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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Corporate "logic"

Have you ever run a race with known parameters, only to have the finish line itself pick up and take off running when you get in sight? It works like this: you decide to get into the race knowing that you will have to commit certain resources to it. You weigh the costs versus rewards and decide to go with it.

You start running the race. As you near the finish line, some decree by the people in charge changes the parameters. Maybe they reduce the amount of the prize for coming in first, or they tack a few more miles onto the race.

At this point, you can't decide to not participate. Those resources have already been spent. Now you have to figure out what to do next.

This assumes there's still something worth chasing. Sometimes, the finish line evaporates. There is no longer anything of value at the end. You round the final bend of the race and find nothing waiting for you.

That's the analogy. Now let's talk about when it happens in real life. You work for a company which takes a lot out of you. You just start taking it "one day at a time", until you can sort out what you do about it long-term. Of course, it's hard to get that kind of perspective when you keep pushing the reset button on recovery by going back every day.

You keep going anyway because you know there is something worthwhile coming up. Your company offers a "leave" program for anyone who's been there for five years. You can go off and reconsider things for a while and then come back several months later with a fresh perspective and get going again.

This keeps you moving. You know that once you get to that magic five year point, it will be there for you. It's a leave where your stock options keep vesting and your health insurance stays active. It's a pretty big deal, so you work with that as your goal.

Then, just before you get there, the company changes. They eliminate that leave program. It seems that too many people were were going out on leave and then were never coming back.

I can just imagine that boardroom discussion:

"Too many people are going on leave!"

"So what. That just means we have a bunch of people reaching the five year mark."

"So what? They're not coming back! That's what!"

"Okay, that's bad. Those people who have been here that long know a lot and are hard to replace."

"Exactly. So we have to do something about it."

"What do you propose?"

"Let's kill the leave program."

"Fine by me. Pass me the ivory-handled back scratcher, will you?"

In other words, instead of fixing the actual problem that employees don't want to come back, they just eliminate the program which allows employees to make that discovery. If they can't make that discovery, then maybe they won't leave, right?

Like so many executive decisions, I'm sure this looks great in the short-term. Sooner or later, though, someone will go on a vacation which is just long enough to clear their head, and they will start seeing the light.

If everything your company does seems to involve keeping you plugged in and connected at all times, worry. It's probably not for your own good.