Work as a Socio-Business Relationship
Sunday, June 5, 2022
In recent days and weeks, we have heard about layoffs and companies deferring or rescinding offers. CEOs and comms teams are doing their best to message the public and their employees to explain the rationale. Some leaders are brash and unapologetic, like in the case of Tesla. There is no doubt, these are devastating for the affected people, and some of these actions highlight ethical concerns. We can blame companies and their leaders for these actions, but I think the time is right to remind ourselves that our relationships with employers are socio-business relationships. That’s the reality — whether we like it or not.
As you work at any company, you build relations with people, learn, grow, develop others, make money, and sometimes make lasting friendships. You spend most of your waking hours at work or thinking about work. You let inter-personal relationships and work problems get under your skin even during non-work hours.
Yet, we mistake our relationship to an employer as a privileged relationship where you are entitled to certain compensation, benefits, well-being, and continued growth until you choose to end your relationship.
But that’s a mistaken view. Just like you can reject an offer before joining a company or leave your job when a better opportunity knocks on your door, companies too can end their end of the bargain at any time. Though it does not seem fair and we’ve room to make it better, but these days, our working relationships with our employers are weaker than other relationships, like your contract with your landlord or your utility company.
But most of us don’t take this seriously. Consider some of the mistakes we make:
- You don’t keep an updated resume, and you claim that you’ve not written one in X years. Remember that your resume is your story. If you’re not tending to your story, who will?
- You don’t pick up the phone when a recruiter calls. But you are your talent agent. If you’re not curious to know why a particular recruiter called you, how do you know what opportunities you’re not exploring? How do you know if you, as a product, are still relevant to others?
- You respond to a recruiter saying that you’re working on such an important problem at work that the timing is not right for you to explore other opportunities. What information do you have about your employer to believe that the employer thinks the same way you do?
- When a recruiter or a potential hiring manager asks you what you’re looking for in your career, you give vague-sounding answers like “I want to solve good problems,” “help the company grow,” or “lead others to accomplish their potential.” These are not wrong answers but are so generic that they apply to most people. But what is your purpose and vision for yourself? What are your criteria for designing and making your next career choice? What is your vision for the role?
- You don’t take the time to summarize and document your accomplishments and lessons learned. If you don’t, who will do it for you?
- You are so immersed in what your current job requires of you that you don’t take the time to invest in yourself continually. Your investment ideas are waiting in unread browser tabs and TODO projects that you never have the time to start and finish. Who will do it for you if you don’t continually invest in yourself?
- You have no idea of your brand. Your story sounds like everyone else’s, and you have not thought of how to differentiate yourself.
There are more, and as a CEO of a one-person enterprise, it is your job to build your career on realistic assumptions.
On the flip side, let us not assume that our relationships with employers are pure business relationships. People that treat their jobs purely as sources of money in high-tech companies often fail to build social connections to develop themselves in their careers.
I will leave you one tidbit. Last week, I asked a colleague for advice about navigating the company I joined. He said, “ROI.” I asked, “what do you mean?” He said, “relations over issues.” This is a powerful career advice. His sggestion sums up why our relationships at work are social too. Once you build social relationships with others at work, you can work together well on issues to become a team player. But if you start with issues before building such relationships or do not pay attention to building relations, you may not succeed.
That’s why I like to remind you that our relationship with an employer is a socio-business relationship. The sooner we realize this dual nature in our careers, the more resilient we can become in managing our careers.