Employers vs. Employees – A Broken System

Over the years, I have worked for many different companies, from tiny start-ups to Fortune 100 companies. As I’ve worked for such vastly different companies, and observed many others, I’ve been both fascinated and disgusted to see a common theme, what I like to call The Employer vs. Employee Mentality.

As author and speaker Seth Godin would put it, the vast majority of companies seem to see their employees as nothing but cogs in a machine, easily replaced and of little real value. This can be seen at every level of almost every business, in the hiring processes, employee handbooks, management tactics, and turnover rates. So here’s the thing…why? Why is it this way?

In my experience, companies seem to have the attitude that we, the employees, should count ourselves lucky to work for them, the employer. They also seem to assume by default that we, the employees, can’t ever be trusted, and treat us accordingly. This is incredibly wrong.

Sure, employers provide employees with an income, and hopefully some benefits, which is fine…but at the end of the day, the employer is likely getting far more from the employee than the employee is getting from the employer. How so?

Well, I’ve certainly never come across a company that spends 50% or more of their revenue on wages and benefits, so right there the average company is getting more than they are giving. Add to that the fact that most employees are giving up the best years and hours of their lives, sacrificing time with friends and families, in many instances for minimum wage or little more. To me, that is truly horrible, and worst of all…it’s totally unnecessary.

Employers should be grateful for their employees, and treat them accordingly. Without employees, there would be no company, no revenue, and the attitude that employees are easily replaceable just won’t cut it much longer. Employers may have gotten away with pushing around Gen X and Boomers, but Gen Y isn’t going to take it, something numerous industries are beginning to understand (can anyone say Music, Film and Publishing?). Gen Y is composed of Linchpins, not Cogs.

So what is it that we want from employers? Freedom. Freedom to innovate, freedom of time and place, freedom from the constraints of mindless bureaucracy and worthless middle management. We want fair compensation for our efforts, not the lowest amount you think you can get away with paying. We want experience, skill and expertise to be counted as equal (if not superior) to college degrees. We want mindless tradition to disappear, and innovation and creativity to be both encouraged and rewarded. We want fear of change to disappear.

The tables have turned. The pawns have made it to the other side of the board, and have become infinitely more powerful in the process. There is a mass migration beginning to take place, a shift from employees to entrepreneurs, from followers to leaders. We are neither a passive nor a fearful generation.

If you, the employers, don’t get on-board, we will leave you behind without hesitation or regret. Today is our day, the future is our future, and we are taking control. Either learn to treat us with the respect we deserve, or face the consequences. The choice is yours.

2 replies on “Employers vs. Employees – A Broken System”

  1. Wow. You are lost. Almost all employers that I know want employees who they can trust, work with and support. They want the freedom to be able to walk away and not fret. However, that is incredibly hard to find and you for one, with this little rant, would be a perfect example of why. Clearly, if an owner left the finances up to you they would be broke with your big “50% of REVENUE should go to payroll” suggestion (forgetting COG, rents, utilities, infrastructure, COS, marketing or in short the HUGE costs involved with a business beyond staff). Then there is the case that all employees are not equal while you may be a great employee, do you work for the good of the business? What about the guy next to you? Are you going to step in when he is on facebook for several hours each day? Do you, even though you are not in charge of the business, talk to the guy who rolls in several hours late and let him know that it isn’t cool? Didn’t think so. You seem to be the guy who wants all the perks, but none of the stress. Fine, blame it on ‘the man’ or ‘the 1%’ or whoever your great oppressor is. In the end, it’s those with an attitude like yours that lose. We are getting better and better and screening for victims in the hiring process and we just pass over you and look for the guy will contribute to the success of the company, and through the company our personal success. It’s a symbiotic relationship that must be nurtured, built with trust and freedoms earned, not automatically handed out.

    And no, the tables have not turned. People need good, rewarding jobs and companies need employees that are hardworking and invested in the success of the company. It’s a symbiotic relationship and those that are entering the workforce these days are GROSSLY lacking in that awareness. Pride in work has slipped. Punctuality, a positive outlook and team like attitude are missing, replaced with a sense of entitlement and jealousy of what the other guys has (and has spent years working towards) that they do not.

    Go sit on a lawn with a sign that says ‘occupy’, or better yet go join a union in California and enjoy the enriched civil servant lifestyle afforded them before they bankrupt their state. We employees and managers of the private sector don’t need you. You give us a bad name.

    1. Nope, not lost at all, and definitely not a victim. Anyone involved with the occupy movement is a moron (I have no issues with the 1%; hell, I’m well on my way to joining them). I believe strongly that people need to work their asses off for whatever they want from life. No handouts, and no entitlement.

      I happen to have worked for and had friends who worked for a number of companies that spend 50% (plus or minus a little) on payroll, and their growth rate is phenomenal (all service businesses and SaaS companies). You can easily spend well on talent while avoiding useless overhead, and service businesses have no inventory and thus no COGS. By allowing all employees to work from home you avoid rent, utilities, and quite a bit of time wasted on meetings and interruptions.

      Anyhow…no great oppressor here, just a very clear understanding that time is our most precious asset, and that people need to value it far, far more highly than they do. Life is too short to slave away at a company that doesn’t really appreciate employees (and let’s me honest here, very few employers truly appreciate their employees.) It took me ages to find an employer that genuinely cares about its employees.

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