Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sutton on passion

I read Stanford prof Bob Sutton's new book, The No Asshole Rule, over the weekend and ran across this passage that I think nails an unspoken disconnect that exists in far too many companies. (His blog is here.) He starts by saying the idea of passion is an "overrated" employee virtue and explains:

All this talk about passion, commitment, and identification with an organization is absolutely correct if you are in a good job and are treated with dignity and respect. But it is hypocritical nonsense to the millions of people who are trapped in jobs and companies where they feel oppressed and humiliated--where their goal is to survive with their health and self-esteem intact and provide for their families, not to do great things for a company that treats them like dirt. Organizations that are filled with employees who don't give a damn about their jobs will suffer poor performance, but in my book, if they routinely demean employees, they get what they deserve.
Sutton is articulating better than I ever have my reflexive dislike of business books that advocate "fun at work" and other morale-building schemes. If my employer is going to fire me the second times get tough, cut my medical benefits because the price of insurance will impact senior management's bonuses and shareholder returns, and haggle over a few dollars when its time to review my salary, why on earth would I respond to any of that stuff? In fact, it's an insult that my employer actually believes that I'd be stupid enough to fall for it.

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