Posted on 23 March 2009


Breaking News: Employees Want Respect



In other news, sky is blue and water is wet.

bell_atlanticI will never forget the day I came around this corner in Boston near the Bell Atlantic building (Now Verizon) on my way to work and found hundreds of 411-information workers picketing. This was late summer 1998. The economy was booming beyond its bounds. The financial giants of Boston (including Bell Atlantic) sat literally feet from this place in their glittering towers of monolithic, economic supremacy, but these workers felt an injustice had been served, and through their union, they walked out on their employer so they would hear and know their frustration.

The uproar and the noise echoed deafeningly off the walls of the other buildings. I could see business people in the large windows above looking down at the craziness below with distant interest. Police with riot gear stood nearby. Since it was nearly 8am, as people tried to go into the building for work, they would receive shouts, jeers and swearing in return from the emotional, angry scene. I was frozen in my tracks. I literally felt breathless as I watched the scene–the anger, the emotion, the intensity.

Checking my watch, I knew I would be late if I stayed there, but I

just.

couldn’t.

leave.

Hundreds of people walked through that square in the few minutes I was there watching. Hurrying to work with their newspapers and lattes, cellphones and blackberrys. Some of them stopped and looked. Most of them hurried on. I felt like I was caught in that moment.

respectThat experience really effected me (obviously, since it’s 11 years later and I am blogging about it). I remember wondering what it meant. What was the point? It began to make me think long and hard about the hours I was putting in for my employer, making someone else’s retirement a sure thing. I began to lose the taste for the technologies I worked with every day. There had to be something MORE than just writing code!

Fast-forward a few years, a layoff, two more kids and a mortgage, and I jumped from technology programming into recruiting, mainly because of the opportunity to use what I know about technology with what I know about people and help people get connected with new and amazing opportunities. Hopefully ones they could be proud of when they went home at night.

But that isn’t enough. There is more to be done because the ground has shifted and moved, and the companies who don’t learn this will soon enough be spit out by the very economic forces that made them great when it was OK to treat your employees like tools.

Markets are Conversations”. – Cluetrain Manifesto

Cluetrain, Rise of the Creative Class, and Groundswell (how to be human) give you primers and clues into the language.

Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook show you a peek into the conversation.

Meetups, Codeaways, ignites and camps give you access to the people.

But without your CORPORATE PARTICIPATION, you will be forced, eventually (by either your talent leaving you, or the market selling you) to watch all of this revolution from the sidelines… unable to join in until it is far, far too late.

“Markets are conversations… Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.

But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to customers.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.”
- The Cluetrain Manifesto

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