This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

August 15, 2007

The Effects of Fear

Fueled by the publicity frenzy the press is enjoying, the current volatility in world financial markets is affecting many people at all levels of our societies.

From the employees' point of view, this uncertainty engenders insecurity. What will happen to my company? Will it be in business? Will I have a job? The reaction is that they continue "corporate cocooning", staying in the safety and sanctuary of their corporate jobs, despite their deep dissatisfaction.

A number of studies have confirmed that at least 35 percent of our workforce is unhappy. Thanks to a social network analyst Scott DeGraffenreid, we have a label for it. We call it "Warm Chair Attrition". The shame is these employees still collect paychecks, take up space, and infect their fellow associates. It would seem to be good news for employers: their workers will not leave. However, bottom line, disaffected employees are not particularly productive.

This volatility also causes Chef Financial Officers and other C-level executives to be more careful in their expansion plans. They engage in short-term thinking. It makes next quarter's bottom line look good, but is not conducive to long-term profitability. The victims of their short-term thinking are the previously engaged employees, who are often overworked and respond by leaving employers who do not take care of them.

So what's behind this volatility and what does it bode for the future? A mere one percent of the mortgage loans in the United States will be affected by this crunch; yet because of the simple truth that "bad news sells." Bad news sells newspapers, magazines, television and radio time, and even banners on the news web sites of the Internet. As a result, we have seen the real facts blown out of proportion and hedge funds leveraged out of existence.

We also have another factor in play. The spreading of bad news becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. It is only that rare journalist, like Oprah Winfrey, who will chance focusing on the good news. So what is ahead? More of the same, until the bold and the brilliant, like Winfrey are willing to step forward.

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