Thursday, June 28, 2007

You work in a community, not a company

Responding to Jay Cross.

"It doesn’t work to take one from column A and one from column B, e.g. secrecy and transparency are opposites. Competition and collaboration are the same deal."

Ah ha! I remember saying something like this on this very blog, not so long ago. :)

"What should a person do if they find themselves in a non-believing, ice-age organization?"

Make your own rules, make your own job. Work not just in your organization but in your sector, your community. Carve out the appropriate niche for yourself no matter where you are employed. Move on if your employers don't recognize your value.

Look at anybody who is a leader is this space, or any space. It is not a person who did their job. It is a person who *changed* their job by either redefining their existing responsibilities or creating a new position (or company) entirely.

"What’s the most enlightened thing to do here? I’ll post this issue to the Internet Time Community in case the discussion grows lengthy."

Again - understand that while you may work for a company, your work environment isn't defined by - or limited by - the company. You work in a community, not a company. You may be paid by the company but your job is defined by the community and, if you're doing it well, you're serving the community.

Remember that you don't work for the company, you work for yourself. The company is merely your largest (and perhaps only) client. Keep in mind that the company will not hesitate to terminate your position, redefine your role, or do any number of things that will not be in your best interest. You have to watch out for yourself.

In the meantime, the company will watch out for itself. It doesn't need a whole lot from you, beyond what you've promised to deliver to it. What the company does is up to the company. You aren't going to change the company - it will have to change itself (that is, the owners or executives will have to reach their own change of heart and attitude on their own).

The best you can do is to show what your (newly defined) work and (personally defined) attitude can bring to the company. As publicly as possible, document and record, should you ever need it for a promotion case (or job interview).

4 comments:

  1. When writing Informal Learning, I had a view similar to yours. Then reality entered in.

    I work for myself. I make my own rules. I change my job description at will. I do what I feel is right. And I’m not going to fire myself for doing so.

    Many other people work for organizations. Some organizations are abusive, but moving on is not always an option.

    Alternative work may not be available. If you act in the belief that “you don’t work for the company, you work for yourself,” the company may choose to disagree. In many a company, you can be terminated for sending personal email on company time or running a personal blog or mouthing off about a lousy political situation. Now if you’re 55 years old, live in a depressed area, and have obsolete skills, your options are limited. Be your own person; you may lose your house. This isn’t ideal or fair; this is reality.

    I don’t understand “the company will watch out for itself. It doesn’t need a whole lot from you, beyond what you’ve promised to deliver to it. What the company does is up to the company. You aren’t going to change the company….”

    Last time I looked, companies were made up of people. As talent gets scarce, many companies bend over backwards to hold on to their people. Best management practice these days is to rely on the workers to help improve the company. I submit that Marx’s view that owners = bad and workers = exploited may have been on the money 150 years ago but does not map to today’s reality.

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  2. One wonders what happened in the last few months to change your view.

    You write, "If you act in the belief that 'you don’t work for the company, you work for yourself,” the company may choose to disagree."

    Quite so. Count on it.

    "In many a company, you can be terminated for sending personal email on company time or running a personal blog or mouthing off about a lousy political situation."

    So don't do that. Nowhere in the suggestion that 'you work for yourself' is the suggestion that you should be stupid.

    In such an environment, it is even more important that you see yourself as working for yourself. If your employer is that abusive, then they are absolutely not looking out for your best interests - they don't even see you as a person.

    "Now if you’re 55 years old, live in a depressed area, and have obsolete skills, your options are limited. Be your own person; you may lose your house. This isn’t ideal or fair; this is reality."

    My advice is intended to prevent you from finding yourself in such a
    situation.

    But if you are in such a situation, then again, you should be making your plans and conducting yourself with your benefit, not the company's, in mind.

    What will you do, for example, when they sell the company and screw you
    out of your retirement benefits? Don't think it can happen? Examples abound.

    Even if you can't use the eight (or more - unpaid overtime is rampant) hours a day to protect your own interests, because it's against company policy, you can use the remaining 16.

    If you can't redefine your job, then you need to change it. If you can't
    change it, then you need to develop (or find - because if you're 55 you're
    probably good at something) the skills.

    If you're 55, keep in mind that you might well live another 45 years.
    So you can probably afford the four or five years it takes to make yourself
    economically independent.

    "Last time I looked, companies were made up of people. As talent gets scarce,
    many companies bend over backwards to hold on to their people."

    Companies are not made of people; indeed, the people are entirely
    interchangable, which is why most companies respond to stock price
    pressures by shedding people and replacing the CEO.

    Companies are fictitious legal entities composed of 'assets' - these assets
    include stock holdings and investments, fixed capital infrastructure,
    market shares and intangibles like branding.

    Some companies may list some of their people (incorrectly, since you can't
    own or liquidate them) as 'assets'. usually, though, that's just marketing,
    to improve the value of the brand.

    "Best management practice these days is to rely on the workers to help
    improve the company."

    I hear this, but every day in the news I read evidence to the contrary.

    "I submit that Marx’s view that owners = bad and workers = exploited may have
    been on the money 150 years ago but does not map to today’s reality."

    What world are you living in?

    In the world I live in, companies continue to exploit their workers, and
    are diversifying by exploiting (and if that doesn't work, suing) their
    customers.

    I mentioned the retirement benefits swindles above. And the unpaid overtime
    scam as well. You were the one to mention prohibitions against political
    expression and personal communication.

    I could add the overall erosion of compensation, the attacks on benefits
    (especially health care) and the shifting of the tax burden from the
    corporation to the individual.

    I could on top of that list dozens of cases of corporate wrongdoing,
    outright illegal actions, questionable political dealings, and more,
    all from the last few years.

    If you put your future into the hands of these guys, you may as well kiss
    it good-bye.

    You know this; I know you know this.

    I would like to know what could possibly have happened to change your
    perspective.

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  3. More on the benevolence or corporations: rom the Financial Post: "Canadian workers haven't had a real pay increase in three decades, despite the fact they are 50-per-cent more productive, according to a study by a left-leaning think-tank.

    The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said in a report released Thursday that if workers were paid for their increased productivity, they would on average be earning $10,000 a year more. That extra cash has instead flowed into record corporate profits, whose share of total income in the economy has grown while that of workers has shrunk, the report said."

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  4. Stephen, thanks for your post. It reassured me that maybe I am not the only one on the planet that finds some employers, living in the 'ice age' and as a result, employees with different ideas and the like, a head bound for trouble.
    I still remember a manager saying to me at the TAFE I am employed at telling me, 'e-learning was wanky shit' and another more senior manager telling me 'e-learning has no place in the Business Services Area in TAFE, so let it rest and get on with your job.
    These comments after I had spent a year as the E-learing Facilitator for the Business Services Centre and a year as a Flexible Learning Leader - nominated by the director of the institute, successful in gaining the scholarship and did my best to ge the most out of my year both personally and professionally with the hope, or as stated in the contract, an ongoing position in e-learning in a management role (did not happen).
    I am seen as annoying, wasting time, not teaching properly, teaching in a micky mouse fashion and more - not an institution that accepts difference or change well at all.
    Whilst I am still hanging in there at present, I see my time as limited. Tired of feeling as if I am going to get hit on the head, if I mention anything 'e', tired of feeling useless, tired of the frustration and tired of those unwilling to open their minds and tired of those too lazy to keep up with current learning trends and tools.
    I have begun to do more of what you say - join more networks, blog - publish my thoughts, opinions, research and the like as often and as publically as I can.
    As a single mum of 2 teenagers and 45 years of age, I need to be a little cautious as I need a steady income, thus working my way slowly out of being institutionalised (not good for ones health or sanity) and moving to working for myself with like minded people globally.
    The progress slow, a little awkward working out where exactly I wish to position myself as I have so many interests, errors made, lessons learned - not all that bad.
    Not to do this would be to allow the employer to continue to devalue me and what I do and can offer - not feelings that bring joy to ones life.
    So the journey ahead currently has no set destination, however as I hone the path, I believe all will become clear and I will find a world, environment that provides the financial benefits and a multitude of other rewards.

    Jacinta

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