Last night was the first night of Hanukkah, and here in NYC, corporate team building and holiday parties took a brief hiatus so that those who observe could mark the occasion at home with their families.
For those who aren’t aware, Hanukkah – a relatively minor holiday in the Jewish calendar – commemorates a series of miraculous feats from ancient times, most recognizably the ability of one night’s worth of oil to keep the temple candles aflame for eight. Here on the eve of 2012, though, as we wrap up yet another difficult business year in a highly unstable economic environment, I wonder: are we witnessing a similarly miraculous feat among the workforce?
Needless to say, we are all adjusting to a new reality when it comes to work, careers and providing for our families. While people were certainly pushing themselves hard before the global financial crisis of 2008 hit, since then workers have been in a perpetual state of stress. Staff reductions mean that the same amount of work needs to be done by fewer people, which in turn means that employees are doing their jobs as well as those of former colleagues – often for little or no additional compensation, and certainly no additional job security.
To compensate for the increased workload – as well as to stand out – even the most high-performance people are approaching their wit’s end as they come in earlier, work later, bring their laptops on vacation and increasingly find themselves in the office on holidays, weekends and their kids’ birthdays.
Perhaps the most tragic part of this situation, for both employees and the firms which employ them, is that people are working so incredibly hard just to stay in place. With budgets stretched tight and scrutiny on expenses as intense as ever, companies are finding it more and more difficult to justify promotions, meaning that careers will stagnate. High performance people won’t tolerate a barrier to advancement, and are thus more likely to jump ship to seek better opportunities elsewhere, rather than tread water. Yet still, given the economy, there are limited options of where to go.
As we wrap up 2011, take stock of just how hard your staff is working on behalf of the company – let them know you understand and appreciate their efforts, and try to do right by them any way you can. It will go a long way.
Wishing those who celebrate Hanukkah a warm and joyous Festival of Lights!