Recession is the term economists use to describe a country where a lot of new people suffer what many others had been suffering until then. Before ‘they’ suffered no one, certainly not business media, seemed to care much.
The “theys” that are generating the news now start with the growing unemployed. The official unemployment rate exceeds 8%. But that doesn’t include the under-employed, with 2-3 part-time jobs. And, it doesn’t include those whose unemployment benefits have run out. Nor, does it include the hidden casualties arising from America’s backdoor layoffs, as BusinessWeek referred to them: Freelancers and small business owners without a paycheck. And it doesn’t include those whose incomes have been cut 10% here, 10% there.
The “theys” in this story include the growing numbers of uninsured and under-insured. According to a CNN report, there are an estimated 25 million Americans who can’t pay the difference in their medical bills and what their insurance covers. That’s 25 million personal stories as of last month.
How many will lead to personal bankruptcies? Nearly 50% of personal bankruptcies start with catastrophic healthcare costs. And that was in 2001. (And to respond to this rising figure, Congress passed the Orwellian titled Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act in 2005. The only ones protected here were the banks pushing usurious rates on the same people they would push interest-only mortgages in 2007-8.)
Personal bankruptcies are very personal.
Personal is the result of a hospital clinic forced to close for lack of revenues. CBS’ 60 Minutes shared that story recently. At the end they told what’s happened to some of the patients just a few months after the clinic closed.
What did we do to deserve these fates? Well, we sacrificed our dreams and vision, traded in their curiosity and imagination and courage, for the promise of security. We filled our roles as cogs on the assembly lines of the knowledge economy. That’s just an assembly line with better lighting for your spot in a cubicle. Same deal.
The result: An unproductive mismatch of human talents, skills and passions with cogs and cubicles. A recent poll of employees found that 40% of us think our talents and skills aren’t matched with our jobs.
Doubt that figure? Look at the economy.
Who did we allow to drive our economy? The list reeks of impersonal corporate practices:
- Wall Street banks with products no person understood.
- Big Three Automakers with products no one wanted.
- Commercial real estate lenders hustling loans no one qualified for.
Companies lost touch with customers and employees, with their values that connected them to their employees and customers, with creating products that had any meaning in anyone’s life. Even the lives of their creators.
The fallout is personal. The cause is impersonal.
The only solution is to make this next economy. . . the personal economy. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? In some respects, it will be as the desire for personal connection has been stifled for so long.
However, the biggest hurdles is the distrust fostered in us by the old economy. Evan Rosen, author of The Culture of Collaboration recently spoke about the old Command and Control economy was built on internal competition, pitting employees against each other. That fostered a culture of distrust, disconnection. . . an impersonal culture.
Charlene Li, author of Groundswell, recently was quoted that the biggest challenge for companies implementing social media is trusting their employees. That was shared during a panel presentation on social media’s failure. It’s leadership’s failure. Social media only accelerates its revelation.
The first step then is to undo the damage: Reinstill trust.
Trust fosters communication, full and open and useful, communication. I’m reading Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. You should, too. All of our communications now are crucial. It’s how we will reinstill trust.
We have to reinstill trust, trust each other to sustain it, trust that truth ultimately triumphs.
Each step, each moment, where we can build on that trust rebuilds our economy. That economy is built on the immovable foundation of personal relationships, personal communication, personal trust. That’s a personal economy.
The new economy: this time it’s personal.
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About the Author: Zane Safrit’s passion is small business and the operations’ excellence required to deliver a product that creates word-of-mouth, customer referrals and instills pride in those whose passion created it. He previously served as CEO of Conference Calls Unlimited. Zane’s blog can be found at Zane Safrit.