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FITLOSOPHIES: Stop Treating Your Employees Like Cogs

Updated: May 4

Wow, (third article already)? We’re really on a roll here! I hope you’ve enjoyed the first two articles and are ready for what might be quite the contentious article, but hopefully gives some of you business owners the ability to see beyond your short term personal aspirations. If you’re enjoying these articles, please be sure to leave a like, share it to a friend, and comment down below with what you like or would like to hear more about!


Today’s conversation will be about employees and the common online debate between how employees are often viewed as expendable, or cogs, or just another person to fill a role. How should business owners view their staff? What roles should employees fill? How can we, as business owners, do better when formulating our business plans with those who render services? We’ll start with the definition of an employee, and then I’ll get on my soapbox.


What is an employee? For simplicity’s sake, here are a couple of definitions:

  • Oxford Languages definition: A person employed for wages or salary, especially at a nonexecutive level.

  • IRS’s definition: Under common-law rules, anyone who performs services for you is your employee if you can control what will be done and how it will be done. This is so even when you give the employee freedom of action. What matters is that you have the right to control the details of how the services are performed.


For quick context and disclaimers - I’m not here to talk about classifications of workers for tax purposes or anything other than the philosophy of those working for you.


What do you notice about these two definitions? The first is that employees aren’t at the “executive level,” meaning they likely won’t be making decisions on the broader context/macro level of your business--this is pretty straight-forward considering they typically don’t own the business. The other quick note of the “control” that the IRS mentions--an employee's actions and services are normally controlled by the employer. Taking this a step further, from a higher philosophical level, an employer controls an employee's feelings of safety–after all, we control their income, possibilities for career advancement, and the most important resource of all: how much time they will be spending in their day-to-day lives on a job. This paints a relatively bleak picture if you’re an employee–you don’t have autonomy or control over how you spend your time for ~40-50 hours a week, and (sans some legal protections) at any point you could lose access to your main source of income that provides stability and sustenance for your livelihood. In addition, you don’t really get to decide how much of your passions can relate and be implemented into your own job. Before I was a business owner, I 100% related with this, and this is indeed a huge reason why I decided to go the route I did - I wanted more control over my circumstances and at some point the ability to decide my future–I wanted to be empowered. Honestly, I felt like another cog in the wheel.


What about my definition of an employee as an employer? Well, this is a bit tougher actually. As a business owner, I’ve got a plan of action for how my business should perform, how services should be implemented and how our brand should be upheld. I know the ins and outs of the business model. I know every detail about how we function and how we should function and get to decide and control how these services are implemented. But the biggest thing missing from the previous definitions is the humanity of being an employee. People aren’t cogs and people are completely unable to complete objectives without a “why,” or without having some sort of intrinsic motivation for doing so--see my previous article about success for a deeper dive. So when looking at my employees, I can’t advocate for these definitions to be the end-all-be-all for them. They deserve some control; they deserve to have a personality; they deserve to be able to explore their job and career and what works for them; and they deserve to have some degrees of freedom when it comes to how they choose to spend their own time. What this means to me is that employees SHOULD and DO have the ability to communicate their wants and needs, just like I have the ability to communicate mine, and that of the business. In my first article I gave you the following definition of a business:


"A business is not an abstract organization, it’s the culmination of individuals (their backgrounds, wants, desires, needs, dislikes, resentments, habits, philosophies, and more) working together to achieve a unified vision of what it means to solve a problem."


What this means is that employers need to stop treating their employees like cogs, and instead treat them with the respect and dignity of a trusted individual. After all, the relationship between these two parties takes work, effort, compromise, and buy-in from both sides. I’ve found that the more my employees can trust that I have their best interests at heart, and the more desire that I have to help them achieve their personal goals, the more they’ll be interested in helping the business achieve its goals, and thus there’s a higher likelihood to achieve my personal goals. It’s all about the “why”. I won’t sit here and pretend like this is an easy feat, either. It takes SO MUCH time and energy to have open communication, to receive and give criticism, and walk the talk, but it’s worth every second.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! Be sure to comment down below about your thoughts on this article, future topics you’d like me to cover, or anything else that’s on your mind. You can reach me at cody@chapelhilltraining.com and if you aren’t a current client or staff member, but want to get involved, please check us out at chapelhilltraining.com!

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