Who do you really, really work for? (Sung to the tune of "what do you really, really want?")
This may seem like a strange question, but it is a serious one, with enormous implications. Common usage suggests that "Who do you work for?" is identical with "Who are you employed by?", but there is actually a big difference between the two. The latter is a straightforward, ultimately rather superficial question, with a simple one dimensional answer that can be easily corroborated; "I am employed by XYZ Organisation." "Who do you work for?" however, is open to interpretation and thus more ambiguous. It could refer to the organisation you work for, the individual you report to, your departmental head or the executive who heads up the particular division in which you are employed.
More than that though, it also works at a deeper psychological level, and so has profound personal and organisational implications.
The fact is that ultimately everyone works for themselves. Whether your work is merely your livelihood, or whether it is your vocation and the fulfilment of everything you want in life, absorbing the bulk of your passion and commitment, it is ultimately an important part of your life, and controlled by no-one but you. You choose the type of work you do and the organisation you work for and therefore you cannot deny that ultimately you work for yourself.
As I said, this has organisational implications and is something that, if you are a manager, you need to be more alert to. Why? For two reasons:
- The recession might have created a lull in the war for talent, but the need for quality people has ultimately not diminished and thus there is a continuing need to pay greater attention to employee engagement.
- The global competitive pressures may, if anything, have been exacerbated by the recession, which (apart from offsetting the aforementioned lull) means that people are going to play an even more role in establishing your organisation's competitive advantage.
Consequently, you need to rethink what "employer branding" means and move away from the traditional view of 'master and servant' employment contracts. While this ought to be an inevitable consequence of the shift away from 'command and control' management, it not only necessitates a more democratic approach, but a greater adherence to the Golden Rule, "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you."As a manager or business leader, you have to start considering managing people more in the way you yourself would like to be managed.