Once the words of our founding forefathers, today, “We the People” has taken on a completely different meaning in my life. In lieu of the recent “Occupy” activities that have been occurring, it really begins to showcase how powerful people, when united around a collective effort, can actually be.
While some of these activities were much before my time, including the Berkeley “sit ins” and equal rights marches for African Americans, it laid the foundation for what we are witnessing today – not just in America, but also all over the world. Ironically, it never surprises me how history has a way of repeating itself!
Just a few months ago, we were watching chaos erupt in Egypt because people were tired of the oppression they had been forced to live with for decades whereas their former leader (Hosni Mubrak) was living a wonderful life having amassed billions in wealth. I recall specifically thinking when watching the activity on the news, “I wonder which country will be next now that people realize they don’t have to tolerate this behavior anymore?” Well, the ‘next’ country just so happened to be right next door – Libya. Once again, people united to not only overthrow Gaddafi and his tyrannical regime, but also set an extreme example of taking his life in the name of freedom.
Closer to home – you cannot turn on the TV today without hearing about the “Occupy” movements across the country – from New York to Oakland. While some of this, and I say this with all due respect, doesn’t make complete sense to me, I do appreciate the fact that we live in a great country where people are allowed to voice their opinion for their cause.
It’s an interesting dichotomy – on one hand; people need to conform to certain “agreed upon or understood” social and political rules in order to maintain a civilized society. However, now that people are re-discovering their power to disrupt that same civilized society through collective movement, who’s to say that, you won’t see an activity like “Occupy” on a semi-regular basis? Subsequently, these types of activities would actually result in tangible economic losses (e.g. people are fed up, they stop working, products are no longer produced / sold, company doesn’t make money, company can’t afford employees, company does layoffs, unemployment goes up, social divide increases, etc.) for both industry and country. Like I said… an interesting dichotomy.
Now, what I’m wondering is when this will happen with critical mass in Corporate America? Granted, we have witnessed the occasional ‘strike’ and have already seen out lash at Wall Street (which is the basis for the original Occupy movements in New York) but when will it actually erupt in a company? Will we see the day when employees in a large organization decide they don’t like certain things like, pay discrepancy between those actually doing the work and the top brass, and just say enough is enough? While I can’t say this will happen with certainty, I can say that if it were to happen, it probably wouldn’t surprise me.
So what would you do if you were the CEO of a company with, let’s ay 100+ employees or the CEO of a multinational with 100,000+ employees? Well – I know what I would do. I would be worried about an “occupy” movement happening in my organization potentially wreaking irreparable damage. Furthermore, while I believe many companies do place an emphasis on their employee base, I would seriously examine what that means and really focus on employees first. While you can’t possibly cover every scenario, ensuring that a majority of your employees are taken care of, could go a long way to either mitigating or minimizing such an event.
We’ll have to wait to see how these movements unfold but one thing is implicitly clear, the people have re-discovered their voice and their power. I just hope the “people” remember that with great power comes great responsibility.