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Whose company is it anyway?
An owner's right (or not) to control
I’m a little late to the party, but I recently joined TikTok. I’m in the camp of people who thinks it could be a giant time suck and I just wasn’t interested.
However, as I’ve been trying to grow my online presence, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that TikTok may be necessary. So I signed up, posted a few videos… and then one video got over 7,000 views.
I describe a meeting (that occurred years ago) in which the CEO asked me if I was “taking notes” on what he was saying. My response — in my head, not out loud — was that how I organized the meeting’s takeaways was none of his business.
I’ve gone viral on the internet before, sometimes with millions of views, so I’m used to the trolls that invariably show up. I ignore them rather than feed them, but it often makes me sad/frustrated that people still think this way.
And so I’ve collected a few of the comments to explore further…
“It’s his company. You work for him.”
This comment (and others like it) implies that the CEO is entitled to know how work gets done.
There’s a word for that: micromanager. And I think we can all agree that this is universally bad.
If a CEO doesn’t trust employees to get the job done, what’s the point? It’s not feasible to monitor the ins and outs of day-to-day work, especially as the company grows.
It would be entirely different if the employee wasn’t getting their job done. For example, one of my employees had horrendous organizational skills, and it resulted in mistakes and missed deadlines. I gently offered some pointers based on my own experience. Offered, but didn’t mandate that he use my methods of organization. I let him know that he’d need to figure out a system of some kind, otherwise we were going to have a problem.
Sure, the CEO is ultimately responsible for the overall results and financial health of the company. But leader doesn’t mean dictator. And an organization system that works for one type of person doesn’t necessarily work for another.
So no, the CEO was not entitled to know how I chose to organize my takeaways and follow-ups from the meeting. I am responsible for my own work.
And it begs the question: does the CEO own the company? Legally, maybe. But the company cannot exist without people and the contributions they make. It’s a transaction: the company pays money in exchange for a resource in the form of time/talent/expertise. That doesn’t mean the company owns its people.
“Always a worker, never a boss.”
This one made me laugh. Is the implication that command-and-control is a necessary qualification for running a business? Or that those who challenge authority aren’t suited for leadership?
I’ll accept that most companies probably want employees to be compliant. They like things the way they are.
I’ll also put forth that those companies are not visionary. The companies that are true disruptors are those that challenge the status quo. They’re the ones who look around and think, “Things could be different.”
And truly visionary companies know that vision comes from all levels of the company, not just leadership. Boss status isn’t a prerequisite for significant contributions. This commenter clearly thinks that only bosses are worth anything.
The comment also assumes that bosses are always right and workers are always wrong. That’s hardly the case. Many, many leaders “fail upward” into positions of power simply due to privilege and circumstances.
Women are not note-takers.
Or coffee-getters. Or default event organizers. Or countless other small office tasks that women are expected to do because they’re women.
I wish I could say this, “Are you taking notes?” incident happened only once, but it didn’t. During our weekly management meetings, the CEO would routinely say things like, “Make yourself a note to follow up” or “Make sure you write this down.”
It was always an eye-roll on my end (good thing the calls were audio-only). One time, the COO — also a woman — tersely replied, “I got it, thanks.”
If a CEO is sued for sexual harassment, does that make a difference? Is it only blatant forms of misogyny that are inappropriate, but side comments get a pass?
When we were on calls with other men, did the CEO ask if they were taking notes? Nope.
Did I — a smart, capable employee — need a paternalistic reminder to take notes? Nope. I had a system that worked for me, and I stand by my original TikTok video.
It was none of his business.
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