In the latest Fortune (May 16, 2005) they discuss the unfortunate turn of events that 50+ executives face when they are forcefully retired, or fired.
They speak to the way our society is changing. In the past, society viewed older people as wise – experienced and of value (Think of the village elder and the value put on their wisdom in traditional societies). In today’s society, companies are looking at the cost of a seasoned executive, the pace of change (technology change, business change) and wondering – should I hire the older exec or the younger one who will work 7 days a week and is a lower cost?
A short sighted view in my opinion. The topic reminded me of a valuable lesson that I was given early on in my career: the lesson of the personal services corporation. What this article ultimately points to is that corporations don’t care – if the business justifies it, companies will discard at will. Look at IBM this month – bad quarter – 14,000 jobs gone.
Early on in my career I was taught two things:
1. I am a number to a company. I am expendable. If I don’t delivery – I am gone (Especially true in sales).
2. I must look at myself as a personal services corporation. I am selling my services to the company I am working for. As long as both companies are on mutually agreeable terms – the business relationship continues. That being said – if those terms change and one party is not benefiting, the relationship terminates.
For me, this is one of the key learnings of the article. People often mistake the relationships that they have within the office environment as characteristics of the corporation. By understanding that this is a business relationship, one is able to see past personal loyalties and bias, avoid an attitude of “entitlement” and align their personal corporation with the business goals of their client: the company they are working for. That leads to success.
As another boss once said to me: Remember, loyalty to companies died in the 80’s – to a company you are just a number. The only loyalty you should have is to the people that you trust.