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Treat Your Employer How It Treats You

This article was written by in Best Of, Career and Work. 13 comments.


The more profitable your employer, particularly if it is a large corporation, the more attention the employer pays to its biggest asset, its employees. Profitable companies offer perks to employees like vacation days, 401(k) matching contributions, health care subsidies, free lunches, on-site day-care, unlimited restroom breaks, and development opportunities. Don’t confuse these benefits designed to woo would-be and current employees with actual caring.

Corporations do not care about employees. Your boss and your co-workers might care about you as a person, and if they do, that’s a good thing. But a corporation provides benefits for only two reasons: to attract the best talent and to keep that talent motivated and productive. Even the primary purpose of health benefits are to keep you in the office doing your work rather than sick at home.

From a corporate point of view, employees are only seen as how they affect the bottom line. This is the same way you should view your employer. Forget about corporate loyalty.

In finance, the term “sunk costs” refer to expenses that have been spent and can’t be recovered. When making business decisions you have to ignore the past and decide what options are the best moving forward. The same idea applies to time you’ve spent with a company. I’ve talked to many people who say, “I’ve already spent fifteen years at this company, so I might as well stick around until retirement so I can get a package.” I’ve heard this even when the speaker had another twenty years before retirement!

The past is a sunk cost. Look only at the present and the future. Those retirement packages are designed to chain you to your employer but with some fancy maneuvering you might be able to get a better deal by changing jobs. Even if you haven’t been working long enough at the company for your 401(k) matching contributions to vest, you can use that when negotiating your compensation for your next job.

Think about your greater state of being in addition to your finances when making life choices, but when dealing with your employer, focus on the bottom line. Just like a company has a responsibility to its shareholders to maximize revenue and minimize expenses, you have the same responsibility to yourself and your family.

The economy is rough right now, and a lot of people I know are sitting tight waiting for better employment news and other indicators that certain companies are hiring again. One of my friends has been out of a job since 2008. Even though it’s an employer’s market, employees can’t let employers take advantage of their talents and work ethic.

Generation Y isn’t the only group of workers rejecting the unblinking loyalty to employers once favored.

  • Always keep your eye open for new opportunities.
  • Always have a basic résumé updated and ready.
  • Always stay up-to-date in your field.
  • Always say yes to manageable projects.
  • Always look to meet new people in your industry.
  • Always let outsiders know you are interested in moving forward with your career.
  • Always look for ways to be successful working for yourself.
  • Always have options.

What do you suggest to help ensure employers don’t take advantage of employees in today’s job market?

Updated August 2, 2010 and originally published January 13, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar LeanLifeCoach

I’m not sure if there is anything to be done to keep employers from taking advantage of employees, but you can make sure your employer doesn’t take advantage of you!

The first “Always” is most appropriate. Never turn down an opportunity until you know what the opportunity is! I’ve been surprised how often someone I know doesn’t even explore a lead on a new job or career opportunity. It’s a shame.

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avatar John T

Have some control over your own destiny. For example, having no debt and an emergency fund will enable you to adjust and adapt as situations occur. It provides you with the option of saying goodbye, if and when you feel you are being taken advantage of by your employer.

“Those who fail to prepare are preparing to fail.” –Ben Franklin

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avatar Lord Khadgar

Millenials don’t have the luxury of “having no debt and an emergency fund”. How do you expect us to live debt free? Not all of us have rich parents that could pay our college tuition out of pocket. I graduated with $40G of student loan debt because I, like the rest of my generation, was taught that the key to success was a damn piece of parchment that says my name and bachelor of arts or bachelor of science. The reality is it has given me no success, as I, like many in my generation, am working an $8 an hour retail job (that’s all I could find where I live), making it impossible to live debt free and have any sort of savings (let alone a specific “emergency fund”).
Your post seems targeted to Gen-Xers and Boomers who have the luxury of a job that pays a living wage, and the ability to pay off ones debts in a timely manner. Most Millenials/Gen-Yers like myself will likely be trapped with student loans until the day we die because we bought into the lie that previous generations told us. Hindsight is 20/20 – we can’t go back and stop ourselves from attending college so we can survive on the paltry wages offered by the average retail or food service establishment (which seem to be the only places hiring in this craptacular economy! What we need is a viable solution to not being taken advantage of by employers that doesn’t read “having no debt and an emergency fund”.

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avatar John DeFlumeri Jr

You are right that the company only cares about results, not people. If you make them enough money, they like you. I blogged about this subject today on my blog too!

John DeFlumeri Jr

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avatar RetirementInvestingToday

How true. I believe that my boss and my co-workers care however this is not coming from the company or corporation. It’s coming because they genuinely care.

The company or corporation exists for two reasons only. To generate revenue and profits. Once I can now longer do that I am fully aware that they won’t need me any more. That’s why I’m taking action with my early retirement investing strategy.

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avatar GE Miller

I work for a top 20 perennial “top employers to work for” company. The perks and benefits are great – but the company still only really truly cares about the bottom line. And EVERYONE is replaceable in any corporation. Let’s face it, if you work for anyone but yourself you are simply a “rented mind for hire” (white collar) or “rented muscle for hire” (blue collar) whose destiny is completely in the hands of your employer.

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avatar nyxmoxie

I completely agree. I’ve worked at tons of jobs, and there are still people who are gullible enough to think that their company/boss is looking out for them. I feel sorry for these people. You have to look out for you because if you don’t then no one else will. At least that is how I see things. Thanks for giving realistic advice.

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avatar Daddy Paul

Great read. Other points I would like to add. Save money in good times. Secondly set up more than one source of income. Too often people put all of their faith in one company.

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avatar Christina

Have to agree with you, some employees tend to forget the need to secure their own future…you’re only helping your company earn as much money as they could. Set aside something for the future, put up a business someday, no one is indispensable. What you learn from the experience of working with them could also work for your advantage…you just have to learn how.

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avatar Financial Samurai

Guess I’m old fashioned. I’m a 10+ year loyal veteran at my firm, and plan to work 10 more years, and call it quits.

Luck plays a big part in finding the right place too.

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avatar Lord Khadgar

Luck has nothing to do with it for the average Millenial/Gen-Yer. We get trapped working for greedy people like the Walton Family (Walmart), John Menard (Menards), the Koch Family (McDonald’s), and other employers that assume we’ll stay loyal for poverty wages and minimal benefits. Luck only comes to play when a company has the cajones to pay a reasonable wage, and fork up decent benefits, which in this economy is not something they’re likely to consider doing. Heaven forbid their employees be happy, healthy, and not homeless (or not on the verge of becoming homeless)!

John Menard wants my loyalty? Perhaps he should fork over some more of his massive profits. I don’t plan to stay loyal when I can barely pay my bills and my rent. I’ve gone some months without buying groceries, and begging and pleading with friends for food or help staying afloat because Mr. Menard feels he needs to buy another God Damned sports car, mansion, and hire another NASCAR driver for his fucking NASCAR team – all on the labor of his so called “valued team members”… I’d like to see him try to do what his employees do everyday for the same wages we do it for. Pretty sure he’d want to quit too!

I should’ve been born 10 years before I was. At least I could’ve potentially avoided financial ruin following college…

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avatar Karen Mingain

I think my biggest issue is although I do not own the company, I get caught up in treating it as if it were my own. I get emotionally attached to my co-workers, and I promote the company to its fullest extent. I have high standards and if I speak my mind or suggest another way, I often get slapped for it. How can someone like myself learn to be uncaring and selfish in a company? I love my job but it is not a place that promotes inclusion. Team work is something they think is for football.

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avatar Dragon

In the company I work for, they’ve learned that suggestions make money. So, they’ve been paying employees for the best ideas. Suppose you suggest that such a program be started, seeking out the most agreeable manager or supervisor? It seems to me it would be selfish of them to -accept- such a program, not slap it down.

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