Paul Omerod gives a fascinating perspective on organizations in his bookÂ Why Most Things Fail. He says that when businesses in the U.S. were given “personhood status” the age of the faceless corporation began. In the early 20th century, LLCs (limited liability corporations) could be formed and operated as something completely separate from the person(s) who incorporated them. It’s why a business can claim bankruptcy and leave the owner relatively unscathed. Businesses became faceless.
A friend once told me:
If a company and an employee cannot come to an agreement on terms (salary, benefits, etc.), it is on the company if the employee walks away.
I like that.
I like thinking that a company or organization has a role in retaining their employees. It’s not simply, “Hey, worker bee, this is what we’re offering you. Take it or leave it.” It is the organization taking initiative in seeing the value of their people.
Of course, not every employee brings value to an organization. But those who do (Seth Godin calls them a “linchpin“) need to have that value acknowledged. Part of that value comes in negotiations.
Unfortunately, most of companies would prefer to remain faceless and treat employees as replaceable. Most organizations would prefer to hide behind a long-standing rule or employee handbook. Most companies would prefer to blame “the organization” rather than treating their employees like human beings.
- “We’d love to accommodate your request, unfortunately….”
- “If we made an exception for you, we’d have to make it for everyone…”
- “The employee handbook states….”
Here’s the thing: Most businesses are set up to be faceless. At the root of it is a desire to pass the buck. Financially and relationally. In the end, no one wants to be accountable.