Monday, November 02, 2015

Should employers pretend their workers are like "family"?

Does it make sense for employers to talk about treating associates as “family”, or is that just an insult to what it takes to have and raise a family?  Laura Vanderkam explores the issue in Fortune, on Oct. 30, 2015, here.  The company at issue is Barry-Wehmiller, as discussed by CEO in a book “Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family” (with Raj Sisodia, published by Portfolio).  Is this what Facebook and Google (but not Amazon) employment is like?
Maybe these ideas comport with those of Anne-Marie Slaughter (Sept 20 here), in her calling for a caring culture (and lots of paid family leave), and attacking the traditional “toxic workplace” in her own book “Unfinished Business” (book blog, Oct. 24).
That’s a little hard to see in companies obsessed with the short-term bottom line, and pressured by mergers (New York Times editorial Sunday, “How mergers damage the economy”, link here) .  The editorial reminds me of the rhetoric against hostile takeovers in the late 1980s.  In my experience, many employees actually benefitted from mergers (as I did when ReliaStar took over USLICO in the 1990s, enabling me to move away from a potential conflict of interest).  My eventual layoff from ING at the end of 2001 was partly merger related, but there is plenty of evidence  (including an HR comment I heard at the final exit interview when all of my rather ample severance and retirement was set up) I would have stayed working there longer had 9/11 not taken place.

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