In the New Reality: We Are All Self-Employed

Jann FreedLeading, Living Leave a Comment

We are living in a new world of uncertainty. Industries, companies, and positions are disappearing –causing lingering fear and mistrust. As a result, there is a shift in the way people connect with their organizations (employee contract) and expectations. The old reality (old paradigm) was based on employee performance, loyalty, dependence, and commitment. In return, organization had an obligation to provide long-term employment until voluntary departure or retirement.

In the new reality, job security has disappeared and all employees are temporary. Organizations don’t feel obligated to offer long careers and employees have no trust that their organizations will take care of them. Too often people are viewed as short-term costs to be reduced or eliminated instead of assets to be nurtured and developed over a career.

For this blog post, I interviewed David Noer, author of Healing the Wounds: Overcoming the Trauma of Layoffs and Revitalizing Downsized Organizations, and he sent me his recent article “Breaking Organizational Codependence: Downsizing’s Liberating Wake-Up Call” that reflected his latest thinking on this topic. The time to be self-employed is now, but you don’t have to really be self-employed. The key is to not be dependent or co-dependent on an organization.

Noer told me that while there is a feeling that millennials “get it” and the new reality fits their lifestyle and values, his consulting experience does not support this. He has found that “all ages and levels, regardless of age, specialization, or length of tenure, are uncomfortable with the new reality.” Since this is the way of the future, leaders need to find ways to help themselves and their employees deal with this “new normal.”

Noer said, “Who you are should not be where you work.” People need the courage to break the co-dependent relationship with their employers. He explained that people who are organizational codependent allow the system to control their sense of worth and self-esteem. They exert physical and emotional energy in an unsuccessful attempt to control the system. Since we can only control ourselves, Noer offers these suggestions for breaking free of codependency:

  • Develop personal autonomy and a task focus. Invest in the task and don’t seek organizational approval.
  • Detach your self-esteem from your place of work. Derive your sense of identity from pleasing yourself not the organization.
  • Ground your self-definition in good work. Find work that feeds your soul.
  • Cultivate a diffuse root strategy. In other words, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket—the organization. Spread your roots out into the community so that if the organizational root is cut, you can still survive, grow, and thrive because of contacts, friends, and associations.
  • Stop trying to control the uncontrollable. To break codependency in order to become independent, accept personal responsibility and autonomy.

These suggestions can be helpful personally and as leaders we can share them with our employees. When we all view ourselves as self-employed, we are less likely to depend on the organization to take care of for our personal happiness. I am reminded of the old adage, “No one said on their deathbed they wished they had spent more time at the office.”

We do our best work because we are working for ourselves. We define ourselves in terms of what we do, not where we do it.

Do you consider yourself self-employed?

How dependent are you on the organization?

If you are what you do, then who are you?