The recession workplace is "broken" and needs some fixing, post-haste. That's not really a new hypothesis; these pages have included such sentiments before. Melanie Haniph, in Advertising Age recently, explicitly diagrammed the situation as the result of three factors: A damaged "psychological contract" between manager and employee, heightened competition that has put pressure on the environment, and a lack of engagement by both employers and workers. But uncertainty -- how long will this last? What else can we do to pare expenses? How can we tell where we're going when the landscape is shifting before our eyes? -- is the driver. This economic cycle is harsher than anything we've seen in decades, and it's putting a definitive (permanent?) stamp on life at the office.
Execs are handed a battle plan and when that is branded a failure by the board or upper level VPs, the battle plan changes track. That happens all the time, of course, but now it's happening at a quicker pace, and with a greater degree of course correction. Real planning goes out the window. Some top managers are either thrown into self-doubt about their abilities, or burn out while extinguishing a series of operational fires.
And perhaps for the first time, upper management is just as expendable as the underlings. (Actually, there haven't been as many replacements this year as last -- planned, forced and voluntary CEO turnover is lagging that of 2008, when almost 1,500 chief execs moved on, according to Challenger Gray & Christmas.) And they're certainly more likely to suffer increased scrutiny and/or public flogging by the media. Remember all those discussions about executive bonuses? A change at the top isn't just for those unlucky souls who sit at the head table at a financial firm; CEOs resigned or were forced out at companies like DuPont, Tyson Foods and Yahoo! as well (though turnover at this level for financial firms is running at 18%, well above the customary 11%).