Employer-Employee Relationship: The Reciprocal Self-Deception

Employer-Employee Relationship: The Reciprocal Self-Deception

Layoff caricature illustration. Company disposes of staff.

Consider the Employer-Employee relationship.

Is it more like a marriage, or a one-night stand?

Is it a win-win thing, or a win-lose thing? Or a “no one wins” thing?

So here is the problem:

The old model of a guaranteed long-term employer-employee relationship from half a century ago no longer works in a business environment defined by continuous change. Globalization and the Information age require companies to stay competitive and adaptive.

In response to these pressures many companies, if not most, have reduced the employer-employee relationship to the minimum spelled out in the legal employment contract. That has turned employees and jobs into commodities. Which means: employer needs to cut costs – they proceed with layoffs. Employer needs to boost stock prices and please shareholders? They “rightsize” the company (meaning, fire people). What a great term they came up with, “rightsizing”. Need new competencies? Just hire different people.

Now, let’s say they hire someone. They would actually want them to stay for, say, at least two years to maximize their contribution, but as an employer, they do not want to commit to anything. They talk about employment and tenure with fuzzy language. Their goal is to retain “good talent”. The time frame is indefinite.

The other side of the fence: pursue their goals and hedge their bets.

On the other hand, employees want to stay employable or fulfill whatever career and personal goals they have. Their response is to hedge their bets, jumping ship whenever a better opportunity presents itself, no matter how much loyalty they professed during the recruiting process or annual reviews.

But what do you want? You join a company. The manager welcomes you to the “family” though really you are an “at will” employee who can be fired at any time, and you know that your relationship with your employer is based on mutual self-deception. You are a “free agent”. And there is nothing you can do about it.

Turnover is a huge issue. Particularly for companies in the high-tech sector in California’s Silicon Valley. According to Paysa, Facebook employees have the longest median tenure, around 2.02 years. This is in spite of phenomenal perks and an average annual salary in excess of $100K

The bottom line is the behavior of both parties involved blatantly contradicts their official position. Today’s employer-employee relationship is characterized by a lack of mutual trust, a lack of mutual investment, and a lack of mutual benefit.

Is there a solution?

Many of you use LinkedIn. Reid Hoffman, an American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and LinkedIn co-founder, came up with an innovative approach that addresses these issues, called the Alliance Framework. The Alliance Framework does not attempt to restore the old model of loyalty but it builds a new type of loyalty that both recognizes the economic realities and allows parties to commit to each other. In this approach, employment is seen as a mutually beneficial deal, with explicit terms, between independent allies. The framework was pioneered by Reid at LinkedIn Corporation itself and by now, has been implemented by a number of other companies throughout the Silicon Valley.

If you are a manager, business owner, or an employee, and recognize some of the issues mentioned above, you might want to check Reid’s book The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age. The book offers a detailed blueprint of its approach. We found Reid’s ideas refreshing, relevant and useful.

Did you know?
Personality assessments can help establish more effective employer-employee collaboration.


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