in an industry where 22% is the norm, the firm is impressively innovative, productive and profitable—and the founder is now the 47th richest man in the U.S. and is estimated to be worth $7.3 billion.
Could it be that treating one’s workforce well pays?
Capital and labor made peace in Europe after World War II. There had been so much dissension, and so much blood had been spilled, that it seemed like the only sensible thing to do. Workers were given significant rights, and such arrangements have stood the test of time.
Nothing similar has happened in the U.S. and we are now living with the consequences. One of them is that there has been no significant increase in worker earning power—if one allows for inflation—in forty years. Secondly, it is a simple measurable fact that currently the U.S. Middle Class is being crushed out of existence.
One of the people who understands this best is Robert Reich. He has proved to be right on the money over a number of years. May I thoroughly recommend his book