A Jobless Recovery and a Slip Down Maslow’s Hierarchy

The message seems to be clear, and oft repeated.  We are in a “jobless recovery.”  I read and hear from all sorts of sources that jobs are scarce, especially the good jobs are scarce, and insecurity is the defining characteristic of the era.

a little wisdom for companies in better times...
a little wisdom for companies in better times...

Not too long ago, it seemed like there were plenty of jobs to go around, and people like Geoff Colvin could describe how workers could be “picky.”  Here’s a passage from his book Talent Is Overrated — What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else:

Today’s best young employees, the ones on whom future success will depend, are demanding that employers help make them better performers…  Organizations are finding that the advantages of building a big reputation for developing people are even greater than they may have thought.  Such a reputation grants these companies a “first-pick advantage,” an edge in attracting the cream of college and business-school students.
Understand that each person in the organization is not just doing a job, but is also being stretched and grown.

This is true, of course – in an ideal world.  People want jobs that stretch them, train them, help them develop into what they could be with such attention given to future building.

But this is not such an ideal world. “Panic” seems to be the response to the uncertainty.  And everyone and anyone with a job wants to keep it, whether it is “helping them become better performers” or not.  The uncertainty is too…  uncertain.

To borrow just the title from Michael Lewis, Panic:  The Story of Financial Insanity, insanity underlies our uncertainty.

So, I was thinking about all this, and realized that there is a simple way to grasp and explain what has happened.  And it is demonstrated in the always reliable Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs.  You remember the hierarchy:


Well, I think it is obvious we have slipped down a notch or two.  While just a brief time ago we were a nation looking for self-esteem and self-actualization in our work, we may be back down to physiological needs and safety needs.  We need to pay the bills and survive this jobless recovery, and self-actualization will have to wait a while.

Personally, I wish we had a job-filled recovery.  What about you?



Doug Caldwell, a regular participant at the First Friday Book Synopsis, linked to this post on his blog, and points us to this not-so-encouraging article about the duration of this jobless recovery: Wait Until 2017 Before Job Market Recovers, Report Says.  Here’s what Doug said to do before you read this article:
If you are in a good mood or have had several adult beverages you can read this blog post sitting down that employment won’t be ‘normal’ until 2017.

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