The Book Corner - Review

One Foot Out the Door by Judith M. Bardwick

One Foot Out the Door: How to Combat the Psychological Recession That’s Alienating Employees and Hurting American Business

By Judith M. Bardwick
AMACOM, 2007

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One Foot out the Door explores the breakdown of commitment and loyalty on the part of the employee to his employer. Traditionally, the unspoken “social contract” between employer and employee acknowledged that employers would take care of the well-being of their employees and, consequently, employees would work hard and contribute to the success of the employer. Job security was understood to be part of the bargain. In this book, Dr. Bardwick considers several factors that, in combination, appear to be causing the demise of the somewhat sacred social contract.

Bardwick cites the development of a true global economy as the primary factor in the disintegration of the social contract. With a global economy comes restructuring, downsizing, rightsizing, and layoffs, she writes, all of which have contributed to the erosion of job security and consequently, the loyalty employees once felt towards their employers.

In addition, as many as two-thirds of U.S. employees are afflicted with what Bardwick calls the “psychological recession,” an emotional state in which people feel extremely vulnerable and afraid for their future. This condition negatively impacts creativity and innovation in business by creating deep pessimism and a general sense of doom that discourages employee from making any extra effort at work—it is futile to believe that any work goals can be accomplished, so why try? It also increases the sense of vulnerability and deepens aversion to risk.

Bad management furthers this psychological recession by alienating employees. This leads to low productivity, retention problems, and increased absenteeism, all of which negatively impact the bottom line, according to Gallup surveys and Corporate Advisory Board data cited by Bardwick. After exploring just how expensive bad management really is, the book transitions to a discussion of positive management practices. Good management values employees and involves them in management decision-making, which results in higher productivity and better communication between employees and customers.

Dr. Bardwick concludes that the way to combat the psychological recession is through psychology—that is, nurturing the relationship between the employer and employee—not economics. She emphasizes the importance of establishing employee commitment and engagement. The effort requires that employers address the needs and interests of employees on an individual basis, and it all begins with the employer’s hiring practices, she writes. Money, on-the-job challenges, empowerment, and an opportunity to engage in significant work are the elements of customization of the employee/employer relationship that are most effective. Although some may quibble with the positions taken by the author, her core arguments are supported by credible studies and data.

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