Jack Welch Sees Workers Empowered by the Recession – Huh?

I guess if you once ran one of the biggest companys in the world you can get away with writing this kind of tripe and perhaps even have a few people believe it.

Jack and Suzy Welch (yes that Jack Welch) have an opinion piece on BusinessWeek that suggests laid off workers are devising ways to start their own businesses and never again rely on someone for their income. Yes, that dream lives on and according to Welch it’s going to have a profound impact on employers.

The result? Many people have come to the conclusion that they don’t want to work for “the man” anymore. They want to work for themselves or someone they know and trust. It’s as a marketing specialist told us recently: “My husband was fired. My hours were cut in half,” she said. “As soon as we get on our feet, we’re starting our own business. We’re never going to let ourselves be vulnerable again.”

She’s hardly alone. From coast to coast—and through hundreds of e-mails to our Web site and conversations on Twitter—there’s a tidal wave of emotion. To be someone else’s employee, people are telling us, is to be at someone else’s whim.

The impact of this growing attitude could be profound. When the economy recovers, most companies might, for the first time, have to deal with a candidate pool that’s not particularly excited to work for them.

Now at this point, Welch might have stopped and pointed out the dismal record of success that most start-ups register. He might have pointed out that even successful new companies rarely meet the income expectations their owners had going in or he might have pointed out that starting your own company is brutally hard and generally leaves you with barely enough spare time to brush your teeth.

But, no, he then launches into a sort of New Age riff on how large companies are going to have to adapt to these disaffected workers. How they’re going to have to come up with a kinder and gentler structure in which all voices can be heard and … well you’ve heard it before.

At this point in the article, I was hoping for Welch’s sake that he wouldn’t embarrass himself further. But, no, he had to end it like this:

So, no, we can’t be precise about when this terrible recession will be over. All we know is that it eventually will be. And when it is, a brave new type of employee will rule the day. And only brave new companies will be able to entice them back.

Here’s what I think the universe will look like when we start slowly recovering. Many jobs will have vanished forever so the structural unemployment rate bottoms out somewhere between six and seven percent. Temporary salary reductions will be made permanent, 401K matches will be a relic, health benefits scaled back and workers will line up around the block for available jobs. Job security will be paramount and rocking the boat will be the furthest thing from their minds. They won’t be brave new employees. They are going to be scared, scarred individuals who never want to go through this again and will do whatever is asked to avoid that occurrence.

I find it hard to believe that the guy who ran GE with an iron hand and was reputed to be one of the toughest S.O.B.’s ever, wrote this article. I’m going to assume it’s Suzy’s handiwork.

About Tom Lindmark 401 Articles

I’m not sure that credentials mean much when it comes to writing about things but people seem to want to see them, so briefly here are mine. I have an undergraduate degree in economics from an undistinguished Midwestern university and masters in international business from an equally undistinguished Southwestern University. I spent a number of years working for large banks lending to lots of different industries. For the past few years, I’ve been engaged in real estate finance – primarily for commercial projects. Like a lot of other finance guys, I’m looking for a job at this point in time.

Given all of that, I suggest that you take what I write with the appropriate grain of salt. I try and figure out what’s behind the news but suspect that I’m often delusional. Nevertheless, I keep throwing things out there and occasionally it sticks. I do read the comments that readers leave and to the extent I can reply to them. I also reply to all emails so feel free to contact me if you want to discuss something at more length. Oh, I also have a very thick skin, so if you disagree feel free to say so.

Enjoy what I write and let me know when I’m off base – I probably won’t agree with you but don’t be shy.

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