Indentured Servant Or Employee

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To give you a basic idea of the difference between Indentured Servant and Employee, each can be summed up under a simple statement. Indentured servant - "You are here to do whatever I tell you, when I tell you to do it!" Employee - "You are here to do the job we hired you to do, under the conditions set out when we hired you!" Notice the fundamental difference between the two? One is all amount total control, the other is about fulfilling a specific, pre-determined obligation.

Unfortunately, in the modern workplace these two very different ideas often get confused. This is one of the main reasons why we have so much trouble in the workplace, Managers, Bosses, Supervisors, CEO's, etc all think that Employees are supposed to be Indentured Servants. If in doubt look back to see which of the two statements above you have ever heard in your current or past workplaces… whether you said it, someone else said it, whether directed at you, or directed at someone else.

It's important to note that this isn't so much a matter of ego, though there is indeed a lot of that involved… it is mainly an issue of misinformation and misinterpretation. If we take a look back at the entire history of "employment," back even before that word existed, we had slaves, serfs, and peasants that we all in some form or other Indentured Servants. These were the people who lived on the lands owned by someone else and were required to "serve" in order to maintain their ability to remain there. In the case of slaves the issue was more about remaining alive… than in a specific area. The point being that these were people who had little choice, and no recourse. They either obeyed or were evicted, punished, or killed outright.

On top of these "lower" people, there were also servants. These were people who had special privilege to be working for those with money, power, and prestige. They were little better than indentured servants, but they only generally had to fear losing their employment, lodging, and patronage. This isn't to say that they had less to fear… only that they had different things to lose.

In this time there was no such thing as an "employee"… you always fell under slave, serf / peasant, indentured servant, servant, merchant / middle class, upper class, or royalty. Everyone that did all of the work no matter what it was fell under slave to servant. There were of course people who fell outside of these system… but they were always seen as "outside of society" to begin with. They were most often sailors, traveling merchants, etc… people who generally were independent.

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Over time the industrial age began to take shape and for the first time in history there were "employees". These were people who were paid for their service… instead of people who paid for everything they had with service. At this point however there were no such thing as "labour laws", or even standards of any kind. People died all the time being "employees". However, they were the poorest of the poor and had little choice but to do the work or starve to death.

In this time children as young as five years old would do job that were very hazardous, dangerous, or downright in-humane. They would also be required to do these same jobs for upwards of 18 hours a day six or seven days a week. Of course the older people didn't fare any better either. They too were required to work very long hours in totally inhospitable working environments. All were paid next to nothing (the young ones even less) and were 100% required to do what they were told when they were told. Even such things as bathroom breaks were regulated by the "boss". These truly were indentured servants… hidden under the name of "employee".

Over time more and more people became "employees" and they began to get upset at their treatment. They wanted to be paid better, treated better, and give respect… something that was also seen as totally unacceptable at this time. What was required for things to change was an "Industrial Revolution" in which the workers rose up and fought for better working conditions. Even though they won that battle, they did not win the "war" (so to speak).

Even though they were given better working conditions, they were still very poor conditions. Over time this lead to another movement… that of the labour union. People again rose up and tried to fight for better working conditions and a voice in how the job was to be done. This lead to a great deal of violent and hostility as bosses and owners did not want to give their "employees" anything more than what they had already.

In all the bloodshed and loss of life the Unions did win out and people were again given better working conditions. Up until this point the entire system had been built on the blood, sweat, and tears of "other people". All of the owners, bosses, and the like made their fortunes off the backs of the people they "employed" or "owned". If it wasn't basically for the sacrifice of other people, these wealthy few would not have any wealth at all. They owed everything they had to the people they exploited… and made sure no one ever though about things in that way. This was a time when the idea "you should be grateful you have a job" was the predominant belief.

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With the unions things began to change as employees were now beginning to have a voice. There was, and continue to this day, to be all sorts of ups and down over this situation. Unions have their own rules, regulation, procedures, advantages, disadvantages, etc. Since this is about "employees" and not ‘unions"… we won't go into any more detail on unions (you can learn more by researching the subject if you want to know more).

Somewhere in the middle of all this the Government began to create "labour laws"… a set of standards that employers were required to follow with regard to their employees. Of course, as with all such things there were rarely, if ever, enforced and those still classified as "employees" were little better off with those laws as they had been without them.

Of course, there eventually reached a time when "employees" were not so abundantly available. More and more people were finding new ways to build their own fortunes, go into business for themselves, or were simply relocating to places with better opportunities. This required the employers to re-think how they treated their employees. If they wanted to keep the ones they had and attract new ones they needed to offer something more. This lead to the introduction of benefits and incentives… these were "extras" outside of a paycheque that made it more appealing to work for one company over another.

Over time the very nature of "industry" began to change as there began to be more and more competition. Businesses that had previously been the only provider of a product or service were now forced to deal with other people offering the same things. In some cases even offering them for less money or with something extra that made them more desirable. This caused businesses who had previously made money hand over fist to tighten their belts and find newer ways to compete.

This lead to massive layoffs in some companies, the introduction of "job restructuring", and a re-appraisal of how to manage employees in general. Of course there has never once been, including to this very point in history, a re-view or re-appraisal of what it means to be an owner or boss. At no point in the entire history of "employment" has it ever changed that all of the wealth and money being generated was done so on the back of the "employee". Everything has always been about one thing… how to make the most amount of money without having to give any of it away.

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Currently, we have labour laws that are rarely, if ever enforced, because the fear is that the business may suffer which is deemed bad for the economy. Employees are treated in relatively the same manner as they have been for hundreds of years. Bosses, owners, and managers are still of the opinion that "you should be grateful you have a job", and all the money being made is done so on the backs of the employees.

In truth, if you look back at the entire history of "employment" there have rarely been any actual "employees". Everyone simply uses that word because it sounds better than "Indentured Servant". Yet, the way people are treated shows very specifically that we are all servants nonetheless. There are a rare few companies that are great to work for… but even they are still playing the same game. They are first, foremost, and only in it to make money off of the backs of their employees. They too will only offer the bare minimum to make the employees happy… even if the employees have higher standards used to set that minimum.

All of this tells us that, even though there are all sorts of laws, rules, regulations, high-ideals, great concepts, etc connected to business… that there is still a complete disconnect from modern society. To be a real employee means that you are assigned a defined task to do for a specific amount of time at a defined rate of pay with a guaranteed level of respect. If any of those things are missing or the phrase "and whatever else may be required" is added… then you by definition can't be an employee.

The problem is that until such time as owners, bosses, managers, and the like realize that their paycheques are coming off of the backs of their "employees" things will remain "broken". This doesn't mean that business can survive without these people… it can for a time to be sure… but they do provide a needed element. The problem is that the importance of that "element" has been greatly over-exaggerated. However, once people are willing to "get the message" that we all need to work together as a team for the betterment of each other… then we can work together so that everyone wins and it taken care of.

Of course, working together as "a team" is not the same as working with "the team" or working with "my team"… which are very, very different situations. Both of these others work around the base assumption that "you suck and need to do what you're told". This totally undermines the idea of a team where each person plays a defined role and only by working together do they win or lose… all done as a whole team.

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What's really sad is that this is even supported by all the research that is being done in the fields of management, human resources, etc. They have all shown definitively that if people like their jobs and want to be there they are more productive. It also shows that they will interact better with customers and clients who will in turn want to do more business with you. All of which means the company makes more money! Since this was and typically is the entire point for any business… doesn't it make sense to do everything you can to make more money?

So, instead of thinking you as an employee need to be an "Indentured Servant" in "Employee" clothing… why not try and stand up for yourself. You are after all a valuable member of the "team"… don't you think you should step up to the plate and take your shot? What's the worst that can happen… they'll fire you? Most jobs are a dime a dozen and the only reason we don't go looking for another is because of fear. However, if you are "worth something" other people will see that and give you another opportunity. It is only those people who are "worthless" that have no opportunities. Are you trying to say you don't have any worth?

Worth comes from the actions in our life… not the thoughts or words (no matter how much we want them to come from there). Standing up and expecting to be treated with dignity and respect is an action… and does a lot for your self-worth. This doesn't mean being ignorant and demanding of others… that is disrespect. It also doesn't mean being arrogant or flippant… which will for sure get you in trouble. Standing up for yourself is about doing what you know to be right simply because it is right and needs to be done.

There is a lot more to self-worth that just standing up at work. However, given the amount of people and situations involved a lack of self-worth because of work, it seemed like a good place to start. It is also important to understand that you are not in this alone. Most people are in the same position… even if they are owners, bosses, managers, etc. There are in reality very few people who have a fully developed sense of self-worth… which should also never be confused with a sense of entitlement (which is vastly different).

Self-Worth isn't just something for "other people"! Every last one of us has a right to have it in our own life… no matter what any one else has to say about it!

Copyright February 2009 - All Rights Reserved


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