Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

The Delusion of Lifelong Employment Security'

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

The Delusion of Lifelong Employment Security'

Article excerpt

The United Auto Workers picked General Motors to set the pace in establishing Big Three employment parameters for the next 36 months. Their chief aim: lifelong employment security.


In 1987 in my book ``Thriving on Chaos,'' I devoted a full chapter to such job security, which I unstintingly recommended. I've changed my mind.

It's not that I've become a curmudgeon. To the contrary, I've come to see mandated job security as a snare and a delusion - for the worker even more than for management.

In short, our commercial affairs are undergoing a sea change. Only those ready to confront and master change each day will thrive in the '90s and beyond. This is true for a company chief, a small-business owner and a receptionist. Only those who constantly retool themselves stand a chance of staying employed in the years ahead.

The old ideas of loyalty, security and lifelong employment - as practiced by the Japanese (though far less than advertised), IBM and others - are nonsense today.

Apple Computer chief John Sculley describes the new world of work:

``You are asked to pour a part of yourself into the success of the company.. . .The individual is asked for a greater commitment than in the days when he or she was simply a cog in the wheel of a systematized corporation. In return, you should get an experience that sharpens your instincts, teaches you the newest lessons, shows you how to become self-engaged in your work, gives you new ways of looking at the world.

"I'm not asking for open-ended loyalty. I am asking people who are at Apple to buy into the vision of the company while they are here.''

Sculley is not alone. In the current issue of Management Review magazine, American Management Association Chief Executive Tom Horton strikes a similar chord:

``Tomorrow's typical career will be neither linear nor continuous, nor will it always be upward. Instead, one's work life will take more of a zigzag course. Those who prepare themselves for change and growth will have the highest probability of success.''

And in his book ``The Age of Unreason,'' British consultant Charles Handy likewise writes that ``changing has to become a part of our lives.'' He urges us to conceive of careers as ``portfolios'' of different jobs and disciplines and, even while on the job, of different activities. He proposes, for instance, that ``homework'' or ``study work'' become a large part of everyone's life.

As an example, I recall spending part of a summer, some 30 years ago, with a family that included a doctor; he retired to his library each night after supper to read journals and prepare for the next day's surgery. …

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