Interesting article from NYTimes.com (excerpts below). Such organizational dynamics will influence how people participate and contribute with social tools (e.g., "Enterprise 2.0"). Some workers may withdraw under the assumption that hoarding their expertise might help keep them onboard. Others aggressively observe but not contribute under the assumption that they can harvest information to build-up their own personal knowledgebase. There may even be situations where workers actually interact more intensely under the assumption that open participation and contributions might help their visibility and reputation in the organization and therefore increase the likelihood that they are retained. The narrative leadership teams establish within the workplace can have a subtle influence on how people react.
Fear Factor in the Workplace - Room for Debate Blog - NYTimes.com
The economy lost 524,000 jobs in December, raising the unemployment rate to 7.2 percent. More than 10 million Americans are now unemployed. Many more millions of Americans worry about their own job security. These anxieties are transforming the workplace. Employees may be working harder, experts say, but they may also be less productive. What is the toll on individual workers and on the economy as a whole? Our Room for Debate panelists try to answer the question.
Risk-Averse Workers, Jittery and Compliant
Mitchell Lee Marks, who teaches at the College of Business at San Francisco State University, is the author of “Charging Back Up the Hill: Workplace Recovery after Mergers, Acquisitions, and Downsizings.”
What really disturbs surviving employees about downsizings is that they cannot control or rationalize the events. If I have a co-worker who frequently arrives late and does low quality work, I can rationalize her layoff by saying to myself, “She didn’t carry her weight and deserved to be let go.” If, instead, my co-worker seems to work as hard and as well as I do and then, through no fault of her own, happens to be the victim of a “reduction in force,” I cannot rationalize that. More important, I fear that I cannot control my situation: in the first scenario, I have a sense of control over my fate by continuing to do high-quality work. In the second scenario, working hard or working well doesn’t seem to help me retain my job.
So Much for Personal Growth
What is a layoff narrative? It’s a story about your work life that you construct before you get the ax, as one of the characters in my novel explains.
“The idea,” Pru says, “is that you look back on your period of employment, highlight all the abuses suffered, tally the lessons gained, and use these negatives and positives to mentally withstand what you anticipate will be a series of events culminating in expulsion. You look to termination as rebirth, liberation, an expansion of horizons…. Once you start constructing the layoff narrative, it’s only a matter of time.” In other words, to think it’s going to happen means it’s going to happen.
Layoff Lessons From ‘Good’ Times
So far as I can tell, in my labor law practice, every year is a recession for working people, even in a boom. In 2007, over 15 million were out of work at some point in the year — typically for three to four months. Over two years, 20 million to 25 million could face such a catastrophe. Over three years, millions more. And that’s when things are good. Economists used to take a cheerful view of this: “It’s just rolling unemployment.” But it’s more like a rolling heart attack. Three months without a paycheck is a near-death experience.
How Will the Overpraised Generation Fare?
Not long ago, many employers were trying to recruit younger workers and — even more challenging — keep them happy enough to stay more than six months. Employees in their 20s and early 30s had high expectations: they were part of an overpraised generation raised when every child got a trophy for showing up. Other researchers and I concluded they were going to find the reality of adulthood a cold, hard shock. As a manager told me a few years ago about young workers’ sense of entitlement, “We’ll put up with it,” he said ominously, “until unemployment goes up.” Now it has.
Falling Down, Literally
Myra S. White, a clinical instructor in the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School, is the author of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”
Anxiety typically arises when people feel they are about to become victims of situations over which they have no control or are faced with a task that they aren’t sure they can do well. Workplaces are particularly fertile grounds for generating such situations, even in good times. Now, as companies pare their staffs and overload employees with more work, a contagion of anxiety spreads through work sites, from factory floors to office cubicles.
I’m Happy to Work Harder, Boss
You would think that employees would be unhappy with their employers right now. But in our annual survey, which was released in November, job satisfaction among the nearly 2,200 workers we interviewed is on the rise, and has risen dramatically since 2006. Perhaps, employees are appreciating their current jobs more. Certainly the expectations and demands they have of their employers are declining.