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Ask Not What Your Company can do for You – Ask What You can do for Your Company

Posted on September 17, 2008 by Vanessa

I have seen a lot of blogs lately that focus on what employers can do to keep their best assets, their best assets being their employees.  There are many reasons to consider employee assets: training is time consuming and costly, time has already been invested in the employee, and performance could be interrupted during a transition from one employee to the next.  Some central themes that have been taken from the blogs I have been reading are to challenge employees, trust them, respect their talent, and appreciate them with both monetary compensation and productive words.  I think all of this is great.  I am an employee, I can benefit from all of the things that I have listed above, but I also believe that we are from the “entitlement generation” and we believe we deserve great jobs, healthy salaries, and benefits right out of college.  We have the attitude that we should be subsidized for every hardship that comes our way.   My generation seems to have started it and the younger generation that is coming out of grade school is just making it a whole lot worse.  I want to know when we switched from the mentality that’s core was based on working your tail off and reaping the benefits to this entitlement thought process.  I don’t think it is just in the workplace either, it is happening in many aspects of our society, but I want to get the focus back to the workplace.

As I mentioned, I am an employee and I love and appreciate all of the things that are listed above.   I think that some employers need to wake up and read these blogs and consider what they are doing to show their appreciation for their employees.  I also think that some employers are already doing these things and employees either try to take advantage of it, or they are so far entrenched in what they are entitled to that they forget all of the good things they have at their job.  I want to challenge those of you that are in my position to ask yourselves what you can do for your company instead of what are they not doing for you.  As a caveat let me add that I am far from perfect in every way including being an employee, but I also know what it is like to be on the employer side of the fence so that may be where I get my perspective.

Not every employer is “about the bottom line”, and if you have one that appreciates you and makes it obvious that they are not just about the mighty dollar than recognize it and do your part.  I know that all of us have seen the person in the department that has car troubles every Monday, requests days off the day before they need them, or maybe they don’t even request the day off and just say “I am taking tomorrow off”.  I think of this and I think to myself, really?  These people sign your checks and you don’t have enough respect to even ask for what you need?  That is a simple respect issue though.

What about the blogs that point out that employees need to be continually challenged?  How about if the employee that is feeling like their position is stagnant actually takes the initiative and lets their supervisor know that they can do more and that they want to do and learn more, instead of showing up resentful every day that they don’t have more responsibilities.  In my experience even if there isn’t something new for you to do or work on right away, the supervisor that is informed is likely going to keep you in mind for when something does come up.  I don’t think you can ask for much more than that.  Remember though, if you aren’t succeeding at your current tasks then don’t even go here because until you can prove that you can do what they have already set out for you to do, they don’t have any obligation to have you take on more.  This might be a shocker to everyone, and although you don’t want to be treated like the bottom line, at least keep in mind that your employer is trying to run a business.  If you are upset that something doesn’t go your way try to look at it from the position of the business owner, or supervisor depending on the size of the company.
This reminds me of a recent incident which exemplifies this point.  A friend of mine owns a company and had an employee that needed time off all of the time to take care of some family issues.  Completely fine, but understand that the business owner needs to know ahead of time when this time off is going to take place.  As the employee think about the following: how can the business owner schedule who is going to be on what job if he doesn’t know who is going to show up?  How can the business owner plan which jobs will be done that week if he doesn’t know ahead of time that one key person will be out?  How can the business owner even bid the work if he isn’t going to be aware of what employees will be ready to go when that job needs to take place?  When this was pointed out to the employee, the employee responded with “well you knew I needed to do this and that for my kids”.  Once again, that is fine but the business has to continue to run or no one will have a job.  Does the employee think about the fact that my friend is the one who has to be on two jobsites that day and put in 14 hours to make up for it so money isn’t lost on the job?  I doubt it, because the employee is only thinking about their own situation.  This is not meant to be harsh, I know from endless experiences that life happens and can come at you when you least expect it, but these are not the situations I am talking about.  I am talking about the employee that continually does this over and over again.  The first time I ever saw someone get fired I cried, (yeah I can be a softie) but when the employee lashed back at the company with an “I’m going to sue you for wrongful termination”, I stopped crying.  While I am sure that we all think we are wonderful, don’t forget that most people are replaceable.  I wanted to know why this guy thought he was being terminated unlawfully.  What gave him the impression that he had a right to his position no matter what he put the company through?  If you look up wrongful termination claims the list of violations is short.

I agree with treating employees as an immense asset.  I also believe in employees realizing when they are being treated as an asset and having the attitude that they want to further the company, and not just their own personal agenda.  No one wants to be treated like a number, but no one is going to succeed within the company if the company is not succeeding.  While we aren’t numbers, there is still a business to run and whether we like it or not there is always going to be a bottom line.  As employees we have the ability to take responsibility of our areas.  I have a type A personality so I don’t need anyone pushing me to do well, I want to do well, I want to avoid mistakes and I want to make profitable decisions.  If your company is already backing you, then keep doing what you are doing, and quit whining about situations that don’t go your way.  I have worked for companies that treat people like a number, where they backstab one another, and take advantage of young fresh minds.  I would have to assume that those that think they are entitled to all of the benefits they are getting and still complaining, probably missed out on working for one of these companies. If they had, I can’t imagine where this privileged attitude would be coming from.


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