A Guide to Dysfunctional Management and the Evil Workplace
August 11th, 2012 by William

The Relentless Race to the Bottom

First I must acknowledge Seth Godin for the title of this post and profound words of wisdom. He coined the phrase in his book: Small is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas. I find the term an accurate description of how many organizations are managed.

You can easily identify an organization caught up in the relentless race to the bottom. They are the organizations that struggle to make their financial goals, and instead of finding innovative ways to cut costs (and build their business) they make their numbers by being in perpetual cost cutting mode. They become obsessed with cost cutting. They are the organizations that engage regularly in what’s called the Reduction in Force (RIF), or to the poor people targeted, the dreaded layoff. These organizations are truly convinced they can shrink their way to greatness.

In my book, Puttin’ Cologne on the Rickshaw I lampoon the modern performance review process; a yearly ritual that most organizations use to supposedly rate their employees performance for the purpose of rewarding them with higher pay. However, as I explain, this process really only serves the requirement for managers to always have a ranked list of employees so that the bottom 10% can be quickly identified come the inevitable lay-off time.

If you ask one of these organizations why they have these regular RIFS, they just might lie and tell you they’re just practicing the Jack Welch philosophy of always identifying and thinning out the bottom 10% of performers. Organizations who subscribe to this philosophy call it upgrading the organization, or searching for the best-of-the-best.

However, the fact is the truth hurts and for many organizations saying this just masks the real intent: cost cutting for survival. These organizations have no clue how to save money by changing [1] the way they do business proactively [2], they only know how to maintain the status quo and cling to survival by having regular RIFs. This practice also serves the goal of maintaining a constant environment of fear amongst their employees, which the typical command and control management needs to maintain its grasp on power.

What everyone should understand and remember is that in these organizations every employee ultimately ends up in the bottom 10%, sooner or later, and becomes a target of the next RIF. If you find yourself in one of these organizations, take heed. These are the organizations that are truly in what Seth Godin calls “the relentless race to the bottom.”

[1] See my earlier post titled: “Think Inside the Box”

[2] See my earlier post titled: “Proactive or Soothsayer?”


7 Responses to “The Relentless Race to the Bottom”
  1. Anonymous says

    Hi, I check your blog daily. Your story-telling style is witty, keep up the good work!

  2. Anonymous says

    This is really good content. I think you are a gifted writer, dedicated to writing quality content. I hope to come back to continue reading and reviewing this information. Thank you for your dedication.

  3. Anonymous says

    It’s a relief to find someone who can explain tihngs so well

  4. Anonymous says

    Great post! Loved it and will come back :)

  5. Anonymous says

    You’re so cool! I don’t suppose I’ve read anything like this before. So nice to discover somebody with some original thoughts on this topic. Really thank you for bringing this up. This website is something that is required on the internet, somebody having originality. Useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

  6. Anonymous says

    Hi, just wanted to say i liked this article. It was practical. Keep on posting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reload Image