Thursday, July 14, 2011

Burnout & the Great Recession

My company has become obsessed with efficiency. This is not a bad thing in itself - every company should be looking to cut waste and build on their strengths. But I have noticed we have passed the point of cutting fat, and have begun running our best people harder and harder in order to meet deadlines. This is "efficient" - fewer people doing more work - but the stresses and strains are starting to show. And people are starting to ask the deadly question, "Is this really worth it?" And the obvious answer is "No."

Turns out, the same problem is all over in the Great Recession. As employers are forced to do more with less, and then realize they can exploit employers because there are no other jobs to go do, eventually employers are asking the impossible. And burning out their most valuable resources.

Of course, in the long run this strategy is horrible for business. Losing the expertise of one top-performer means hiring someone new, training them from scratch, and perhaps requiring 5 to 10 years to reach the level of productivity that the lost employee had. But in an economic time when companies are living quarter-to-quarter, there is little incentive to think even a year in advance. Burnout is mortgaging the next decade to pay for luxury in the next month. Sounds a lot like the thinking that got us in the Great Recession in the first place.

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