UNEMPLOYMENT, in this context, is like battlefield triage, leaving some severely injured soldiers to die so that medics can keep as many as possible in fighting condition. But, of course, such a harsh practice may not contribute to the best morale among those chosen to survive.
Unfortunately, managers often lay off more people than necessary, to ensure that they don’t have to repeat the ordeal anytime soon. The remaining workers must work harder, taking on some of the work of their missing colleagues, and productivity rises. (The economy today shows both increasing productivity and increasing corporate profits.)
Those relegated to unemployment can’t directly “poison the atmosphere” in their former workplaces. But they remain friends and neighbors of the employed, and their anger and distress, repeated in thousands of communities, contribute to a poisoning of the atmosphere of the entire nation.
Moreover, managers interviewed by Professor Bewley in the 1990s said that employees who hold onto jobs often suffer “survivors’ guilt.” They are genuinely pained, experiencing empathy with the less fortunate. In this troubled state, they don’t think about taking extravagant vacations, or buying new houses or fancy new cars. And this frugality detracts from demand that might produce jobs for others.
Similar thinking underlies the relatively low level of business expenditures today on buildings, equipment and software. Lower-level managers won’t ask for scarce resources for such things, because those items look like luxuries to fellow employees, who worry that there won’t be enough in the company budget for them to keep their jobs.
One top manager told Professor Bewley that he had to compensate for the reticence of lower-level managers, who won’t ask for anything. “I tell them to put in a few dreams for equipment they would like, because if they don’t try, they’ll never get what they want,” this manager said.
Of course, while that reticence may preserve jobs in one’s own company, it works against job growth elsewhere. A result is a loss of vigor in the aggregate economy, and the sapping of the very kind of creativity that might spur a recovery.
Professor Bewley shared with me a passage from an interview in July with a manager of a large manufacturing company. “There is more uncertainty, and everybody is afraid,” this manager told him. “Do your job. Keep employed. Don’t come up with a new idea.” In his own company, the manager said, “Everybody is doing the same thing.”
"But, of course, such a harsh practice may not contribute to the best morale among those chosen to survive."ReplyDelete
Oh, you mean like science?