"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?" Take job security. The news is saturated with stories about shocked and angry laid-off or outsourced workers. And reader reaction to our behind-the-scenes look at what it's really like to be outsourced [Cover Story, March 5] has been equally emotional.
The common thread emerging from all this angst seems to be palpable outrage over the lack of loyalty and appreciation exhibited by the companies that dumped these workers. I see great irony here. Many of the outraged are the same people who scoffed at the old concepts of worker/employer loyalty and the very idea of long-term relationships. Why, only the unimaginative, the deadwood, stayed anywhere longer than a year. In high tech, this new breed of workers stalled projects and drove up salaries, along with IT budgets, as they madly job-hopped during a prolonged labor crunch. These people rewrote workplace rules. Whole forests were laid to waste as the media raved about the brave, flexible new world of the modern workforce.
And then, pow! Reality set in on several fronts. Dot-coms really did have to make money and pay back loans. The economy is sulking. Tech stocks began tanking, dragging the stock market down with them. The go-go decade is over, and hard-hit New Wave workers are complaining.
But we can't have it both ways. We can't reject the notion of commitment and loyalty to a company, rearrange and restructure jobs to suit our needs and then act hurt when those same companies respond in kind. And companies can't routinely decide that the solution to all problems lies in flushing human resources down the drain and then whine because they can't find or keep quality workers.
There is an intriguing alternative approach pitched by Bruce Tulgan, founder of RainmakerThinking, a management consulting firm. He says workers and companies need to redefine lifelong relationships. In his view, your employment should get broken up into stints of full time, part time, shared jobs and even sabbaticals. It also means redefining the concept of salaries and bonuses.
Maybe the best way to blunt the pain of the inevitable corporate belt tightening is for workers and managers to share the responsibility of creating new salary, bonus and working schedules that work for both parties. In this way, each side takes responsibility for its own success and, it is hoped, will reap the bounty of their joint effort.
Patricia Keefe is Computerworld's editorial director. Contact her at email@example.com.