Blessed Be The Tie That Binds

The sheer adrenaline-like rush of creating NovaCare in the 1990s created a tight-knit corporate crew of in the company's King of Prussia headquarters. After a change in Medicare regulations in 1999, the whole thing, with 50,000 employees and nearly $2 billion in revenues, collapsed in a matter of months. Pieces were sold off, along with the name, and the headquarters staff lost their jobs. 

Over time, some work friendship erode, but this group stayed tight -- so tight that ten years later, they reunited for a party on a lovely rooftop deck overlooking Independence Mall. You can read in today's Inquirer about how the strength of their network and their friendships helped them get jobs and gave them emotional support. 

I talked to management professors Gayle Porter at Rutgers University in Camden and Stuart M. Schmidt at Temple University about why this group was able to develop such solidarity. 

Schmidt pointed to the excitement of  being part of a growing organization as a key tie -- something that was mentioned by many of the people at the party at CMF Associates on Friday. The pace was so intense, they said, that they came out the experience able to handle anything, or rather multiple things.

Porter said that because they all lost their jobs at about the same time, they didn't have the psychological burden of  survivors' guilt or of layoff remorse that would be common in continuing businesses. The surviving employees feel guilty about having their jobs, when others have lost theirs. Or they may feel scared to befriend their co-workers, fearing that those folks, somehow, have a taint, or that their condition is catching, or even fatal. Those laid off can harbor resentments against their former colleagues or can begin a dangerous process of self denigration. 

At the party, a couple of people talked about a common commitment to a vision of service to the client and support for the caregivers. Ordinarily, I dismiss most  "vision" talk as malarkey, but because these people said it unprompted and because there was no overly-zealous public relations person hovering, I believed them.