What company jargon do you hate the most? I asked this question on Twitter recently and was pleasantly surprised by the most popular answer: “family”.
I thought I was going to get a stream of nonsense—circles back, learning, synergy, stuff like that. I expected all of us to laugh about something superficial, but that’s not what happened. Because the answer “family” got me thinking (always dangerous), and that thought made me start writing (we are really having a hard time).
Your company is not a family and I think pretending otherwise is unhealthy and inefficient. Let’s talk about why.
Family doesn’t fire people
I bet you’ve let your mom down countless times — I know I’ve let her down. However, she never fired me for poor performance, and she didn’t fire me when the quarterly forecasts fell short of target metrics. Family loyalty is not based on performance because that would be absurd.
But companies are different. They don’t hire people out of love or loyalty because companies, by definition, can’t feel those things. Your company uses you because what you do is valuable — at least, valuable enough to justify your salary.
This is not a bad thing. That’s just the nature of a company. And sometimes that nature means a company needs to stop hiring you. A healthy family doesn’t rule everyone out, but it’s normal—necessary, even—for a company that does it sometimes.
This is why companies shouldn’t treat themselves like a family. Companies have to make choices that families don’t. Referring to your company as a family obscures that fact and can make a harrowing process even worse.
Quitting a job is not a betrayal
This works both ways. There are good reasons to remove family from your life, but I think most people would agree that it is a sad thing. Quitting isn’t – at least, not necessarily.
You may quit your job because of a bad work environment, but that’s not the only reason. Maybe you found a role that suits you better, pays more, or offers a clearer opportunity for growth. Maybe you want to move into another industry or work for a company that interests you. Or maybe you need to take a few years off work for personal reasons.
The point is, quitting isn’t a betrayal. It’s just something that people do sometimes, for all sorts of reasons. There are many companies in the world willing to pay you for your skills and talents, and there is no reason for you to feel bad about leaving one company for another. It’s not a permanent commitment of any kind. It is just work.
Keep working if you like it, get meaning out of it, or even just need money to survive. But don’t keep doing a job because you feel loyal to it. The company will fire you or fire you if it is reasonable to do so and you are free to leave for the same reasons.
The company you work for doesn’t love you
Healthy families love and respect each other, and that is the basis of your loyalty to them. A company can’t love you. Companies incapable of love — or hate, indifference, or any kind of emotion. Companies are not people (as much as marketers like me would like you to think they are).
And yes, maybe you are good friends with some of your co-workers and you may even fall in love with some of them in a real way. The people I work with here at Zapier are some of the…
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