The Effects of
By Peter L DeHaan
With the unemployment rate running so high, businesses
needing to hire find themselves in a “buyer’s market.” There are
plenty of people looking for work. This results in more applicants
to pick from for each opening. High unemployment has also served to
limit employment options, thereby reducing worker mobility. The
result is that employee churn rates are – or at least should be –
decreasing. Having more applicants to pick from and fewer staff
leaving by choice should be indicative of stable workforces.
Unfortunately, this may not be the case and even if it is, it
affords a false security.
Consider the following employees. Although their names have
been changed and some details obscured, all describe the true
plights of real people:
Chuck worked in a small satellite office of a large organization. The staff
in his office were close and worked together well. They cared for
each other and were like family. They helped each other to complete
their work and serve clients, regardless of job description and
title. Sadly, this idyllic reality ended when corporate closed
Chuck’s office to save money. Some people were let go, but Chuck
was told that he could work remotely from home. Then Chuck got a
new boss, who rescinded that promise. Chuck now commutes 120 miles
each day to work. The corporate office is nothing like his old
office. Teamwork has been replaced by finger-pointing and blindly
following job descriptions; no one cares about the clients – or
about each other. One by one, Chuck’s coworkers have quit or are
being let go. He fears he is next and is frantically looking for
comparable work closer to home.
Carly is a college graduate whose chosen profession currently has a 40 percent
unemployment rate. Unable to find work, she went to grad school.
Her summer employment offered her a full-time position when she
graduated but has been frustratingly vague on the details (right now
she is relegated to computer work no one else wants to do).
Unfortunately, this job is not in her field of study, nor does it
interest her. However, out of necessity, she may be forced to take
this job. Even if she does, she doesn’t expect to remain long.
Danielle also recently graduated from college. Her college internship continued
after graduation, with the promise of a promotion when the economy
turned around. She is now doing the work she was trained for – but
without the title, recognition, or pay. This has been going on for
a year. Although she is now working full-time, it is at her
part-time hourly internship rate – or 40 percent of what is
typical. She has polished her resume and is looking for better
Karl has a full-time job in his chosen profession. At first, he liked his
company and earned stellar reviews. However, in his latest review,
he scored the lowest in each category. Last year, after their busy
season, a coworker was abruptly fired. Karl fears that this year he
will get the axe as soon as the seasonal peak is over. He is
salaried and was initially told to expect working an additional
twenty-five hours a week during the busy season. However, his
employers recently tacked on an additional ten hours. He
desperately wants to find a new job but has no time to pursue it.
As soon as things slow down, he will begin his job hunt in earnest.
Larry greatly enjoyed working in his chosen career, finding it rewarding and
fulfilling. However, after a planned move out-of-state, he was
unable to find work at his level of experience and education. He
eventually acquiesced to a much lower position at less than half the
pay. The company promotes from within, so he hoped that he would
eventually move into a position matching his skills and have his
compensation level restored. Unfortunately, because he was
performing a low-level position, he was looked down upon and
demeaned by those who should have been his peers, in spite of the
fact that he had more experience than some of them. The
circumstances became so dreadful that he left, taking an even
further pay cut in the hopes of finding a nicer place to work. Once
again, he has the expectation to be promoted and, although feedback
on his performance is very favorable, there are no current openings,
so he could find himself repeating the process.
These people share two common characteristics. First, they
do not like their employers or their jobs. Some have been lied to,
others have been treated badly, two are significantly underpaid, and
all are unhappy. The other commonality is that each of them
desperately wants a different job and is working to make it happen.
Since they have stellar qualifications and employable skills, their
job expectations are not unreasonable. When the economy turns
around, they are sure to find better work.
From this we can interpolate that:
unhappy, but they continue to endure difficult work situations –
Many people are
underemployed; they will correct that as soon as companies start
Some people are
working outside their fields of expertise. For many, this is
not a choice but a short-term necessity.
entry-level employee sticks around after graduation, it may not
mean that they like the company, but that there aren’t any other
What does all this mean?
economy turns around, many employees will immediately seek to
improve their work situations. Some reports indicate that one
third of the workforce is waiting to change jobs.
employable people (likely the best workers) will be the first to
switch; those who lack skills or drive will stay.
pent-up worker frustration, which employers will be confronted
with when alternative employment options emerge.
What can employers do?
and behaving as though unemployment is low and it’s a “seller’s
market.” Treating employees better now, when you don’t have to,
will keep them working for you later, when they don’t have to.
with downsizing, layoffs, hiring freezes, and consolidations,
employees have been stretched and pushed to a near breaking
point. Look for ways now to relieve stress and reduce their
employees and really listen. Perhaps there are slights that can
be amended, injustices that can be corrected, and oversights
that can be righted.
You can take steps now to keep the employees you have, or you
can wait for economic recovery and take steps then to find and train
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