Why Do You Think We Owe You Something?
Do you ever have that feeling that your job is in jeopardy and you could be laid off at any time? Well, that’s the culture we live in and it will continue for the foreseeable future.
It really doesn’t matter what your position is anymore; we are all expendable. That memo seems to be getting out to more and more people all the time.
Forty years ago, companies took care of their people. Many companies gave their employees pensions and workers stayed with the company for a lifetime.
Most companies now have a completely different view of their workforce. Companies are driven by the bottom line and shareholder value.
That’s what you have been reduced to, “the bottom line”. That feels comforting, doesn’t it?
If you are a loyal person, you might be thinking that the company owes you what you give them. This is partially true these days.
But don’t confuse loyalty and hard work with the company’s new expectations of your job title.
Let’s take a look at two workers with almost identical job descriptions.
Kathy was taught to work hard and never complain. She always gets her work done and never has a bad attitude. Kathy is definitely “old school”.
Samantha works hard too and she never complains either. Samantha is about 15 years younger than Kathy and her attitude about job security is much different.
Over the past five years there have been consistent layoffs at Acme Inc. It has been especially stressful when the rumor mill got cranked up into high gear.
There was so much disinformation that it would cause a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Each layoff became more methodical in nature and neither Kathy or Samantha knew how layoffs were determined.
Of course the executives of the company would come up with an algorithm to determine who would be laid off and typically this was as clear as mud.
The two ladies in this story always thought they were safe for different reasons. Kathy was a veteran and she never got caught up in negative behavior or office politics.
She felt confident that she would be the last person the company would layoff. She had been with the company for 20 years. Need she say anymore?
Samantha also felt confident that she wouldn’t be laid off, but she didn’t rely on being loyal or being a hard worker. She knew this was expected of her.
Being good at your job or performing the tasks expected of you are yesterday’s values. Your boss, his boss and your boss’s boss have to make decisions that don’t always take into account that you do your job without complaining.
Most companies today are looking for employees that are continually bettering themselves. They want people that will be leaders and contribute more to the bottom line.
Kathy is Miss Dependability. If you give her a job, you can count on it to being done on time and without mistakes. She felt she did her job better than anyone else.
This is a big mistake. Most employees think just because they show up to work and do their job, they are doing a great job.
Samantha has a slightly different attitude. She knows what is expected of her and she does her job very well. Samantha also knows the devastation of thinking you are better than everyone else because “you work hard”.
Samantha’s father worked for a Dow 30 company for 30 years. He was “old school” like Kathy. He worked his way up the corporate chain and showed tremendous loyalty to his company.
He really never understood how the human resources department worked because this department didn’t exist for the first 15 years of his career.
Sadly, in the end, he found out exactly how this department worked. One day he was sitting in the vice president’s office and he was told his services were no longer needed.
He sat there dumbfounded listening to the vice president rattle off a list of his accomplishments to the company. And he thought, “I am getting laid off for being a loyal contributor to the company?”
He was only 52 and he felt like it would be very difficult for him to get another job that paid him this well, especially at his age.
When he tried to explain to Samantha what had happened, she knew things would be different for her if she expected to excel at her job. She felt sorry for her Dad because she knew the job climate was much different now.
Samantha had the opportunity to intern at a prestigious company when she was in high school. She was fortunate enough to have a mentor that taught her a very valuable lesson.
Pam, Samantha’s mentor, told her from the very beginning to make herself indispensible. It was pretty evident what Pam meant when Samantha got in her car.
Pam’s car was full of CDs. Pam knew that if she expected to have a full time job the rest of her life she needed to learn how to expand her skills and leadership.
Everyday Samantha got into Pam’s car and a new CD was waiting to be heard. Samantha thought this was a little strange at first, but after a while, she looked forward to learning something new.
Samantha was amazed at how her attitude changed back at school. She never forgot this lesson when she entered the workforce.
Now it was time for another layoff at Acme Inc. Kathy and Jennifer were both confident that they would be safe yet again.
Kathy and Jennifer knew each other and had informal chats over lunch once in a while. Neither one knew how the other did on their jobs.
Later that week, Kathy was summoned into the Human Resources Office. She was a bit apprehensive and she thought they were going to tell her she needed to layoff some of the staff.
“We’re sorry to tell you this Kathy”, the human resources person said. Your position has been eliminated and you will have to gather up your personal belongings.
Kathy never expected this and thought it was a bad dream. She thought, “How could this be happening to me?” I am a great employee and I do everything that is expected of me.
What Kathy didn’t know and very few companies tell their employees is that they expect you to go above and beyond your normal duties.
In a way it makes it much easier to lay some one off because they can point to things exceptional employees are doing and point to things that good employees aren’t doing.
That’s right, “good employees” aren’t doing. This is the new workforce. You have to prove yourself above and beyond your job description.
Samantha was never called into the Human Resources Office. She wasn’t cocky about it. She knew she had to keep getting better at what she was doing and had to be valuable to her boss.
Even if Samantha were to get laid off in the future, she would land on her feet. She is always preparing herself for the new workforce mentality and that will serve her well.
Kathy will remain shell-shocked because her loyalty and hard work attitude only works if there are layoffs coming down the road.
Who do you want to be? Kathy or Samantha?