You Are Your Own Boss

I remember sitting at a conference table at a shitty furniture company with my boss and some co-workers. My boss was explaining that we weren’t going to get raises. I asked, “what motivates me to work any harder than the bare minimum if I’m not going to be rewarded for it?” My boss looked at me like I was retarded and said, “We pay you.”

I worked there for almost two years without a raise, despite getting increasing responsibilities to the point that I was a “supervisor” minus the job title and pay.

Would you say that it was a good idea to work there? If I was your product and you were selling me, would you tell me to keep on keeping on? Or would you go in and fight for a raise? Or use the job description and experience to negotiate a better job at a different company? In fact, wouldn’t you always be looking for a way to make my time worth as much as possible? Wouldn’t you try to get my work environment as close to perfect as could be? Wouldn’t you want me to be happy?

You Are Your Own Boss. You are doing a job, not working for someone. Your organization of one is providing goods and/or services to another organization on contract. You have an equal say in that contract at every level. Any revisions to the terms require a renegotiation of compensation – you wouldn’t give 15% more shoes to another company for free just because they asked, or worse, told you to, so why would you do the equivalent for services?

As an organization, you might only be able to sign one contract at a time. Isn’t that all the more reason to always be looking for the best contract? At the very least, when your current contract tells you to give them 15% more shoes and implies that you have to, you have a position to negotiate from. Sure, they pay you, but do they pay you enough?

Fight for yourself. Because no one else will.

PS: All things you do above and beyond your contract need to be thought of as favours you are providing. Make this explicit when you agree to them. “Charles, go get us some coffee on your way here this morning.” “I’ll do that as a favour – I want a donut anyway.” Some employers will think you’re snarky. That’s fine. The next time they’ll probably ask someone who doesn’t make them feel (rightly) bad for trying to get something for nothing.

PPS: Also, don’t just be snarky for no reason. Sometimes it’s a company culture thing. At Cognos (before it was entirely IBM), any developer who broke the build had to get donuts for his or her team. At my restaurant, if we unexpectedly ran out of some type of food and the kitchen was busy but the floor staff wasn’t, I would run over to our sister restaurant a couple blocks away to borrow something. This type of thing is just good-natured.

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