Saturday, 19 January 2008

The Covenant

THESE days, it is difficult to turn on the television in Britain and not hear anything to do with gang violence.

Just this morning when I was getting ready to work, I was greeted with the heartbreaking scene of a widow crying to reporters outside the courthouse where her husband’s teenage murderers had just been sentenced for their crime. In some areas, things are supposed to have gone so bad that a number of schools have had to resort to American-type screenings for schoolchildren entering the premises, looking into their schoolbags for everything from knives, guns and an assorted array of deadly weaponry.

From all indications, it seems that the tendency for youths to join gangs has been on the uptrend, alarming authorities in the country, who appear to be helpless to stop the phenomenon.

In one informative program that I saw on the issue recently, one commentator expressed a view that seemed to me to hit the nail right on the head vis-à-vis the reason for the uptrend.

He said that youths turn to gangs as a proxy for the sense of belonging and affiliation that they do not receive in their own families.This, in a sense, is very true.

In modern day Britain, in most of the Western world, and indeed even in growing economies like the Philippines, families are becoming more and more fragmented. Either because of changing family values, the pressures of work or a combination of any of the other stresses of modern-day living, the family is losing its cohesion. Even in matters of discipline, parents have now outsourced this to schools and state authorities, conveniently blaming everyone but themselves for the problem.

In a perverse sense, one can understand why youths are drawn to their gang affiliations. Albeit in a very distorted sense, gang members have a deep sense of unwavering loyalty to each other, pledging total allegiance to the group, whatever the consequences. More than anything else, it is the sense of loyalty for each other that bind them together, and make gang life so attractive for disenchanted young people.

Commercial organizations can learn from this in a very significant way — not the violence mind you, but the impact that the perception of total loyalty has in terms of galvanizing groups into action.

Many of today’s organizations have lost the loyalty of their employees, because they have been unable to provide the assurance of total loyalty to their staff. Just as respect begets respect, loyalty to employees begets loyalty from employees.

Sadly, these days this is no longer the case.

As Scott Adams’ cartoon character Dilbert says in a famous cartoon, employees’ are no longer the company’s greatest resource. They are now seventh, right behind carbon paper and paper clips.

Behind the gallows humor is a painful truth. Too often, companies do what they do without regard for the potential impact these decisions may have on their employees.

Information about important and life changing situations like mass layoffs, business closures and job redundancies are kept well away from employees until after it is too late, rendering them unable to take the necessary steps to look after themselves.

Is it any wonder then that in today’s climate, employee loyalty has become a scare commodity to come by?

Published in The Sun Star Daily, Saturday, January 19, 2008

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