We have looked at feelings that negatively impact our relationship with work. Feelings of oppression, powerlessness, hopelessness, boredom, and doubt. But these feelings didn’t fall out of the sky and bonk us on the head. They didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. They aren’t communicable. They have a root. They have a trigger.
In the twenty-plus years, I have been observing people’s responses to the workplace, I have found that there are five common triggers/causes for these feelings. I call them the Culprits. These Culprits move silently; they are insidious, and they are pervasive in the workplace. They steal from you. They steal your ability to have a healthy relationship with work. They steal your right to experience the True Nature of Work. They steal your ability to feel joy in your relationship with work. They leave you with the pain that we just discussed.
In this section, we are going to take a look at these Culprits and how they impact us.
The Five Culprits:
- Time4Money Exchange
- Absence of Dominion
- The Lack Trifecta
- Lack of Expression
- Lack of Fulfillment
- Lack of Reward
Culprit 1: The Time4Money Exchange
What is the Time4Money Exchange?
The first Culprit we are going to look at is what I call the Time4Money Exchange. The Time4Money Exchange is the primary foundation of the workplace. Somewhere in this world at this very moment, a new employee and employer are agreeing to enter into the Time4Money Exchange. Every day we go to work, employees and employers participate in this exchange. While the song says, “Money makes the world go ‘round,” it is the Time4Money Exchange that makes the workplace “go ‘round”.
Here is the Time4Money Exchange in a nutshell. The employer says, “I need to have X completed in Y number of hours, and I will pay you Z to do it.” Simple enough. The employer has a task she needs to be completed she wants it done in a certain amount of time, and she’s willing to pay a certain amount for that task. You as the employee are exchanging your time and your productivity for agreed-upon compensation. That is the exchange. And it is this simple exchange that truly becomes the harbinger of doom for our relationship with work.
Let me tell you why. First, damage springs from the fact you have no power in this exchange, and secondly, the Time4Money Exchange is in direct opposition to the True Nature of Work. Let me ask you, where is your power in this exchange? Where is the power of the employee? Good exchanges, i.e. agreements, are those that are equitable. In other words, both parties come to the table wielding equal amounts of power. The Time4Money Exchange is, on its face, unequitable. In this exchange, the employer always has more power than the employee. Hence, the agreement is never one of the equals. Instead, it is fraught with power imbalances and inequities.
For example, the employer might offer benefits to her employees, but the employer can change those benefits at will. The employees cannot do likewise but have to accept whatever changes the employer decides to make. If the employees do not like the changes, they might have the opportunity to voice their opinions. But most of the time it is the employer who has the final say. If employees do not like the change, they are usually left with one option – find another job.
Another example of inequity in the exchange is that an employer can change the amount of productivity required in a given time frame and/or the type of productivity expected from the employee. The employee cannot make the same type of change.
You get the picture. Whether we are talking about benefits, salaries, work conditions, work schedules, the employer will always have more power. When you think about the Time4Money Exchange, you need to ask yourself where is your voice in this equation? What power do you wield?
Let’s look at the other reason that the Time4Money Exchange causes so much damage to our relationship with work. By its very nature, the Time4Money Exchange is antithetical to the True Nature of Work where the focus is on your power, your needs and especially your alignment with your gifts and talents. If the employer and the employee were operating in accordance with natural laws, the agreement would look like this: you would be offering your gifts and talents, meaning you would be saying, “I am willing to give to you my talent for (cabinetry or science or design).” You and the employer would come to an agreement as to the compensation for the talent. And if applicable, there would be agreement about the timeframe under which that talent would be given.
Unfortunately, the Time4Money Exchange that our workplaces are based on positions us in opposition to the True Nature of Work. With the emphasis on time and productivity rather than on the expression of our gifts and talents, the natural consequence is a damaged relationship. How can you have a good relationship when the nature of the exchange that you’ve entered into does not and cannot support truth? The exchange will never support the True Nature of Work because that is not its purpose. The exchange exists to get you, the employee, in the door so you can do what the employer needs you to do. Ask yourself: “Where are my gifts and talents in this exchange?” Another good question to ask is, “Are my needs being met through this exchange?”
Impact of the Time4Money Exchange
So now we know that the Time4Money Exchange is an agreement based on inequity and an exchange that goes against the True Nature of Work. But how does this impact me, you ask?
When you are part of an exchange that is based on inequality, whether you know it consciously or subconsciously, it will leave you feeling taken advantage of. That is never a good feeling. And this leads to that feeling of powerlessness that we talked about in the previous section. How can you feel powerful in an exchange that at its foundation celebrates and perpetuates the powerlessness of employees? Let’s not mince words here. The workplace needs you to be powerless. It needs you to do what you are told, in the way you are told to do it and in the time frame in which you are told to do it. Regardless of the many corporate programs created to make the workplace better, we should never be fooled into thinking that the workplace celebrates empowered employees.
We also have to throw the feeling of oppression into the mix. An exchange that at its core is unequal will leave one party, obviously, the one without the power, feeling oppressed by the exchange. How could it not? By its very nature, the Time4Money Exchange tells employees that they only get a certain piece of the pie for doing a certain action. In the exchange, there is no opportunity for the employee to gain as much power as the employer. It is simply not going to happen. It is very important to remember that within this exchange, there are limits and boundaries, and those have been set by the employer to perpetuate the status quo. Of course, the feeling of oppression would develop from this. How can you possibly feel free when the exchange limits you?
To sum it up: the Time4Money Exchange is a Culprit because of its inherent inequity and the fact that it violates the True Nature of Work. The impact of this culprit is that it creates feelings of powerlessness and oppression. The more we feel powerless and the more we feel oppressed, the more damaged our relationship with work becomes.
- Am I in an inequitable relationship with my employer?
- Have I felt cheated or taken advantage of in my relationship with my employer?
- Has the Time4Money Exchange left me feeling powerless or oppressed?
- Write about other feelings that might have come up for you as you were reading this section.
Culprit 2: The Absence of Dominion
What is Absence of Dominion?
The word Dominion is so powerful when we use it in the context of our relationship with work. Dominion encompasses both “control” and the “right to govern.”
In our relationship with work, we are responsible for controlling the direction of our relationship with work and our career. We belong in the driver’s seat. We must pick our destination and point the car in that direction. This is our job and ours alone. However, too often, we find ourselves in the passenger’s seat when it comes to both our relationship with work and our career.
How do you know if you are in control of your relationship with work and career? Ask yourself this question: Have I ever had a moment like this? One day, out of the blue, you look at your career or your place of employment or your relationship with work and you wonder “How did I get here?” At that moment, you might have felt as if you had been swept along with the tide of years as they moved on. You might have felt as if others made decisions for you or circumstances pushed you in one direction or the other. You might have felt lost and a bit bewildered. This “How did I end up here?” moment, that “How did my career come to this?” moment is a clear sign that you have not been in control of the direction of your career or your relationship with work.
If you haven’t been in control of the direction of your career, of the direction of your relationship with work, then you are experiencing an Absence of Dominion over that which you should control. Your career and your relationship with work are your dominion. If your employer is identifying your next career step, then you are experiencing an Absence of Dominion. If you have left it to friends and family to tell you where you should be taking your career, then you are experiencing an Absence of Dominion. If you follow someone else’s career path because “Well, that’s how they did it,” then you are experiencing an Absence of Dominion. If you are “going along to get along,” then you are experiencing an Absence of Dominion.
To exercise Dominion is to say I know what I want in my professional life, and therefore, I am taking my career as well as my relationship with work in the direction necessary to achieve what I want. To exercise Dominion is to confidently chart your course. It is to maintain your control over the direction of your career regardless of the well-meaning input of others as well as the impact of circumstances.
The other aspect of Dominion that’s important to understand as it relates to your career is the “right to govern.’” It is your right to govern your career, to decide how it will look and feel. It is your right to govern the gifts and talents you will share. It is your right to govern the reward you will receive for sharing your gifts and talents. Did you know that? Do you know how to do that?
If your answer is no, that is to be expected. We have so few models of men and women who exercise Dominion over their career. Because of this dearth of good role models, Absence of Dominion has become an unconscious modus operandi of so many. We didn’t know that we could and should govern these aspects of our career and our relationship with work.
This is why I call the Absence of Dominion a Culprit. The longer we go without exercising Dominion over our career, over our relationship with work, the more it steals from us. Let me explain.
You have dreams and desires for the future, right? Of course, you do. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this book. For you to achieve your dreams and desires, you must be willing to take control of your career and your relationship with work and make the important decisions. The Absence of Dominion steals your future from you because, without control, you are not going to achieve your dreams. Without exercising Dominion over every aspect of your life, not just career, you cannot have the future you want. The future you want requires – it demands – that you call the shots. Your future demands that you take that deep breath and decide to have what you want most. The Absence of Dominion will rob you of every opportunity you have to create the future you desire.
One last thing – this Culprit will steal your confidence. When you are actively engaged in the daily practice of governing your career and your relationship with work, it builds your confidence. Over time, you see the benefits and the positive impact on your career and your relationship with work because you are making decisions, you’re acting on your choices and your desires versus those of another. It builds your belief that you can achieve. However, in the Absence of Dominion, you get robbed of the chance to build your confidence. When your career is left to the vagaries of circumstance or the choices of another, you lose not only the ability to direct your career and have what you want, as mentioned above, you also lose this critical opportunity to prove to yourself that you can build your career and have it as you desire. Not having the opportunity to prove this to yourself is a terrible loss.
Impact of Absence of Dominion
How does the Absence of Dominion impact us from a pain perspective? The Absence of Dominion causes us to doubt our ability to achieve. We doubt our ability because we are not making crucial decisions that will demonstrate our ability to achieve.
The Absence of Dominion causes us to feel powerless because we are not making those crucial decisions about our career, in our relationship with work. Those decisions are being left to others or the whims of circumstance. We are not grabbing the power that is inherently ours and exercising it.
Lastly, it brings up feelings of hopelessness. Hopelessness originates from the fact that nothing in our life is changing. The Catch-22 is that the only way our situation can change is if we take control and make decisions. Exercising Dominion cranks up the engine of change. Without it, we end up feeling hopeless about the future and about whether our circumstances will or can change.
The Absence of Dominion is a Culprit that takes so much from us. It takes our confidence and leaves us with doubt. It takes our power and leaves us feeling as if we can’t change anything. It leaves our career and our relationship with work with no direction. And worst of all, it robs us of the future we dream of.
- Am I exercising Dominion over my career and my relationship with work?
- Have I felt powerless or hopeless due to the Absence of Dominion over my relationship with work?
- Do I doubt my ability to achieve my goals?
- Write about how you feel when you think about the fact that you have not been exercising Dominion over your relationship with work.
Even the advent of unions did not put employees on a level playing field with employers. Despite a union’s ability for collective bargaining, it doesn’t change the power dynamic or address the fact that the Time4Money Exchange violates the True Nature of Work.