Business Leaders, Get Over It: Nobody Really Works for You…

Think about it.

Nobody really works for you. Even if you are a great boss.

Now, you may provide them a place of employment and a job to perform for your company. You may provide them with fair and equitable compensation in exchange for the work they do at your company.

And, of course, you sign their paycheck.

But, in truth, the reason why people come to work everyday is really for themselves. They do it to acquire a certain quality of life for themselves and their family.

Everyone truly works for themselves.

They work “with” everyone else.

I’m wondering how workplaces would be different if employers set the expectation that each person they employ truly works for themselves.

If this were the approach and the expectation, each person in the relationship, the employee and the employer, would have to take responsibility for the relationship and the expected job performance.

And, most importantly they would view each other as peers.

How would this change the workplace? Here are a couple of ways:

  1. The individual employee would take more responsibility for their job  because they would see themselves as working for themselves within a role in the company. I believe this would raise the level of ownership the employee takes and the commitment they have to doing the best job possible.
  2. The employee would also know that how they approach their job and the added value they bring to the company will impact their short-term salary and benefits package, as well as future advancement opportunities.
  3. The employer would respect the employee more because they would see their skills, talents and how they contribute to the overall performance of the company instead of viewing them as a payroll expense who’s every hour needs to be managed.
  4. With this greater respect comes more openness to listening to ideas for improving work processes or company policies which will allow the employee to feel more valued, creating a more engaged workforce that should create a symbiotic, upward spiral of collaboration.

In this approach the employer and the employee would work together to identify the job performance criteria, the expected results to be achieved from the position and each would understand how the contribution of that role impacts the success of the company.

It is in this process they can discuss the parameters of responsibility and decision making authority and come to an understanding together that will empower the employee.

One of my clients did this exact process with their new receptionist. They turned over their entire initial customer experience to the person who answers the phones and greets people when they first come to the company offices. Her title was changed to “Director of First Impressions” – you can read more about that experience here.

What do you think of this philosophy? Is this philosophy I’m espousing, that always employees work “for” themselves and “with” the company they are employed by, just semantics? Or will it, can it create a more engaged workforce?

I think it can. Is a simple shift in thinking, don’t you think?
Please leave a comment to join the discussion…I look forward to reading your thoughts.

And, if you’d like to discuss this issue in more detail to identify specific strategies for creating a more engaged workforce, I encourage you to learn more about the value of a Leadership Assessment Strategy Session here.

’til next time…make it a great week!




3 thoughts on “Business Leaders, Get Over It: Nobody Really Works for You…

  1. Gordon McAleer says:

    Skip, the philosphy is right in line with progressive leadership. Effective, enlightened leaders take the stance that they are servants of the employees. The role of the leader is to create the work environment that promotes self motivation, self professional growth,and collective energy directed toward the purpose of the company. Gordon McAleer, President of McAleer & Associates

  2. swati says:


    What you have said is really true. I think today’s leaders, managers need to wake up to this reality and the change will only come when actionable decisions are taken for employee engagement. At the end of the day,every body has a sense of self worth and responsibility.But these are constantly challenged by difficulties in maintaining a work life balance.A more flexible environment, progressive leadership and encouragement to be your own manager should be the mantra to live with.

  3. Beverly Haberman says:

    Hi Skip, Read your article and absolutely agree with the concept that the employee works for himself. Many years ago I worked in an organization where I was heavily scheduled hour after hour which was difficult for me after having been self-employed for 15 years. I loved my work and had trouble dealing with the schedule. It was at that time that I came to the idea that I am really working for myself even though the company is paying me. It made a huge difference in how I showed up at work and came to even love my tight schedule. Glad you wrote about this overlooked idea.

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