Wealth Shift: The Decline of Ethics in America
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#2 - A Problem Employee By Any Other Name Is Still A Problem

People don’t Wealth Shift out of ignorance of company policies and procedures. People Wealth Shift because they are angry. Or disenfranchised, or marginalized, or undervalued, or any one of a thousand reasons stemming from the unfair ways in which they perceive they are being treated by their employers.

Remember, Wealth Shift is a passive-aggressive behavior that occurs when employees feel they are not being fairly compensated/valued right now, today. In trying to extract more ethical behavior out of their employees, management might as well forget about dangling incentive carrots or making promises of a better tomorrow in exchange for better performance today. Because there is no tomorrow, no future, in an America where companies no longer promote from within and the average tenure is two to five years, depending on the industry involved.

Slash and burn firings of all the thieves, the liars, and the losers isn’t the solution, either. Since average employee turnover in this country is so high, instituting a no-tolerance policy of firing employees who get caught Wealth Shifting only ends up substituting one Wealth Shifter for another.

Think about it. If Company A fires 30 people for various Wealth Shift behaviors, all Company A is doing is foisting those 30 problem employees off on Company B, which is hiring Company A’s problem children to replace its own, all of whom have been passed along to an unsuspecting Company C, which in turn has foisted its problem children off on an unsuspecting Company A. The faces may change, but the problems remain the same. We may stir the dirty pot, but we never truly clean it out.

Take a look at the following charts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the food service industry in 2006, total employee separation was a whopping 76.1%, of which 19.7% was attributable to involuntary separation (i.e. firings). Why do we imagine these involuntary separations occurred? Remember the book How to Burn Down the House – The Infamous Waiter and Bartender Scam Bible By Two Bourbon Street Waiters? Anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant industry not only knows how notoriously difficult restaurant employees are to manage, but also how aggressively Wealth Shifting occurs within the food service industry.

Just where do we imagine all those nasty Wealth Shifting waiters and bartenders go after we’ve wash our dainty little hands of them? How complete do we think their resumes and references are, and how many of their past employers (including us) are willing to give an honest reference, anyway? (Out of a fear of defamation litigation, most companies I have worked with have a standing policy of never saying anything negative about a past employee when asked for a reference.) In reality, as much as we might like to pretend otherwise, none of our unethical, Wealth Shifting cast-offs magically disappear into outer space. Instead, they just get passed along the pipeline to become someone else’s problem.

Data is supplied by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Employee Turnover Rates – Total Separations by Industry (Sep/05 - Aug/06)

Employee Turnover Rates - Voluntary by Industry (Sep/05 - Aug/06)


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