July 1 2009|11.31 AM UTC

Kathryn Vercillo

How the Recession Has Impacted The Way We View our Jobs

Category: UncategorizedTags: , ,

Grenada Tax HavenThis is a guest post from Kathryn Vercillo, who writes for The Money Saving Blog.

The recession has impacted almost all of us. Some people will find that the impact is temporary, and when the economy improves, those people’s lives will return to the way that things were before the recession hit. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be the case for many people, who will discover that the impact of the recession has changed their lives forever.  One of the major changes is the way some of us will now view our jobs.

Major Changes in Viewpoint about Our Jobs

Some of the key changes that we have experienced in our viewpoint about our jobs include:

-  A shift in the way that we view the stability of our industry.
-  A change in how much it matters that we enjoy the work that we do.
-  A difference in how employees and employers relate to one another.
-  A new emphasis on job performance.

Shifts in Job Stability

Many people have found that the recession has caused a severe impact on the way that they view the stability of their jobs. A lot of people who believed that their jobs were stable have been unexpectedly laid off. Others still have their jobs but realize now that their positions are not necessarily going to be available to them forever. This realization has had different impact on different people. Some people are embracing the opportunity to live in the moment and to really enjoy the fact that they have their jobs right now, others are placing increasing value on building a financial nest egg for themselves in case their jobs go down the drain.

Changing Views on Passion about Our Work

An interesting change that has happened because of the recession relates to how people view the importance of loving their work. What is interesting about it is that there are two very divergent views that have emerged:

1.  People who are getting passionate about their work. One view comes from people who have spent a lot of years doing work that they didn’t love. Because of the aforementioned sense of instability caused by the recession, these people are reconsidering the amount of time that they’re investing in a job that doesn’t fulfill them. These people may discover that they want to pursue work they care about even if it doesn’t pay well since there’s no guarantee that they’ll keep the job they don’t like anyway. It is likely that they’ll continue to have this desire regardless of what changes occur in the economy.

2.  People who are content to work at a job they aren’t passionate about. On the other hand, there are some people who have experienced an opposite change in their work lives. A lot of people were somewhat disgruntled before about “being stuck” in a job that they didn’t love. They are now simply grateful to have a job. These people may now be thinking that it’s not so important to love your job if you have one that you can at least tolerate. They’re increasingly content to just have hobbies on the side to fulfill them.

Relationships with Employers

The changes in the economy have affected everyone. This includes the bosses that are firing employees or cutting back their hours. Most employers are unhappy about the impact that their financial issues have on the finances of their employees. This is creating changes in the way that employers and employees relate.

Some of those changes may be negative. Employers who feel guilty about what is going on with cutbacks or layoffs may not be handling the situation so well. There are a lot of businesses that are dealing with things through closed-door meetings. This has resulted in a shift towards an “us against them” mentality by employees in those types of businesses.

The good news is that most businesses are not shifting in this direction but instead are shifting in an opposite direction. Employers who can open up the doors of communication with employees may find that positive changes are resulting. Many businesses are trying to get through this recession together. Employers are working to keep people employed despite the economic problems they’re facing. They’re doing this by asking for help from employees. This teamwork attitude is producing some positive changes which allow some employees to feel more loyal to their work than in the past. For these businesses, employee/employer relationships have improved as a result of the recession.

“A Job Well Done”

Many of us have found that the recession is giving us extra incentive to perform better on the job. People who work for large companies may find themselves going above and beyond the norm to stand out from their co-workers in an attempt to avoid being cut during layoffs. People who work for themselves have to work harder to get and retain clients or customers. This change has left a lasting impression on a lot of us and if there’s a silver lining in all of this, a renew emphasis on job performance would definitely be it.

Kathryn Vercillo is a writer for Promotionalcodes.org.uk which gives away free voucher codes and also publishes a money saving tips blog.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Marc July 27, 2009 at 7:39 am

The major issue with the recession / jobs, is the fact that employers have too much power, in an industry like mine, the employees have lost their value, where the employers actually want to keep them happy. When the best thing for a company is an employee leaving for a better job there is a serious problem. Employers should want to keep employees and more importantly keep them happy rather than make situations that make the employee want to leave which would be in the best interest of the employer. that is the fundamental problem.

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Mike Brito July 27, 2009 at 8:59 am

If you are looking for a job, carrer, significant other, money or retirement to be fulfilled. You will never be satisfied. As soon as you get it you will want the next thing, then the next and then the next, never being fulfilled, always thirsting or always hungry. Fullfilmennt comes from inside. The real success in life, is being fulfilled on the inside. You can be the poorest person on earth or the richest it does not matter. Once attained it can never be taken away from you.

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Scott July 27, 2009 at 10:14 am

I’m not sure I get the point of this article.
The entire article is laced with “this or that”, “some, others”… it’s basically presenting the two extreme polar attitudes people have in regards to the topic at hand.

Is the article suggesting that prior to the recession, everyone was just “blah” in the middle? I hope not, and I surely wouldn’t believe that.

There have always been people who: save, or don’t; choose jobs they like, or don’t; try to keep employees (suggesting 4 day work weeks is a good example) or trim; and whose work ethics are strong or aren’t.

Continued response at: http://sharepoint.sbrickey.net/Blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=2

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David July 27, 2009 at 10:18 am

If an employee has lost his value, why should his employer try to keep him happy, or keep paying him for that matter? I wouldn’t expect to stay employed if I wasn’t adding more value to the company than what I was being paid.

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nomore mrniceguy July 27, 2009 at 10:58 am

throughout the years, I have discovered that employees do not want you to be friendly to them. There has to be a professional division. Call it psychology 101, but people like the dominant/submissive relationship. I treat everyone with respect but people work their hardest for me when there are set rules in black and white. When rules lax, people think they are on permanent vacation, recession or not. My 2 sense.

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gatherdust July 27, 2009 at 11:35 am

David, you need to consider the complexities in calculating employee value creation and employee happiness. Probably the employees creating the most surplus value will undoubtedly be the unhappiest since they would be subject to the most exploitation.

Actually, from an employer’s perspective, who gives %##$ if my employees are happy. I’d be concerned only insofar as a happy worker probably isn’t working hard enough.

Remember, in any event, that the employer’s perspectives as well as needs are primary. Employees are costs and thus disposable.

Happy capitalism!

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unhappy employee July 27, 2009 at 11:45 am

I have a unique situation. I’ve got a job that I used to like, but that has changed dramatically. I’ve always put out all the effort I can, but I’m finding out that certain people who were hired specifically by our boss (who were his friends before he came in) are being treated differently. They aren’t being held to the same expectations that others are. This makes me NOT like my job that much more and makes it even harder to try and put in extra effort. If there are layoffs, I’d go first no matter how much work I was doing. The friends are safe.

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J. Brandon Loberg July 27, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Ever since larger companies began referring to their employees as ‘human resources’, there’s been a fundamental shift in the way companies value their employees.

i’ve had many discussions with my grandfather–who is a veritable Horatio Alger story, climbing his way up the corporate ladder to retire with a pension, etc.–about how one can almost abandon hope of expecting an employer to make good on promises of benefits, retirement, etc. in exchange for years of service.

A former co-worker once shared a story about how the insurance broker she once worked for (a large corporation with many employees) had a policy wherein after ten years working for the company, certain benefits, a retirement plan, etc. would kick in. However, it’s unlikely anybody ever saw these benefits, because every employee in her department (herself included) was systematically fired exactly two days before their eligibility became effective.

Now, aside from simply cheating one’s employees in the most miserly of ways, the more subtle consequence of actions like these is a general dubiousness among employees themselves as to their value to the companies that employ them–and it shows in our general attitude toward work, and in the work that we do. This has almost nothing to do with employee qualifications, skills, job performance, etc., but everything to do with the cynicism that inherently arises from being a ‘human resource’–a faceless commodity drawn from a large pool of similarly qualified people; regardless what your expertise or specialisation might be, you can be readily replaced, and you most certainly won’t be missed. People in general need to feel a sense of purpose, that what we’re doing the lions’ share of our day matters. When we’re given reasons to doubt that, then we tend to reflect it in our work. We all need to work in order to eat, pay rent, etc., but whether we put pride and sincerity in our work, or just treat it as a a meal ticket, depends integrally on whether we ourselves are valued. The difference is in willingness to go the extra mile, and it’s profoundly important, especially in macroeconomic terms. People who feel that what they do is important perform better work, often simply as a matter of principle, whereas those who feel like peons tend to do the minimum amount of work required in order to keep their job and keep their higher-ups relatively satisfied. “If my company doesn’t seem to value me, if I’m just a number, then why should i care about my work improving the company? As long as i’m collecting a paycheck, why should i go above and beyond?”

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J.R. Employee July 27, 2009 at 6:24 pm

gatherdust, while I agree with you on principle I would like to caution you that reality is not quite so cut and dry. Yes, capitalism is survival of the fittest, but no company can survive without its employees willingly working hard. Employees also are also capitalists in our economy so I encourage you to take a longer-term point of view.

Push employees too hard or treat them like disposable resources and they rebel – sometimes very aggressively by outright sabotage or by unionizing and sometimes very passively through laziness and carelessness. Most will just look for new jobs. Keeping employees happy keeps the bottom line from being affected negatively. (Remember, replacing a worker is generally an expensive and risky operation.)

It is a limited point of view to believe the employees work only for a paycheck. Of course the pay is the most important factor, but once entrenched in a job, most people generally prefer to stay where they are rather than look for higher-paying jobs. As long as that person is doing something they love (or tolerate), that individual will avoid change and ultimately will become better at their job over time. When the ratio of work to unhappiness gets too unbalanced, the employee leave.

Employers that take advantage of the current economic conditions will likely find themselves with their best talent leaving as soon as the job market begins to turn around. Ultimately this will leave companies with the demoralized resources too lazy to find a better job. In other words, the very employees any capitalist wants to rid themselves of.

Think of employee happiness as an investment that will produce measurable return over time. Obviously, there are diminishing returns that vary based on market conditions. During a downturn, like everything else, it can be cut back to survive. However, never loose sight of the fact that eventually the market will turn around and how you treat your employees when times are hard will directly impact how they treat you when times are good.

Personally, I’m spending my nights and weekends preparing for the eventual recovery by honing skills. This results in a short-term benefit for my employer, but more importantly will provide a long-term benefit of substantially improving my happiness ratio.

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andeemac2006 July 28, 2009 at 10:44 am

This is all very well but what do People think of the Crazy Right to work states??. Were employees don’t have any rights whatsoever. this is a reality that no Media organization focus on, its the most unfair piece of legislation that exists today!!!! Right to work ??? it means the opposite!!..
When you consider a huge percentage of skilled jobs these days are barely Paying above the Minimum Wage about 2-3 dollars an hour. Sorry but your article is hogwash:::::
“quote/I’d be concerned only insofar as a happy worker probably isn’t working hard enough.”"
Is the norm I have found in the last 10 years.

Workers rights are going back to the Dickensian era, truly, so much so that SICK TIME is a bad word for an employer, you dont get any, and they will fight Workers Comp as well, the most incredible example of Company’s exploiting these hard times was when an Airline successfully ( with the Help of G Bush’s gov) persuaded all its Pilots (who must be some of the more valuable employees anywhere) to take a wage cut and accept a smaller retirement Pension, ASK YOUR SELF COULD THE USA EXIST FROM DAY TO DAY WITHOUT ANY INTERNAL AIRLINES, baring in mind that Foreign Airlines are banned from flying Internally of America. SO IN THE END THE MONEY WOULD HAVE BEEN FOUND SOMEHOW to keep the airline afloat. Just like AIG was by Obama, but they conned the Pilots somehow, and it depresses me very much, for if an Airline Pilot cant hold his own in the Job market, what chance for the rest of us. This is Reality!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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J.R. Employee July 28, 2009 at 3:30 pm

andeemac2006, Your comments made me curious so I looked up unemployment rates by state (bls.gov) and compared them to a list of right-to-work states. As it turns out, the unemployment in right-to-work states is over a full percentage point better: 8.04% vs 9.2%.

In fact, of the 22 right to work states, only 7 (32%) are worse than the national average of 9.2%, while 14 out of 29 (41%) are worse in non right-to-work states (plus Washington DC).

The more interesting number that I noticed was how many states have better employment rates than even the right-to-work number of 8.04%. As it turns out, 12/22 (55%) right-to-work states are better vs only 9/29 (31%).

From this data, it seems like right-to-work(“right to be fired”) states are doing better off than their counterparts. Although initially counter-intuitive, this can be explained by the fact that the lower cost of doing business in low-regulation states reduces the need to eliminate employees as a cost-cutting mechanism.

Personally, I prefer living in a right-to-work state. It means that my boss can fire me at will but likewise probably won’t need to.

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Mr.Carrot98 October 23, 2009 at 2:19 am

The only potential advantage about working on the west coast, is that as an animator you have more options in terms of employment. ,

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