The human toll of the idiocy that was left to proliferate in our global banking system is immense. To talk about it as unemployment, redundancies, and pay cuts doesn’t really begin to touch the pain and confusion being suffered by the people on the receiving end. Had the same people been afflicted by acts of war or terrorism, or by a global pandemic, some great machine would have swung to our defence. The powers that be would have targeted and rooted out the source of the problem and heroically brought him, her or it to justice. But apparently soul death is not as important as physical death. And, because the perpetrators of this latest carnage come from within our midst and have been acting within the rules, we are all left to deal with the fall out by ourselves.
“apparently soul death is not as important as physical death.”
So how is this systemic psychosis manifesting itself for business leaders and other professional workers? Well, I’m seeing some interesting trends:
- Rabbit in the headlights. The speed of onset and the severity of the current situation have taken many by surprise. Their response has been to freeze, panic and focus on what’s immediately in front of them. It’s about today, this week, this month, this quarter. It’s about control, preservation and survival. In this instance survival is about “the business”. It’s about cutting costs, and unfortunately people are often inseparable in leadership thinking from the costs attached to them. I’m not suggesting that it’s wrong for those at the top to be taking a firm grip of the helm. I am suggesting that, if that’s all they do, and don’t get their head up off the desk and look to the horizon, there’s still the chance they’re going to be hit by the oncoming car.
- Turf preservation. Not a dissimilar picture from rabbit in the headlights, and indeed often seen in conjunction with it, this is where, experiencing the panic around them, those desperate to hang on to their jobs, pensions, status and positional power, begin to play internal games in order, in their imagination, to ensure they remain untouchable. Hide the money in the budget is one such game that gets played out with the Finance Director and colleagues. Slag your colleagues off is another such game. “Why are we spending so much time focusing inwardly when our battle ground should be out in the market?” comes the challenge from smart insiders. And to some extent they’re right. But what this kind of comment ignores is the personal, sometimes unconfronted pain that’s going on for the game players. What will happen to me if I lose my job? Who will I be without my brand name company? How can I control my life if my long-term game plan gets blown up?
- Disenfranchisement. This is where many of the people who make things happen for their companies are currently. They may have been told they’re at risk of redundancy, they may have taken pay freezes or even pay cuts in order to preserve their employment, they may have watched on as colleagues were exited with a reasonable package and some outplacement counselling. And they may be sitting there thinking “what’s in this now for me?”. Looking at their rabbit in the headlights and turf preservation oriented leaders, they are not inspired to hang around here. Except there’s nowhere else currently to go. So they keep turning up. They stop going that extra mile because they are uncertain why they’d do that. They’ll be working hard to deliver the day job, but that’ll be it. Maybe they’ll take a few more sickies than usual; think twice about struggling in on packed trains and buses during tube strikes. And they’ll be gone as soon as they can to some other employer who’ll woo them more than their current bosses imagine is necessary.
- The job leavers. Whether they’ve jumped or been pushed by the current crisis, I’m seeing three trends here:
- More of the same. These are people trying to get a job similar to the one they left in their last company, and they’re using more of the same kind of thinking to get it. Dust down your CV, focus clearly on what you want next, write the names of 200 people you know and make a plan to phone 5 of them every day. For so long as these people are consumed by the activity of their job search, they are okay. But there are few jobs out there right now; ever fewer senior and professional ones. And will work ever be the same again in your field? If so, will traditional networking do it for you?
- Riding out the recession. Strictly for those with cash in the bank, this is for people who are taking some form of time out during the recession, awaiting the return of more bouyant times. Cookery courses, serial holidays to far-flung destinations, working on getting your golf handicap down. Let’s hope the cash holds up.
- No going back. These are people for whom the recession is acting as a turning point; people who are allowing themselves the possiblity that their days as bankers, lawyers, IT specialists, consultants, marketers, or whatever, are over. People who are using the opportunity in the current crisis to reinvent themselves, and are asking themselves deeper questions:
- Who am I becoming in the midst of this crisis?
- What’s the purpose and meaning of this crisis for me?
- What have I neglected in myself and in my life until now?
- How do I want to spend my life now?
- Who do I want to spend it with?