June 22, 2018

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Job Insecurity - How Employees are Fighting Back

Part 1 - Analysis of the Problem

For the past decade, employees have been pawns in the cruel corporate chess game of layoffs, mergers, acquisitions, and restructuring. Here is how they are fighting back:

  • Carrying Multiple Jobs - Employees realize that they can't put all of their eggs in one basket. Therefore, many have second jobs, night jobs, weekend jobs, and freelancing jobs in addition to their primary job. Also, the majority of married employees feel their spouses must also be gainfully employed.

    [Consequence for employers - They no longer receive the total undivided physical and psychological energies of their employees.]

  • Demanding Portable Benefits - Employees are no longer content with pensions that require them to stay with the same company for many years. They know that their tenure with the company will probably not be long and is out of their control. They therefore are now demanding retirement benefits such as matching 401(k) plans that they can carry with them when they leave the organization.

    [Consequence for employers - Expensive defined benefit retirement programs no longer improve long-term employee commitment.]

  • Withdrawing Psychologically - Many employees are remaining aloof to their employers' cries for teamwork and commitment to the organization's goals. Instead they have developed a WIIFM (what's-in-it-for-me) attitude.

    [Consequence for employers - Traditionally important motivators such as climbing the corporate ladder and becoming known as a good team player are no longer as effective as they once were.]

  • Adopting an Adversarial Relationship - Employees have become very cynical about senior management. They no longer have the blind trust that employers relied upon in the past.

    [Consequence for employers - Motivating employees toward a common goal requires very strong leadership skills. Managers often feel as though they are trying to herd cats.]

  • Constantly Planning their Escape Route - Employees know that they must continually upgrade their skills, not to help their current employer, but to help them land their next job. Also, many employees are constantly scheming to eventually shed their employee hat to start their own businesses.

    [Consequence for employers - It is very difficult to motivate employees that would prefer to be somewhere else.]

Part 2 - What Employers Can Do

Employers must respond by:

  1. providing employees with what they desire; and

  2. developing different methods to commit them to the organization.

    Here are a few suggestions.

    • Promote Ideals and Values Rather than Company Goals. - Management can gain a strong level of commitment and motivation by promoting socially desirable rather than corporate goals. Employees are motivated by goals that they feel are larger than the company's goals such as making the world a better place, providing the best customer service possible, improving the health of the community, etc.

    • Don't Deny the Reality of the Situation - Employers must not try to cover up the fact that layoffs, restructuring, and job loss are part of today's economic reality. Telling employees that they will have a job for life or that their jobs will be secure for many more years will only serve to decrease their credibility with employees.

    • Help Employees to Grow - Creating an environment where training and skills improvement are encouraged and supported will help the organization. True, the increased skills will help employees to find good jobs elsewhere. However, it will also keep many employees and enable them to become more valuable contributors.

    • Provide Portable Benefits - Employers should offer contributory retirement benefits rather than defined benefit plans. They should also provide the support employees need to make the best use of these plans such as retirement planning materials and education.

-Bruce L. Katcher

Bruce Katcher, PhD is President of Discovery Surveys, Inc. His firm conducts customized employee opinion and customer satisfaction surveys. Learn more at He can be reached at or 888-784-4367.