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Kelly Odell

- A blog for leaders
21 Apr 2007

3. Never get yourself into an economic situation where you can’t afford to tell the company to go to hell!

Many years ago I worked together with a man who I respected very much. I was around 30 years old and he was closer to 60. Back then nobody used words like mentor to describe those kinds of relationships but looking back now he was clearly my mentor at the time. One night when we had been working late and sat talking he said to me “Never get yourself into an economic situation where you can’t afford to tell the company to go to hell!”

He continued by explaining that if you get yourself into the “Golden Cage”* two things are likely to happen. First of all you risk losing your job satisfaction and secondly your value to the company will decrease. When you sacrifice your economic independence you may stop taking risks and saying what you think (especially when what you think might be uncomfortable for your superiors). Paradoxically, the freer you are to walk out the door the greater the value you are likely to create for your company.

I remember a boss I had at my first job after graduating from college. He was always trying to get me to buy a house or at least an expensive car. One day I asked him why it mattered to him if I bought a house or a car. He said very bluntly that if I got into debt I would be more likely to stay with the company. This might very well have been true but the question is if this was really the best thing for my boss or the company? By increasing my dependence on the company I might very well have decreased my productivity (as well as my job satisfaction). There is no doubt that motivation increases productivity. As long as I work where I work because I want to, my motivation will be high. When I start feeling that I work where I work because I have to, my motivation and productivity will decrease. Add this to the “fear factor” (or prostitution factor as one of my friends calls it) ,that is the fear of doing or saying something that might jeopardize my job, and you might well have taken all the entrepreneurial spirit out of me.

*Some call it the Golden Cage! Maybe you have a job that doesn’t stimulate you intellectually. Maybe you even hate your job! The problem is that it pays the rent. It might even pay a great deal more than the rent. That job you hate may be providing you with a lifestyle that is hard to give up. Nice cars, nice house (or houses), fancy food, great vacations and a nice boat.

2 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Hi Kelly,

    That was a really good post – even better than usual!

    It really struck a chord as it accurately described what I have gone through.

    Today not only I, but also my former company is doing better than ever.

    (you probably know who I am…)

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