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  • Writer's pictureBritt Gottschalk

An Open Letter to Employers


Congratulations my fellow employers, we did it. Another year in the books, we've generated revenue, expanded our offerings and our organizations are still in business!


I know some of you may have suffered a bit of employee churn at the end of the year, but that's how employmentships go, right? If you've never heard the term, an employmentship is the relationship between an employee and an employer. Being someone who's on the employer side of things, it's that dynamic that has got me concerned.


It's the earliest lesson we learned as children, the same one Maslow covers in his famous hierarchy. The connotation of transactional relationships, specifically the employmentship, is that they are inherently toxic, painting a picture with emotionally charged crowds in an 'us vs. them' posture.


We know that at the root of our relationships with our employees is a transaction, and mistakenly taken for a simple one: I pay you to do work for me.


It is a dynamic that is built on the expectation of reciprocation, but it is so much more complex than that. Employmentship cannot be reduced to the minor fulfilment of a need for both parties, as it often is, because the focus falls so heavily on the 'what' - what numbers need to be hit to make quota, what is the budget for this quarter, what  needs to be delivered, etc. -  that we forget to balance it with the 'why'.


Regardless of if we are the employers, or we are the employed, we all spend the majority of our lives in an employmentship in some form or another. Too often, those that are the employed refer to the positions that we hire them for as 'just a job', something to pass the time, make ends meet, and move on to the next one because they're a dime a dozen. Our organizations are becoming seen as a necessary evil, increasingly disposable, ruthless, and ultimately just a means to an end.


'Just a job' strips away the multi-dimensional nature associated with tasks, and why we created a position to be filled in the first place. Once hired, a person is no longer referred to as a person within the organization, they are now an 'employee'. A minor change in how people are referenced that creates a major shift to impersonalization. 


People are multi-dimensional, and we need people to do the work. The needs we should aim to fulfill are those of our people - the single mothers, the dog dads, the caregivers of their parents, the avid weekend fishermen - and everyone in between. Too often those dimensions are used as reasons to mistrust our people, reinforcing an 'us vs. them' dynamic. Instead, we should view those dimensions as an opportunity to have conversations that can lead to better outcomes that result in our people remaining our people.


The work will always need to be done, but it does not have to come at the expense of being human. We should embrace and welcome those human experiences within the workplace to keep our people engaged. As employers, we have the ability to reinforce a sense of purpose, an ability to give depth and meaning to those that select us as their employer.


If there was a reminder that we need to embrace what it means to be human, it was COVID-19.  The event that should have made us all stop to think about our place in this world and our relationship with the people that live in it with us.


The simple truth is that people should not be selecting a position based on a place they want to work, but a place that enables them to live. We are all constantly defining and redefining our passions, and it is those elements of life, those multi-dimensional experiences that fuel our interests. It is that very same zest for life that our organization was created from in the first place that makes a person feel invested in their work.


At the end of the day, yes - our employmentships will stay transactional, but we cannot forget to balance the 'what' that needs to get done with the 'why' of the people that do it.


Let them be imaginative. Let them be creative. Let them be passionate. Let them be unstifled in the resolute expedition we call life. Treat your employees like human beings, and the trust will follow.


Motivated employees make engaged employees, and engaged employees create healthy, productive workplace cultures.


Let's take the toxicity out of our employmentships, because, my fellow employers, it starts with us.



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