Bottom-Line Theory Sacrifices Staff Loyalty

Sept. 1, 2001
Dear Editor: I read your editorial faithfully each month, and in most cases have a somewhat different take on the situation than the one you see, but

Dear Editor:

I read your editorial faithfully each month, and in most cases have a somewhat different take on the situation than the one you see, but this month you shot dead center in the bull's eye. I couldn't agree more with your assessment of what is about to befall an already troubled industry — an industry I have come to love and admire.

As the consolidations gather steam, these companies are going to start playing the game of “What have you done for me this quarter?” Long-range planning will surely fall victim to the concept of “If I don't sacrifice tomorrow and make us look good right now, tomorrow won't matter because I won't be here.” It is possible to keep the house of cards up for a few quarters that way, but surely the company will be destroyed in the long haul by such thinking. Witness some of the corporate giants who are foundering now.

The new manager who will succeed will be the one who knows exactly how many quarters he or she can keep the owner and stockholders fooled; moving on just before the company gets in serious — and perhaps life-threatening — difficulty.

The resultant mess will, of course, be blamed on the successor for not having had the ability to keep the charade going. Unfortunately, the owner and the stockholders will be left to pick up what pieces are left, if any, in order to salvage their life's work and investment.

This new manager will, as you so well stated, be schooled in the bottom-line theory, and will have no training in effectively handling people — nor will they want any. What staff loyalty is left will completely disappear, and it will be everyone for themselves. I witnessed this in my former life at Standard Oil Co (Amoco.) What was once a proud cohesive band of dedicated people who would sacrifice personal lives for the good of the company unit was decimated as consolidations, takeovers, and mergers ravaged the ranks.

The one bright note happened a few years back just before I chose to retire and form my own company. A 15% across-the-board cutback was ordered by the board of directors for the MIS (management information systems) department. I had reason to fear because of my position and salary. I thought our training function was going to be the first to go. In a downsizing, the training department is always an easy target to get big, quick-dollar numbers. Instead, we were all pleasantly surprised to find our budget increased and staff added. When it was all over, my boss (the executive vice-president who engineered the operation) said, “Well, did we screw it up?” I replied that some mistakes were made that hurt some people, while others who should have left still remained, but by and large it went well.

I then felt comfortable enough to ask why we had prospered when other departments were being reduced. His answer caught me quite off-guard. He said, “Walt, when I knew we were going to lose almost 300 bodies in our division, I figured what was left would have to do more effective work with less staff, which meant they would have to be better-trained. I needed you and yours perhaps worse than I ever did before. Make sense?”

To this day, I hold this man in high esteem, and rank him as one of the last of the long-range thinkers.

He was the last of a disappearing breed.

Walt Hadley, President
Walt Hadley Associates Inc
15210 Harbour Isle Dr, Suite 1302
Fort Myers FL 33908-6808