Who Do You Work For?

Are you in control of your own life? If you are then you don’t have to ask permission of anybody anymore. If you are not in control then you probably feel that you do, which you don’t.

You have probably heard about or read about people’s “secret to success”. That may have been from a celebrity, a sportsman or a world famous businessman. I would like to share with you what my “secret to success” is. It isn’t anything special, and in fact it is common sense.

When you wake up in the morning and go to work, who do you think you are working for? This is a very important question that you need to ask yourself, and before answering it, you really need to think hard about how you will answer.

When I’ve led teams in my career and I’ve had to have difficult conversations with them, they often bring up how they’re not being paid enough or the company is not giving them enough training, or they don’t feel valued. You may have had those thoughts about the place where you go to work.

But, during those conversations I will ask them “Who do you actually work for?” and they will look back at me with a blank expression and either say they work for me or they work for the company.

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I mean, why would they say anything different, right? However, when I ask the question, I want people to really think hard on their answer because it will have a huge impact on the decisions they make and the attitude they have towards their work.

1. Who You Actually Work For

I am going to help you think differently about who you work for, which could be a life changing moment as you continue to read.

My follow up when I asked team members who they worked for was always, “No, the company you say you work for only pays you….you DO NOT work for them”

No matter what you do as a career, you ALWAYS get paid by someone else. However, you are ALWAYS WORKING FOR YOURSELF. No matter if you have your own business or whether you are a contractor or whether you are a permanent employee of a company.

Would you expect to get paid if you were not working for yourself?

It may be difficult for you to grasp that you work for yourself because it is not how we see the world at the moment. The norm is to think that people who have their own businesses work for themselves. But, we are going to change that reality to a different reality. You work for yourself too!

Mindset is what we need to change for us to change our reality, and to know and understand that we work for ourselves, and nobody else.

When I started to think like this, I would think that I am a business owner and everyone I interacted with was either a customer, a client or a marketing person who could help me get my name out there. Advertising is what we need to sell ourselves and our business, and the best way to do that was by getting others to talk about us.

2. Serving Others

A very important leadership trait is the act of service, to serve people. People who understand that they work for themselves also understand that they must serve their customers (company who pays them), not for their customers to serve them.

At the end of the day, serving your customers means they will talk about you more, and advertise your business (YOU) through “word of mouth”. To get more advertising, you need to show that you care about your customers and how they are feeling.

You need to go further when doing your job, not do as little as possible just to get the job done. You need to put yourself out there and want to be noticed by your customers. The more you are noticed, the more advertising you will get. How good does that sound?

This may still be difficult to sink in because you more than likely work at an organisation that isn’t owned by you. However, if you are being paid by the organisation for your services, then how can you not be working for yourself? You are working to benefit yourself by getting paid. Is this sinking in for you now?

A business provides products or services, or both. So, as you are in business for yourself and work for yourself, what is your product or service?

3. What Service Do You Provide?

It is you. For example, as an engineer I would provide the service of manufacturing, maintenance or design engineering work for the company. I would also provide the service of my mind with ideas and solutions to problems.

This idea of working for you might seem strange. However, as I have said previously, it requires different thinking, and we need to practice that different way of thinking so it doesn’t seem strange anymore, and becomes habit.

How you think about the people you work with and how you think about your job will need to change. How are you going to do that?

Working for yourself has to become your new reality, and for that to seem real then your thoughts need to be congruent with that new reality.

When this happens and you become comfortable with your new reality, it then becomes easier to build stronger relationships and be on the path towards success. So what you learn from my articles has now become even more important.

Hopefully you are now seeing the bigger picture and that the people who you interact with at work are either a customer, a client or a marketing person.

Keep in mind the marketing person or advertising agent because they are the people who are spreading the word about you, which can be either positive or negative. So make sure that the message they are spreading about you is the right one.

What’s your relationship like with your boss? Hopefully it’s a good relationship because your boss is the most influential person who can spread either a positive or negative message about you.

4. How Are Your Relationships?

I have had good and bad relationships with my bosses over the years, but no matter how they treated me, I always treated them with respect, so that they would not be able to spread a negative message about me.

When you’re at your current place of work, what do your customers think of you? What kind of advertising are your marketing people doing for you? Are you getting positive or negative feedback?

In all places of work, we all gossip about other people. Especially when I was working in the engineering maintenance depots and manufacturing plants. Whether that is about the boss or his/her boss or the new starters, it’s just what we do.

So from now on, when you are interacting with a team member or your boss, they are now your customer, ALWAYS keep that in mind. You need to see yourself as their customer too, so if you spread a negative message about someone else, it’s highly likely that they will do the same to you.

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So, really try hard to spread a positive message about your customers 100% of the time. If you can do that then there should be no reason why your customers won’t do the same.

Leadership is about servanthood and it is now your job to serve your customers (team members, boss etc.). If you serve your customers well and you make them happy, then that will have a huge impact on your future career prospects and how much influence you have.

Likewise if you serve your customers badly, that too can have a huge impact on your future career and your influence. So ensure to make your customers as happy as possible.

You have probably heard the phrase “It’s who you know, not what you know”, well now you get that that phrase is quite true, especially in the working environment. Even though industries are in every country in the world, it is very small when it comes to knowing people in your own industry.

Be sure to manage your business (YOU) well, and always put your customers, clients and marketing people first.

To strive towards excellence as a leader, do what excellent leaders do. Don’t strive to have what they have.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

Check out my other articles by Clicking HERE

All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

34 thoughts on “Who Do You Work For?

  1. This is a very important question – “who do you work for?” I’m glad this question is becoming common in the digital era even more!

    Yes we work for ourselves but by providing services to others. By providing an excellent service, you will get paid for what you have provided. It’s the matter of our mindset that makes the actual difference.

    I really like the way you mentioned about the relationships in work place with your colleagues and boss and treating them as your customers. I never thought like that!

    Many Thanks for this insight.

    1. Hi Habib,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found the post valuable.

      You are right, we work for ourselves by providing a service to others. Mindset is key in this case, and seeing ourselves as our own business isn’t an easy thing to do, but when we eventually do see that it is amazing how you can change with the mindset change.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. This is remarkable, Tom, I agree with almost every conclusion you have put here, except my starting point is different. Maybe in the end we still mean the same, but I’ll try to explain what I mean.
    First of all: I LOVE my present work and LOVED my work in the past.
    But I have rarely thought I worked for myself, my starting point always was that I work for my clients. And I also told my staff that: I might be the one transferring the money to your bank account, but our clients are the ones paying your salary.
    I can never understand why people working in a store can treat you like garbage, because I suspect them of thinking their salary comes from their boss. But if I walk away, their boss won’t have any money to pay them.
    Same for me: I can work for myself, but if I don’t have my clients in mind I can enjoy my work all that I want, but won’t have money to pay for the groceries.

    What do you think? Do we in the end have the same objective and is it semantics? Or is my opinion really different?

    (You know I value your work highly, don’t you? So I hope I am not rubbing you the wrong way 🙂 )

    1. Hi Hannie,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so happy that you found the article helpful.

      At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who is paying us, what matters is we are providing a service to our “customers”, no matter if they are clients, your boss, your colleagues, or whoever it is. We are our own business who provides a service to someone, and in exchange of that service we get aid. Hence we are working for ourselves.

      Keep returning, keep challenging, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Hi Tom ,you are totally right on this .I have worked with guys before who didn’t want to serve and give their best in tasks.Because we were in a team ,each time i would end up having to do also their part .It is really a good lesson you have reminded me here ,to serve others .This is an awesome lesson which we should all develop .I am going to share this with the guys i was working with ,i am sure they are going to get something from this nice article .Thank you Tom

    1. Hi JK,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this article valuable.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experiences with us, as I have gone through similar in the teams that I have been part of. I strongly believe that there will be many people who can relate and will learn from you and I sharign our experiences.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. As always, I learned a lot from your post. I remember the time when I was convinced that “working” means to work for a company that gives you a paycheck. That was a situation in which I was raised and I didn’t have any other ideas to work with. And then, it hit me. I don’t work for anyone except myself and I should decide how much I want to be paid. This decision has led me to start my own business. Then, I discovered that I don’t work only for myself, I work for other people too.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share my comment and give my thanks to you for sharing this post. I’ll be back for more as always!

    1. Hi Ivan,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you have learned a lot from this article.

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences of hen you realised that yes, we do actually work for ourselves. Starting your own business is great and gives you the leverage to help so many more people that you didn’t think you ever could help.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Wow, I’m a little blown away Tom.

    In all my years of previously working as a PAYE employee (or even self-employed on behalf of a company) I have never viewed my working life in this way.

    Don’t get me wrong, for the most part I enjoyed my career in Banking, and later in Finance Training, but there were times that I simply reacted in much the same way as you’ve mentioned.

    However, not once did I consider that “I’m actually working for myself here”, therefore my enjoyment, my development, and potentially my earnings, were all actually based on how I choose to “work for myself”.

    I’ve think I’ve just had a bit of a lightbulb moment.

    I will add that I was lucky enough to learn the lesson about relationships very early on in my working life, and it has definitely helped me along the way.

    I’ve always viewed life as, “treat others how you would want to be treated yourself”, plus viewing everyone within the workplace, colleagues, peers, bosses, subordinates (I hate using that word), as customers is the ideal way to be.

    Thanks
    Partha

    1. Hi Partha,

      Thank you for your very thorough comment as always my friend. It’s amazing that this article has blown you away, gives me a great feeling that these articles really are helping.

      I so appreciate you sharing your experiences with us that are relevant to the topic of the article because for the readers, they will be able to relate to you and learn from you too as well as the article.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. dude, I love how straight to the point you are. The fact is we do really work for ourselves and nobody else. I think that hit home for me and what I needed to hear today. Very inspiring post good way to start my Friday.

    1. Hi AJ,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found the article valuable.

      You are right, we certainly do work for ourselves and I’m very happy that this has hit home with you.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Hi, Tom,

    I had never thought about this the way you put it. I thought you were going to say we work for our families or something along those lines. However, now that I think about it, it makes sense. We get paid by someone else whether we’re business owners or not, but we’re the ultimate beneficiaries, so yeah, we work for ourselves.

    I agree with most of what you said. Our mindset helps a lot, but sometimes we want so desperately to make things work that we end up frustrated. I know not everything will go as planned. We will inevitably face hard circumstances at work, hostile environments, horrible bosses, and the like, and we should do our best to cope with them. However, it’s not always healthy to do so. Sometimes quitting is the only option. I know because I’ve been through that. When something is unbearable and you’ve made all you could, calling it quits is the best recourse.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Enrique,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that this article has helped you think a little bit differently, and helped you think a bit deeper too.

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and you are right, not everything will go as planned and we have to prepare ourselves for that. We will face hard circumstances ( I have faced many). But, we must prepare ourselves for that too.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Another exceptional post Tom. I have recently had a small promotion at work. I am a manager but I also now dabble in HR. After a lot of compliments from ym boss it made me feel as though I have free reign here at work. Not as in “I can do what I want”. But more the fact that I am trusted to deal with situations without being mothered or moulded to how he would deal with situations. Thi has made me feel more like a boss and therefore provides me with the feeling that I work for me.

    1. Hi Russ,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found the article exceptional, it gives me a great feeling inside.

      Congratulations on your promotion and it’s great that you’ve realised that you do work for yourself, and you can use these new insights to bring in a positive change in your new position at work.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. This is an interesting question, “Who do you actually work for?” Before I read on your article after this question, my answer is I work for an important family in my life because I need the income in order to support their living.

    But after finish reading your article, I find that it’s true that I actually work for myself. Because I work for myself in order to get pay.

    I always do my best at work as I always have the feel of responsiblity of my work duties. Sometimes I might feel overload with work and will get frustrated and will have negative thought like don’t bother to finish the work.

    But in the end, I still get them finish as there is something strong inside me telling me I have to be responsibility with my work duties. I have learn to look at it in another way which is my boss has trusted that I have the ability to complete all these tasks that are given. I treat it as a service I provide for my boss in exchange for my pay.

    1. Hi Janet,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that the question “who do you work for?” provoked some thoughts into you, and it’s great that you agree that you work for yourself.

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and experiences with us because there will be a lot of people in a similar situation to you who will be able to relate, so thank you for that.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. This is a lovely article on how to think as a leader and understand that ultimately we work for ourselves. I love your content and the topics u choose to write on.
    Keep up the good work.
    Thanks. Regards,
    Aps

    1. Hi Aparna,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you think this is a lovely article and I’m pleased that you agree that we work for ourselves.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  11. I have to agree with you. We don’t work for our bosses, although we do have them and we have to do what they ask us to do. However, what is the reason you go out there every day? For me, the work I do provides for me and my future. It is a service I provide in exchange for my food, shelter, and most of all for making real my plans and goals, such as the construction of my house.
    Gossip is, unfortunately, everywhere, and I avoid it like the plague. I abhor gossip and I do not participate in it at work, but I have found that some gossiping colleagues do not react kindly to that.
    I like your recommendation to treat your colleagues like your customers. I had not really thought of it, but I will start doing that from now on. Your articles always have such wonderful tips and advice!

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you agree that we work for ourselves and not our bosses.

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and the experiences you have in your workplace. Gossip is everywhere and it’s difficult to get rid of. But, we have to keep working hard to lead our people in the right way so they won’t feel the need for gossip.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  12. Tom,

    Another great article and I love your views on leadership:

    “Leadership is about servanthood and it is now your job to serve your customers (team members, boss etc.). If you serve your customers well and you make them happy, then that will have a huge impact on your future career prospects and how much influence you have.”

    I think you can also add that the servanthood of leadership should go beyond just your company and your customers though. We need to remember that we often have a larger impact on thew world around us than we can see. Anyone who has worked in the service industry (particularly in a restaurant) knows that one negative customer’s nasty remark can ruin a good day and leave a permanent scar.

    I think that leadership is also remembering that your attitude has an impact on those around you even if you don’t have a working relationship. Treating everyone like they are your customer, even those who are serving you, can make the world a better place.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Thanks in advance,
    Sean

    1. Hi Sean,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so happy that you found the article valuable.

      I completely agree that servanthood goes way beyond our place of work and our customers (boss, colleagues, team). Servant hood reaches out to our family, friends, associates, inner circle. Anybody and everybody who we interact with, as a highly effective leader we are constantly thinking how can I serve?

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  13. I think the way I will summarise this for myself is that whatever you do, you are constantly writing for yourself your own testimonial and curriculum vitae. Our perception indeed plays a very important role.

    1. Hi Schalk,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found the article valuable.

      I like how you have smmuarised the article for yourself.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  14. A very thought provoking article and how true the points your raised! There is no need these days in any organization for a staff member to get a poor annual performance review provided that he or she has created the right mindset for their staff position and has added real value to the organization from their efforts.

    1. Hi James,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found this article thought provoking.

      I completely agree that a person should never get a poor annual performance review if they are being led in the right way.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  15. This has to be one of your best articles to date!
    Great concept. I have to agree that we work for ourselves, just as we live for ourselves. However, this does not mean that we put ourselves above everyone else. It means that we always do the best for all concerned, because when our customers and clients win, we also win.
    I was self employed for fifteen years and learned that happy customers talk to their friends and family’s and it always led to more opportunities to be able to help others.
    Being positive all the time has a ‘rub of effect’ and will eventually turn others around to become helpful members of our team 🙂
    many thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased you think this is one of my best articles so far, you have inspired me.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experience when being self employed. You are right that happy customers talk to their friends and family, that is what I have found too. There will be a lot of people who will relate to you too and have similar experiences.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  16. I used to believe that working for someone else to gain an income was the only way. Then I was put on disability for back issues and started reading about online income. Thank you for sharing your post as I wish to help others too.

    1. Hi Rob,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great to hear that you want to help others, keep that up.

      Good luck with your disability and back issues and good luck with your online income.

      All the best,

      Tom

  17. Oh my goodness! What a timely article. I was just having this conversation with myself last night about my boss in the office and my online niche. I kept thinking, “I don’t feel valued”, “how can I get them to pay me more money” and for my own company I kept thinking, “How can I make more sales”. your article gave me a mind set shift. Now I’m thinking, “how can I serve, add more value to my company” which feels different because I feel valued just thinking along those lines. In my online business I’m now thinking, “How can I help this person make a decision by providing them the information they need”. What a difference that makes!! Thanks for the article.

    1. Hi Shalisha,

      Thank you for you comment. I’m so pleased that this article has helped you to think a bit differently about your business and your job.

      You’re right, when we start thinking more about how we can serve others rather than how can I get something for myself, our mind opens up. We see things differently, we see more things, and we become a lot more positive.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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