Jim Fiorni recently wrote an article entitled “Why Hired Guns are Better Than Patriots” (link here). He contends that Hired Guns are easier to work with – after all, you pay them and they work. That’s it. He also contends that Patriots are emotional basket cases who need constant reaffirmation of their patriotism, else they will fail miserably in the working world. Finally, he adds a few “buts” – the rules of working with Hired Guns. Hired Guns will leave at the first sight of misgivings or ask of concessions, and require (his terminology) companies to fire them if they are not performing. It’s a Hired Gun utopia – or in the more corporate term – Contract Worker world.
However, I contend that Mr. Fiorni is using a meager definition that is ill suited for today’s Corporate Patriot. I believe he is using “Patriot” interchangeably with “Yes-man (or woman)”, and that is not how Corporate Patriots should be viewed.
Patriots work harder than Hired Guns
When you are working with a Hired Gun, you have a working arrangement; both parties sign a contract for X service, at Y price, in Z timeline. And then that’s it. Sounds simple, right? Well, to get to that “simplicity”, organizations will have to deal with a multitude of issues, including: contract litigation, legal language to ensure no scope creep, compensatory regulations for any scope creep, and numerous meetings to ensure that pay is precisely what the Hired Gun wants for the very specific action the Hired Gun is doing.
A Corporate Patriot, on the other hand, works hard because they want to see the organization they are with succeed. If the company is having a bad quarter, the Corporate Patriot doesn’t sit back and accept it – or worse, run – they try to solve the problem at hand. To shadow Mr. Fiorni’s military argument of Hannibal’s army, I counter with the Spartan Army – known in history as arguably the most aggressive and powerful army in the world. But they were by no means Hired Guns; Spartans were raised in a tight knit society, taught to fight and nurtured by elders, and rumor has it they were even lovers (whether sexual or not I’ll live to historians, but they certainly had strong feelings towards one another). This was their secret sauce – they wanted to succeed for themselves, for glory and wealth, and for their people. Even Hannibal’s army had some Patriotism – to the cause outlined by Hannibal. A true “Hired Gun” would have turned on him the moment the advancing armies looked more profitable to join.
Patriots don’t need to be coddled to desire progress and success
Mr. Fiorni talks about Patriots as though they are teenagers with low self esteem, needing to be invited to the boss’ son’s Bar Mitzvah to be engaged employees. A Corporate Patriot enjoys recognition (as any human would), but does not need to be pandered to. They can do their work and receive their thanks as a form of a bonus at the end of the year or project. This doesn’t mean they are a Hired Gun, this means they like money and have self-interest (which is not out of line for the Corporate Patriot).
Further, Corporate Patriots do something Hired Guns don’t – care. A Hired Gun will do the job and then leave. A Corporate Patriot will look for those little issues that can be solved in order to make the bigger problems go away faster. To be sure, a Corporate Patriot will expect some recognition for their extra work, but much of this recognition is intrinsically motivated; success for success’ sake and for personal pride for achieving something great – not for an invitation to the CEO’s daughter’s 10th birthday party.
Being a Corporate Patriot is different than acting with Blind Patriotism
Acting with blind patriotism means saying yes, never questioning, and putting your head down, hoping to be extrinsically motivated in all aspects of your work. A Corporate Patriot cares about the organization – they are willing to call out injustices and inefficiencies in an effort to make the organization they are with better. Sure, they will get money out of the equation in the form of a performance bonus – and sure, they were motivated by money. My point is that a Corporate Patriot is willing to look beyond the scope of their short-term responsibilities in order to better their organization, knowing they will be rewarded later. A Hired Gun can only see as far as the dotted line on the contract.
A Corporate Patriot is also logical – if the company’s goals and passions no longer align properly with the Corporate Patriots’, they can, and will, leave. Further, if an organization’s leadership doesn’t own their choices (good or bad), a Corporate Patriot will leave because a Corporate Patriot only acts with patriotism towards those who treat him or her well in return. Staying just for the sake of staying at a place where your talents are not valued or you are made to feel uncomfortable is Blind Patriotism, not being a Corporate Patriot. A true Corporate Patriot can acknowledge the problems within his or her own organization – and also when enough is enough and it is time to move allegiances.
A Hired Gun certainly has uses – sometimes, a job needs to be done and specialized knowledge or experience is necessary and unavailable in the Corporate Patriot pool. However, as the saying goes, “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”. A Corporate Patriot can have their own Hired Gun moments – where they go alone to go fast to get a project completed. But a Hired Gun cannot change into the Corporate Patriot that is necessary to go far because they are only motivated by one thing: money. An organization is an entity that exists to make money, but its growth is dependent upon much more than that.
What are your thoughts? Hired Gun or Corporate Patriot? Add your view in the comments!
Stefan is a diversity and inclusion consultant and Founder of Ziversity. He has a number of years of experience in the HR/diversity recruiting space, starting with his research at Yale University and continuing through numerous non-profit positions. He blogs about diversity, inclusion, tech, startups, and cultural commentary. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @stefanpalios. Business inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Post originally published on LinkedIn