Growing Employee Despair Boils Down to Shortsightedness of Companies, Investors

On Nov. 14, The Times published "Workers Unhappy Despite Their Employers' Rosy Claims." During the past month, we have heard increasing news on this subject, including "Corporate Carrots" (Feb. 7) in which U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich's proposed tax breaks for "good corporate citizenship" and Tom Petruno's Feb. 19 column, "Has 'Greed' Supplanted 'Shareholder Value?' "

As a matter of fact, in my 40 years of private practice as a psychotherapist I have never before observed the universal demoralization, dissatisfaction and feeling of hopelessness that has been growing rapidly during the last decade among almost all my patients who are not self-employed.

A simplified version of what I have observed is:

A company feels a financial pinch.

It brings in highly paid "experts."

These experts must save the company more money than they cost.

They try to discover the absolute least number of employees necessary to handle the minimal functions of the company.

Rather brutal layoffs take place repeatedly and without warning, leaving the remaining employees increasingly insecure.

The employees that are left are under terrible strain since they must work to the limit of their capacity just to keep the company functioning.

When an employee is ill or leaves for vacation, an impossible burden is thrown on those remaining. As the stress becomes unbearable, more and more collapse.

Meanwhile, shortsighted investors become enthusiastic and the stock price goes up.

Executives are rewarded with increased compensation and improved environments.

Even the most loyal and company-oriented employees become convinced that no one cares about them, and experienced employees leave.

The experts preach that this is good for the company because "a body is a body," and highly paid experienced workers can be replaced with cheap new hires.

By the time the disastrous results of these policies take place, the perpetrators are long gone.

The companies that initiated such policies years ago are beginning to fall by the wayside. One example is Security Pacific Bank, which was at one time considered one of the finest places to work in the country. Once it embarked on this kind of campaign, it gradually deteriorated, until now it no longer exists.

I believe the source of this problem is a tendency in this country to judge corporations' success by short-term results.


North Hollywood

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