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One Big Happy Corporate Family (November 8, 2003)

A friend at Lucent, who will remain nameless because he or she still has a job and would like to keep it, sent me this quote circulated via email:

“However reluctantly it may be done, it is past time for Lucent to give up

the "family" metaphor. While there is certainly some loyalty and

cohesiveness at all levels of our company, the past few months have

demonstrated that we are, unfortunately, not a family. After all, when was

the last time you heard about someone telling their spouse or kids that

the realities of the economy made their continued presence unfeasible?”

Raphael Lasar, Murray Hill, N.J.

I think it was in a Monty Python movie, Mr. Lasar. I don’t know Mr. Lasar. So, if he’s not a Lucent employee, has no right to make such comments, or is fictitious, don’t call. But, I believe this person has a point.

Many, many years ago there may have been lots of big friendly companies that really cared about their people, like they were family, but not all of them and not all the time. Certainly, those who work for businesses less than the corporate mega size will know work places where employees are “treated like family.” I am lucky enough to work at such a place (and brown nosing here can do no harm, right?). However, such businesses are not where most of us work, have worked, or will work.

Many years ago, they (“they” meaning most American and foreign multinational corporations) stopped caring for their employees, but not all of them and not all the time. (See recent “Human Resources Management “ literature). I figure they had a big, high-powered meeting and made a collective decision, but didn't tell anybody.

Employees, especially unorganized white-collar employees, tried to remain loyal to their companies even though they were made responsible but, at the same time had no authority. Often, though it wasn’t our fault, it was our problem and we took the blame for and shouldered the risks of corporate business, often paying with our jobs. Such situations are, to this day, called “empowerment.”

Just a few years ago, “they” fessed up that they really didn’t have “a whole lot” of loyalty to their employees, but believed in their heart- of-heart’s and from the bottom of their Guccis, that employment was so precious they still deserved the total loyalty of those in their employ. This period of labor relations has come to be known as “The Wonderful One-way Street Days.” That’s about how long it lasted.

In still more recent years, “they” have made full-blown, mass media announcements to let us all know, as if we didn’t already considering most of us had now experienced several lay-offs, reorganizations, down-sizings and, get this “right-sizings,” that they didn’t really expect employees to be loyal at all. No!

Why? Well, because they had another meeting at which they decided they wanted carte blanche to be totally nasty bastards. The only way to get that kind of power was making a clean breast of it, which somehow made it okay by making us all part of the conspiracy. Corporate employees are currently all on notice: it’s "every person for him or her self." The business of the world is a jungle, and it’s about damn time we all understood the rules.

Fair enough, but then in the same breath, they also suggested that it was still in the employee’s best interest to be loyal or… be fired.

More recently, they have insisted that employees pledge their loyalty in “non-compete agreements” (agreements?) before employment.

Result: We are now all members of the victimless corporate individual responsibility movement and do declare our loyalty. Repeat after me:

“I, under totally voluntary binding contractual duress, do hereby give-up my right to make a living with my primary skills, which were honed through years of expensive education, off-hours training, and job experience at minimum or entry level wages, anywhere else save where I am currently employed or will be employed, for an unreasonable period of time, as defined by those who employee the majority of the industrialized world, just 5 or 10 years without a paycheck should do it, while taking total responsibility for my life and livelihood. Further, I promise to give two weeks notice, or however long it takes to train my replacement should I find some other way to afford food and shelter, or should I become expendable, useless, or less than entertaining to my present employer, I agree to be escorted out of the building by armed guards like a criminal with no notice what-so-ever, because them’s the rules, so help me God. “

Gosh, it almost makes our real families seem less dysfunctional.

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