What Is a Job? Employees and Contractors

The Emperor Is Actually Wearing (Some) Clothes

Employees exchange labor for an even stream of cash flows, an opportunity to develop professionally, and a handful of benefits.  Some benefits have financial value; others are less measurable, yet important.

  • “A manager learned that Ms. Evans was taking computer classes while she was working as a janitor and asked her to teach some other employees how to use spreadsheet software to track inventory.  When she eventually finished her college degree in 1987, she was promoted to a professional-track job in information technology.”  When you’re fortunate, your manager will help you to steward your professional development.  (That’s not the punch line of this NY Times story, though.)
  • “The development of trusting relationships is a significant emotional compensation for employees in today’s marketplace.”  Work from Gallup elaborates on some of the non-financial reasons we come to work.
  • “In the old days, if I saw someone sleeping in a chair, I would have thought they were getting divorced.  Now it’s because they have to travel further to get to work.”  And yet, it takes more than simply a job.  Housing can be prohibitively expensive, even when you’re earning more than minimum wage.  Pressure to pay employees the lowest possible wage is a thing, even when it’s self-defeating.

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Independence:  Not Always as Hip as it’s Cracked Up to Be

Freelancers sell services to multiple organizations, pay full freight for benefits and payroll taxes, compensate themselves between gigs, and rely on their own devices to develop their skills.  And to collect what they’re owed.

  • Though you may be called a contractor, “…if you receive extensive instructions on how work is to be done, this suggests that you are an employee….instructions about time and place may be less important than directions on how the work is performed…”  More info in IRS Publication 1779 and other resources on an epic Department of Labor website.
  • Should you even consider a career as a freelancer?  I made a decision tree.  (Spoiler alert:  probably not.)

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Yes, We Are Changing the World

  • “Week after week, it seemed, I was witness to an investigation from our district offices involving the incorrect classification of…janitors, home health aides, drywall workers, cable installers, cooks, port truck drivers, and loading dock workers…”  Lots of Employees Get Misclassified as Contractors. Here’s Why It Matters, by former Department of Labor official David Weil in the Harvard Business Review.

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from the September 17/18, 2017 edition of How to Have a Job

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©copyright Anne Libby, 2017