Executive Careers Blog

Employment Catch 22


Last week we learned that the U.S. Economy lost another 467,000 jobs in June driving up the unemployment rate to 9.5%.

That's the highest percentage of jobless Americans in 26 years.

We also found out that wages are falling for those still with jobs.

The combination will likely dampen consumer spending even further – potentially perpetuating what is an ugly, vicious cycle that could lead to still more corporate retrenching.

For the 90.5% of us who are still employed, it is tempting to celebrate our good fortune. Though our bonuses may have disappeared and our paycheck may be skinnier, at least we still have our job, right? That's worth celebrating – or least acknowledging with a little gratitude.

But there's a catch.

Survivors in the American workforce are working harder than ever. We were already one of the world's hardest driving workforces and the current economy is extending that "leadership position." We are all doing more for less and it's happened pretty quickly. As managers, we experience the double-whammy of working harder ourselves and demanding ever more effort from our troops. While companies have cut jobs, they haven't cut the overall work-load and in some cases, they have even increased it.

As employees, we're getting pushed hard but the alternative (resigning; accepting a buyout) is generally worse. As bosses, we are pushing hard because we're getting pressure from above and because we know it's a buyer's market and we have our employees "trapped." Even Millenials - previously pigeon-holed as "entitled and less productive" – seem to be stepping up to the plate of the New Reality.

I overheard a conversation in the elevator recently. Two 20-something's who work in the fashion industry were talking about a friend at a well-known fashion brand. "She is slavin'," said one Millenial to the other. "She is really slavin'!" (Apparently "slavin'" is the new slang for being driven to work really hard – as in "slave.")

The second 20-something replied, "Well if she's slavin', why doesn't she just quit?"

To which the first Millenial correctly pointed out: "In this economy? Are you kidding?"

Welcome to the New Normal.

Check Out More Executive Strategies In This New Normal:

Erik Sorenson is CEO of Vault, the Web’s most comprehensive resource for career management and job search intelligence. Vault provides top talent with the insider information they need to make critical career decisions. An Emmy award-winning media industry veteran, Erik served as president of the MSNBC cable news channel through 2004. His experience spans radio, local and network broadcast television, cable and syndicated TV, and the Web.

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