Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Economy of the Walking Dead

My friend Sean e-mailed me today and said, "You ever just take a pause at work and look at people sometimes? They look like walking zombies. I don't know if it's the economy or the weather, but it's kinda weird."

From where I sit I can confirm that it's true. And yes, it's weird. If you can afford a few seconds, check out the parade of co-workers and observe their look and demeanor. Remind you of a scene from Night of the Walking Dead?

For those of you not living in the Northwest, I can report that this winter has been LONG with a lot of gray skies, cold temperatures, rain and snow. So, the weather may indeed have an impact on people's collective mojo.

But, I think the weather in Seattle and this area of the country has been like this for pretty much ever and the zombie-factor is actually more attributable to other things more related to the economy and the state of corporate America today.

Indulge me. Try this on for size and see if it seems familiar...
  • Most people are working under a lot of stress because they're being asked to do the work of several people. Who among us has seen their job get easier with a manageable workload and reasonable, achievable expectations? Not anyone I know. It's gone the other a lot. In recent years, this happened as companies sought to "maximize profits" in the short term. Now, it's still happening, but because companies need to "minimize losses" in the near term. In either case, over an extended period of time now (years) companies have cut people, budgets and resources and made work very, very difficult for most of us. Clearly this is stressful, demoralizing and un-motivating. No wonder people walk around looking shell-shocked.
  • Also, we all know layoffs can happen at any time. Hell, millions have lost their jobs over the last several months and any one of us could be next. The ever-present possibility of the axe falling creates stress and for many a sense of hopelessness. Not good.
  • Workers - at least ones I know - aren't getting ahead in their organizations either, and their salaries have stagnated. In some cases, wages have been frozen and merit increases eliminated. Again, not motivating to say the least and a key contributor to the "why bother" mentality that many end up wearing on their faces as they trudge the corridors of their office buildings.
  • Finally, you throw in stresses at home, a spouse or significant other with the same work-related situation (or worse, laid off), kids and all that they bring to the stress level, and yes the weather along with whatever else is going on in life and you get...zombies! Just like Sean said.
I realize that not everybody fits these scenarios in their jobs, but I have to say that upon reflection and observation they do seem to be true and enduring characteristics of working at a company over the last few years - and now seeming to get worse.

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