Out-of-touch | It'll take more than a hollow apology for Tim Gurner to master leadership

It'll take more than a hollow apology for Tim Gurner to master leadership

Tim Gurner, one of Australia's richest men, recently made headlines for suggesting that unemployment should increase to ‘remind workers of their place’ in the world.

While his remarks may have seemed laughable if they weren't so dangerous, the fact that some people actually support his views is deeply concerning.

Gurner's comments came during a property summit, where he argued that the COVID-19 pandemic had negatively impacted employees' attitudes and work ethics, particularly in the construction sector.

His proposed solution? Increase Australia's already low unemployment rate by 40-50%, resulting in more than 200,000 people losing their jobs. His reasoning was that employees needed a harsh reminder that they work for their employers, not the other way around.

However, Gurner's comments were met with widespread backlash and condemnation, not just from the public but also from Australian MPs. Labour MP Jerome Laxale likened his remarks to something a cartoon supervillain would say, while Liberal MP Keith Wolahan emphasised the real-life consequences of job losses, such as people ending up on the streets and reliant on food banks.

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Even US lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chimed in, highlighting the growing income disparity between CEOs and workers. Gurner's assertion that employees have become accustomed to earning the same amount while not putting in the same hours conveniently ignores the fact that many workers are already stretched thin, juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet.

As a result, the boss was forced to make a public apology, which directly flew in the face of his earlier statements. Yet, a hollow apology isn’t enough to truly unpick the deeply misguided beliefs that he holds.

What makes Gurner's comments all the more troubling is that they reflect a broader shift in attitudes towards employment. As the pandemic forced many employees to work remotely, discussions surrounding remote work and its implications for work-life balance intensified. Phrases like "quiet quitting" and "lazy-girl jobs" entered the lexicon, illustrating the changing dynamics of the modern workplace.

In this context, Gurner's remarks are not just misguided but dangerously out of step with the realities of today's workforce. The idea that creating pain in the economy, as he put it, will somehow improve productivity and work ethics is not only callous but also lacks any empirical basis. The workforce is not a singular entity, and its issues cannot be solved by making people unemployed.

A perfect example of what happens when businesses undermine the expectations of the modern workforce can be seen in another recent case. Grindr, a popular LGBTQ dating app, made headlines for ending its remote work policies and demanding that employees relocate to specific hub cities. In response, nearly half of the company's staff chose to leave.

This situation provides a stark contrast to Gurner's misguided beliefs. When Grindr imposed restrictive demands on its employees, they didn't passively accept it. Instead, they took a stand and voted with their feet. This mass exodus highlights the power employees have when they come together to oppose policies that negatively affect their work-life balance and wellbeing.

In the face of these contrasting stories, it's evident that Gurner's views are not only disconnected from the reality of today's workforce but also represent a troubling mindset that places the burden of change and sacrifice squarely on the shoulders of employees. Such an approach is not only insensitive but also counterproductive to building a more equitable and productive work environment.

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