Friday, 2 October 2009

What sort of Corporate Prisoner are you?

A recent report by talent consultancy Chiumento has concluded that the recession is forcing a lot of people to stay put in their jobs, even if they don't like them. Rather dramatically, the report tags these people as “Corporate Prisoners.”

A Corporate Prisoner is someone who stays with an organisation without being fully engaged. Their personal aspirations and needs are no longer aligned with those of their employer. Rather than move on to a new role or new organisation, the Corporate Prisoner stays. Some out of choice – some for reasons beyond their control.

Can you spot yourself here?

Have little or no desire to stay but can’t afford to leave until there’s another job to go to. Already plotting how to escape and just waiting for the opportunity.

Economic prisoners
Want to move on but can’t afford the price of doing so. Stand to lose far too much in monetary terms to even think about leaving

Going nowhere – at least not any time soon. The antithesis of Escapers, they have little or no career ambition and have settled down in a role that is well within their capability while meeting their basic economic needs.

Prisoners of Conscience
Really believe in what the organisation does. It is why they joined and why they stay. Often drawn to not-for profit organisation and public sector. The problem is that their belief in the organisation can outweigh their capability

Prisoners of circumstance
Individuals with the desire to both stay and perform – but ability to do so is compromised by external factors. May have been unable to access training or development – or are constrained to working particular patterns in specific locations.

Visiting stars
Individuals who join to meet an immediate need – often economic – but with no intention of staying longer than necessary. Some may be workers looking for a safe haven to shelter from the economic storm.

Chiumento Green Paper: 'Productivity sapped by dispirited employees'

  • What are the implications of this report for an organisation’s career management strategy
  • Is it reasonable for organisations to categorise employees using such terminology (either formally or informally)?
  • How could such information be of use to organisations selecting individuals for redundancy or redeployment?
  • Has this report identified a new phenomenon, or have there always been such individuals in organisations?
  • What sort of “prisoner” would organisations prefer: one who has no desire to leave, but doesn’t have the ability to perform, or one who wishes to leave but is an excellent performer?


  1. There is no new phenomenon here. The degree to which an employee is engaged with their employer is something that organisations have been looking at for a number of years. However, focusing on an individual’s engagement puts the focus on the employee whereas using the term ‘prisoner’ implies that an organisation is some form of institution that actively prevents escape. Not sure if that’s a healthy way to look at things!

    Normally you would not only look at an individual’s engagement with the organisation they work for but also they engagement with their role – however this doesn’t come through in the categories that Chiumento have identified.

    But in my fantasy world if I were an employer then I would much rather have a team of excellent performers even if they wished to leave - as long as they were still performing within their role. But then, in my fantasy world life would be so fantastic that no-one would ever want to leave me!!

    Dream on!


  2. The category of prisoner that I found most interesting was that of Prisoner of Conscience, as it highlights that it's possible to have an employee who is highly motivated (because of the organisation that he works for) but underperforming. Probably mainly a problem in the Charitable/Not-For-Profit Sector and overall Public Service environment. Can't be an easy situation to deal with