What is occurring today could only happen in the United States of America. Its roots are the American birthright. Its essence re-imagines the American Dream.
The Work Strong blog is an ongoing and regularly updated excerpt from Peter Weddle’s 2010 book, The Career Activist Republic.
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Excerpt Number 2, September 13, 2010.
From Gone With the Wind to 24
History repeats itself, to be sure, but not always with the same consequences.
The Great Depression produced a number of fundamental changes in the values and outlook of the American people. It taught a generation or more of the nation’s citizens to mistrust big banks, to depend first on themselves for meeting their personal needs and to minimize those needs by living frugally. These individual adjustments may initially have been ad hoc responses to a threatening situation, but they eventually became an ingrained way of life that continued long after the economy had stabilized and begun to grow again.
The Great Recession has produced a similar shift, among the American people to be sure, but also among American employers, as well. This economic shock lasted far longer – from December, 2007 until mid-to-late 2009 – and was far more devastating than current business leaders had ever experienced – the U.S. stock market lost $6.9 trillion in value in 2008 alone, more than the entire U.S. budget in 2010. Corporate giants from General Motors to The Walt Disney Company, from United Airlines to eBay were left battered, weakened and struggling to adjust to their new circumstances.
In response, corporate executives have implemented a kaleidoscope of new policies, strategies and standard operating procedures. The specific adjustments and their implementation were obviously idiosyncratic to each organization. But for many, maybe even most, there is at least one change that is common. It is the abandonment of their traditional staffing practices. Seeking protection in an unfamiliar yet clearly less tolerant marketplace, a large and growing number of America’s employers are now retooling the structure of work and the definition of employment.
While the nature and scope of these adjustments are still being formulated by corporate executives, their impact on American workers is already beginning to emerge. They will, most career counselors and employment experts now agree, clearly reduce the length of American jobs. Going forward, work will be a lot less like an epic drama and a lot more like a television series. It will shift the employment experience from Gone With the Wind to 24.
Thanks for reading,