“Could they fire you at any minute?,” my dad asked.
I had just shared that I’d gotten a judicial internship during my 3L year of law school. The problem was that just four months earlier, I’d started clerking for a small litigation firm. Because of judicial ethical rules, taking the judicial clerkship would mean leaving the firm.
I really wanted the judicial clerkship, but felt loyal to the firm. After all, they’d just hired me. I owed them, right?
“Could they fire you whenever they wanted?,” my dad repeated after I’d ignored his question and re-stated my concerns.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Well then,” he said, “you can leave whenever you want. It’s business.”
My 25-year-old brain quite literally exploded.
I took the judicial internship (side note: the firm survived without me).
I’ve come back to that principle often in my life.
Don’t get me wrong – when I work for someone (or myself), I work HARD. I pride myself on excellent work product and showing up for my colleagues and clients.
BUT that exchange with my dad helped me start to see this:
An employer pays us money to provide excellent work product and support.
That is it.
That payment does not obligate us to continue working with them.
Similarly, because they can assign us new work or shift job responsibilities whenever they want, we can also ask for changes to the work relationship. We can ask for more help, less work, more flexible hours, etc. We may not always get it, but asking does not mean we’re disloyal or too demanding.
I share this because many of us – particularly women – feel a sense of obligation and loyalty to our employer.
While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it does become harmful when we stay longer than we should or keep our mouths shut when the workload becomes unreasonable out of a sense of loyalty.
While the phrase “it’s business” can perhaps strike as a little cold, it’s also incredibly freeing if you’re someone like me with an over-active sense of loyalty.
Really absorb that just as your employer could shift the terms of your employment when it suits them, you can ask for the same when it suits you.
And enjoy the freedom that brings.