Crotonville and the Death of Fun at Work

Suzy Welch:

To everyone who sent me the article reporting General Electric’s sale of Crotonville, the longtime learning center that was the pride and joy of my late husband, Jack Welch, I’d like to thank you for the ugly cry. It is indeed the end of an era: one when companies and employees were on the same team.

That’s done and over, isn’t it? Today, companies and employees are each in a boxer’s crouch, glaring across the ring.

I wonder sometimes what Jack would make of my M.B.A. students—not to mention Generation Z in general—who view every employer with a gimlet eye. They aren’t only thinking, “How are you going to help my career?” or “How much will you value my ideas?”

They’re thinking, “How fast are you going to chew me up and spit me out? Because that’s how it works now.”

In too many cases, they aren’t wrong. No one works at one company for very long anymore; that’s a given. We all know the reasons: changes in tech, economic shifts, demographic trends, the zero-sum zeitgeist. A friend, a Sloan graduate, just hit nine years with one company, a big e-commerce platform. She told me she’s considered a lifer and something of a freak of nature.

Crotonville was a shrine to such “freaks,” people who so bought into the company’s values that they considered it an honor to be invited to an off-site program where they got to talk about those ideas even more than they did at work.