You, Too?

Say it ain’t so, Industry Standard. In November, I wrote an editorial lambasting a firm that touted in a press release what I considered to be a trivial, overly coddling approach to employee retention.

“Perhaps it’s the annual retreat to Disney World and the Universal Theme Park, or the recent team-building staff outing at Chelsea Piers featuring competitive sports and rock-climbing,” went the company’s release. “Maybe it’s the daily free lunch and dinners. Monthly birthday parties, a Halloween costume contest, an outing to the opera in Central Park, a wellness fair with free massages, baseball games and a school cleanup for New York Cares are just a few other activities added into the mix.”

In response, I wrote: “Perhaps these people should get lives and realize work is called work because it’s not always fun, and that companies aren’t built on trips to Disney World and free massages. They’re built by people who understand that the world doesn’t revolve around them.”

Now comes news that what has to be the most well-known, and certainly one of the most respected, Internet business magazines was engaged in similar practices.

The Industry Standard’s parent company, Standard Media International, announced last week that it will cut staff by about 17 percent – 69 layoffs, including 18 Industry Standard editorial staffers.

What’s more, according to a report in The New York Times online, during an earlier round of layoffs in January, “the magazine’s free weekly fresh fruit breakfast and in-house massage service were also discontinued, staff members in New York said.”

Wow. How long did it take to arrive at the heart-wrenching decision to lose the fruit?

The main problem with trivial perks like massages and free fresh-fruit breakfasts is they are money-draining pacifiers that generally appeal to companies’ worst performers – people who are already liabilities. What’s more, trivial perks like these can stigmatize even talented and hard-working executives simply because they have been associated with such grade-school nonsense.

“What do you think, Susan? Should we hire this guy?”

“I don’t know, Bob. Look where his resume says he’s been. Do you think he’ll stay in a company that doesn’t offer daily self-affirmation sessions?”

Make-or-break employees will buy their own fruit, thank you.

Here’s an idea: Got a pool or foosball table? If so, rig the cues or handles with exploding ink packets. Wait a week. Then fire all your blue employees. Clearly, they’re focused on the wrong things.

Then, unless you’re serving alcohol after hours for added revenue, put the pool and foosball tables out to the curb.

Another thought: Call your dad and tell him about your company’s perks. Consider eliminating anything that makes him laugh at you. Granted, there’s no need to walk seven miles through a driving blizzard to pump gas on Christmas Eve and appreciate it like he claims he did, but more focus on core business issues is definitely in order.

Too many times during the past four or so years, dot-com entrepreneurs were quoted in the press proudly talking of the grueling hours their minions were putting in and how perks like free bottled water, candy bars and the ability to bring pets to work kept employees happy while they put in

70-hour weeks.

Seventy hours of what?

It apparently had not occurred to these new-economy captains that just because employees are on the premises for obscene lengths of time each week does not mean they’re producing. In fact, fewer distractions might actually result in more getting done in a shorter period of time, and maybe even more well-balanced employees with social lives outside of work.

As always in the workplace, dignity and respect are musts. But the days of mollifying potential job hoppers simply because they’re warm bodies are over.

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