As my readers know, years ago I've made a career choice of avoiding large corporations and their tall organizational structures. I prefer small and mid-size companies allowing opportunities of direct interactions with business owners - the very people responsible for recognizing one's efforts and allotting rewards. It's not for sissies, of course, because in this environment you cannot hide your incompetence or laziness in a mass of indistinguishable drones - you and your work are on the spot and in full view all the time.
Even for a highly skilled professional with a strong work ethic it's not easy to be constantly exposed to this very special breed of people - the entrepreneurial bosses, who, God bless them, unwittingly provide me with endless writing material. I guess it will be several years into my retirement (assuming I will live that long) before the urges to highlight this or that aspect of their psychology and behavior will ceise.
It's uncanny how many common characteristics are shared by private business owners. For example, all of them operate under the same delusion that employees care (or should care) about their companies just as much and exactly in the same way as they themselves do. It's especially amazing to me because most of them are pretty levelheaded and highly functional people, yet they insist on this deranged assumption that doesn't fit into any rational frame of thought.
For a business owner his company is his life's endeavor, his singular purpose, his channel of expression and fulfillment, his source of pride and wealth, his outlet of personal freedom. The owner/CEO's opinion overrides everybody else's; he is the only one with a full authority to direct the company's development in any direction (to a success or to a downfall); ultimately he holds all employment strings in his hands; he can say or do whatever he wants (within the limits of the law, of course); nobody watches his time, assesses his performance, addresses his shortcomings.
On the other hand, for an employee, no matter how dedicated, loyal, hard-working, conscientious, and highly positioned, a job is just a job - a line on a resume. It cannot possibly be anything else, because there is no such a thing as a job security anymore, no matter where you work. If the current employment ends, there most likely will be another one after. Nowadays, probably shifting down, but maybe shifting up - who knows? There must be something, or there will be oblivion. For many of us, a job is just a source of sustenance, not the means of self-satisfaction. And when it comes to personal freedom... I already wrote about it four years ago (Bill of Rights in Small-Business Environment ).
Clearly owners and their employees are conditioned to look at the business from different platforms. It is preposterous to assume equal attitudes from unequal parties. Yet, the faulty presumption persists and is manifested by various business owners quite frequently. I'm sure many of you have experienced it first-hand.
On the rare occasions, when opportunities to be frank present themselves, I try to explain to CEOs that their employees have their own individual life agendas: what's good for you, your business, and your pocket, Mr. Boss, is not necessarily all that important to them. Sometimes I even draw Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: you see, I say, you cannot expect them to be proud of working in your wonderful growing company if they cannot make ends meet and feel overworked.
Agh, it's no use! Just the other week I was discussing (via email) with one of my clients, whose company made the 2013 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in the nation, whether I should enter them into consideration this year as well. It's my assessment that the negative outcome (everyone was complaining about the endless solicitation calls from various service companies) outweighed the pleasurable, yet hard to measure, positive impact of the resulted publicity. He had no rebuttal to that particular argument. Instead, he replied to me with the following:
"The ranking is something about which we can all be proud, and which thereby directly affects the morale of our staff, who both see results of their hard work translated into an accolade and have the pleasure of working for a company that has been honored. I know I bathed in the warm glow of the company's recognition."
Of course he did! It's his company. He is rightfully entitled to tell about it every single person he meets. But can you believe the gall? They "have the pleasure..."! Seriously? Even the ones with $40K salaries and one-week-a-year vacations? Uh-uh, Mr. Boss, the pleasure is all yours.