The world of work is in a state of crisis, and nowhere is this more evident than in the corporate world. Companies are putting profits over people, large scale layoffs are happening on a weekly basis and the human element is being lost in the process. The Human Resources (HR) department, which is supposed to be the advocate for employees, has become a mere puppet of the organization, doing its bidding without a second thought. Recent Economic downturn (or rather anticipated one) and The COVID-19 pandemic have exposed the Ruthless Side of corporate culture and the harsh reality of how companies treat their employees. In last 1 year, I travelled extensively and had the chance to speak to number of people and this article is compiled based on the feedback provided by those people
Lack of Empathy
Many organizations have shown a complete lack of empathy towards their workforce, resorting to unethical firing policies and toxic work environments.This myopic approach to managing people has resulted in a slew of problems that are plaguing the modern workplace. It’s high time for us to drop the ‘R’ in HR and re-evaluate our priorities.and focus on building a people-centric organization, that values the dignity and worth of every employee.
How FOMO (Fear of Missing out) Drives Aggressive Hiring only to Reverse it later
FOMO, or the fear of missing out, can drive organizations to aggressively hire in order to keep up with competitors and appear successful in the eyes of stakeholders. However, when economic downturns or other threats arise, these same organizations may feel pressure to cut costs and maintain profitability, which can lead to unethical firing practices. They may let go of employees who are valuable to the company, simply because they no longer fit into the organization’s short-term financial goals. This can result in a toxic work environment and negative consequences for the organization’s long-term success. Ultimately, a focus on short-term profits at the expense of employee well-being is not sustainable, and may lead to further negative consequences down the line. Many People have lost jobs off late and this has caused real damage to their mental health.
Learn in the Below Video Why Companies Hire to Fire
Mental Health Issues
During my travels, I had the opportunity to speak with several individuals who had recently lost their jobs and were struggling to cope with the resulting stress and uncertainty. Many of these individuals were actively seeking alternative employment opportunities or exploring other avenues for relief. It was apparent from our conversations that the impact of losing their jobs had taken a significant toll on their mental health, leaving them feeling anxious, depressed, and uncertain about their future prospects. This was a common experience among the people I spoke with, and it highlighted the need for greater support and resources for those who have been impacted by job loss. Below are some of the Examples (the Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality)
- While I was travelling In Austria, I met a Fintech Professional, Steffi (name changed), a bright young employee who was let go from her job recently. She had been working for the company for over five years and had consistently delivered high-quality work. But when the economic downturn hit, the company chose to lay her off without any warning or support. Steffi was left stranded without a job and with no prospects for the future. Her mental health took a severe hit, and she struggled to find work in the months that followed. Unfortunately, Steffi’s story is not unique. Companies have been firing employees left, right, and center, all in the name of cutting costs and maximizing profits. The recent pandemic has only exacerbated the problem, and many employees are left without jobs, support, or hope.
- Then during my travel in Croatia, I met Sean (name changed), a dedicated software developer, who had worked for a company for 15 years and had consistently exceeded expectations. His colleagues and supervisors all valued his contributions and he had received excellent performance reviews. However, despite his loyalty and hard work, he was suddenly laid off without any prior notice. The reason given was budget cuts, leaving Sean and his family in a difficult position. With a wife and two young children to support, he found himself without a job in the midst of a recession. Now, even if he manages to find work soon, it may take months to secure a position that pays him what he deserves. The sudden loss of income has left Sean devastated and uncertain about his future. Unfortunately, his story is all too common in today’s corporate culture, where employees are often seen as expendable resources rather than valuable members of a team.
- When I was attending a social event in India March 2023, I met a marketing executive, Shweta (name changed), who had recently been laid off from her job. She had been working for the company for over a decade and had received glowing reviews from her colleagues and supervisors. However, the company was restructuring, and Sarah’s position was deemed redundant. She was left feeling demoralized and uncertain about her future, especially since she had been with the company for such a long time.
- During a business trip to Spain in Dec Jan 2022 , I had the chance to talk to a Customer Acquisition Sales Manager, Louis (name changed), who had been let go from his job after a merger. Having worked with unwavering dedication for more than half a decade, and having built a strong and loyal clientele for the company, Louis found himself in a difficult position. Due to a recent merger, the company had to restructure and as a result, Louis’ position was made redundant. This unexpected turn of events left him feeling disillusioned and uncertain about his future prospects, particularly after having devoted so much of his time and effort towards advancing his career at the company.
- While I was traveling within Austria in Jan 2023, I met a Data Engineering Manager, Ashley (name changed), who had been fired from her job after she raised concerns about the company’s lack of diversity and inclusion. Ashley had noticed that there were very few women and people of colour in leadership positions and had suggested some solutions to address the issue. However, instead of taking her feedback constructively, the company chose to terminate her employment, leaving her feeling frustrated and disheartened.That was a separating issue, that the company was already eliminating positions due to increased role of Automation and AI in reducing the workforce.
- While attending a conference in Dec 2022, I spoke to a finance professional, David (name changed), who had been let go from his job after he took some time off to attend his wife and newly born. David had requested for an extended paternity leave. However, when he returned to work after 3 months, he was informed that his position had been eliminated, and he was no longer needed. David was left feeling angry and abandoned, especially since he had been a loyal employee for several years. He later found out that many others had also been fired and some of his colleagues who had a good rapport with the senior management had been retained. This points out to a disheartening case of Human Bias & Prejudice and how it can People’s Careers
- During my Travel to Dubrovnik, Croatia in Early Jan 2023, I met a HR manager, Tina (name changed), who had been fired from her job after she spoke up about some unethical accounting practices at a premier Education Company. Tina had discovered that the company was engaging in some shady accounting practices and had reported the issue to her superiors. However, instead of addressing the issue, the company chose to let Tina go, citing “performance issues” as the reason. Tina was left feeling disillusioned and betrayed, especially since she had always believed in the company’s mission and values.
Sadly, these stories are not rare these days. As companies prioritize profits over people, hardworking employees, or people who raise their voices against Unethical Practices are often left in the lurch. Like this, I met number of people who had been recently fired from the jobs and then were looking for alternatives to get a relief from the stressful situation. This also including number of people whose mental health had taken a hit during this downturn.
What is HR there for nowadays ?
In today’s business world, the term ‘Human Resources’ has been stripped of its true essence and has been reduced to nothing more than a mere label for an administrative function that serves the sole interests of the organization. The profit and revenue generated has become the driving force for businesses, while the well-being of employees has been completely ignored. Recent trends in the corporate sector have been nothing short of a nightmare for many employees, with mass layoffs, forced resignations, and pay cuts leaving thousands of families in distress.
It is high time that we hold these organizations accountable for their actions and demand that they prioritize the well-being of their employees. The ‘R’ in HR should be dropped to signify the shift from resource management to human management, where people are not merely seen as resources but as individuals with their own unique needs and desires. Organizations should strive to create a people-centric culture, where employees are valued and their voices are heard. This involves creating policies that promote work-life balance, encouraging employee development and growth, and implementing fair and ethical firing policies. The recent wave of job cuts, pay reductions, and forced resignations has caused immense distress to numerous families, and it is high time that organizations take responsibility for their actions.
The Toxic Work Environment and Where it Stems from ?
The toxic work culture prevalent in many organizations can be attributed to various factors such as an unrelenting focus on profit maximization, the fear of missing out, an insatiable desire for capital gains, and the pursuit of unrealistic goals and deadlines. Organizations may also engage in these practices to impress investors or appear competitive, resulting in poor management practices and a lack of effective leadership. Furthermore, the absence or inadequacy of whistleblower policies may create a culture of fear and mistrust among employees. Additionally, having too many managers instead of individuals who can troubleshoot and solve problems may impede productivity and morale.
Employees may also experience immense pressure to please bosses or stakeholders, leading to unrealistic sales targets and inhumane expectations. It is imperative for organizations to recognize the negative impact of these practices and take proactive steps to improve their work culture and prioritize the well-being of their employees.
To summarize, The Prevailence of Toxicity in the Work Place can be attributed to :
- The relentless pursuit of profit maximization
- FOMO- Fear of Missing Out
- Greed for Capital Gains and Chasing unrealistic goals and deadlines
- To appeal to Investors and/or look Competitive
- Poor Management Practices and Lack of People Leaders
- Non Existent Whistleblower Policies (even if they exist, those are just on paper)
- Too Many Managers (or ‘Bosses’) instead of Trouble Shooters or Problem Solvers
- Obsession to Please Bosses or Various Stakeholders: Inhuman Pressures to Attain Sales Targets
The toxic work environment, long work hours, and high-pressure deadlines have become the norm, and employees are expected to put their personal lives on hold for the sake of the company. This work culture has led to increased stress, burnout, and mental health issues among employees. Despite this, companies continue to push their employees to the brink of exhaustion, with no regard for their physical or emotional health.
Treating Employees as Disposable Assets
Employees these days are being treated as expendable resources that can be replaced at the drop of a hat. Treating Employees as disposable assets, and forgetting their contributions to the company as soon as they are shown the door speaks of callous attitude towards employees that is not only unethical but also counterproductive in the long run. The morale of remaining employees is negatively impacted, and the company’s reputation takes a hit.
The brutal focus on attaining or justifying numbers at any cost (without rational analysis of whether the goals that were put in first place were realistic and attainable, or were they just to appease Investors or look Competitive), with little regard for the well-being of the people who make the organization successful in the first place is hitting the people hard.The HR department is supposed to be the advocate for employees, but all too often, it serves as the mouthpiece for management, masking unfriendly policies and dismissing the concerns of employees. Whistleblower policies are in place, but there is no guarantee of protection for those who come forward.
Having a Real Whistleblower’s Policy
Employee morale can be significantly impacted by the absence of a whistleblower’s policy. When there is no clear and effective system in place for reporting unethical or illegal behavior within the organization, employees may feel powerless and vulnerable to mistreatment or retaliation. They may also lose faith in the organization’s leadership and feel that their concerns are being ignored. In addition, the absence of a whistleblower’s policy can erode trust and confidence in the organization among both employees and external stakeholders, such as customers, shareholders, and regulatory bodies. This can lead to reputational damage, legal consequences, and financial losses for the organization. This can cause employees to hesitate to share their ideas or speak up or voice their concerns, as they fear facing negative consequences.
Action Points for Organizations
It is imperative for organizations to re-evaluate their business objectives and align them with the ever-changing market trends, while keeping in mind their mission, vision, and core values that prioritize the well-being of their employees. In today’s world, it is important to understand that employees are not mere machines or robots, and cannot be expected to work long hours on a regular basis, or even be available on weekends.
Unfortunately, many organizations still promote this culture, and some employees also view it as a symbol of pride. However, this is a very disappointing trend. Rather than being a badge of honor, it is a sign of a colonial mindset that unknowingly promotes the idea of slavery, where employees are viewed as mere property and the Organization feels entitled to their entire lives.
Organizations need to acknowledge that their workforce is not just a machine, but a group of individuals with multifaceted personal lives, families, and aspirations that extend beyond their professional duties. Maintaining a work-life balance is crucial to ensuring employees’ physical and mental well-being, which ultimately results in increased productivity, stronger engagement, and a healthier work environment.
Moreover, it is essential for organizations to recognize that providing a safe and healthy work environment is not only ethical but also a legal obligation. Organizations must ensure that their employees are not subjected to any harm, be it physical or emotional, and they should take necessary measures to prevent any form of harassment, discrimination, or exploitation in the workplace. Organizations must acknowledge the significance of safeguarding whistleblowers and establish a robust reporting mechanism to address unethical or illegal actions. The absence of such policies can harm employee morale, the culture of the organization, and ultimately its success.
It is incumbent upon organizations to take the responsibility of their employees’ welfare seriously, which includes acknowledging and rewarding their hard work, offering opportunities for career advancement, and cultivating an inclusive and supportive work culture that values diversity. By doing so, organizations can create a committed and motivated workforce that will drive their success in the long term, leading to better outcomes and increased profitability. Additionally, fostering a work culture that prioritizes employee well-being can be a powerful recruitment tool, attracting the best talent in the market and enhancing the organization’s reputation as a responsible and empathetic employer.
Learn More About : The Dark Side of Corporate and the Job Satisfaction Epidemic