How to Keep Rolling after the Recession Stops Rocking

By Eric Chester, founder and president of Generation Why, Inc., a training and consulting firm offering insights into managing today’s generation.

Quid pro quo (from the Latin meaning “something for something”) is a commonly used term in business negotiations. It’s also the foundation of every employer/employee relationship.

To illustrate, let’s say the quid represents the dollars an employer is willing to part with in exchange for labor they need to operate their business. The quo then represents the amount of work an individual agrees to provide in exchange for their services. In this equation, the term “in exchange for” is the pro, so quid pro quo simply translates to “money in exchange for work.”

Our economy serves as the fulcrum of the employment teeter-totter. When the economy is brisk, it’s often marked by a labor shortage forcing employers to ante up more quid for the quo they need. When the economy falters, job seekers outnumber opportunities enabling employers to increase the quo for their quid, or to cut back on the quid without affecting the quo they’re receiving.

Things stay in balance as long as both parties feel they are getting their needs met. However, if the employer feels they aren’t receiving sufficient quo for the quid they are dolling out, or the employee feels like they aren’t getting enough quid for all their hard quo, the equilibrium is compromised.

An unbalanced quid pro quo is not the only reason an employment relationship turns sour, but it’s certainly the most common.

The tumultuous unemployment, underemployment, and rampant turnover that now exists in the workplace—especially among generation Y—is a clear indication that the quid pro quo is out-of-kilter. And while it would be convenient to lay it at the feet of this dreadful recession, you’d be ahead of the pack to recall the famed campaign strategy of the Clinton era, tweak it a bit, and say to yourself, “It’s not just the economy, stupid.”

Even in this climate, young job seekers can still find jobs, can still get promoted, and can still earn higher wages and improved benefits by a continual focus on improving their quo. Nothing will slow the advancement of a worker who is on a perpetual mission to increase their value to an employer by learning new skills, by improving their existing skill set, and by working harder and more effectively and efficiently each and every day.

Conversely, when an employee no longer seeks to improve their quo, or worse yet—when they feel that they are not getting sufficient quid and decide to intentionally withhold or withdraw quo to any degree, they are doing so at their own peril. While they may experience temporary gain due to a burgeoning labor market, overall, their long-term employment value suffers a hit.

Likewise, an employer who is always seeking to improve their quid (i.e. what they offer their people in the way of wages, perks, job promotions, benefits, training, culture, etc.) is going to find it much easier to attract—and retain—the very best quo in this and every employment market, regardless of the economic climate.

Here’s why…

An employer’s quid used to be a confidential matter between they and their recruits. However, thanks to social media and the amazing connectedness of today’s teens and young adults, this is no longer a secret.  Your employment brand is every bit as important as your consumer brand to your longevity, and it’s ‘out there’ on display for all available job seekers to see and share.

Don’t allow a temporary surge in applications to cause you to lose your focus on how you treat your people. Your quid matters, and it can be the deciding factor in how your organization stacks up against your competitors.

Eric Chester has been the keynote speaker for more than 300 major business conferences and conventions, and is the author of Getting Them to Give a Damn: How to Get Your Front Line to Care about Your Bottom Line. To learn more, visit

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