As a manager in Romania, I used to ignore my colleagues’ insistence that they were collaborating with, rather than employed by, the company. I assumed that the word ‘collaboration’ was simply a quirk of language and culture. However, as time has passed I have given the matter deeper thought and now see that the use of this word offers a deeper insight into many peoples’ understanding of the world of work.
In general, collaboration is undertaken by companies, institutions and even individuals of equal status on particular projects in which they share an interest. Neither collaborator is employed by the other and they take their project forward by discussion and agreement. When they can no longer agree or when the project is completed, the collaboration is ended.
Now, if you apply the term ‘collaboration’ and all that it implies to the normal working relationship between a company and its employees, governed by a contract of employment, you see that it doesn’t fit. However, if it is the case the employees prefer not to see themselves as such, but would rather be considered as collaborators of equal status, certain consequences emerge.
Collaborators can’t be fired, they can only agree to end their collaboration. This makes even the simplest forms of discipline that companies need to instill in employees, in order to be efficient and productive, very difficult to apply.
Collaborators are fundamentally resistant to the core aims of corporate training and team-building events. Most employees, in every sector, work in teams and are receptive to the ways in which their companies try to bring them and their colleagues together, to learn new working methodologies and to share experiences. Collaborators, on the other hand, imagine that they each have their own individual relationships with the company and simply do not see themselves as part of a team. They may attend training and team building events but they do so as individuals detached from the mainstream of corporate culture.
The delusional self-image of being in collaboration with an employer allows the employee to behave almost as a consultant. This implies that the employee already knows all there is to know about the company, the business, the job and how to be successful in it. This is a dangerous assumption of perfect knowledge which makes the recognition of new experience impossible and training a waste of time; because the company agreed to collaborate with the ‘consultant’ on the basis of his/her absolute suitability for the job, without any further development being necessary.
So why not accept the role of employee and be open to learning from the experience and knowledge of local and international colleagues? Is it personally shameful to see oneself as anything less than a collaborator? Does denying working as an employee of a company and rejecting any and all efforts they may make to instill some form of corporate culture offer a path to success? Are we talking about misplaced pride here, or simple excessive egotism?
Let’s be clear. Companies exist to make profits, period. They need employees to perform well in order to make those profits. They have no time for the personal dramas of people who need support for their delusion of ‘collaboration’ and the negative corporate behavior that it creates. Companies reward employees who perform. Those who do not are fired.
No matter what has been normal in the past and because of the lack of internal investment in the country, Romanians will more and more be working for foreign companies with foreign HR and business practices. In these circumstances there will be no room for the quaint, delusional mindset of collaboration between self and employer.
Success in business is more likely when egotism is put to one side.
By Ronnie Smith, Guest Writer
(photo source: Photoxpress.com)