What’s the Business of Business?

Photo by Arenamontanus

This executive coaching client is a rising star in his company. 

Working in a Fortune 100 company with 300,000 employees, Jonathan (not his real name) has consistently received high performance marks and has for 12 years.  He is acknowledged for adding value to the company and consistently promoted from entry level to a senior manager role. 

With each promotion he received the standard 5% pay increase.

Recently, his boss was hired away.  Jonathan is on the short list for another promotion. Let’s celebrate, right? 

Not so quick, sorry.

Jonathan has been a loyal, contributor for 12 years and received six, 5% promotion-based pay increases.  He recently learned his boss who left for another operation had been recruited at same pay grade but with a $40,000 per year salary difference.  How would that impact your employee loyalty and engagement?

Based on his 12 year story and factual data points, he made a compelling appeal to his boss; she totally agreed with his assessment.  He is not  appropriately compensated.  

“Unfortunately,” she said, “you were hired in at entry level and have worked your way up through the company.  (Just like we set it up…) Now, for you to be paid fair market value for your position you will most likely need to look outside the company.”

Can you imagine?

For 12 years you gave of your heart and soul to “the company”…sacrificing to meet expectations…developing yourself professionally…recognized as a high performer…fast track promotions…and now, you discovern your comp plan places you in the bottom of the market?

Now, only Jonathan’s character keeps him contributing.  Now, as reality sets in he starts searching for appreciation and respect. 

What will this decision cost the company?

A mere $250,000 to $300,000 in “hidden” turnover expense!

How can this happen?

Business eats people.

By business I mean a company or organization that buys and sells goods, make products, or provides services; “business eats people” to accomplish this activity whether for profit or not-for-profit.  This is not about it being “right or wrong”. It just is. Business consumes taking the time and energy, creativity and ideas, talent and skills, relationship connections to create.

Labor Day, Let’s All Celebrate!

Here in the USA we just “celebrated” Labor Day.  Other than marking the end of summer, what do you know about this Federal holiday?  Yes, we all know it is observed on the first Monday every September, but what about the origin?  According to the U. S. Department of Labor

Labor Day…is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. (Emphasis added)

Note that this is NOT a politically-oriented post, it is people-oriented. We continue with Wikipedia adding to the story

The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. It became a federal holiday in 1894, when, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. Military and U. S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with the labor movement as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike.

The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” followed by a festival for the workers and their families.

This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civil significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday proceeding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement. (Emphasis added)

The original focus of the “labor movement” was about the peoplethe story continues:

The term labor movement is a broad term for the development of a collective organization of working people, to campaign in their own interest for better treatment from their employers and governments, in particular through the implementation of specific laws governing labor relations.

Although the birth of Labor Day has an unfortunate history, this Nationwide Holiday is designed to celebrate the American Worker. Consider the intended focus…

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.  

That “the nation pays tribute to The Creator of so much opportunity, freedom and leadership” is reserved for another National Holiday: Thanksgiving Day.  

But you ask, what about  this “Business Eats People”?    

There is some good news here. 

Hope comes in a couple of ways to my way of thinking as I look at this story:

  1. People: The business of business is people.  More than a slogan, without you, the “American worker”…without Jonathan a great customer experience is not possible. Nothing ships. Nothing is invented. The level of performance for any business or organization misses the mark of full potential without people who make want to make a difference in the world. 
  2. Leadership: The role of a leader is to influence how business is done while in pursuit of profit.  Please notice “profit” it is not a four-letter word; without earnings there is no expansion or growth.  In a competitive and ever changing environment no growth leads to death; right?
  3. Responsibility: Your role is to pay attention living around the “beast”. No responsible parent will knowingly place their child in danger? Considering a fun trip to the zoo?  Signs are posted, glass walls, fences, and ravines are present to keep everyone safe.   

Here are a few thoughts and questions to start help you reflect on your work-life balance and personal responsibility in your relationship with business and organizations?  Notice the sign at the front door…

Warning: This Business eats People, you are Responsible to:

  • Clarify Values: what matters to you?  What do you value? How well are your daily decisions guided by your values? Where do you have conflict between your values?
  • Establish Priorities: what is really important? 
  • Set Boundaries: do you know your limits? There comes a point when something crosses a line and becomes something else; when being “available” becomes (fill in the blank…) “being driven…a control freak…a perfectionist.”

What else would you include on the sign?

Based on this reality that “Business Eats People” what additional responsibilities do you think of?

How are you managing the demands of business (work) on your life?

Please comment below; I’d love to hear from you.  Who might you share today’s post with?


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 11:58 pm and is filed under Leadership Development, Motivation, Personal Responsibility, Results. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.