Does Recession Equal Performance?

by Michael Haberman on January 20, 2009 · 0 comments

An article in the Career section of the WallStreetJournal Online, entitled It Can Be Done: Landing a Raise in the Recession, talks about what is needed for someone to get an increase in recessionary times. It is going to take understanding your company’s position, understanding your accomplishments, being able to articulate those accomplishments, and most of all it is going to take being a top performer. Take a look at the article for their suggestions on how to handle the situation.

But it got me to thinking. Is this deep recession going to force companies to throw off “entitlement” cultures? Are the days of “everyone gets a raise just for still being here” finally going to be done? Will merit pay actually become based on merit? Perhaps. Companies do want to keep top-performers and top-performers are always in demand. It is much cheaper to reward a top-performer than it is to go hire a replacement for one that left.

So here are a couple thoughts I to which I would like your reaction.

From the individual employee perspective:
  1. Do you know what it takes to be a top-performer in your organization? If you cannot articulate this you may not be one.
  2. Can you show, on paper or spreadsheet, your accomplishments? Have they really contributed to the success of the organization? Much more than average? If no, then you probably aren’t a top-performer.

From the Company perspective:

  1. Do you know what it takes to define top performance? If no, then you are probably not a top-tier company.
  2. Do you know who your top performers are? If not, you are likely to lose them.
  3. If you can identify them, are you prepared to reward them in order to keep them? If not, then you are likely to lose them.
  4. Do you understand the cost associated with losing a top performer? You should.

Now once the recession ends we may return to an “entitlement” mindset, especially if as a result of the EFCA, we have a greater level of unionism. But I hope not. I hope we truly learn the lesson of performance and merit that are being thrust on us by this recession.

What do you think?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael D. Haberman, SPHR January 20, 2009 at 11:43 am

This reaction is from a reader, Jim Ford, “I’ll take the opposing view and say I don’t think it will happen because “of” the current threat of unionization based on EFCA. If it’s in any way possible to give raises, I think managements view will be not to go away from the norm and rock the boat during a time when union activity looks to rise. If EFCA didn’t look to be passed soon it might be different, but I don’t think so. At a minimum, management will take a wait and see approach concerning what is going to happen with the new administration.

Just my $.02 worth.


Thanks for the comment Jim.


Wally Bock January 21, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.

Wally Bock


Hayli @ RiseSmart February 4, 2009 at 10:20 am

I have a real-life example of this. A colleague and I, both female, were two of the hardest working employees in the office, yet upon being hired, made less money with fewer vacation days than our equally-experienced male colleague.

Through the course of this discussion, the male colleague revealed all he did was ask. I think even high-performing employees need to understand they have to outline their (preferably quantifiable) contributions on paper, be willing to defend and negotiate their position, be respectful and just ask. We took his advice and both landed big salary increases.


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