Posted by: reidmccamish | March 10, 2009

McCamish: There is always another choice

Posted by contributor Reid McCamish

When I signed up to be a contributor on Hard Working, I planned to write about how work is always a choice, and about making negotiations with employers and potential employers more equitable.  A lot of my advice involves not putting up with the abuse that some employers tend toward due to the percieved power imbalance between employer and employee.

A lot of my advice can make you lose your job if your employer is determined to keep the power imbalanced in their favor.

So here I find myself, about to give incendiary advice in an economy when many people are lucky to have a job at all, and making a stand that might lose you your job may mean a long period of unemployment.  However, I don’t think that invalidates my advice, rather, it makes that cost/benefit equation lean a lot more towards the cost side.

With that said, on to what I meant to say all along:

A lot of people feel trapped in their jobs.  I know I have felt that way.  You dread going in every day, and watch the clock until it’s time to leave.  You go home, try to relax, and then, shortly before bed, you start feeling stressed about having to go to work the next day.

If this sounds familiar, it’s time to ask yourself an important question.  Namely, “why am I doing this?”  There are a variety of answers.  You may need the income or the benefits.  You may feel loyalty to the company, even if they don’t deserve it.  You may be worried about unempoyment.

In these situations, many people don’t try to do anything to change their situation, and a lot of times it’s out of fear that if they complain about work conditions, or ask for accomodations, they’ll be fired.  The thing that is so easy to forget is that you are a valuable asset to the company.  In many cases, they need you more than you need them.  They’ve may have put months of training into you, and will likely have to spend a lot of money to replace you.  In a good job market, you can take your skills to any number of other employers.

All this gives you negotiating power, power that all too many employees leave untapped.  So if there are serious flaws in your working environment, if there are abuses going unreported or unaddressed, in most cases you’ll be well served to bring these things up with management, and gently demand that they be fixed.  The worst that’s likely to happen is that they’ll fail to fix the problems.  The worst that can happen, is that you might be fired for rocking the boat.  But if your employer would fire someone for that, do you really want to be working for them at all?  I suspect not.

So think about your job, and why you do it.  Remember that you always have the choice to not do it, your employer does not own you.  Maybe putting up with the problems is worth it, maybe it’s not.  But that’s your decision, not your employer’s.

In this economy, confronting management surely carries extra risk.  If in your case that risk is too high, it may be better to simply search for a new position while continuing in your current job.  Or it may be better to take my advice, and put it up on the high shelf marked “read after the economic recovery.”



  1. Hi Reid–
    I have a question for you–would you follow your own advice now? In this economy? Or put it up on the high shelf?

  2. I actually followed my own advice a few weeks ago – it worked out rather well, actually.

    I’ll see about posting the story in a bit.

  3. […] they may be singing a different song if they have mouths to feed and a mortgage to pay. But as Reid McCormish pointed out, the recession has made people more afraid to stand up for themselves and confront the source of […]

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