Have you ever worked for a company where the human resources department sends out emails welcoming new employees? Sometimes they use the headline or subject “Please extend a warm welcome to these new additions to the ACME Co. family”. Then they list a few sentences about each of the new employees. WAKE UP PEOPLE: it’s not a family, it’s a job.
Have you ever seen a prison movie where the new inmates get hosed down, disinfected, and then, with their blanket and whatever else they were issued, walk down the long isle to their cells while the other inmates yell, make noises, whistle, etc? Maybe that’s more like it. Maybe the human resources department should send out an email with the subject line “Fresh Meat!”.
Maybe my prison analogy is too strong, maybe not. It depends on who you are, how you see things, and what you understand about getting out of the herd and staying there.
Do you think a job with a company, even a large company, offers you security? Security that you can’t match working for yourself and creating your own business? Wrong. I’ve worked for small companies that were stable, other small companies that didn’t make payroll on a regular basis, and huge international conglomerates that constantly told you everything is OK, and then you walk in one day and the whole department is given pink slips. You’re kidding yourself if you think you matter more than the bottom line. You never will. It’s that simple. And you should’t. It’s business, they’re not going to keep people on the payroll if it’s not beneficial to the company. Maybe in exceptional, unusual circumstances they will, but the fact is they can’t, the company would go out of business.
Do you think a company will EVER pay you what you’re worth? No. Perhaps a few individuals get paid what they’re worth, and some even more (like a few CEO’s), but not most employees. If everyone got paid what they were worth, then again, the company would go bankrupt.
Perhaps you’re married and even have a family. Insurance is outrageously expensive for a family. A lot of people stay in a job they might otherwise quit because they receive insurance benefits. I’ve known couples where the only reason one of them worked was solely for the insurance benefits. It wouldn’t take much effort to create some type of business to generate enough income to pay for insurance and even more. And, you could work fewer hours and spend more time with your family.
Which brings me to time: if you have a family and have children over 5 or 6 years old, then you know about lack of time. Once they reach school age and start playing sports and taking dance, gymnastics, music lesions, and visiting friend’s houses, etc., you spend your time away from work imitating a taxi cab. You fall into bed way too late and way too exhausted to sleep well, much less spend any quality time with your spouse. Oh, yeah, and what about the dinner you choked down on the run? Better get up and find the Maalox.
Do you think a company cares about that? No. Read your employee manual. You get x number of sick days, and x number of personal days and x weeks of vacation. If you stay there for 5 years, you get another week of vacation, etc. etc. etc. It’s true that sometime you have a boss that has a family and understands when you’re late or have to leave to take care of a sick child, or run an errand, but for the most part, its x number of days and then you’re screwed. Some companies have better policies than others, but its still a balancing act that balances attracting and keeping employees with the bottom line.
Another prison analogy: have you ever seen the movie The Shawshank Redemption? It came out in the mid 90s I think, and starred Morgan Freeman among several other great actors. It’s a very good movie, one that everyone should see. I just want to comment on one scene in the movie. Morgan Freeman played an older adult who had been in prison most of his life. When he was finally paroled and went to work as a bagger in a grocery store, he still asked his supervisor if he could take a bathroom break. He’d been trained in prison not to do anything without asking and only at the proper time. He couldn’t get past that need to ask permission after he was freed. I’m sure by the end of the movie he was over it.
Remember that scene with Morgan Freeman the next time you go into your boss’s office to ask permission to take your son or daughter to the doctor, or leave early to do something special with them. Or come in late because of a program he or she is in at school today. Who’s in the prison now? Or when you can’t leave to see your child in that program at school, or in the game they’re playing in, think about it then.
So, are you in a prison? Do you even know it?
I used the term “herd” above. In marketing there’s a phrase or theory called “Marketing to the Herd”. It refers to the fact that people, just like sheep, cattle, etc. will naturally follow the herd. Without thinking. Without looking where they’re going. Just following along. From a marketing viewpoint you want to get herd running towards your product. From a human standpoint someone needs to shout and try to wake people up (that’s what I’m trying to do right now).
You don’t know you’re in the herd if you’ve always been in the herd and everyone you know is in the herd and they’ve always been in the herd too. It seems normal to you. You don’t know what you don’t know. Only when something out of the ordinary happens, and you see something you weren’t supposed to see, do you start to think about what else may be. Even then, most people dismiss it because it’s just easier to stay in the well worn ruts where they live.
But a few will start to put the connections together. For example, Joe was fixing a computer in accounting the other day and while he was half hidden under someone’s desk he overheard a conversation he surly would not have ever heard if his presence had been known. Joe now knows that the company he always thought of as solid and that he wanted to work for his whole life is considering outsourcing his whole department, and that’s if they meet their goals, if they don’t then the whole branch will just be shut down. Joe starts to realize that there’s really no security you can obtain from a job. You’re always at the mercy of someone else. But, Joe doesn’t think he has anything of value that would allow him to build his own business, so he stays with that job as long as he can and then goes through several more. It takes years before Joe finally sees enough and believes in himself enough to separate himself from the herd.
We’re “groomed” to join the herd and get shackled in with debt. It’s almost impossible to leave the herd once you have a car loan, mortgage, etc.
Most people stay in the herd because they don’t know any better, or they don’t care about anything. Most people stay in the herd because of fear. Look at yourself. Look around you at others. You’re as good as anyone else. If you’re reading this, you must have some idea that there’s something more than the herd, so in fact, you’re probably better off than a lot of others. Fear stops people from taking action. Fear keeps people in the “thinking about it” and “reading about it” stages. Don’t let fear consume you. Act. Take small steps, but act. Each small action is a success even if the outcome is a failure because you’ve acted. You’ve done something. You’ve already moved past the majority of the herd because they never take any action. Each step away from the herd will help you see the herd for what it is, and will build your confidence in yourself and reduce your fear. It’s not easy. Like a space rocket trying to break free of earth’s gravity and reach orbit, it takes effort and persistence.
If you’re around my age, you grew up before animation was an automated process that cranked out cartoons at the speed of light. At Christmas and Halloween, there were Charlie Brown (Peanuts) specials on TV that I always looked forward to. Do you remember Lucy always talking Charlie Brown into kicking the football? Every time he would try to kick the ball she’d pull the football away at the last minute and Charlie Brown would fall down and bang his head. Yet he’d always let himself get talked into kicking the ball again. It’s the same way with the herd. You think you’re kicking the ball and making progress by going to a job everyday. Don’t wait until you’re 60, 70, or 80 years old to finally realize that someone was always pulling the ball away as you were kicking.
So the next time you get one of those emails welcoming new employees to the “family” stand up and scream “This is a job, it’s not a family, my family is at home where I’d like to spend more of my time…. ARRRRGGGGGGG…. I’m not going to kick that football anymore!” And start working on your way out.
Until next time,
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