Are You "For" or "With"?
Updated: Feb 19
There is a material difference between "working for" and "working with". The former, "working for", can imply subjugation. The balance of relationship power is typically uneven. One party knows they have less control, less of a voice, and more often than not, can feel less valued. The other party knows and behaves as if they're in control as well as having the most leverage. Referencing author Daniel Pink's book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, control simply leads to compliance. Compliance is the opposite of autonomy.
Now the latter, "working with", evokes partnership and can feel liberating. It can create equal footing for the parties involved. There's inherently more freedom in the choice to work with someone or an organization. As discussed in Pink's book, choosing your team is a form of autonomy and autonomy leads to engagement. For mutual goals to be achieved and projects to succeed, you need engaged participants working with each other.
A little self-awareness and self-leadership can play a big factor in which situation you should work towards being in. Are you at your best "working with" or "working for"? That simple change in prepositions both requires, and can lead to a powerful mindset shift. This can result in very different approaches to a working agreement, participant attitudes, and overall outcomes. Which serves you better? Are you better as a partner than an employee? It's ok to ask the question, "Are we in this together or am I in this for you?"
Now If you're a leader, imagine turning the relationship power on its head by shifting your mindset and working for your people. Could you possibly achieve greater outcomes if they feel your efforts to work towards their success and benefit, and not just them working towards yours? "Working for" doesn't have to result in feelings of subjugation. Hierarchies can still exist if egos are set aside and your leadership thinking remains flat.