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Employee Engagement - too much is bad
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Employee Engagement - too much is bad
This article is a summary of a lot of research on employee engagement.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/beware-of-e...august2019

Quote:Beware of Employees Who Are Very Engaged in Their Work
Deeply engaged employees are likely to have difficulties in their personal lives and can become difficult to manage

Increasing work engagement has become a mantra for companies looking to get the most from their employees.

When employees are engaged at work, academic research shows, they tend to stay longer on the job and are more productive, self-motivated and happier coming to the office. Engaged employees are also more likely to see their job as a calling and derive deeper meaning from the day-to-day work.

But you can have too much of a good thing, and job engagement is no exception.

......

Deeply engaged employees who become more difficult to manage can be overly demanding of superiors and become suspicious of their intentions, says Stuart Bunderson, professor of organizational ethics and governance at Washington University in St. Louis. When Prof. Bunderson first started looking at how zookeepers derived meaning from their work, for example, he learned that many tend to look at their job as a calling. That, in turn, made them tougher to manage than less-engaged employees. They also expected more from those above them. The zookeepers objected to placing a carousel at the zoo, for instance, because they saw it as trivializing the zoo’s mission, until it was repositioned to promote conservation, Prof. Bunderson found.

The professor also studied managers five years after receiving their M.B.A. degrees and found that the most engaged employees displayed similar qualities. A “higher sense of moral duty” makes it tougher for them to respect deadlines or work in a team, he says.

“There’s no such thing as acceptable compromises or good enough when things are framed in moral terms,” says Prof. Bunderson, who in January published a review of research into work as a calling. “So, for example, if I see my calling as helping my consulting clients find the best possible solution for their problem,” he says, “I will become especially frustrated when management tells me that I need to push certain solutions or limit the amount of time I can spend in problem diagnosis…especially when compared to my colleague for whom a job is just a job.”

Some researchers have found that work engagement has a negative impact on a personal level. In a 2018 study, after a three-month period, workers who said they felt emotional ties to their work reported experiencing more stress in reaction to workplace demands than workers who said they didn’t feel emotional ties to their work, says Thomas Britt, a psychology professor at Clemson University who studies work engagement.

Excessive work engagement may be especially detrimental for senior-level executives, says Ante Glavas, a University of Vermont professor who is studying the impact that engaged employees can have on their direct reports.


“You can have this existential level of engagement that leads to interpreting that the rules don’t apply to you,” says Dr. Glavas. Senior managers who exhibit this kind of behavior, he says, may start to ignore day-to-day responsibilities and feel it is their job to focus on social or environmental missions instead. Such managers also may feel that instead of focusing on their day-to-day roles, they should pursue projects that they deem more important or that are more prominent within the company.

Deeply engaged employees also are more likely to cut corners. In a study of lower-level sales employees in China, researchers found that pharmaceutical sales workers who were more engaged in their work were more likely to behave unethically on the job—doing such things as sabotaging colleagues to take credit for their work, leaving colleagues out of important meetings or not sharing relevant information with others on the team. “The feeling of [job] ownership is the key to increasing engagement and is associated with negative outcomes,” says Melody Jun Zhang, assistant professor of management at City University of Hong Kong.

So what can companies do to have healthy levels of work engagement, without crossing the line into excessive levels? Ease up, some researchers say.

One suggestion is that companies should skip the emphasis on engaging workers through corporate social responsibility, which often takes place outside of an employee’s direct job description. In a 2016 review of literature on the subject, Prof. Glavas found evidence suggesting that attempting “corporate social responsibility strategies” such as volunteering is likely to breed employee resentment even as it creates more engagement.

Direct managers should focus on engaging those who are unengaged rather than attempting to raise overall engagement numbers, says Tomas Chamorro, chief talent scientist at staffing agency ManpowerGroup Inc. in New York. Surveys that seek to measure individual engagement or that compare employees with benchmarks at other companies can also increase the kind of extreme engagement that is detrimental, says Mr. Chamarro.
08-21-2019 10:51 AM
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RE: Employee Engagement - too much is bad
(08-21-2019 10:51 AM)Captain Bearcat Wrote:  This article is a summary of a lot of research on employee engagement.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/beware-of-e...august2019

Quote:Beware of Employees Who Are Very Engaged in Their Work
Deeply engaged employees are likely to have difficulties in their personal lives and can become difficult to manage

Increasing work engagement has become a mantra for companies looking to get the most from their employees.

When employees are engaged at work, academic research shows, they tend to stay longer on the job and are more productive, self-motivated and happier coming to the office. Engaged employees are also more likely to see their job as a calling and derive deeper meaning from the day-to-day work.

But you can have too much of a good thing, and job engagement is no exception.

......

Deeply engaged employees who become more difficult to manage can be overly demanding of superiors and become suspicious of their intentions, says Stuart Bunderson, professor of organizational ethics and governance at Washington University in St. Louis. When Prof. Bunderson first started looking at how zookeepers derived meaning from their work, for example, he learned that many tend to look at their job as a calling. That, in turn, made them tougher to manage than less-engaged employees. They also expected more from those above them. The zookeepers objected to placing a carousel at the zoo, for instance, because they saw it as trivializing the zoo’s mission, until it was repositioned to promote conservation, Prof. Bunderson found.

The professor also studied managers five years after receiving their M.B.A. degrees and found that the most engaged employees displayed similar qualities. A “higher sense of moral duty” makes it tougher for them to respect deadlines or work in a team, he says.

“There’s no such thing as acceptable compromises or good enough when things are framed in moral terms,” says Prof. Bunderson, who in January published a review of research into work as a calling. “So, for example, if I see my calling as helping my consulting clients find the best possible solution for their problem,” he says, “I will become especially frustrated when management tells me that I need to push certain solutions or limit the amount of time I can spend in problem diagnosis…especially when compared to my colleague for whom a job is just a job.”

Some researchers have found that work engagement has a negative impact on a personal level. In a 2018 study, after a three-month period, workers who said they felt emotional ties to their work reported experiencing more stress in reaction to workplace demands than workers who said they didn’t feel emotional ties to their work, says Thomas Britt, a psychology professor at Clemson University who studies work engagement.

Excessive work engagement may be especially detrimental for senior-level executives, says Ante Glavas, a University of Vermont professor who is studying the impact that engaged employees can have on their direct reports.


“You can have this existential level of engagement that leads to interpreting that the rules don’t apply to you,” says Dr. Glavas. Senior managers who exhibit this kind of behavior, he says, may start to ignore day-to-day responsibilities and feel it is their job to focus on social or environmental missions instead. Such managers also may feel that instead of focusing on their day-to-day roles, they should pursue projects that they deem more important or that are more prominent within the company.

Deeply engaged employees also are more likely to cut corners. In a study of lower-level sales employees in China, researchers found that pharmaceutical sales workers who were more engaged in their work were more likely to behave unethically on the job—doing such things as sabotaging colleagues to take credit for their work, leaving colleagues out of important meetings or not sharing relevant information with others on the team. “The feeling of [job] ownership is the key to increasing engagement and is associated with negative outcomes,” says Melody Jun Zhang, assistant professor of management at City University of Hong Kong.

So what can companies do to have healthy levels of work engagement, without crossing the line into excessive levels? Ease up, some researchers say.

One suggestion is that companies should skip the emphasis on engaging workers through corporate social responsibility, which often takes place outside of an employee’s direct job description. In a 2016 review of literature on the subject, Prof. Glavas found evidence suggesting that attempting “corporate social responsibility strategies” such as volunteering is likely to breed employee resentment even as it creates more engagement.

Direct managers should focus on engaging those who are unengaged rather than attempting to raise overall engagement numbers, says Tomas Chamorro, chief talent scientist at staffing agency ManpowerGroup Inc. in New York. Surveys that seek to measure individual engagement or that compare employees with benchmarks at other companies can also increase the kind of extreme engagement that is detrimental, says Mr. Chamarro.

This reminds me of what the CEO of a major international financial company told me while we were sharing a conversation over our shared hobby. I knew that his company had given a local small college a major endowment and I asked him if that helped his company to land top students. He replied, "Oh no. We don't want top students. We want C students. They aren't smart enough to steal."

What I'm hearing here is this, "Oh no. We don't want fully engaged employees who see their work as a calling. They might actually become informed enough to question the motives of management." In other words they might become understanding enough to become a whistle blower.

This article is just more confirmation of my first hand experience in observing corporate life from the inside. There are 2 classes, sometimes 3 depending on the kind of company, of employees. If you are a white collar only company there are 2 classes. If you produce a product there are three. Upper level management is one, mid & lower level management along with salaried employees is the other. Information access helps to define these boundaries and the boundaries within the strata. Employees with enough time on the job to spot anomalies within the data they are permitted to view get flagged when they start questioning the data. Those managing them may or may not be able to answer the questions they ask and that level of management may get flagged in they also start asking too many questions about the perceived anomalies.

It is pretty clear that the "need to know" is as much designed to obfuscate some activity as it is intended to stratify and insulate the various levels of management and employment. All of this is very intentional. What many of the healthier companies do to overcome the negative impact of stratification is to have an open feedback loop straight to the top. This however can be a good thing for lower level employees or a bad thing. If it helps the company correct faulty data that's a good thing. If it draws attention to a particularly gifted lower level employee that may be good in that it might get them promoted to a lower or mid management position. But if the lower level employee has discovered or uncovered intentional manipulation of data by the upper level management it will probably get them replaced.

So again this falls into the category of "We want C students, because they aren't clever enough to steal, or clever enough to ask embarrassing questions."
(This post was last modified: 08-21-2019 12:33 PM by JRsec.)
08-21-2019 12:20 PM
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RE: Employee Engagement - too much is bad
Interesting take JR.


The interesting part to me was that, "A “higher sense of moral duty” makes it tougher for them to respect deadlines or work in a team." I've noticed this when dealing with the bureaucratic side of many of my jobs - people who are really engaged in their job function tend to be narrow minded and don't care about anything outside their own niche.

The attitude is, "My department's rules are sacred because (fill in the blank) is the most important function in our whole company. Your deadline/budget doesn't matter to me."

The people that don't care as much are more likely accept new ideas or bend ridiculous rules in order to help the whole organization.

Like the zookeepers in the article who opposed a carousel. Who cares if a carousel is crass commercialism? Crass commercialism provides revenue that can be used to provide better care for the animals. That's the big picture thinking that hyper-engaged moral crusaders miss.
08-21-2019 01:06 PM
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RE: Employee Engagement - too much is bad
(08-21-2019 01:06 PM)Captain Bearcat Wrote:  Interesting take JR.


The interesting part to me was that, "A “higher sense of moral duty” makes it tougher for them to respect deadlines or work in a team." I've noticed this when dealing with the bureaucratic side of many of my jobs - people who are really engaged in their job function tend to be narrow minded and don't care about anything outside their own niche.

The attitude is, "My department's rules are sacred because (fill in the blank) is the most important function in our whole company. Your deadline/budget doesn't matter to me."

The people that don't care as much are more likely accept new ideas or bend ridiculous rules in order to help the whole organization.

Like the zookeepers in the article who opposed a carousel. Who cares if a carousel is crass commercialism? Crass commercialism provides revenue that can be used to provide better care for the animals. That's the big picture thinking that hyper-engaged moral crusaders miss.

We aren't looking at this a different way. We are seeing the response to two different situations. There are many employees who love their set parameters because it really forms the basis of a simplified minimum of expectations from their job. If they like their job because it is easily managed and not too much responsibility is placed upon them then of course they will go along with whatever management suggests as long as it doesn't disturb what is required of them.

For those who are trying to understand their jobs and who feel responsible to customers, other employees, or even to their immediate manager are probably going to be a bit more suspicious of changes to the "system". It doesn't mean they are less adaptable. It merely means they need to understand how the change will affect the whole system before they buy in.

But neither of those are the ones I was referring to. I was referring to those who have the intellect to understand how changes in the data affect the whole system of their area, and who sometimes have begun to understand how that data affects systems beyond their area. Those folks are clued in enough to know almost immediately what will be impacted and when they raise concerns they should be listened to, but instead usually become flagged by managers who know they are beyond their own skill sets, or by upper level management who might be manipulating numbers and resent someone calling attention to them. This is particularly true of companies who quarterly have to meet projections where numbers are only fudged at the upper echelon. In this case it is far beyond the example of adding the carousel which the zookeeper merely thought was extraneous to his work.

Most work today is some form of data transferal or data generation. Most companies compartmentalize those streams so that one area may respond to the data generated in another, but does not understand beyond their own function what that data does. Military code breaking worked similarly with those who collected information not ever able to see enough of it to become a security risk, while those at the top collated and analyzed that data and drew conclusions from it. Most corporations work the same way and those below the upper echelon seldom grasp the real relevance of their portion of the data. They only know to report data that falls within their guidelines and have to accept data prima facia coming from other departments. But where there is data entry there are data entry mistakes. Employees smart enough to recogonize mistakes can save the company embarrassment, unless the mistaken data is intentional and from the top. Most companies find it much easier to have employees that can't interpret data or spot mistakes outside of their area, than to have those who understand the relationship between data subsets and can spot mistakes or raise embarrassing questions.

I've simply witnessed more than a few of these kinds of situations and what eventually happened to the employees to smart for their own good.
(This post was last modified: 08-21-2019 01:32 PM by JRsec.)
08-21-2019 01:17 PM
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RE: Employee Engagement - too much is bad
Doing bankruptcy, insolvency, and turnaround work, you encounter a lot of really bad situations.

I remember a point in time when I had a really bad situation at home, ultimately (but not soon enough) leading to divorce. At the time, I was trying to turn around a deal that was in really bad shape. I spent my day trying to talk vendors into extensions and responding to employees coming in to ask if their paychecks were going to be good. On several occasions, we had the sheriff show up with a moving van and start hauling furniture out. The paychecks were always good, and the deal eventually pulled through, but it was a very near thing. Anyway, even at the worst, I very distinctly remember my stomach muscles relaxing as I drove in to work each morning, and tightening as I drove home at night.
08-21-2019 01:36 PM
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RE: Employee Engagement - too much is bad
(08-21-2019 01:36 PM)Owl 69/70/75 Wrote:  Doing bankruptcy, insolvency, and turnaround work, you encounter a lot of really bad situations.

I remember a point in time when I had a really bad situation at home, ultimately (but not soon enough) leading to divorce. At the time, I was trying to turn around a deal that was in really bad shape. I spent my day trying to talk vendors into extensions and responding to employees coming in to ask if their paychecks were going to be good. On several occasions, we had the sheriff show up with a moving van and start hauling furniture out. The paychecks were always good, and the deal eventually pulled through, but it was a very near thing. Anyway, even at the worst, I very distinctly remember my stomach muscles relaxing as I drove in to work each morning, and tightening as I drove home at night.

Sorry for you pain in all of that, but I sincerely doubt a high correlation between home life quality and being totally invested in one's work. I've seen those who couldn't concentrate at work because of home issues, and those who functioned poorly at work with great home lives, and those who functioned wonderfully at work and had great home lives as well. I think we are looking at theories here which were examining situations that would prove their theory rather than looking at all situations.

But I have watched and experienced lower level employees who ran afoul of any level management for being too sharp. I remember one guy who was beloved by fellow employees, but was responsible for editing his boss's information. When he brought up one data set's inaccuracies there was a closed door session in which his boss was the distraught one and within a month the one editing was gone and the office was forbidden to ask questions. It took the corporation another year to catch and can this guy's boss. I guess it is too bad that the company won't put on his termination information that he was too smart and caught a crook. It will just remain listed as a firing due to insubordination. The man was in his late 40's, highly credible, and had a hard time finding another job and was finally hired for a position well below his capabilities. I've even witnessed these kinds of situations in my non profit work after my corporate career. The information gap, and the turf protection, is always a part of these situations.
08-21-2019 01:54 PM
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RE: Employee Engagement - too much is bad
JR, you know a different type of person than I do 04-cheers

I've worked about 15-20 different jobs (I started young & a lot were part time). Every place I've ever worked has valued employees who speak up. Pointing out a problem & working toward a solution were the ways to get promoted. The only exceptions were Amazon (where I worked as an elf one Christmas, packing people's Christmas presents) and a telephone book delivery service where no one cared about the job.


I think we disagree because everyone (including me) lives in the bubble they like the most. For example, I don't know people who want stupid subordinates because when I meet people like that, I instantly dislike them without even knowing why. So I stop hanging out with them.

Case in point: I once had a job interview with a big real estate developer. The top guy was well-known around town. He had an electric personality, the office was nice, & it was exactly the type of job I was looking for. But something about him put me off. I couldn't figure out what, but I didn't want to work there so I didn't follow up after the interview. 18 months later, he got busted for fraud. Basically he was running a Ponzi scheme on the bankers who lent to him. He'd use the loan on his next project to pay off the construction companies on the last project.
08-23-2019 03:33 PM
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RE: Employee Engagement - too much is bad
(08-23-2019 03:33 PM)Captain Bearcat Wrote:  JR, you know a different type of person than I do 04-cheers

I've worked about 15-20 different jobs (I started young & a lot were part time). Every place I've ever worked has valued employees who speak up. Pointing out a problem & working toward a solution were the ways to get promoted. The only exceptions were Amazon (where I worked as an elf one Christmas, packing people's Christmas presents) and a telephone book delivery service where no one cared about the job.


I think we disagree because everyone (including me) lives in the bubble they like the most. For example, I don't know people who want stupid subordinates because when I meet people like that, I instantly dislike them without even knowing why. So I stop hanging out with them.

Case in point: I once had a job interview with a big real estate developer. The top guy was well-known around town. He had an electric personality, the office was nice, & it was exactly the type of job I was looking for. But something about him put me off. I couldn't figure out what, but I didn't want to work there so I didn't follow up after the interview. 18 months later, he got busted for fraud. Basically he was running a Ponzi scheme on the bankers who lent to him. He'd use the loan on his next project to pay off the construction companies on the last project.

I know both groups and have watched them change over the years. Private businesses and small corporations did have the kinds of people to which you refer and were great places to work. The give and take was productive and the environment was one of trust. The HR files, probably handled by the owner or manager were filled with positives as well as negatives. And those with negatives didn't hang around long.

That's been dying out steadily with the growth of multinational corporations where your local manager is managed online by the corporate office and your input is not valued, but your busy time with CBE's are. The HR files only contain the negative, and the information is parsed and training is practically non existent. The trust level is nil and most of the low level employees are temps many of whom have records since a significant portion of their minimum wage is subsidized. Mid level management only gets noticed when their numbers are suitable to the goals laid down by the home office and most of them were also mistrusting, felt unfulfilled, and harbored some resentments.

But understand this about my experiences, I was for roughly 40 years of my working life essentially self employed. As a fully commissioned sales rep for 20 of those years I worked hand in hand with private business and corporations. In 20 years of non profit work I covered different aspects but dealt with local businesses, corporations, and of course non profits. So unlike you I haven't been locked into a particular subset but it was fascinating to watch the pathology of the demise of private business, the decline of regional corporations, and the rise of the uber top down controlled multinationals. And I can tell you emphatically, I'm glad I lived the majority of my life in the former. The people I have encountered, the work situations I have observed, and the structural abuses I have witnessed in the latter are nowhere near as relational, fulfilling, and rewarding as what went before them. In fact they are downright depressing and rife with malcontents, miserable people, and those only wanting to punch the clock. Motivation for excellence is woefully lacking and the biggest issue I see for this is a broken communication loop to the decision makers half a continent away, and the woeful lack of training which if it exists amounts to 30 minute Computer Based Sessions with multiple choice to show comprehension for job skills best learned in a tactile in the field manner. And as a bonus of the craptastic the interpersonal skills and communication skills of the workers and lower level management is virtually non existent.
(This post was last modified: 08-29-2019 11:59 PM by JRsec.)
08-23-2019 04:21 PM
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Post: #9
RE: Employee Engagement - too much is bad
I agree that big data has dehumanized a lot of people's work.

There is a lot of economics literature which shows that big corporations are more data driven because hard information is easier to transmit to someone else than soft information.

For example: if you're a loan officer at a small bank looking at a borrower who just barely misses the qualifications for a loan, you can go with your gut. If the loan defaults, you only have to explain it to one person who you see every day & trusts your judgement. But if you're a loan officer at a large bank who makes the same loan, how does your boss's boss tell his boss (who lives in another city) that you bent the rules because the borrower had a firm handshake and looked you in the eye? In that corporate model, the only acceptable excuse is that the numbers said the borrower was a good risk.

Good corporations can overcome this problem to some extent. It takes training though - many people's natural instinct is to manage like a dictator. It takes legitimate leadership training to overcome this instinct.

Some people get the false impression that bad behavior is rewarded in capitalism. But in fact the data shows that firms that empower their employees, train their employees, & are tolerant of failure end up doing better. Good behavior is, in fact, rewarded.

That's what's great about capitalism - when there is a real risk to the jobs of the people at the top, good management behavior is rewarded with continued employment and bad management behavior results in being fired. In socialism, the people at the top won't get fired because they work for the government. In crony capitalism (like Italy, Brazil, Mexico, etc where most of the economy is private firms run by wealthy heirs) the people at the top won't get fired because they also own the company.
08-28-2019 09:13 AM
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Post: #10
RE: Employee Engagement - too much is bad
As a "general" personal (non objective) observation, based on personal (non objective) experience, people who love what they do for work, so much so, that they'd choose to do it a lot more of the time than not doing it (working less than 12 hours a day, and having non-work relationships they enjoy in the evenings and on weekends), ESPECIALLY those who work this way, in a CORPORATE large-employer setting (vs. being self-employed), are rarely good people to choose as friends. They don't know how to be a good friend. For that matter, they really don't have many (if any) below the surface, relationships that could even be mistaken as friendships with others, and won't want them until something happens in their lives that is a crisis, that can't be controlled by working more hours (like maybe a cancer diagnosis, or other major health problem).

It's because getting lost in one's work means one is lost. And finding your calling in a corporate realm is just a different way of labeling the experience of still being a lost soul--you get to classify it has having some greater purpose, when it really is just the same soullessness.

People whose greatest satisfaction comes from working, tend to (as in almost every second of every day) see other people as things to advance or hinder goals, and not people to relate to as fellow human beings with feelings or cares.

As a rule of thumb: The higher up the corporate ladder, the lower on the empathy scale.

Discontentment is not a good thing. There's a lot to be said for "having a life" that's not related in any way to what you do for a living.
(This post was last modified: 08-29-2019 11:52 PM by G-Man.)
08-29-2019 11:44 PM
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RE: Employee Engagement - too much is bad
(08-28-2019 09:13 AM)Captain Bearcat Wrote:  I agree that big data has dehumanized a lot of people's work.

There is a lot of economics literature which shows that big corporations are more data driven because hard information is easier to transmit to someone else than soft information.

For example: if you're a loan officer at a small bank looking at a borrower who just barely misses the qualifications for a loan, you can go with your gut. If the loan defaults, you only have to explain it to one person who you see every day & trusts your judgement. But if you're a loan officer at a large bank who makes the same loan, how does your boss's boss tell his boss (who lives in another city) that you bent the rules because the borrower had a firm handshake and looked you in the eye? In that corporate model, the only acceptable excuse is that the numbers said the borrower was a good risk.

Good corporations can overcome this problem to some extent. It takes training though - many people's natural instinct is to manage like a dictator. It takes legitimate leadership training to overcome this instinct.

Some people get the false impression that bad behavior is rewarded in capitalism. But in fact the data shows that firms that empower their employees, train their employees, & are tolerant of failure end up doing better. Good behavior is, in fact, rewarded.

That's what's great about capitalism - when there is a real risk to the jobs of the people at the top, good management behavior is rewarded with continued employment and bad management behavior results in being fired. In socialism, the people at the top won't get fired because they work for the government. In crony capitalism (like Italy, Brazil, Mexico, etc where most of the economy is private firms run by wealthy heirs) the people at the top won't get fired because they also own the company.

But the people who rise to the top in big companies tend not to be that type of manager. Its a function of large organizations. And that is reflected by the employment data. Large companies as a whole shed jobs. Smaller companies create jobs.
08-30-2019 11:43 AM
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