I was chatting with someone today who works at a company where they pretty much know that there are layoffs coming, at all locations. The company is run by an ego and has a long history of not seeing the value of its people. The result is a culture of fear and uncertainty.
It's easy for me to understand that business is business. Things happen, mistakes are made, whatever, but there are still two kinds of environments that people can work in. There are the kind where people feel like they're contributing and have a real connection with their work, and there are the kind where you're not empowered or expected to have any meaningful impact. My friend works for the latter.
People have gotten wise that there's no such thing as just a paycheck. You spend more than 2,000 hours a year working, so you damn well better get something out of it other than money. The expectation that people have is that the company be as beneficial to them as they are to the company. When that equity does not exist, it results in failure and missed expectations.
A recurring theme goes something like, "This place could be amazing to work at, and we could dominate our market if only..." That says to me that we haven't turned into a nation of whiney bitches, it says that countless companies have no idea how to use what they've got. People aren't lazy... they genuinely want to be a part of something that doesn't suck. And yet there's this giant disconnect between the marble floors and the cubicle walls.
Unfortunately not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, and frankly I don't think everyone wants to be one anyway. So countless people are looking for that meaningful job from The Man. If I knew anything about scaling up a company that did something clever (and profitable), I'd snatch up these people, just from those that I know.
I suspect that the poor morale that so many people live with is part of the reason that our nation isn't as competitive as it used to be. Perhaps the solution is for these driven people to get to a place where they become The Man, and remember where they came from.