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Legitimate Leadership is often asked where we stand on the matter of subcontractors or temporary employees. This is especially the case in South Africa where the union movement continues to argue for decent full time jobs for all and the end of labour brokers or temporary employment agencies.

There is, either explicitly or implicitly, a view that temporary employment arrangements are a wholesale “take” by employers. This is because they allow employers to get the job done on the cheap. They also allow them to dispense with excess or troublesome people at will, because the labour broker does the “dirty work”.

Such behaviour, it is said, is the antipathy of caring for people at work. In “Legitimate Leadership speak” temporary employment arrangements allow those in authority to exercise power over people without paying the price of power which is to care for and grow people. Taken to its logical conclusion Legitimate Leadership, as a proponent of the Legitimate Leadership Model, would be opposed to any contractual arrangement other than that of full time employment.

My own view on this whole thorny issue of subcontractors, temps, casual workers or more recently, zero hours contract employees, based on the principles of Legitimate Leadership and from personal experience, is as follows.
Clearly, keeping people on temporary contracts sans the benefits which full time employees enjoy when they are in truth doing the job on a full time basis for a considerable period of time is not right. South African labour law requires employers, after a certain period, to make temps permanent.

But to ban flexible work arrangements entirely is not in my view appropriate. In the first instance such a move, if it is institutionalised, flies in the face of reality. There are industries, like the one that I am in, where the work is seasonal or unpredictable. Making full time employment obligatory in these industries would have the effect of putting some businesses out of business, lead to redundancies, or dissuade employers from employing people.
Secondly not everyone actually wants a full time job, even with the benefits and security that comes with being a permanent employee. There are many people who like the autonomy, the flexibility, the option to work less than 20 days a month, which a subcontracting arrangement can provide.

But more importantly I think that the antagonism over employment arrangements other than those of full time employment is actually a red herring. This occurred to me when I did the following exercise. Firstly I listed everyone engaged in and associated with Legitimate Leadership as an organisation, including myself. Then I wrote down my perceptions of each person in terms of their “give” and “take” or “concern for other” versus “concern for self”. So, for example, Person X’s Give/concern for other was 90% and Take/concern for self was 10%.

Happily the overall “give” percentage far outweighed the “take” percentage, but everyone was definitively not the same. Consistent with my experience there are both “givers” and “takers” in all organisations and at all levels in the hierarchy.

Next to the “give”/“take” percentage I then wrote down whether the person was an owner, subcontractor, permanent employee or associate of Legitimate Leadership. There was absolutely no correlation – the type of contractual arrangement did not in any way correlate with the intent of the individual.

I concluded that what enables “givers” at work is not a particular type of contractual arrangement. Rather it is the intent of those in charge. Leaders who are consistently in the relationship with their people to “give” to them – specifically to care for and grow them – do over time cultivate more “givers” than “takers” in their organisation. Such leaders ultimately remove persistent “takers” from their organisation. It is the appropriate leadership “give” to do so.

My advice to those in authority at work is therefore to make what is important to them the care for and growth of their people irrespective of the contractual arrangements they have with them.

If as someone in authority you are demanding delivery from people, be they permanent or temporary, then you would be wise to care for and grow them.

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