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By Wendy Lambourne 

Question of the Month: Do subcontractors or temporary employees give or take more than permanent employees?

Answer: There is a view that temporary employment arrangements are a wholesale “take” by employers 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. 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.

Clearly, keeping people on temporary contracts without the benefits which full time employees enjoy when they are actually doing the job for a considerable period of time is not right. But to ban flexible work arrangements is not appropriate. Firstly, such a move flies in the face of reality. There are industries, like Legitimate Leadership’s (the consulting industry), where the work is seasonal or unpredictable. Secondly not everyone wants a full-time job – many people like the autonomy, the flexibility, the option to work less than X days a month.

But more importantly, I think that the antagonism over other-than-full-time employment arrangements is 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 definitely not the same. In 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 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.