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No, Your Company Is Not a Family

In a perfect world, we'd be honest with our employers and they with us. No worker would ever fudge their previous salary in order to get paid what they deserve; no hiring manager would claim to be out of budget, when in fact they were using it to secure a more in-demand skill set. Perhaps most important of all, no executive leader would ever tell this corporate fib: "Our company is just like family."

In a perfect world, we’d be honest with our employers and they with us. No worker would ever fudge their previous salary in order to get paid what they deserve; no hiring manager would claim to be out of budget, when in fact they were using it to secure a more in-demand skill set. Perhaps most important of all, no executive leader would ever tell this corporate fib: “Our company is just like family.”

 like a family

(Photo Credit: JD Hancock/Flickr)

“The biggest lie is that the employment relationship is like family,” says LinkedIn co-founder and executive chairman Reid Hoffman in his new book The Alliance.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

There are two versions of this lie, Reid says:

1. When the employer believes it.

2. When the employer wants the employee to believe it.

“They really want the employee to be loyal to the company,” Hoffman says. “That’s when it gets deceptive.”

In the end, it doesn’t really matter why employers perpetuate this myth (other than the first possibility reflecting better on them as people, which might make workers feel a little better in the short-term). The bottom line is that workers should be loyal to themselves, first, last, and always.

family lie 

Consider the facts:

  • Younger baby boomers born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 11.7 jobs from age 18 through age 48, according to a longitudinal study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • One in five U.S. workers lost their jobs during the Great Recession, and about 22 percent of those who lost their jobs were unemployed as of 2014, according to a survey by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.
  • Real wages have declined 8.4 percent since 2006, and with typical pay raises hovering around 3 percent, workers’ best option for a salary increase is often to jump ship for more cash.

Still, both workers and employers persist in pretending that companies are families, and jobs family roles.

“… Hoffman’s idea [is] that both employers and employees should look at a particular job less as a lifetime contract and more as a ‘tour of duty’ — a limited-time engagement meant to achieve specific ends on both sides,” writes Ezra Klein at Vox. “But until employers stop pretending employees are family and employees stop pretending their aim is a job they’ll never leave, neither side can have that conversation.”

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever worked for an employer that characterized the company as a family? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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1 Comment on "No, Your Company Is Not a Family"

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jim anderson
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Thanks for this post. It is certainly and unfortunatly reflective of so many workplaces.
It’s the direct counterpoint to an article and discussion also today in LinkedIn regarding Fibernetic’s in Canada and their cultural drive to have an open, honest, motivating and mutually rewarding Workplace.

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