Workers told they should just be thankful they have a job

Nothing can motivate an employee like reminding one that they’re entirely replaceable.

You’ve probably read that in one of those management books that reveal the secrets of business success.

No? Some manager at PermaCorp Group of Companies in Edmonton must have, judging by the bulletin board, a picture of which is racing across the social media, the CBC reports.

The note says:

Why you should be thankful for your job here at PermaCorp:

1. Our owners have wisely diversified the products and services that we offer in order to create multiple streams of income. This makes us relatively stable because we aren’t relying on only one business sector to bring in money. i.e. only oil or only residential

2. There are tens of thousands of people unemployed in Alberta right now.

3. Since Christmas I regularly come to work and find hundreds of resumes in my inbox. Sometimes more than one thousand. If I need to find another employee it is so easy. Be thankful that you are one of the lucky ones that already work here!

The company posted a response yesterday on its Facebook page.

In recent weeks, a image of a message written on a whiteboard at PermaCorp has been shared. We would like to officially address this message:

PermaCorp Group of Companies was founded in 2000, since that time our greatest asset has been our employees. We are investing heavily in our employees through diversification of projects to encourage personal growth and long term job stability for all of our employees. We truly believe our employees are our greatest asset, especially with the current economic status of Alberta.

The image in the social media post titled “Why you should be thankful for your job here at PermaCorp” was issued without management consent and was promptly removed. Issues related to that message have been handled internally. The message sent does not align with our core values of personal growth and diversity. Due to the economic conditions in Alberta, PermaCorp, like most companies in Alberta has been significantly impacted. We are continuing to strategically enter new markets to ensure long term job security. We hold our team to the highest regard and consider each of them invaluable to the daily and long term operations at PermaCorp.

PermaCorp as a whole is working together to pull through the economic downturn. With the most important objective being the protection and creation of jobs. A strong focus on diversification is allowing us to ensure job security and continue to build on the excellence of the PermaCorp team.

Communications Director & Management

It hasn’t done much to alleviate the backlash against the “you should just be thankful you have a job” culture.

A management consultant told the CBC today that the culture and message is a form of workplace bullying.

“Employees are in a tough situation, because if they react it to it, they get bullied more, or if they don’t react, then they have to abide by it,” Margot Ross-Graham said.

In the end, she says, the attitude hurts the company because good people will leave.

“They may not be able to leave the organization right now because of the environment that we’re in, but once the economy changes, those individuals with really fantastic skills … won’t stick around with that organization,” she said.

“We might not see the backlash today, but we will.”

  • Al

    That is one stellar non-apology. Well done, PermaCorp.

  • Khatti

    The career of someone in PermaCorp’s management just hit the skids.

  • Jeff

    The real lesson is at the end of the article, have some skills that make you competitive so when a company tries to suggest that you should be “thankful for having a job” you can be thankful for having a job working for another employer.

    I do like how the name of the company is PermaCorp, I’m pretty sure that’s the EXACT name a Dilbert comic would have for a company with this particular attitude toward its employees.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Wow, they sound as bad as that Star Tribune editorial a few years ago.

  • Mike Worcester

    Last time I checked, managers are replaceable also.

    • Khatti

      Indeed. You wonder if this is how this screw-up got started: the manager getting leaned on for something by higher-ups, and deciding the by-product should roll down hill.

  • Bridget L.

    I remember in early 2009 after I was hired on to Target from a seasonal position how often I heard I was lucky to have a job. Yes, at the time, it was fortunate but who are you to tell how I should feel about where I am employed. My feathers were mightily ruffled every time, and it happened more often than you would think. It just feels so disingenuous when a stranger says it to you. And I can only imagine how I would react were an employer to say it to me. It’s almost like a dare, a dare to go and work somewhere else, like you don’t have a choice.

    • Much of this, it seems to me, stems from the use of the term “job creators” around 2008, which helped solidify this notion that employers are engaged in some sort of charitable act by providing jobs, and not some relationship in which the people working are actively making money for that boss and are trading their creativity, talent, and life energy in exchange for a very small slice of the wealth they’re creating.

      • Jeff

        The rhetoric from Obama didn’t help the situation either, “you didn’t build that” did disrespect business owners and suggested that running a business is easy and anyone could do it very easily. There’s a problem from workers too, I see it with this $15/hour minimum wage movement. What that sort of mentality will do is create much more automation in our lives much sooner than it would otherwise. We need to focus our energy on giving people skills to compete in the marketplace instead of suggesting the marketplace should give you a job regardless of your actual skills.

        • The “you didn’t build that” stuff is the textbook example of out of context. But yeah, leaving out “on your own” (he’d invoked it earlier) played right into the way the political campaigns are run. Of course, nowadays with today’s tone of political campaign, that tactic seems quaint.

          There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)

          If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

          The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

          So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President — because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.

          • Jeff

            But the context is that he’s suggesting that business owners aren’t really contributing, that they need to pay MORE…that they didn’t really create their businesses and had all sorts of help (some maybe did, some might have build it from the ground up)…but real context is that Obama was saying business owners aren’t paying taxes and aren’t contributing to the roads and bridges. That flies in the face of facts where 47% (at that time) of people weren’t paying federal income taxes and essentially “not contributing” to basic functions of government…it’s pretty offensive for the president to suggest that business owners weren’t also contributing to society by providing employment and paying LOTS of taxes.

            If Obama wanted to be in context he should have stated it more clearly, “yes, I know you business owners provide lots of things to society but I’m going to ask for a bit more from you”, instead we got “you didn’t build that”. Even if he was clear about it, that’s still pretty offensive…asking for more from the group of people contributing the most as a percentage of the population to give up even more of their hard earned money.

          • I think he was pretty clear that he was basically saying it takes a village to raise a business.

          • Jeff

            Sure, that’s seems to be his point but what was the legislation he was pushing for by making that statement, more taxes for businesses or business owners…right? Why would he say “you didn’t build that” unless he was doing it to push for legislation and rally up support for higher taxes…which he did eventually get a higher tax rate on the upper bracket. We should keep the context within the context of actual legislation he was trying to pass at that time. He literally tried to attack business owners to make them a target for tax increases…still offensive for business owners.

            Just be aware that a politician doesn’t just have a speech for that moment on that topic, when you hear a politician ask yourself…what is the politician’s goal? Sure, he might have a message that doesn’t “sound bad”…it takes a village to raise a business for example….but when a little bit of truth pops out like “you didn’t build that” we should listen. Why would he say something like that? Well of course, he has to generate some animosity towards business owners in order for it to be acceptable to increase business owners’ taxes…hence we get the line “you didn’t build that” which was consistent with his “it takes a village” narrative but it also pushes the crowd to think “yeah, you didn’t build that, we are also entitled to some of your hard work and money”. Just remember politicians play to their crowds and a little truth might come out and let us know what he really thinks about business owners…and they let us know his goals of raising taxes, which he did accomplish.

          • jon

            You mean like when Mitt Romney threw out that 47% statistic that you also used earlier?

            One that makes it seem pretty clear that you think more individuals should be paying income tax?

            I’m sure you are aware that the labor participation rate at the time was ~65.5% (and has dropped since) and we wouldn’t expect people who are not working to be paying income tax on money they aren’t making… (you might have heard the labor participation rate referred to as “real unemployment.”)

            So 47% of people don’t pay income tax but 34.5% of people don’t have jobs so ~12% of working poor people who aren’t paying income tax at that time… Notice that is NOT the number you cited, nor is it what Mitt Romney cited… What the agenda there… More people need to pay income tax on… social security income? Capital gains? I’m pretty sure Romney wanted to get rid of the capital gains tax… so what money does he want to take from these 47% of people to fund the government?

            I’m just saying, calling out Obama as being offensive to business owners for wanting to increase taxes on corporations (who at the time were paying an effective tax rate of ~20%) while the other side (and possibly yourself, given you repeated their talking points) is calling for an increase in taxes on the poor and elderly (the 47%) might not be the best argument to make. There are a lot more elderly and poor than there are corporations, and while their “free speech” (read money) might not be as moving to politicians in the short term, their votes tend to be a more long term solution. At least until corporate personhood extends to the point where they can vote…

          • Jeff

            First, I think it was horrible how Romney attempted to walk back the 47% number, he should have held it up and reminded everyone how that number was closer to 15-20% under Reagan. We need to reform the tax code so we have fewer loopholes and lower rates so more people contribute. I’ll be honest, I have no idea where you’re getting your numbers but I’ve verified the 15-20% value under Reagan here you go:


            Romney should have suggested we need more people working and we need a stronger economy with people getting good, middle-class income jobs.

            Seriously, I’m going to need a reference for that 34.5% number because the 47% of people who don’t pay federal income taxes ONLY includes people who file a federal return, I’m not sure why people without jobs would even bother filing a federal return (i.e. children). You seem confused about that. I brought up the 47% number to make the analogy to Obama’s “you didn’t build that”…the 47% number SHOULD be offensive since we have had historical values around 20% and we should work to increase wages and offer more people good jobs…the 47% should be downright angry and motivated into trying to get into the 53% category as well as voting out politicians attempting to buy their vote with government benefits.

          • Khatti

            “There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back.”

            I don’t know about the “wanting to give back” thing, but I’ve always assumed that the tech geeks and the computer geeks were also science fiction geeks. All of us science fiction people are aware of distopia. We may not think any particular scenario we read is a likely distopia, but the concept is real to us.I think most of the tech people them know that no amount of money is going to make living in a Soylent Green society a good thing. Trying to avoid a distopia may be worth paying some extra taxes.

          • jon

            Sci-fi isn’t all about dystopian societies.
            Star Trek paints earth as fairly utopian.
            Niven’s ringworld series has a tendency to paint earth as a utopian society, though other places are kind of messed up.
            Even Asimov tends to paint out utopian societies that just have minor quirks (because without some conflict a story just gets boring). I, robot series paints earth as fairly utopian, with the exception of robot slaves (which has some context given the state of the civil rights movement at the time). Foundation series has the collapse of a utopian society and the replacement of that with another utopian society (because what is a story without some source of conflict)

            Sci-fi fans who go out and do something are generally shooting for more Star Trek and less Fahrenheit 451.

          • Khatti

            I didn’t claim it was. I was just pointing out that people like the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of the world were most likely sci-fi freaks, or at least better acquainted with the genre than they average Billionaire, and one of those traditions is the dystopia tradition. The nature of that particular tradition is that it makes you cautious and thoughtful–or should.

  • UnanimousCowherd

    I’m skeptical about the line “I regularly come to work and find hundreds of resumes in my inbox. Sometimes more than one thousand.” Really? Alberta’s unemployment rate is around 6%. That’s about the point where most companies can’t find qualified workers.

  • Ben

    “…the most important objective being the protection and creation of jobs.” I don’t believe that for a second.

  • joetron2030

    I was unable to take anything seriously after reading “owner’s”.

    EDIT: “PermaCorp” reads like the name for a fictional company.

    • Mike Worcester

      I noticed that also. Apparently understanding rudimentary rules of punctuation is not a requirement for their management.

  • Jerry

    The big story is that the comments counter appears to work again, although in a slightly different form. But whatever, I’ll take it.

    • Jack

      All is right in the News Cut world again.

    • I noticed this as well…and with a larger font than before…

    • Jeff

      Tears of joy!

  • MelO

    I’ve experienced this at two places of employment and both times it left a sour taste with those involved. Once was an employee saying it in a room with hundreds of other employees…a non-people leader so the instance gets a pass. However, the other was a management organized event – rooms of employees basically being told to close your eyes and imagine you have no job ….so be thankful. This is a blatant example of exceedingly poor leadership where clearly employees dissatisfaction was being heard but yet they chose not to listen and make an already failing situation worse. An example of a ‘best place to work’ that took a downhill slide and, rather than acknowledging and fixing the issues, they took the $&#(!* road. Inevitably what followed was a loss of it’s best and most tenured, primarily recruited to other companies who recognized the valuable skills the failing morale company taught them and the slippery slope of failed employee appreciation lead to failures in the ability to supply quality customer support and so on and so forth down that slope. Regretably, many employees do not recognize their value. Repeat after me: “I work at “this company. I work for *insert your name*.” An employee may be replaceable but so is an unappreciative employer. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date!