Show Me the Meaning

March 22, 2012
“Show me the money.” It’s a now infamous line, thanks to Cuba Gooding and a little movie called Jerry Maguire. And let’s be honest: Gooding’s character, Rod Tidwell, was on to something. Money is important. It enables us to pay our mortgages, provide for our children, put food on our tables and fill our lives with the activities and possessions we care about.But money isn’t the only thing that matters, which is why so many of us are seeking job experiences that offer something more. Jerry Maguire understood this better than anyone – remember his mission statement?It’s about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: once the basics are provided for – i.e., a living wage – we’re looking for something deeper. Fulfillment. Purpose. The opportunity to grow. These are the intangibles money can’t provide, and without them, our lives aren’t as rich and full as they could be.Is this why former Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith was willing to blow up his entire career in spectacular fashion in The New York Times last week? A 12-year veteran of the storied investment house, Smith penned a searing op-ed accusing his former employer of losing sight of its mission – to serve its customers. And while I’m sure Smith was extremely well-compensated at Goldman Sachs, apparently the money wasn’t enough to quiet his inner voice telling him that he wanted more from his career.It’s been interesting to read the numerous articles that surfaced rapidly after Smith’s op-ed. Many people have accused him of being opportunistic and motivated by the lure of a lucrative reality TV show or book deal. This may be true, although Smith has yet to cash in on his 15 minutes of fame since his dramatic resignation.The truth is rarely in shades of black and white, so Smith’s motives could be numerous. However, what struck me about the op-ed was the deep sense of disillusionment he expressed with his employer. Why should it surprise us that this would cause someone to want to quit his job?After all, this is why Brilliant Ink exists. Our mission is to help our clients inspire their people to do their best work. We believe in this mission because we can all relate to the Greg Smiths of the world in our own ways. We’ve all lost our work mojo at one point – enough to drive us to quit our jobs and eventually land here.As with many things, I believe communication disconnects contributed to the demise of Mr. Smith’s relationship with Goldman Sachs. If you visit the Goldman Sachs website today, you’ll see that the front page touts their support of small businesses, disabled veterans and women in need. I’m sure they’re doing lots of great work, and I’m sure plenty of employees and senior leaders are passionate about serving Goldman Sachs customers. Sadly, this isn’t the experience Smith says he had toward the end of his career.In the end, it doesn’t really matter what’s real and what’s not. What matters is that Smith, an employee who was apparently good enough to stick around for 12 years, became disillusioned enough to quit in dramatic fashion. And for every employee willing to set fire to his career with a blow torch, there are probably countless others who are quietly seething, surfing the internet for their next career opportunity and contributing less and less at work.Don’t let them seethe. Don’t let them drag your company name through the mud and your stock price down. If your culture is broken or if communications disconnects are killing employee mojo, fix it. Now.
Alison Harrison

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