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  • Annette Corbett

How contractors are ghosted by corporate culture (crystal ball optional)

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

In her article for HBR, A More Ethical Approach to Employing Contractors, Catherine Bracy, CEO and Co-Founder of TechEquity Collaborative outlines the lack of equitable employment terms for U.S. contractors in the tech space. From software engineers to janitors, anyone working in the technology industry - hired through a vendor, recruitment agency or payroll company - is likely to experience a deficit of earnings and benefits.

It's Contract Worker Disparity Report, spills the beans on how contractors fare versus direct employees across a range of demographics.

Notwithstanding the collective brain fart of organisations mandating these practices, the personal reflections of one contractor quoted in the report really struck a chord with me:

"It was always so uncomfortable. I always felt like there was such a divide. I thought that, ‘oh well eventually they’re going to hire me on permanently, or eventually the team is going to warm up to me.’ But no, I always felt like an outsider."

You may think, "oh that could happen to a permanent employee" and you'd be quite right. But I know from experience - both mine and that of my contracting peers - that you are treated differently as a contractor (with much more of that to come in future blogs...)

But doesn't feeling unable to call out inequity because you're only employed on a short-term contract which could be terminated without notice, exclusion from company wide meetings or access to tools due to your contractor status, all rather fly in the face of those DEI policies we hear so much about?

This got me thinking about other instances where there I've noticed a lack of parity between contractors and permanent employees.

It's rare to experience any kind of onboarding or internal networking opportunities as a contractor at the start of a new role. No honeymoon period that allows you to be slowly embedded into the fabric of the organisation - that luxury of information absorption and space to become oriented with your new surroundings.

As a contractor at the start of a new role, you will often feel as if you have been dropkicked from an aeroplane into the atmosphere with the expectation of landing firmly on your feet, with a complement of corresponding intelligence to get the job done in record time.

A contractor won't be invited "catch-ups" or "one-to-ones" and are generally exempt from any organisational obligation to protect their mental wellbeing,

Which chimes with my own (quite recent) experience of balancing freelancing assignments and my mental health. I made the decision to reduce my workload to avoid falling into a burnout trap after working flat out for a sustained period of time. I'd hoped one long standing client might be empathetic, dare I say supportive, even, but I'd clearly misread our relationship in which it turned out I was nothing more than a mechanism for churning content.

While this may sound like a rant on steroids about life as a contractor, it really isn't. I love contracting and am enjoying this space and my current role very much. But I do think some organisations could do much better.

So, my question to fellow contractors is whether any of this resonates, should we be considered as part of DEI initiatives and what would good like for you, both as a bare minimum and a gilt-edged ideal?

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