Dear valued colleague,
I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you are not being fired (yet!). The bad news is you are being invited to work for a month for free. It is voluntary but I need to tell you, the company is in bad shape and well, it’s all hands to the pumps when the ship is sinking.
The Caring Management
This is the gist of the invitation given by British Airways to its staff. The airline has recorded the largest financial losses in its history, passenger numbers are down, competition is intense and things are not getting any better. BA’s invitation to its staff has prompted the question in offices around the world: how far would we go to protect our jobs, help our companies and ultimately – would we work for free?
That’s right – turn up, do your eight hours, go home and get no pay check for it. To be fair, British Airways makes clear the scheme is voluntary. There is no pressure and those who do this can spread the loss of wages over six months to ease the pain.
When I first heard this I bristled. It felt wrong. It was against the natural order of things. We, the workers do the work while you, the management, pay us money. That is how it’s always been.
Of course ‘The Great Recession’ has re-written the rules that we had taken for granted (such as banks behaving like banks not casinos).
In trying to come to terms with such a novel concept as working for free, I decided to follow the Kubler Ross “Five Stages of Grief normally used in times of bereavement and other life-defining and changing moment.
Firstly there is denial – surely they can’t be asking me to do this? We are a big company, and yes, we made a loss, but asking me to work for free? There must be some mistake!
This rapidly moves onto anger. After that there is good old fashioned bargaining. And eventually it won’t be long before the reality of the situation becomes clear, but you still haven’t quite come to terms with it, so depression sets in.
Then the final stage arrives. By now we have seen the recession taking its toll. Family and friends have lost jobs elsewhere and there can be no doubt we are in exceptional times. Acceptance has arrived.
This is without doubt the position at British Airways where the Chief Executive himself is working next month for no pay. Willie Walsh has said he has never seen it as bad as this, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. These are desperate times which need desperate measures. So we all do what we can and yes – if that involves doing the unthinkable, we work for free.
Will you play your part? Would you work for free?
Richard Questis a CNN anchor and correspondent who reports on business travel issues. Tune in to CNN International each weekday at 9 pm to catch Richard’s show, “Quest Means Business. He can be reached at Quest@cnn.com.