Independent Contracting: A Response to Toxicity

I started working for myself due to a toxic boss. I had never experienced that level of upset in a working situation. I was convinced it was because I was powerless as an employee and vowed to achieve my sovereignty through this experience. It wasn’t personal, that’s how any employee would be treated in a bad system. Even though I had people above me that seemed to highly regard me and my work (automation specialist), they could not help me. When I started looking around I realized that there was a whole world of higher paying more rewarding work situations wrapped up in contracts. As an independent contractor, I was treated better, paid more and had autonomy. I never looked back. I started my company back in 2000. I could be as honest as called for and didn’t represent a vendor or a cause except what was right. That could be strategic for the client. I was no different than a hardware or software budget line. I was being up front about my services as commodity. It seemed to be a more balanced arrangement in power and optionality for us both.

The ICCA and Ethics

So, I come from a very different time where many of my proud tribe would be in organization (i.e. ICCA Independent Computer Consultants Association ) and even swear an oath to a code of ethics. 

In 2019 it seems an industry-wide hegemony that all tech-workers are salaried employees. To what extent is this true? If so, isn’t this a significant finding in a shift in both ideological framing of tech workers but also shift in how we see our work and our very-relation to the products/services created? Our very relation to our labor. I see a great movement of workers challenging the ethics of companies engaged in reforming ethics in large companies. At some point, it make sense to create an eco-system of highly skilled, but autonomous labor force that has a why outside these influencers. The last time I checked the engineers and technical folks were the talent in the room and had greater power than they were manifesting in these bigger companies.

When I heard an amazing tech leader speak about ethics as a labor organizer, I thought about her ethics talk encouraging others to refuse to work on projects that would violate human or civil rights or compromise human dignity. I knew that our small company could honor those very ethical challenges she had put to larger companies.

Years later, the aforementioned boss contacted me via email, apologizing for the past. I had just locked down my best indie contract (remote) for a multinational and was pretty giddy about it. I was tempted to buy a gift for changing my life for the better, albeit inadvertently. They had asked for forgiveness (that was pretty nice) and I gave it gladly, knowing that kindness and empathy would be more powerful for me personally. Yet, I never forgot how I was treated, how it made me feel, and how he nature of employment can be a rough road; much rougher than I was willing to accept.

Some would rather have clients to delight and have to compete with others over skills, rather than being a happy/unhappy subject in a bad system. As independents, we can pay for certifications, training, retirement, insurance etc. It’s not a bad deal at all. Problem is that now the ecosystem is changing to a locked-down less independent model and that is a shame.

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