Monday, January 9, 2012

Initiating a personal employment policy

Employment is a tricky beast.  It is weighted against us and our autonomy in many subtle ways.  The world is moving on from oppositional industrial relations.  But the institutions of employment are stronger and more oppressive than any boss’ own authority, and it is the individual that loses out.  This post is about the personal employment policy I am developing - a tool I hope to be a modest first step towards retaking some ground.

The panopticon, a traditional ideal example of institutional oppression

The context - a sick irrigation system

Employers still set the agenda.  It might not be a manager, the CEO, or anyone in between, but nevertheless the institution drives employment arrangements. Everything from your position description to your dress code is likely set before you get the chance to comment.  Within the things you have influence over, there are subtle ways your own decisions are taken away from you, like the relatively sparse information you have about any potential new workplace.

Outside any given employer, the broader ecosystem of institutions weights so many of our choices that it takes monumental courage to really stand up for ourselves.  Think about how financial systems, education, and the social status of employment are structured to guide you down certain pathways and into a nice little digestible box we might call a ‘job’.  Think of a river dammed and channelled for productive irrigation - but at the expense of the health of the river itself.

The response - a tool to develop a thriving river

The idea behind an employment policy is that it gives you a bit of solid ground to approach employment relations in a more equal (co-creative) fashion and to help you make better decisions for yourself, rather than simply being presented with an institutions’ preferred option.

Environmental Works Services

It is not about setting yourself up in opposition to an employer, but about being able to come to mutually beneficial arrangements - a healthy ecosystem combining the thriving of the river with the benefits of production.

My current draft policy includes a long-term vision and objectives for my next employment arrangement, including areas I am looking to develop, and the characteristics of employment that I value.  A few different headings, but in essence it is quite simple - feel free to check out my first rough version (Dropbox hosted pdf).
Nevertheless, once refined I think it can be quite powerful.  I expect to trial using it to
  • align my short term approach to employment with my own long-term objectives and take a more strategic approach that puts me at the centre, rather than the expectations of other institutions
  • articulate these things to help identify opportunities and assess my options
  • articulate, negotiate and potentially formalise employment arrangements
  • communicate my position to those able to help

The challenge - how to redesign a dam with a whisper
Being something new to me, the idea is to start quite basic and to refine along with my professional adventures.  Once I get comfortable with the policy as a tool it can be updated periodically as things changed, and used to review how well my employment situation meets my needs.
  • I would love feedback, but there are so many things worth getting advice on.
  • How do other people achieve what I’m aiming for?  Or on reflection, how could you?
  • How should I use a tool like this?  Will I scare employers off by seeming too demanding?
  • What do you think of the policy, about what should be included or left out, or how it should be presented?
Do comment or contact!  I think tools like this are sorely needed to help people to forge their own paths.  I would love to think that I can refine this approach and be able to share something of value with others.

John Baxter

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