The New Paradigm

Yesterday I introduced what I see as the problem plaguing creative employees. I’ll admit the reality of it is a little dire. As a lover of history I’ve seen that whenever any situation arises that causes power to shift disproportionally to one side a paradigm change will occur in the situation to cause things to balance out.

The (un)employee

Such is the present case. You have highly talented employees who have become unemployed, disenfranchised or un-respected. As we explored previously in this situation employers hold all of the power. In this situation creative employees are taking the most logical step they can think of to correct the imbalance of power. They no longer become employees.

This crazy idea is taking off. Just this past week alone I’ve had 3 friends just outright quit. One of them said “I am just tired of working day in and day out to please someone who ultimately cares nothing about me.” A good friend @amybhole recently shared a similar experience:

“I’ve always been frustrated by how American workers are treated and the psychology that makes us think more hours in the office = a better work product. It’s especially bad in this economy, as employers act like lords who demand unending loyalty from their vassals in return for a measly wage that quite often only pays for a roof over our heads and a meal in our bellies.”

The New Model

Creative workers are taking control of their employment. Most of the creative types I talk to either have already started to branch out on their own or are thinking seriously about it. Most however are not burning bridges with their former employers. They are maintaining that relationship and taking on a portion of their previous work.

This idea is going well with organizations too. Now they are able to reduce cost by not paying for employee overhead or idle time. They can also break apart creative jobs and utilize individuals with specific talents. So for example one friend who branched off recently is retaining the former company’s website design and allowing them to outsource some of the areas that were not his strength.

As you can imagine, this new paradigm is not perfect and causes some issues. In the next post I will explore what the implications are for businesses and employees moving forward using this new model.

Posted in Strategy
  • Anonymous

    As an employer, and please call me Lord Strack, I have a little different perspective, while at the same time appreciating some of the side-benefits of this thing you call “the new paradigm”. I have often engaged, and plan to continue to engage, these creative workers to assist my company’s ongoing efforts.
    Yes, this economy is certainly a game-changer. I have caught myself using the “more with less” mantra during our staff meetings. While we have been fortunate not to have any layoffs, salary cuts, or work week reductions during this period, we have not replaced staff members who have left through normal attrition. And I will be the first to admit that as a business owner, my own situation is often what I am most concerned about first.
    Yet, I sincerely do care about those who make my livelihood possible. I don’t just have a staff of twelve people; I have a staff of twelve families, including single parents, recently divorced parents, new home-owners, and widowers.
    And yes, I recognize that some of them do struggle to make ends meet. Often, I cannot give them the financial rewards they desire. But I strive to give a competitive wage, and an enjoyable environment. And I hope to have given them an opportunity: the opportunity to grow, and be creative. But it is a job; it is work and some days it is a pain. In my public accounting days, a manager would always remind me that it was work, and that’s why we got paid. If it was fun all the time, we wouldn’t need a payday.

    But this is really nothing new. When my father left his job at Times Printing in 1966, he too, was one of those creative workers. He wanted to be more than just a vassal, he wanted to improve his situation. But he realized, that in order to do that, he had to leave his current situation, and take a chance. So he began working out of his garage, selling print by day, and producing it by night. So what happens next? As his success grows, so does his need for resources, and staffing, and eventually he is on the complete opposite end of where he began. More importantly, he is determined to be an honest, fair employer. He treats all staff members as equals, and with respect. And he helps them create opportunities for themselves. (And hopefully, these lessons were passed along to me.)

    I would imagine we may see the same thing happening in current economic times. Talented individuals leave for greener pastures, or more freedom. As they forge new relationships and become more successful, they themselves may become employers, possibly destined to start the process over again.

    So while it may seem it’s happening at a quicker pace, it’s really not a new concept. And for those seeking to “correct this imbalance of power”, congratulations and good luck. In the meantime, I may be contacting you for assistance in keeping my business on an even keel.

    • Anonymous

      The issue with generalizations is that there is always an exception. I could have scripted your response for you almost (with the exception of the Lord Strack thing). I think we have discussed that you are the exception, not the norm.

      I look at situations around me, including my own honestly, and see this case with employers seeing employees as expendable and utilizing the strength of their present situation to do whatever they want. It is not to say that all bosses and employers are inherently evil, I absolutely do not think that, I just think they have placed a lower value on creative workers in the present situation.

      I also am a firm believer in the fact that all history is cyclical. It does not take a great deal of research looking at company start dates to find that there are large concentrations about every 10-15 years of new companies.

      I tend to think that the current wave we are experiencing might be a little different when you factor in the amount of connectivity that we have today. I get the sense that most people are not interested in growing big businesses and as a result I think you will see a mesh environment form where individuals remain individual workers, they just form alliances with others similar to themselves. Things become really horizontal with a lot of people working loosely on the same level with very little vertical structure.

  • Pingback: The Mesh Model « j greg henderson()

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