Dredging up Old Material

I was searching for a photo of myself, when I dredged up a copy of an older Windows version that I had saved to my extended hard drive. Lo and behold…I found a copy of an old document that I had written. As far as I can tell, I was contemplating what it is like to be unemployed or employed. I decided to share it with you.


The text defines Impermanence as a condition:  “The unwritten loyalty contract that previously existed between employees and employers has been irrevocably broken.”  It goes on to say:  “If the loyalty-for-job-security arrangement is dead, what has taken its place?  The new deal essentially says to employees:  We don’t owe you anything.  We make no promises because we don’t know what the future holds.  But we have shared economic interests.  So you have a job here as long as your contribution to the organization’s goals exceeds your cost.”

What I find strange is how film can predict or mirror what is to come…for example this excerpt from the movie, Network, produced in 1976:

“What is finished is the idea that this great country is dedicated to the freedom and flourishing of every individual in it. It’s the individual that’s finished. It’s the single, solitary human being that’s finished. It’s every single one of you out there that’s finished. Because this is no longer a nation of independent individuals. It’s a nation of some two hundred odd million transistorized, deodorized, whiter-than-white, steel-belted bodies, totally unnecessary as human beings and as replaceable as piston rods.”

It is a prediction of megalithic proportions – one that has been played out time and time again.  As a retired military veteran, it has been difficult for me to understand the progress of business.  The corporate thinking of employee loyalty in today’s world has dissolved into headlines of increasing violence in the workplace and the job-hopping executive.  Perhaps a New York Times article sums up the fate of the workplace ethic prevalent in our society today:

“Companies are now searching urgently for new ways to foster old-fashioned loyalty and commitment. A number of influential corporations are experimenting with a concept called “employer of choice.” Part public relations campaign, part human resources experiment, it seeks to assure employees that no other workplace suits them better.

These companies have an uphill battle. Demoralized by downsizings, outsourcings, restructurings and “rightsizings” — dislocations summed up in the grim quip “the race to the bottom,” today’s employees have little institutional loyalty left to give. When headhunters call, they are very likely to answer. One recent survey found that nearly half of managers over 35 speak with headhunters at least quarterly.

Companies are not eager to train or groom people anymore; why invest in someone who might jump ship? Tempting benefits packages cannot easily be assembled to keep the restless in place, for shareholders remain beady-eyed about labor costs. The aggregate level of employee benefits has actually fallen over the last five years, as companies have pared health and retirement plans.”

This sums up well with the last paragraph in the text, which states:  “…Paternalism is on its last legs.  So, too, is loyalty, as we came to know it.  Employers are no longer responsible for your future.  The old notion that you joined an organization when you were young, worked hard for a while, built up substantial credits, and then coasted into retirement no longer applies.  Job security now is almost completely a function of your keeping your skills current and marketable.  When or if your “value added” is less than your cost, your employment is in jeopardy.”

If the prophecy of “Network” holds true though, you never know what we as employees could face.  It is my hope that we are never replaced in the same manner as the character, Howard Beale; he was the first to be assassinated for low ratings.

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