2022-08-03 Update: reflected that the transition to a legal entity was postponed by a year; gave link to media advisory of that transition; rewrote two phrases.
Abstract of what is on my mind: work is transactional by nature, excellent connections with coworkers are precious (I am fortunate to have many). Now, the companies that consider their work force “family” puzzle me. This is not exactly the case where I work (or is it?), BUT we are in a setting that is pretty conducive to it, AND after 27 years, this is going to change –in less than
a year two years. SO I really wonder what that change will do to the current equilibrium (I’m pretty sure it’s going to put it to the test).
This stemmed from my browsing The Twitters yesterday. I read Kevin‘s tweet (screenshot and link underneath). He wrote ““work won’t love you back.” And as much as I’ve loved the people I’ve worked with, it’s always turned to be correct.“
He was quoting another Twitter thread (screenshot and link below) where I read “it’s so emotionally damaging when companies self-style their workers as “family”. you can have deep emotional connections with your coworkers, if you’re lucky, but don’t forget that work relationships are fundamentally transactional. i hope your family is not.“
I don’t consider my workplace to be like family and we aren’t self-styled as such either. But, work is very central in my life: every other week I spend most of my waking time at work (the other week, I am solo parent of a teenager, spending just normal amounts of time at work).
Firstly, I am fortunate to have very deep emotional connections with many of my coworkers, a few of which I even regard as
father parent figures, many of which are true models for me, most of which I respect tremendously.
Secondly, we have very little turnover. I’ve worked there for over 22 years and many current colleagues were already in the team when I joined. And we welcome newcomers, not as siblings, but with similar care and attention to their success. As though we have a stake in it –and we do, yes.
Thirdly, we get together (we used to, pre-COVID at least) every now and then and those occasions are always enjoyable and looked forward to by most. Yes, like any other workplaces, there are difficult people who get along with fewer people, or are not interested in making any connections at all. That’s my description of our unusual work environment. In fact, I remember how I described it to my mum a few years into it: it’s like summer camp where you make new great friends and do exciting stuff, but it’s all year-round.
Now, our administrative setup allows us to do our work without a whole lot of competition, without too many frustrations, because we are employed by four different institutions that legally “host” our consortium, and in most of our cases, the people who employ us are not those we take work orders from. I think that makes a world of a difference.
Change is coming. The Hosts arrangement, in place from the start in 1994, has enough drawbacks that for a few years now we have been exploring how to become our own legal entity. This is set to happen on January 1,
2022 2023. When it does, the consortium will have its own bank account, legal and fiduciary obligations, and traditional management powers that we currently do not fully have.
The dynamics are bound to change. While today I (and many others in the team) are moved by the sheer impact our work has on society (HTML –heard of it? CSS, Web accessibility, Internationalization, etc. We are the little known consortium that makes the Web work, for everyone) and the Hosts that employ us provide the best abstraction to shield us from the reality of the transactional nature of work, this
is going has the potential to hit us in the face like the train crashing Dr. Woodward’s truck in the movie Super 8!
There is a lot on our plates and most of us overwork because it’s really worth it! I remind myself on occasion that work won’t love me back, but once we are truly as valuable as our ability to make the company money, I wonder how the care will fare.