A friend of mine works for a major bank.  Over coffee, she told me of two recent things that had happened that made me want to puke:

1) After the brouhaha about executive bonuses, the executives at the Bank sent out emails to all employees urging them to contact their congresspeople  ans tell them they thought the execs should be able to keep their bonuses.

2) Workers are being let go across the board, but workers in similar positions are being hired in India.  Pictures of the teammates from Bangalore are posted at  either end of the office, so you cannot come or go without seeing the virtual team-mates overseas.  When it was mentioned this seemed rather cruel, they were told that these people had “different jobs” yet, all the employees left know is that 15 of their friends were fired, and 15 new team-mates from India are now pictured in the office, working on the same team.  Coincidence?

This is stuff that falls in the category of almost too ridiculous to be true, but sadly enough, these stories are true.

The execs in some of the nation’s institutions are self-serving and are using the fact that people have a job as a club, as leverage to try to get them to be quiet, shut up, and go with the flow, no matter what egregious things are being done every day.  After all, rock the boat, and you will be next- with your job shipped overseas, and you are left to try to cling to your mortgage and find another job when everyone’s workforce is shrinking.  Good Luck.

For example, the execs want to keep their bonuses, but now they have fired the custodians and the workers are “forced” to spend time every day doing those cleaning chores as well.  If I see the execs acting as custodians for their space, then I will believe there’s equity here- but I’m afraid what’s happened is that there is a class/caste system in corporate America, almost of colonial apartheid levels.  Those that have made it into the executive suites feel they deserve to be pampered and treated like royalty, but those on the front lines are merely expendable cogs in the machine.

It’s one thing to have to cut back.  It’s one thing to ask people to forego increases in pay. It’s another thing all together to try to fatten your books at the exppense of your employees, and the lower level employees alone.

The bank has even changed the payroll system leading to the bank withholding another pay period’s worth of funds, causing a bunch of people paid hourly into financial  hardship, which they propose to help with an interest free loan for the intermediate time period.  These businesses are really abusing their workers and their worker’s trust so blatantly, there is very little that even resembles morale or common purpose anymore.  Whether these gambits are meant to merely fatten the bottom line, or pay for that beach condo, I don’t know.  I do know it’s hurting people who can least afford it, and it’s being done is a bullying way- speak up and you’re outta here seems to be the underlying message.

For the companies- your workers are some of your best assets.  Not only do they provide you with word of mouth advertising and connectedness, they are the engine of your business.  Without them, nothing gets done.  yet if you treat them more like indentured servants than partners in a joint venture, I can promise you eventually will reap what you sow.  And it’s not going to be pretty.