Ask the Leadership Coach: Outsourcing from both sides of the divide

In this article, executive coach John M. McKee answers letters dealing with the affects of global outsourcing. One letter is from a concerned employee recently terminated, another from a CEO struggling with the cost/benefit equation of outsourcing.

 After 17 years with the same company, I was recently terminated. I was told it was part of a company-wide downsizing; but many of us who were affected think it's more about sending more business overseas where people will work for like $8 a day. I know this is going on across many industries. Here's my question: Don't business owners realize that they're only hurting themselves with this kind of action?  Consumers support the companies they believe in and who care about their communities. At some point nobody's going to be left working in this country any longer.  Who will buy their products then?  Why is this so hard for CEOs to understand?

Paul in Chicago

Sounds like you've got caught up in world events through no cause of your own, Paul. For a dedicated guy, this is unfair and you deserve to be angry about it.

Before I go further, however, see the letter below.  It shows how someone on the other side is trying to figure out this shifting sand.

I know you work with large corporations and small start-ups, John, so I'm writing to you for some guidance. Three years ago I started a small tech firm in Silicon Valley. Since then, I've done everything I needed to do to keep it alive, often working days and nights, weekends, whatever it took to make this a solid company.  I'm happy to say that I succeeded.  Now, with a cross-functional team comprised of great IT players both here and in Mumbai, India, I can provide very fast response times for my corporate clients and offer prices which are better than my competition.  Now I am facing a big decision regarding where to expand my infrastructure. There are talented people looking for jobs here in the valley as a result of the economy. On the other hand, India has amazing, dedicated workers who are really thankful for having a job. The American applicants, understandably, want to get back to the salaries they were earning in their last job that is way more than I pay the Indian workers. How do I balance patriotism with my company's financial health? Jason in Menlo Park

You ask a million-dollar question (or perhaps it's an 800 billion-dollar one, according to the Congress), Jason.  I've written about this trend a few times in the past (see a couple of them from last year here or here) and invariably it causes emotional comments from readers of Tech Republic.

Here are a couple of points that I think are valid for both of your letters:

1. Choosing between one's personal security and / or the wellness of their nation is one of those discussions that are destined to cause great conflict. They are both emotional and deeply personal issues and consequently each require a personal decision at the time. In my experience, that decision is often different depending on where you are in your life cycle.

2. The trend that prompts both of your letters will not stop. Global events, especially those that are financially driven, will never be stopped by politics. Even during wars, capital always finds its way to a safe haven while thousands, perhaps millions of people are dying.

Consequently, Paul, you've got to face up to this reality. If you intend to move forward and have a successful life (on all fronts: career, personal, financial), you're going to have to accept that this is not going to stop and it's a tidal wave that even a patriotic CEO may be unable to fight.

Jason, for you the balancing act is no less difficult. You want to grow your business and enjoy the fruits of your labor, and you should be able to do that. At the same time, remember that this country's policies and people have been largely responsible for the opportunity you've been given. Don't contribute to anything that may prevent future generations from enjoying those same opportunities.

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By John McKee

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...