Published here April 2014


Musings Index

Knowing Your People: Loyalty, Value and Coercion

In preparing Guest papers, it is often worthwhile exploring the Guest Author's background, not just for the record, but also for useful elaboration of the paper. In discussions with Constantine Kortesis, author of this month's companion paper Know Your People: Thoughts related to MBTI, we suspected an interesting career significantly different from our own. So we asked him this question: "Overall, would you say that you have enjoyed your career? Or, let's say, would you do the same all over again?"

We got this surprising answer. Here is what Constantine had to say.


What I have come to learn is that people are generally more loyal to their leaders than the other way around. Perhaps this is because, in our society, the leaders tend to have the upper hand when in comes to compensation. Most of the job-hopping that I have seen in the past 20 years has been at the executive levels. In the past two decades, Middle managers and "working" people have not been able to move easily from one employer to another.

Today, with historically high levels of unemployment, most workers who have jobs are not likely to leave unless their bosses are abusive or if the workers suspect that downsizing is about to happen. When workers suspect that they will arbitrarily lose their jobs, they start looking to beat their competitors to whatever other work may be available.

As a professional manufacturing engineer I know the value of machinery, robotics, automation and technology. However, I still believe that I have never developed a machine or process that is more valuable than a good worker. Good workers always seem to come up with ways to improve the machinery, the processes and systems. Workers possess what Dr. W. Edwards Deming called "profound knowledge" about their work, processes and tasks.

No CEO, no manager, no engineer or other genius can possess the profound knowledge of any worker who is currently performing his tasks. The exception is when the CEO, manager, engineer, etc. is performing exactly the same task - a condition that by design - almost never happens.

Corporations readily pay huge compensation to potentially disloyal executives, ostensibly to keep them from leaving. They even provide lavish "golden parachutes" for those who do leave. Yet, they leave, nevertheless. The leaders of those same corporations are never eager to give out pay increases to retain their front-line workers that actually produce the goods and services that are the lifeblood of their companies.

Circa 1996, General Motors issued an undocumented edict to all of its suppliers. It ostensibly urged that no supplier could hire any employee of General Motors or of any GM's other suppliers without the formal consent of a GM executive vice president and the consent of executive vice presidents of the affected suppliers. GM did this to stop job-hopping and related pay/benefits increases among its suppliers and helped GM in its efforts to force annual price reductions from its suppliers.

The penalty for violations was that GM would drop its contracts with offending suppliers. This practice was clearly a violation of the spirit of anti-trust legislation and resulted in a form of illegal indentured servitude for the affected workers. Yet, no supplier was willing to take GM to court over this.

For workers who were fired by their employers, the other firms were allowed to hire them without GM's executive consent. If workers were willing to quit their jobs and wait a year and a day, other firms were allowed to hire them. If the restriction had been for more than a year and a day, the Michigan State Attorney General would, most likely, have stepped in on the grounds of indentured servitude and constraint of trade.

This is not pertinent to the discussion about Myers-Briggs, but I thought that you might be interested.

Constantine Kortesis, CMfgE, PMP, MSOM
Past Chairman, Society of Manufacturing Engineers,
Chapters One and 235"

Yes, Indeed. We found that most interesting.

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