This past weekend was Labor Day weekend in the United States.
It’s an interesting holiday – one where we celebrate the the labor movement in the USA. A movement that was the laborers’ response to cruel, unfair, and unjust employee treatment.
It was the late 1800’s and the Industrial Revolution in the USA was at its peak.
Did you know the average American at this time worked twelve hour days, seven days a week, yet could not afford basic living expenses? Children as young as five worked in the same places grown people did – mills, factories, mines – yet for a small fraction of the grown ups wages.
The unsafe and unsanitary working conditions included polluted water, no bathrooms, extreme temperatures, and no breaks.
Those who were most impacted were the very poor and the immigrant population.
Agriculture was supplanted by manufacturing. US workers began to organize into labor unions and put on strikes and rallies to protest the awful treatment – and to force the much needed improvement of hours and pay.
Many of these events turned violent (checkout the Haymarket Riot of 1886). On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, therefore creating the very first Labor Day parade and holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.
Many nations followed suit. Not all.
As people who employ themselves, Labor Day can seem irrelevant to us. It is not.
I invite you, my beloved business owner, to see Labor Day as a great reminder of two things:
- Being self-employed affords us the privilege of never putting our worker (us) in harms way.
- We must be ferociously diligent against our employer’s (yep, that’s us too) ingrained beliefs and behaviors around work and its expectations.
The media has been giving “Quiet Quitting” it’s 15 minutes of fame.
The conversations I’ve seen offer a fascinating look into how people view being an employee/worker and/or being an employer/boss.
As self employed people, we are both worker and boss.
And yet – for all our complaining about employers in the *waves arms generally about* – we force our workforce, ourselves, into some of the same poor working conditions our 1882 ancestors fought against.
- We work long hours – often forgoing time with loved ones.
- We underpay – or even do not pay – ourselves consistently, and excuse a paltry paycheck with phrases like “the business can’t afford that” or “our clients won’t pay that for our product”.
- We don’t give ourselves enough breaks – eating and peeing are a luxury.
- We talk down to ourselves, allowing our inner critic to beat up all our hard work as not enough, or we blame ourselves for bad decisions and mistakes.
- We expect more than the job description from ourselves, constantly, buying into the idea that hustle culture is the way to be successful and the only way to survive.
Y’all – there are enough toxic attributes to working in the corporate and academic world – don’t bring all that toxicity with you into your own company.
After all, you started this thing so you wouldn’t have to suffer in a place that made you feel like “quiet quitting” was your only option in order to avoid burnout and create life balance!
On the heels of this past Labor Day weekend – whether you are in the USA or somewhere else in the world – have two conversations: one with your boss and one with your worker.
Talk to your boss about:
- Renegotiating your scope of work and job description.
- Revisit your hours and your mandatory breaks.
- Ask for benefits and a paid vacation.
- And above all – don’t allow your boss to ask you to do more than what the job description is – unless of course they rewrite your job description, offer you a promotion, and give you a raise.
Talk to your worker about:
- What they need in terms of support – what kind of management and leadership works well for them? How do they stay motivated?
- Offer them a plan to gain skills in their areas of interest. Teach them how to manage their time so they find joy, peace, and fulfillment within their current job description.
- Listen to them – what do they really need from the business? More admin support? More resources?
- Create an accountability plan that comes with rewards and perks – and be sure human resources is on them to take their PTO. 😉
Let me know how those conversations went!
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All My BeastyBoss,