My career plan as a kid was to work for a great company and eventually get promoted to top leadership. That started with the opportunity to work as the janitor for a local clothing manufacture. Eventually my responsibilities grew and became more diverse and I started to do ad hoc projects with and for the president of the company. Driving all around the mountain west, making deliveries, managing inventory sales. He turned around that business and made millions. I WAS HOOKED.
I followed my plan. Completed my BS in Biochemistry and later an MBA and started work at Intel. I loved it. Being part of Intel in the 90s was amazing! Stock price was growing every day. The company was growing along with tons of opportunity for me to learn and grow.
I’m a super loyal person, and that loyalty continued to grow as Intel repeatedly highlighted that it was a ‘great place to work.’ Eventually I became convinced that it was ‘the ONLY great place to work.’ I worked on several amazing teams/projects with some of the best people I’ve known. From those earliest days, I figured I would retire from Intel. My belief in Intel as THE ‘great place to work’ deepened and eventually my individual identity became intertwined with the company.
After the dot-com-bust, Intel went through several years of lay-offs and I was put in a position where I needed to let some of my team members go (after all, the company couldn’t afford to have a bad quarter after 80-100 quarters of profit. Right?). Together we had worked nights, weekends, birthdays. HUGE sacrifices had been made to achieve project goals for the company (largely fueled by individual loyalty). Letting those people go were some of the darkest days of my career.
I was confused. I WAS LOYAL TO THE COMPANY. But, DID THE COMPANY HAVE ANY LOYALTY TO ME?
The company was loyal to a forecast and a spreadsheet; quarterly results and annual plans. If the spreadsheet indicated cuts were needed. Cuts were made. And, those cuts did not factor the individual sacrifices and loyalty employees had made in the past. Sure, we tried to keep the best of the best (commitment (loyalty?), results, potential), but that didn’t make the experience any easier for those who were invited to leave (or me). By the way, I’m not suggesting business is bad, evil or wrong. It’s just important to see it for what it is.
My naïve belief in some reciprocal loyalty formula was shattered.
Roll the clock forward 6-7 years… I left Intel and joined Omniture (eventually acquired by Adobe). Something cool happened. Within weeks at my new company, I began to thrive again. My past experiences became a perfect foundation for results and leadership (thank you Intel). I was again working in ‘a great place to work.’ I was able to thrive in a completely new culture and company. I was recognized. I was rewarded with increased scope, leadership and compensation and I started to become LOYAL to an entirely new company.
One of my first learnings in this process was to internalize that I CAN BE SUCCESSFUL ANYWHERE. From my very first paper route, to dozens of construction jobs, janitor, farm hand, missionary, chemistry lab TA, machinist, buyer, developer, I was able to do really great work.
I AM A FREE AGENT! I can bring ‘great place to work’ wherever I work. And if it’s not great, I’ll help make it great. Or, I can leave and go somewhere else that’s GREAT!
I know it sounds ridiculously simple. But I am free to work wherever I want. I am free to do whatever I want. And my personal worth is not tied to a particular company. Instead, it’s the satisfaction of doing a great job. The joy of working on a winning team. And, working with amazing people. THOSE THINGS ARE NOT LIMITED TO ONE OR TWO COMPANIES.
YOU ARE A FREE AGENT. YOU ARE REALLY GOOD AT WHAT I DO. YOU CAN DO GREAT WORK ANYWHERE!
I’m still a very loyal person. But I refuse to fall into the trap of becoming trapped by a company’s retention driven culture of ‘great place to work.’ I love a great place to work. But, THE GREAT PLACE TO WORK is largely a product of LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE WORKING TOGETHER TO WIN with innovation, generosity and respect for others. Don’t give the company all the credit. Ultimately, the company is nothing without great people. YOU MAKE IT GREAT!
I can create ‘great place to work’ wherever I go. AND I WILL.
Don’t feel trapped. Don’t be trapped.
CHOOSE TO BE AWESOME! CHOOSE WHERE YOU WILL WORK. CHOOSE WHAT YOU WILL DO.
CHOOSE TO MAKE IT A TRULY GREAT PLACE TO WORK!
PS: I promise you that when you embrace the belief in free agency and individual choice, you’ll do your best work. Accept and embrace that you have made the choice. Otherwise you’re trapped (even to a small degree) and trapped in work prison will never allow the best of who you are to shine through. SHINE! Your individual potential is unlimited.