During my interview at my beloved Guidant Corporation, the VP of HR said, "We're a family. We never lay people off." It was true. Guidant was a glorious place to work.
Until it wasn't. We got acquired. National political priorities changed the industry. Product issues shone an uncomfortable spotlight on internal processes. Beloved leaders were walked out the door, and the promise of "no layoffs" could no longer be kept.
In layoff meeting after layoff meeting (as HR, I conducted a lot of layoffs), I heard people's anger that the "family" had betrayed them. Maybe. And maybe not. The company did what companies do, and employees shouldn't have been surprised. The company perpetuated itself and looked out for its future.
Through my years as a coach, I've come to realize an ugly truth about business. This truth will set you free:
Your company doesn't love you.
The humans will love you - your boss, your colleagues, your HR representative. But, the company exists for itself. Even the most progressive, employee-centered company can get acquired. They move your favorite director to a new division. They restructure. They decide there will be 1% merit increases or slash your budget. That's what companies do, and it's ok.
If this sounds bleak or cynical, take heart. This statement is GOOD NEWS for you and your company.
Once you internalize that your company doesn't love you, you become a free agent who has choices. When you feel free, you have a great attitude and enjoy your contributions. That is good for you and your employer.
Here are three important strategies for creating, and keeping, your freedom at work whether you love your job or already feel stuck:
- Look out for #1. No one has your best interest at heart like you do. Make yourself and what you contribute a priority at work.
- Be strategic. You work for your company. That is clear. Now consider that your company works for you. Beyond the obvious assets of salary and benefits, your company offers many opportunities for growth - training, conferences, relationships, and new experiences. With each role, project, and relationship consider the skills you will develop, the gaps you want to fill, and the network you will develop. Make sure that you spend your time at work strategically leading yourself where you want to go - both personally and professionally.
- Locate your nearest exit. Even if you love your job and plan to stay forever, it's smart to know what changes would push you from happy to stuck. Losing your flexibility? Another new boss? Diminished responsibility? Keep your skills current. Keep your network activated. Know your value.
My client, Adrienne, recently applied for a new job. She's not sure if a change is the right direction, but brushing up her resume reinforced the depth of her experience and value. Just preparing the application enhanced her sense of freedom and choices.
Like any relationship, you will have to do things you don't love at work. That's part of the deal in any job. And, with a mindset shift and a few strategic choices, you will always be free.