Downturn sees rise in corporate prisoners

The recession has forced a lot of people to stay put in their jobs, even if they don't like them.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

More people are stuck in jobs they would otherwise leave as a result of the downturn, according to talent consultancy Chiumento. No great surprise there, we hear you say. But the issue is that these ‘corporate prisoners’ (as they’ve been dramatically dubbed) could be proving detrimental to your business: the research found that harbouring such people within your organisation can hamper productivity and morale. Plus they’ll look funny showing up to meetings in orange boiler suits...

The paper’s author split these so-called prisoners up into six groups. The largest of these was ‘the escapers’, which apparently includes about 20% of employees: when a new job opportunity presents itself, these people will seize it with both hands and move on as soon as possible. Now obviously this isn’t great for employers, since it’s expensive and time-consuming to replace them. On the other hand it’s surely just a fact of life that employees will move on if better opportunities arise. In fact, we’re surprised this percentage isn’t higher.

Next up are the ‘visiting stars’, who are just using your company to boost their CV before moving onto bigger things after the recession. The key with these people is to squeeze the most out of them while you can, and start preparing for their departure in advance.

Others are more likely to stay put. As well as ‘economic prisoners’ (who figure that they won’t get such a generous pay deal anywhere else), Chiumento suggests there are also ‘prisoners of circumstance’ – over 10% of people apparently fall into this category, which covers people who are stuck in their job because they need to work locally or to do particular hours. We suspect this is probably a common issue, and it’s not necessarily a good thing for businesses as it means workers are unlikely to be as productive as they could be.

Happily, loyalty hasn't entirely gone out of fashion. Just over 4% of those questioned were apparently ‘prisoners of conscience’ – they stay with the company out of loyalty and because they enjoy their job, even though in some cases they have reached the limits of their abilities. But it looks as though those truly in it for the long-haul are becoming a rare breed – just 3% claimed to be ‘lifers’.

Essentially this is just a fancy way to make the point that employees tend to cover the full spectrum of engagement: some love the company and are keen to stay, others don’t like it much and will leave if they get a better offer. The better companies will have a lot more of the former than the latter – after all, a happy workforce is a more productive workforce...


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Downturn sees rise in corporate prisoners

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