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Whom do you work for?

A fellow consultant told me that he likes to ask team members a simple question:

Whom do you work for?

According to him, at the last big corporation where he worked at the answer to that question has always been the name of the corporation.

At the corporation where we both met the answers have been consistently different. I repeated the experiment and I got:

  • I work for myself
  • I work for my wife
  • I work for my family

And those answers did match the ones he got in his own experiments.

Selling time

I remember an old American country song. The lyrics are from the perspective of a mother who explains to her young son that daddy is selling his time to the company as a truck driver and therefore cannot be at home with them.

So what is an employee in the transportation business, manufacturing, software development, construction, telecom, etc. actually doing? About what is the business transaction between employee and employer?

Is is really just about selling one’s own time in exchange for money?

Most of the employees at the corporation I mentioned freely admit that they do indeed work for the money. Nobody mentions any higher goal or purpose. “I have to make a living” is a phrase frequently used. I should probably mention that, so far, I have asked the question only to the lowest level employees - the people who do not have any responsability for other people within the organization. The answer may change when managers are being asked - but somehow I doubt that a bit.

I have a feeling that selling one’s own time is a critical element for being an employee. And actually in some countries selling time and being directed regarding when, where and what to work is part of the distinction between employees who have to enroll in public social security and free professions, independents, executives who are exempt from it.

Would the answer change, if the people were not employees?

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