So, who do you really work for? 

Your company? Your boss? Yourself?…Or do you work for your customer or client?

When I first look at the question, the answer seems fairly obvious. I work for my readers. You are in many ways my boss – if I don’t keep writing interesting material, you may stop visiting my column or worse still stop buying or subscribing to the journal completely – that will not make the editor happy! (Perhaps, then I work for the Editor?  Publisher? ) In that sense, I aim to please – I usually try to select ideas that will interest the reader and at the same time be pertinent to their business.

Anyway, back to the subject of who do we work for? This subject came up in a meeting I had with a very successful business owner and one of his ‘entry-level’ employees. The employee was adamant that he worked for the customer (perhaps a lesson he recently learned in a training course?) yet the business owner made it quite clear that he, the employee, worked for Him (the owner). Now we have all heard the clichés that ‘Customers pay our salaries’ and ‘we are here for the Customer: etc, and all of the above is correct – as long as we know who the Customer actually is!

So, again I ask the question, ‘Who do you work for’?

How you answer this question will always define your perspective on the work you do. Because at the core of service is an understanding of who you serve.

Typically, we instinctively answer the question with the name of our company.  Or we say, “I own my own business, so I work for myself.”

Then, when presented with that fourth option, we feel a little guilty, backtrack, and decide that we really work for the customer. Of course we work for the customer.

While it seems like a trick question, there’s no real wrong answer. Employees do work for their boss. Owners do work in the best interest of their company. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s reality. It’s business. But most importantly, it’s a balance, and I believe that this is the key.

Your customers and clients should always be a priority, but they can’t be the only priority. Embrace the dichotomy. It’s what keeps the system alive.

So when it comes to answering the question, in the end I feel it’s not about who you work for, but rather it’s about what you do and how you make your professional relationships work. You need to focus more on that, because businesses will come and go but you will be still around!


But that’s not really who we work for. Almost everyone has to exchange some of their time or some of their personal value for money. We make that exchange because we get something in return out of it. Among them:

Money This is the biggest thing that many of us work for. That money translates into a roof over our heads, food on the table, and things we enjoy.

Fulfillment Some people are personally fulfilled by their work – I know I am. Their jobs bring them personal joy and make their lives better. There are many others, though, that don’t get this kind of fulfillment from their work.

Prestige Others work for the prestige of their job. They like to be seen as prestigious by others and often that becomes a major factor in what they choose to do. “How will this affect my image?”

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