Work for Yourself

It’s Narcissist Friday!

They call it the “Great Resignation.” People are leaving their jobs at an overwhelming rate. One article claims that this past summer (2021) 95% of workers considered changing jobs. Many of these are serious career changes.

Perhaps it’s the pandemic. Perhaps it’s the economy. Perhaps people are just fed up with being used.

We rarely talk about the narcissistic culture. Businesses complain about employees who are unfaithful, unreliable, and unmotivated. Yet, employees may not be the problem. Most businesses today consider employees expendable commodities.

It is tough to be an employee in retail these days. Most are paid the least the company can get by with. New employees are hired at a higher rate than those who have been working a while. Schedules have little regularity, and bosses have little concern for the personal needs of workers. In fact, bosses and shareholders see employees as less than people, Employees represent problems and challenges for the system, even though they are the front line workers.

I have come to understand that one of the primary places to see narcissism is at work. It isn’t just retail. Consider the medical field. Almost any organized profession is led by people who care little about those under them. Employees are seen as tools to be used. When they wear out, the company just gets new ones.

A close friend used to have a line at the bottom of his emails that said:

“The floggings will continue until morale improves.”

Sadly, many managers have adopted that philosophy. Rather than truly manage, they criticize and abuse and manipulate to get what they want. Even though the “carrot and the stick” approach to managing people has been shown to be ineffective, especially today, they continue to use rewards and punishments as their primary motivators. Anything else would require them to see employees as people.

This is institutionalized narcissism. Workers are seen as assets to be used and discarded. Employees are problems unless they contribute to the advancement of the bosses. No one cares how sick you are or how sad or how discouraged. Just don’t let it affect your work.

No wonder employees are leaving. No wonder they are being drawn to the honeymoon period of a new job. They buy into the promises and praises until the new job becomes just like the old one. Then they quit and start all over again.

“But I have to have a job! What am I supposed to do?”

There is an answer. You work for yourself—always. The old motivational speakers had it right. You and I can’t work for the good of the company and expect the company to be loyal and supportive. Nor can we work for the boss to make him/her look good. We have to work for ourselves.

At work, three aspects of your life should come into play: ambition, integrity, and compassion. Narcissists have ambition, usually lots of it. But they don’t have the others. They don’t care if they take credit for what you did or steal your clients or lie about your achievements. As long as they look good in the end, they don’t care about you. You, on the other hand, care about others and about yourself.

Yes, you should want to advance yourself. You should want the best pay you can get. You should get all the training you can, especially at the expense of your employer. You should seriously consider every opportunity for advancement. Ambition is not evil. In fact, it is part of growing.

At the same time, you must do your work with integrity. Integrity is your harmony within yourself. Be who you are. A narcissist will cheat while playing Solitaire. You understand that cheating and lying to get ahead never satisfies your heart.

Finally, have compassion. On customers, on co-workers, on those under and above you. Be kind because that’s who you are. Sympathize and smile and support and help. It does come back to you, but that should not be your motivation. You should have compassion because others matter to you.

And then, work for yourself. If you are stuck with a cruel boss or an abusive company, take care of yourself. They will not take care of you. Change jobs without feeling disloyal. You really can’t feel bad for abandoning a system that doesn’t even know you are there. Nor should you give your life for a company that doesn’t care about you.

What has replaced the “carrot and the stick”? Ownership and autonomy. The company that helps its employees better themselves, that respects and trusts their workers, will prosper. But if that is not your organization, at least let it be what you do for yourself.

Begin to look at your job as a process of bettering yourself. Go to work with the idea that you will find things to enjoy and you will help others enjoy their days. This is your job, not the company’s job that you do. Anyone who connects with your job connects with you. Let that make a difference—to them and to you.

I realize this isn’t easy. It has become easy for people to complain about work and blame the company for ruining their lives. It will take a purposeful change of perspective to begin to find good for yourself in your work day, but do it.

Work for yourself, even if someone else sends you a paycheck.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Work for Yourself

  1. I do like your concept of “Work for yourself, even if someone else sends you a paycheck.” I see it as a way to establish a mental barrier between me and the employer.
    I have had 3 significant long term employers, all had the attitude “we own you”. The first one, I didn’t fully understand the toxicity of the workplace (I see now I was gaslighted). The 2nd one was an escape, though I knew there was some not ideal behaviors. The 3rd was a overt and proud narcissist who destroyed anyone who did not play his game. I agreed to work for him as the proposal for an ethical, innovative and compassionate new project seemed good. It wasn’t long before the truth was revealed. I made him pay for every minute of employment, which he hated.
    I work for myself now. It is enjoyable and stressful. I love the freedom to work with in my beliefs. The stress of not being sure of what I earn can be tiring. A big learning has been, narcissists lurk as customers. I have to learn their behaviorial traits so I can shorten my exposure to them. My choice is to cull or refuse them as customers, which has offended many, and surprised others in the same industry that I would take a stand against some of the “high profile” participants.

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