Every once in a while I see an article that sounds so crazy I have to read it immediately. The recent article by Steve Tobak from BNET, Jobs for Life: If It Works in Germany, Why Not America? The article is about how the German company Siemens gave 128,000 of their German workers jobs for life.
In the article Tobak wondered if this was insane on the surface. I am wondering the same thing. I can’t tell if this is a brilliant move or disastrous. Essentially, it comes down to two competing theories with regards to offering ultimate job security.
The people for a move like this would argue that rewarding with loyalty would pay off in the end and that workers who don’t have to look over their shoulder all the time and worry about their jobs may work better. Some may indeed work better because of this move.
The other side says that giving workers too much comfort is like giving them a permission slip for mediocrity. Everyone would agree that all workers are not the same. Some are better and other are destructive. One area that is near and dear to my heart where you can see job security= mediocrity is with the Major League Baseball umpires. They have a strong union and are able to be tenured just like college professors which essentially guarantees their jobs regardless of how their performance is on the field. I have heard several opinions around the sports world that this is why the officiating in the baseball play offs is so poor. There have been similar criticisms made of other union employees as well.
So is the concept of jobs for life brilliant or crazy?
Think about any work environment that you have ever been in. You have no doubt worked with some people who were supremely talented and also some people that were so bad that, if it wasn’t against the law, you would have killed. Work today is so much about autonomy and creativity that it seems as if we are taking away some incentive to push the boundaries of what’s possible in our worlds of work when we give a certain level of comfort.
My questions to you are: Can you see this working in America? In what industries do you think this could work? How would you structure something like this? Would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.
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