Working For vs. Working With

[Note: I had every intention of posting a resources list on Friday for additional reading on Millennials in the Workplace. I still plan on doing that later this week. I just have to organize/compile the information. Thanks for your patience!]

Coming off my last week of looking at Millennials in the workplace, I want to tackle the idea of “working for” vs. “working with.” Understanding this concept will be critical to attracting and retaining Millennials.

Millennials Don’t Want to “Work For”

Working for someone or something implies that your time and ideas are not your own. Instead they are owned by the person you do the work for. Your work is not your own. It implies they control many things about you: when you show up, when you leave, what you do, who you do it with, where you do it, when you do it, etc. It implies obligation not cooperation.

Millennials Want to “Work With”

Almost everyone wants to be part of something greater than themselves. But how can you feel like you matter when you feel like you’re owned? You can’t.

When you work with someone, you matter. You aren’t controlled by people you work with – you’re included. When you work with people, you share common goals and values that you all want to see accomplished. You partner. You share in the highs and lows.

Most Consultants and Companies “Work With”

Have you ever noticed that most companies in the service sector will talk about the clients they “work with”? Rarely will they say, “We work for Google,” or, “We work for Coca-Cola.”

Why? Because they want to be viewed as peers. They don’t want to be viewed as the lesser-valued parter in the relationship.

Those same companies will then turn around and refer to the employees that “work for” them rather than “work with” them. I would argue that any company looking to create a culture that Millennials (and truthfully anyone) would love to work for, needs to focus on shifting this perspective. Value them the same way you value your clients.

Leading vs. Managing

Remember my post on leading versus managing? Leaders work with you. Managers expect you to work for them.

Work with your employees; don’t let them work for you.

About the Author

  • justindavis

    Great stuff Travis, and as usual, you're square on the money. Instead of being seen as replaceable cogs in a wheel, Millennials want to feel like a partner, someone whose skills complement the company they work with, instead of just fitting the requirements of a bland job posting.

    Related to that, it's amazing what a shift can be made by thinking of yourself as self-employed, whether you're employed full time by a company or not. The idea of viewing yourself this way is to understand that you are indeed a partner in the process – that instead of being "lucky" to be employed, the company is lucky that you've opted to choose them as your sole client. In addition, this breeds empowerment – if I view myself as self-employed, I retain full control and autonomy over my situation.

    When I work with clients, I always approach the situation as a partnership. Without them, I couldn't do my job, and without me, they can't do theirs. Instead of instilling an artificial structure that enforces a dominate-subordinate relationship, we come together and collaborate, which always leads to better results.

    • Thanks, Justin! And great point! There is so much power in someone shifting their thinking from being employed by a company to self-employed. I wonder how many more small businesses would be launched each year if people shifted their thinking like you suggest.

      You also raise a great point about autonomy. It goes back to what I posted last week and what Daniel Pink wrote about in Drive: people want autonomy in their work. This basically amounts to choice in 4 areas of our jobs: what we do, how we do it, when we do it, and who we do it with. When we view ourselves as self-employed, we realize that we can, in fact, control those things even if we take a paycheck from a company. We can choose each of those things in our next job.

      Thanks for sharing that!

  • justindavis

    Great stuff Travis, and as usual, you're square on the money. Instead of being seen as replaceable cogs in a wheel, Millennials want to feel like a partner, someone whose skills complement the company they work with, instead of just fitting the requirements of a bland job posting.

    Related to that, it's amazing what a shift can be made by thinking of yourself as self-employed, whether you're employed full time by a company or not. The idea of viewing yourself this way is to understand that you are indeed a partner in the process – that instead of being "lucky" to be employed, the company is lucky that you've opted to choose them as your sole client. In addition, this breeds empowerment – if I view myself as self-employed, I retain full control and autonomy over my situation.

    When I work with clients, I always approach the situation as a partnership. Without them, I couldn't do my job, and without me, they can't do theirs. Instead of instilling an artificial structure that enforces a dominate-subordinate relationship, we come together and collaborate, which always leads to better results.

    • Thanks, Justin! And great point! There is so much power in someone shifting their thinking from being employed by a company to self-employed. I wonder how many more small businesses would be launched each year if people shifted their thinking like you suggest.

      You also raise a great point about autonomy. It goes back to what I posted last week and what Daniel Pink wrote about in Drive: people want autonomy in their work. This basically amounts to choice in 4 areas of our jobs: what we do, how we do it, when we do it, and who we do it with. When we view ourselves as self-employed, we realize that we can, in fact, control those things even if we take a paycheck from a company. We can choose each of those things in our next job.

      Thanks for sharing that!

  • Dennis Stichez

    Thanks Travis. Just the other day we were having a discussion with some of my colleagues on ‘working for’ and ‘working with’ which to me i view it as a complete paradigm shift where we are seen as leaders and who we can optimize and improve processes rather than being seen as robots without a mind of their own.