Providing a practical guide to problematic conversations in today's job market has led me to wonder if there's anything that we, as individuals, could do to make the workplace a more just environment. Can we turn back the clock to a time when employees were valued, when handshake deals were common, when if you did your work your position was secure—and if you did it well you'd be given raises and promotions? The simple, honest answer is no. Those days are gone and no matter how nostalgic some of us might be, they're never coming back. The hands of time move in only one direction: forward.
So what we need is to find a more just way of working in this new world. I don't think I've got the whole answer, but I do have a good place for us to start.
Rather than viewing ourselves as employees, subservient to those who sign our paychecks, what if we look at ourselves as freelancers who just happen to have one client. When we're hired, it's to accomplish a goal or deliver a product. We're working, not at a job, but on a project. Our employer is our client: someone to be respected, catered to, and helped; but not to be viewed as someone who is our source of long-term security. Instead of relying on our boss to provide for us, we need to provide for ourselves. That means constantly looking for more clients, expanding our offerings, and freshening our inventory of skills. It means accepting that once the project is done, we'll need to find work elsewhere.
Many individuals who have had ...