Monday, March 10, 2014

Eating Our Young and Kicking Out Our Old

It is happening again. The last time I saw this corporate behavior was in the mid-90’s. It did not work then and it still does not work now. Specifically, we need to stop eating our young employees, and prematurely kicking out our older ones.

Over and over, I hear young employees burning out from the massive amount of work they are expected to get done each day.  Many report to me that 60-80 hours a week at the office is becoming the new normal. These are not slackers or problem people, but instead people in up and coming leadership positions with commitment and capacity who have been presented with unrealistic work loads and responsibilities. They are expected to do all things and be all things to all people plus get their own jobs done at the same time.

The result is massive burnout and frustration amongst young and committed professionals right now. These are the people who we want to become future leaders in the company. They believe in what they are doing but not at the pace of change some are experiencing. These young people are struggling and ending up cynical, and exhausted. 

Meanwhile, some companies are also pushing out their older workers as too slow and not deeply committed to the future. These long term and faithful people are being encouraged to leave early without even a thank-you. They are being dumped off at the curb with the hope of on-boarding more young people who will blindly work until they are exhausted.

Over time, the outcome for this pathway to the future is a massive decline in organizational trust and respect. The good employees who witness this corporate behavior start bailing as fast as possible. The poor performers keep getting more goals and responsibilities adding on to them while the middle managers run a tread mill to no where. In short, organizational choices of this nature will start a downward spiral.

I witnessed this corporate behavior many times in the 90’s and it was a sad process. As I start to see it surface again in 2014, I just shake my head and wonder why. It will take a strong and level-headed leader to change this strategic choice before better days are to come round once more. If you think your organization may be on a trajectory of decline, then read the following book: Collins, Jim. How The Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In, HarperCollins, 2009. There is hope but recovery is not going to be an easy process if we keep eating our young and pre-maturely retiring our older workers. 

I also encourage you to read the article “Why Your Company Must Be Mission-Driven” by Chris Groscurth which was recently posted on the Gallup Business Journal website < >. As the author notes, “Many executives don't realize that mission is an underused asset in improving organizational performance and profitability, and they neglect their ultimate responsibility of aligning their brand and culture with their highest purpose. Failure to meet a company's mission-related needs is failure of leadership.” The article includes a sound review of the 12 elements of great management, but it also includes the latest meta-analysis on the value of mission and its relation to margin. On page two of the article, I enjoyed reading about the “five factors behind the success-promoting, margin-boosting benefits of focusing on mission” and the “seven strategies for maximizing mission-driven leadership.” Overall, it is a good, short article and well-worth the time to read.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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