This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

January 31, 2001

Worst Practice

Imagine sending an employee to an off-site training program and--while that person is away--disconnecting his cell phone, eliminating his access to e-mail and the company's intranet, and denying him access to the office by making his keycard invalid. In fact, the employee had been fired, without being told about it! This nightmare actually happened at a dot-com company recently.

Other employees at the dot-com were working at their computers, when IT staffers came to take the machines away. Employees felt like the new management style was to not tell them that they were fired and simply ignore them until they went away voluntarily. This practice seems to us like an unusually cruel way to lay people off.

Unusual? Maybe not. We're hearing of other instances that suggest that the situation has intensified: As consolidation proceeds among the dot-coms, they are shedding redundant employees. We understand how that is. However, this kind of employee abuse is unconscionable in an era characterized by employee-centeredness and will have far-reaching negative consequences.

In a previous trend alert, Pink Slips in Paradise (August 1, 2000), we explored the disillusionment that many employees are feeling right now. The promises made to them have simply not been kept. They are fleeing to more traditional businesses.

What is happening here is that some executives and managers of these fast-growth dot-coms became leaders by anointment. These leaders are often young people with great ideas but minimal experience in management or human resource practices. Their ignorance of accepted policies, procedures, and rules allows them to violate accepted practices, putting their companies in jeopardy. As a result, we get management by default and the kind of abusive, inexcusable behavior we described above. Our understanding does not forgive their behavior, but it does provide an explanation.

Where will it all end? These young, inexperienced companies with their green managers are vulnerable. Employees with lots of choices and options will simply not put up with it. Top talent, irritated by bad treatment, will shift to more traditional companies with experienced management, leaving employers with shallow leadership in a fragile position.

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