Companies, snakes and your job

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Apr 30

Surprisingly, despite the Great Recession, there is still this paradigm, this belief that companies will care about you and your work. Somehow they will appreciate the many years you have contributed to reaching their business goals and somehow that will protect you from changes and layoffs. That the salary, benefits and work environment companies pay you in exchange for your work are somehow not enough to overcome this perception that they also need to value you.

It’s hogwash. This belief, that the company owes you something beyond pay, benefits and a safe work environment, will kill your ability to focus on your work and navigate your career.

Let’s get totally clear on this

Companies hire you to perform work that will help the company reach their business goals. That’s it and, in my opinion, OK. You work to help them succeed and they pay you for the work. Just like you hire someone to cut your lawn and pay them to do it. You hired them for job skills in keeping your lawn cut and you paid them for helping you succeed in your goals. You don’t expect to owe them anything once you have paid for the work to cut the lawn. Yet, too often we expect our employer to still owe us something.

Harley Davidson’s relatively new CEO noted that while job cuts are painful, there is the larger business picture for companies:

Some of the changes, particularly the job cuts, have been painful. But in his first extensive interview since taking the reins, Wandell told the Journal Sentinel last week that the actions he took were necessary and designed to keep Harley relevant and profitable in the long term.

“There is not one of us who wakes up in the morning and says, ‘Wow, this is another opportunity to ruin someone’s life,” Wandell said. “But you cannot turn your head and look the other way when there are issues that are going to ruin the company. I wish we could be totally clear about that.”

Is this now clear? The business, as an entity, must do everything to survive and thrive. Not help you survive and thrive. The business.

You must flip the paradigm

If you are not evaluating your work, job prospects and career from the viewpoint of what is best for you and your work, you are abdicating your job and career to the whims of a company. And they seem like whims, serious as they may be.

A new CEO or Senior Vice President coming into a company automatically means there will be changes. Yet we think it means nothing to us and six months later we’re out on the street looking for a job.

You must flip the paradigm that says the company will always be right for me and my work to one where you are consistently evaluating if the company is still right for me and my work.

Every job will end

You must consistently evaluate your work, job prospects and decide when your current job will end. Your job will end; all jobs do. It is just a question of when. If you wait for the company to take action, you abdicate any control or influence on your income and career. If you are evaluating your work and how the company supports your work, you will discover the changes taking place that jeopardize your income.

But we need to all get off this paradigm that the company won’t do something bad to us because we work there, or do great work there, or are a rock star, or think we’re indispensable, or we’ve been there for thirty years or thirty minutes. And then wail and scream and gnash our teeth when the company management determines to do something they think will help the company survive and thrive and our work is now impacted or eliminated.

A snake is a snake; a snake operates totally in its own self-interest. Companies are not snakes, but they operate in their own best interests as well, not yours. To think and act otherwise jeopardizes your income.

Companies pay their bill with you every time you get a paycheck. They owe you nothing else.

Are you willing to change your paradigm?

Photo by Care_SMC

  • Pros says:


    A question I have is early in my young career. I worked at large companies that had orientations and events where they showed videos and presentations on why the company is a great place to work. They had testimonials and vowed that the company is a people company looking to serve the people blah blah.

    That employee work life balance is important blah bah blah. Some people sat through these and said it was brainwashing, I on the other hand bought into the pitches. I learned the hard way that this was not the case.

    Even in the department meetings with the executives they kept boasting about great people, how they look to put you in initiatives you want to work on. It was interesting to see that the savvy people disregarded this and focused on their deliverables and showing their results to their immediate manager vs paying attention to executives marketing to employees.

    I felt a bit of resentment after listening to these pitches when I learned my lesson. Whats a good attitude to have when listening to these company great place to work presentations??

    In a perfect scenario wouldn't it be great if they came out and said we pay you to do XYZ and contribute new ideas. In return you get the pay check and bonus potential. After a few reviews we'll talk about other things, if you don't do XYZ we'll lay you off.

  • Scot Herrick says:

    The lesson in this? Watch what a company does, not what it says. I've joined two very large companies and was completely impressed by the marketing, whether about their employees or their products. In all cases, peeking behind the green curtain (a Wizard of Oz reference..) revealed a place with huge problems, employees like employees everywhere else and most with the same concerns you have.

    Better to listen to what the company says without investment — your investment is your work and career, not the attainment of some company's goals — and then compare it to what the company actually does. The closer to the marketing it is, the better impression it will make. If what is marketed is really different from what is done, it is time to seriously determine if what you do can help or if it is a lost cause. Hey, it's your career and you are the only one who can make the right decisions for it.

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