Who do you work for?

Photo Credit: Kalexanderson via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Kalexanderson via Compfight cc

Easy question – who do you work for?

Most people will reply with the name of their organisation but is your employer the reason you actually go to work?

I saw Perry Timms write about a lack of meaning in the workplace and I think, for some people, meaning is important. I don’t think we can assume that for everyone, especially if you’re talking in terms of engagement.

Gem Reucroft asks

Maybe the answer is to do everything we can do engage those people, to make all work as meaningful and enjoyable and engaging as possible

For some people that might work. Not everyone though because we need to understand the motives for being there in the first place.

Some people come to work for the money. They’re there for the money, the cash, the paycheck. It’s a job, not a career, and their reward is the folding in their back pocket. How engaged are these people?

Some people work for the organisation. Their values and performance matters; association with a well regarded organisation is important, no, ESSENTIAL for them. How engaged are these people?

Some people work for their line manager. The supporting, driving, achieving manager can be the reason some people come to work. Working for the person is important for these employees; association with someone successful, with meaning, witch character, drives people to be present. How engaged are these people?

Some people work for their colleagues, peers and team. The camaraderie of the group matters more than the activity; the relationship is more important than the task; supporting each other in a shared practice. How engaged are these people?

Some people work for the professional reputation. The recognition by peers inside and outside the organisation is critical. Being the best at what they do matters more than the organisation they work for. How engaged are these people.

Some people work for their customers. The relationship with the people they provide a service for is elevated above any other reason; the meaning of the work matters most.

Difficult question – who do you work for?

9 thoughts on “Who do you work for?

  1. Really interesting read. I think most people work for combinations of the above. It’s easier for us to pigeonhole motivations (particularly) those of other people and to use those grossly oversimplified motivations to explain their behaviour. It is easier for us to think of our own motivations as pure and unsullied even if they are more likely to be complex than that. It’s possibly how well the sum of these motivations is met by the employer that is closest to the concept of ‘engagement’ and the diversity of these motivators is what makes a one size fits all approach to engagement largely redundant. The best way to get ‘engagement’ – hire for fit and then support people to do their stuff. Otherwise you are attempting to change the nature of people or the organisation to get a match – and the more diverse the motivations of the people that you have the harder that job will be,


    1. Thanks David – I tend to agree that it is a combination of the factors. It’s simplistic to suggest that it’s only one but, depending on how engaged the person is, one may be more dominant.

      As you say, employers should recognise the the right fit at hiring and support appropriately – the question is do they?


      1. I think you identified the key factors. I actually think the blend changes with external influence. If I’m talking to you about money all the time you can get stuck in that mindset. Likewise recognition may be a dominant influence at performance review time when we are highly aware of performance relative to peers.

        Do companies get fit right at the hiring stage? Some do, most are still trying would be the best I can offer from my experience.


  2. Andrew – this one is simple – I work for myself, me , moi. Even though I am a paid employee and not is self employment – I work for me. It ‘s me I strive to please. I am the organisation, I am the manager, I am the co-worker, I am the client. I figure if I work for myself the rest will fall in place. May sound selfish, may sound egotistical but every day I strive to ensure I am delivering and achieving for me – you see “me” is aligned to the organisational goals and outcomes. So if I work for me I get to achieve in every way imaginable.

    So how engaged am I – well that depends on ME !


      1. Hey Andrew I would lie if I said that cash does not help as a motivator – but all things being equal – that is cash is there, location is there, work/life balance is there – I work for myself. One thing an employer can do to motivate me is keep me engaged with new challenging work.


  3. Thanks for the post Andrew. I left a comment on Google+ but there’s more commentary here in this forum. For me, it’s really a blend.

    At this point in time, it’s money so that I can set up my own freelance business in time but luckily, my current employer is open to helping out people with their goals and aspirations. My engagement picked up when they said they were open to me going part-time!

    However, some years back, I had left the comfort of a corporate organisation to follow a manager who I had a lot of respect. He was innovative, entrepreneurial and set up his own business. He was well known in the market. I thought that he would offer opportunities to learn how to build a business and risk (things I’d NEVER get in L&D) – how right I was. I ended up staying there for 7 years.

    All in all, for me, it really varies with the contract and the project. I’m engaged with the types of work I do and I love working with clients. I disengage when internal politicking, obstructions and constant reorganisations mean that my projects go on hold. In those situations, I’m in it for myself.


  4. I did a piece of reserch on engagement about 3 years ago and came across a wonderful series of experiements run by Andrew Elliott and Todd Thrash. It was the start of a model known as the “Thrash Inspiration Scale”. The pair measured a variety of factors such as environment, music, etc

    see linkhttp://blogs.hbr.org/2011/11/why-inspiration-matters/

    ultimately it was the inspiration/charisma exuded by the line manager that could engage, motivate etc the employee by the greatest margin.. This had led me to believe, that our accountability to inspire and create real followership has never been more important in the matter of engagement


  5. Thanks for your comments Helen and Gill.

    It seems to be agreed that it is a blend of some or all of the factors I suggested above. However, the inspirational line manager seems to be pivotal. The obvious question:
    How do we help managers to learn to be inspiring?


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