Who do you actually work for?
I know this question sounds simple. I know you think you probably already know the answer to this question too. The thing is, you could have three different people at the exact same job who all actually work for different individuals. Surely they also each have very different motivations. At a single job, you could be working for your company itself, you could be working for your boss or immediate supervisor, or you could be actually working for yourself. The irony with the last option is two-fold. Hopefully we all know now that just because someone is self-employed, it doesn’t mean they’re an entrepreneur. Conversely, just because someone works a “day job”, it doesn’t mean they aren’t.
These are all subtly different on one hand, but Grand Canyon deeply apart on the other. Let’s see where you are. Who do you work for?
For the Company: These people love their company or organization and were drawn to it. It could be that prestigious firm that everyone in your industry wants in. This company could have or still may be providing you major bragging rights in your social circle and each day you go into work, you’re thinking much of how you can contribute to extending the company’s legacy. Sometimes, though, this organization may cause you extreme stress and strife in your personal life. It didn’t get that coveted reputation from being warm and fuzzy all the time, right? When someone derides your organization you ardently defend it, though. It’s a source of pride for you and a large part of who you are. You work for (and sometimes love) your company.
For the Boss: These people have a wonderful relationship with their direct supervisor. This person may have been in role for sometime and might even serve as a mentor to you. They might also insulate you from more stressful goings on in the organization, but the boss also has the uncanny ability to motivate you when you’re struggling. They get the best from you and you don’t mind saying that it’s because of your supervisor that you haven’t left yet for greener pastures. As the old adage goes, “people don’t quit jobs they quit bosses.” But those who work for their boss are also somewhat challenged in thinking that their job is a lot better than it actually is because of the relationship you have with your supervisor. Great abuses have been endured working for a great boss, and many great jobs have been abandoned when you work for a bad one. You work for your boss.
For You: These individuals are stark realists. Regardless whether they are self-employed or not, they have a gameplan they follow in order to maximize their personal results. They are team players but aren’t necessarily swayed by company or office politics; they are there to do a job, do it well, and learn as much as they can in the process. Practicing the law of self preservation does not make one selfish, it simply acts as a calibration tool we can use to aid in the decision making process. You work for you.
We’ve all seen companies come and go. We’ve also seen great companies — iconic organizations — shutter their windows and cease operations. Along with that, many great people were left out in the cold with nowhere to go, sometimes with antiquated skills and must learn to hunt from scratch because the company provided them with everything they ever wanted or needed.
We’ve also seen what happens when you’re at a rotten organization and your lifeline, favorite person, i.e. your supervisor leaves that company. Voila! It’s still an awful organization. The only thing is that now you’re stuck, and if that supervisor shielded you and “protected” you too much, you may even be seen as dead weight once they leave.
In my opinion, the only sure fire way to ensure you are always fresh, motivated and actively contributing to your organization is to work for yourself! Yes. Work for you! Everyday come to work with a mission — that is to be the best. When the company is doing well, don’t just sit back and ride the wave, but ask yourself, then ask your chain of command how you can do more, learn more and, in turn, help the company be more. Companies full of workers like this rarely fold anyway. Then if they do, because you’ve stayed fresh, you’re almost guaranteed to land feet first.
In the context of working for a great boss, resist the urge to let him or her protect you like a wounded bird. If you get the “don’t worry about it” line too often, it’s time to respectfully challenge and find how you can lessen everyone’s worry and make yourself a larger part of the program. This will lead you down the path of being secure no matter who is in charge.
Lastly, when you work for you daily, you’re concentrating on what skills you’re learning, what experience you’re gaining and maybe even how you can translate those skills into one day being an entrepreneur. While being or becoming an entrepreneur isn’t on everyone’s list, surely adopting the work ethic, spirit of curiosity and aversion to mediocrity that most entrepreneurs share, can’t hurt. You’ll feel more fulfilled at work and become more well rounded in the process.
Now ask yourself, who do you work for?
Sadiq Ali, MBA, is a speaker, trainer, professor, and author of Millionaire Manners: The Men’s (and Boy’s) Guide to Social Grace in the New Age and founder of Millionaire Manners Academy, a full service educational consulting and training organization that teaches life and career success through great personal and professional etiquette.