“The recession has turned some workers into corporate prisoners, stuck in jobs they would otherwise leave” concluded original research by Chiumento. Our work suggests that corporate prisoners are bad for business, damaging both morale and productivity.

Across two research reports we identified a total of eight types of corporate prisoner:

The escaper: Our research suggested one in five UK employees fall into this the largest group. Hard to spot, escapers are planning to leave as soon as there is another job to go to. When the economy picks up and businesses look to seize new opportunities, escapers will move on, threatening business continuity and driving up recruitment costs. Recent research by CIPD suggests our prophecy that staff turnover would soar as the recession ended is coming true…

Institutional prisoners: Usually the product of long service they stay out of fear (of the outside job market) rather than enthusiasm for your business. The want certainty and predictability – so are likely to resist any change that affects the status quo.

The lifer: Lifers stay as the organization provides an environment where the demands are low and work can fit around their wider life. They frequently adopt a “minimum to survive” headset – restricting discretionary behavior and performance.

The economic prisoner: Keen to protect their financial position, economic prisoners can’t afford to move because their pre-recession salary and/or benefits could never be matched elsewhere. Their performance will drop as they stay in a job they no longer want to do but can’t afford not to.

Prisoners of circumstance: They may be stuck with a poor leader, with a need to work locally, or to work limited hours. The danger is that this lack of individual choice can lead to alienation and a decline in performance.

The Daddies (and Mummies): For them, protecting their own position is paramount. They treat knowledge as power and surround themselves with average people to prevent any challenge to their own security. They stifle talent and as a result growth and performance.

Prisoners of conscience: They love what they do, they believe in the cause but their capability and/or ability to change limits what they can contribute. Their belief keeps them loyal, keeps employee engagement high, but has serious implications for organisational performance.

The visiting star: He or she arrived in your safe haven to ride out the economic storm or make a quick jump on the career ladder. They are raising the bar, adding pace and transferring skills. Great change agents they may be – but they regard their relationship with you as just one step on a longer journey.  Their loyalty will last just as long as the job continues to excite them and their package reflects their market worth.

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