on companies that plan on employee burnout

at the end of this piece are excerpts from two articles i’ve read in the last couple of months. they both point to a phenomenon whereby companies essentially plan on a particular employee burnout rate. i think that’s a shitty thing.

i first noticed this trend among my friends who left undergrad and went to work in finance (mostly at hedge funds) or management consulting (bcg, kpmg, mckinsey, etc.). almost everyone worked at their firm for two years and then moved on. the verbalized reasons were different for each of them, but i definitely noticed a consistency in the two year tenure. trends like this almost always point to deeper structural or systemic factors. 

i don’t think there’s anything wrong with knowing at what rate people turnover from your company. i do think there’s something wrong when you plan on a particularly high churn rate. i also think it’s a problem when you know that rate, do nothing to lower it, and use it as a cornerstone of your business.

the problem with that is that it treats people like cogs. people are not cogs. industrialization and the mechanization of labor has created this myth and it’s still wreaking havoc today. mechanistic design for tools (bikes, factory machines, computers) has allowed humanity a massive number of quality of life improvements. however, applying that same thinking to people in organizations and societies i think is fundamentally wrong. a cog or spring in a watch is easily replaced, but a person in a role is unique. people bring their own experiences, knowledge, identity, and perspective to everything they do. building systems as if two people are able to do a particular task the same is not just wrong, it’s actually a sub-optimization.

more on that in the next post…

quotes that inspired this post: