Tammy Erickson:

Until roughly fifty years ago, there was a tacit understanding between employees and corporations: If employees worked hard and demonstrated loyalty to the company, the company would reward them with a steady career and comfortable retirement. This equation had been at the heart of the relationship between individuals and organizations throughout centuries of Western economic tradition.

I would argue that this tacit understanding persisted much farther into the latter half of the 20th century. Then, Enron by Enron and GM by GM, promises were broken.

But unfortunately, as Tammy points out in her article, companies continue to make promises that not even they believe. It’s no wonder the once-trusting children in our paternalistic factory-based society have become estranged. Companies just don’t make good parents.

I agree with Tammy’s view of the present and future:

… the new equation will be an adult-to-adult relationship between organizations and those who perform work. Organizations should expect that everyone who shows up to work will be fully present, engaged, and have the relevant skills to do the job at hand. Individuals should expect the opportunity to choose interesting, challenging work, suited to their skill set, and to be compensated through fair, transparent arrangements.


Already progressive companies are beginning to focus on measuring results, while leaving the choice of when and where to perform the work to the individual. They may specify the desired outcomes and principles under which the work should be performed, while leaving the exact approach to the discretion of the individual.

This will be the century that the employee grows up.