Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Less Loyalty in New American Workplace Author Interview

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Less Loyalty in New American Workplace Author Interview

Article excerpt

It's a new world for the American worker, and not necessarily a brave one.

Where monolithic giants once offered lifetime employment for loyal workers, downsizing has become an acceptable, often desirable, element to strategic planning.

And job-hopping has emerged not only as a way for the American worker to respond, but to prosper and build an attractive resume.

So says Barbara Rudolph, author of a new book that recounts the stories of six former AT&T employees forced to make the transition to a world of new workplace economics.

The vignettes in "Disconnected" (Free Press, $25) tell of people laid off during mid-1990s downsizing and their lives since then.

"The depth of the emotional experience for these people was surprising," says Ms. Rudolph. "When it happens to you, the range of response that people have is interesting,"

"It was an emotional experience for me, as well," she says.

Community vs. competitiveness

From the end of the Great Depression until recently, says Rudolph, large companies tried to offer lifetime job security.

"The old world of work was identified by words like loyalty and community - especially at AT&T," she says. "You can't underestimate the sense of family people had."

But this paternalism dulled the competitive edge of many big US companies, and they were eventually forced to adopt a less familial workplace.

As a result, the labor market has changed, says Rudolph.

"Restlessness is an asset. Emotional detachment serves you well. And some will deal with that better than others."

So how do individual employees react to this new environment in which, as Rudolph puts it, "people are always looking ahead for the next job, next product, and next employer."

The responses were mixed.

Kyle Stevens, for example, was a onetime rising star whose career had stalled in the AT&T corporate ladder before he was laid off. (The name is a pseudonym.)

Now in his 40s, Mr. Stevens quickly overcame the disappointment of being fired and found a new job. …

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