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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

RANT: Corporate Courtesy has been laidoff...

In this era of downsizing, corporate courtesy and sensibility has also been laid off. By Philip S. Geffen

Sadly, the world has changed in so many ways - including the loyalty of corporations toward their workers. Further, in this era of downsizing, candidates are facing a steep path to finding new employment. Both of these facts will change the landscape of corporate employment - perhaps forever.

The job market is biased strongly toward the "buyers," in a dramatic shift from years past. However, in this market, the corporate attitude and compassion is clearly lacking as employees lose their livelihoods and candidates are inhumanely processed for the few jobs available. I am living this process and speak from experience, from being "restructured" out of a successful and growing company that felt obligated to meet Wall Street goals, rather than their own associates' needs.

For companies that are hiring, clearly they can take advantage of finding the most ideal candidate for their open positions. I don’t begrudge them this - as you would seek the best possible price for a new stereo or automobile. However, in the process, the candidate is put through lengthy interviews, requested to take tests or write position papers, called back on numerous occasions and then, often, wait literally weeks or months to learn the results. In some cases, they never learn the results, as the company does not see fit to call or send a rejection letter, or provide any feedback on why they did not select the candidate. Simple courtesy and decorum have gone out the window.

Recently I cut short an out-of-town visit to return for an important interview, costing me financially to make the flight change. I arrived at the appointment, early and prepared - and was greeted by a different associate who said the original agenda was changed. No problem, except the job specification also changed and I are no longer qualified. When did I learn of this change? During the interview! Couldn't this have been communicated even the day before? Other candidates for this same position were similarly affected. Where was the respect for our time?

In another interview, I paid for my own flight to come into town after a successful phone interview. When facing the hiring manager, he appeared distracted and uninterested, even when presented with a much thought-out diagram that outlined a possible solution to a problem he was facing. He was no longer interested in my candidacy; however, no reason was ever provided. If there was no interest, why allow me to pay for a flight and go through the paces, with neither explanation nor apology provided?

If you know people in the unemployment mode, I am sure you have heard similar war stories. However, what should be of concern to employers is what will happen when the economy and job market improves, as it will.

Clearly gone is the time when an employee was loyal to their company, working long hours and supporting the goals and objectives of the corporation. This recession and downsizing mentality, for the good of Wall Street, in many cases, has spawned a generation of "free agents". When the chips are down, more employees will be updating their resumes and re-igniting their network, rather than staying and helping save the ship. Many who helped try to "right-size" their corporate ship found themselves seeking unemployment payments after being personally right-sized by the same organization. When the economy improves, corporations will find that their current attitudes toward employees and candidates will cause them irreparable harm as free agency kicks in and loyalty becomes an antiquated term.

What can corporations do to alleviate this eventual backlash? Show common courtesy to employees and candidates. Treat the candidate, earnestly seeking a new opportunity, seeking to earn a salary to feed their family, with respect and dignity. Compassion shown can go a long way. For employers, seek alternative ways to “right size” the corporate ship before tossing your once-valued "employees of choice" overboard. Survivors and victims have long memories.

Further, top executives who guided the corporation into troubled waters should lead by example and reduce their salaries, eliminate their bonuses to demonstrate a willingness to save rank-and-file employees. Frankly, the excessive golden parachutes and buy-outs are obscene in light of the worker struggling to pay his or her mortgage. Corporate executives: Let's show some decency rather than capitalistic obscenity.

Simply put, companies need to rediscover what is important and remember those who ultimately help the organization succeed -- their associates. When they realize this, corporate profits and growth will be enhanced, to the delight of Wall Street and employees alike.

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