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Slater's Bold, Budweiser Slide Farewell Underscores the Importance of Daily Employee Recognition

August 25, 2010

Many of you have probably kept up with the questionable, but wildly supported actions of Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who finally had had enough of obnoxious customers and job stress. From the Aug 11, 2010 USA Today article, the following information clearly underscores why employers should be doing all they can to show their appreciation for their employees given this unprecedented environment.
Slater did what many workers fantasize about and may do with increasing frequency – albeit with less showmanship – once the economy rebounds. “I don’t think we should be surprised that once the economy starts … picking up, there’s a massive relocation of workers who want out as fast as they possibly can,” says economist Joel Naroff, president and chief economist of Naroff Economic Advisors.
“That’s the warning that I don’t think businesses really recognize: You can pull this off now because there isn’t really an option, but once there’s an option, it’s going to be payback time,” Naroff says. “You’re going to be losing some of your best people.”
The support for Slater likely is rooted in more than simple sympathy for a stressed-out airline worker. “People juggling multiple jobs and taking on tasks they wouldn’t have to take on in a better economy may be pushing us to the limit as far as stress goes,” says Katherine Muller, a clinical psychologist and director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. “But it’s also human nature to want to rebel against rules and structure sometimes. I wouldn’t be all that surprised that even if we were in a booming economy, folks might react the same way. I think we all have a fantasy where we’d like to respond in that way: That if we have a really rough day, we might want to act out like that.”
As the economy slowly recovers, burnout is rampant, with Americans working more but their productivity declining. Government statistics released Tuesday show productivity fell 0.9% after five quarters in a row of growth. Hours worked rose 3.6%, while output rose 2.6%, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Clearly, the massive drive to get more productivity and more output out of workers is running into a wall,” says economist Naroff. “We’re working too hard, all the blood’s out of the stone, and it’s now time to look for a new stone.”
Nariman Behravesh, chief economist of IHS Global Insight, says it’s time to hire. The drop in productivity is “a sign that companies have reached the limit of how much they can cut back their workforce and how hard they can work their existing workforce.” The bureau says the rise in hours worked was the largest since the first quarter of 2006, when hours rose 4.1%.
“A lot of people feel lucky they have jobs, but they also feel overworked,” says Behravesh, who predicts job growth will remain “fairly modest,” with fewer than 100,000 new jobs a month, until the last three months of the year.

Submitted by: Greg Butterfield, Partner, Terryberry Company


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