Company Culture

This Is Why Lots of Talented People Choose to Never Work for a Big Company

This Is Why Lots of Talented People Choose to Never Work for a Big Company
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If you work for some big companies, you actually get paid to sleep. I’m serious.

Just this week Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini said in an interview that his company pays his employees to sleep. "If they can prove they get 20 nights of sleep for seven hours or more in a row, we will give them $25 a night, up to $500 a year," he said, explaining Aetna uses various ways to help workers keep track, including the use of Fitbit fitness trackers.

The Huffington Post isn’t paying people to sleep -- they’re just encouraging their employees to sleep on the job. They’ve got nap rooms in their offices. They’re not alone. According to this report “other companies like Google, Zappos and Ben & Jerry’s are getting on board with the napping trend. All now have built nap rooms in their offices.”

Paid for sleeping? Napping at work? Nice! Sign me up!

Related: Are the Famous Valley Perks Undermining Employee Health?

In these times of low unemployment and a lack of skilled workers, big companies are coming up with all sorts of crazy perks to entice millennials through their doors. LinkedIn offers unlimited vacation. Etsy’s paid time off policy covers new parents of either gender. Spotify covers the cost of egg freezing and fertility assistance. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) helps its employees pay down their student debt. Twilio gives employees a free Kindle and a monthly allowance to purchase books. Twitter offers onsite acupuncture and “improvisation” classes. Asana’s employees get free life coaching. Zillow pays the overnight shipping costs for moms who are breast feeding. Perks, perks, perks!

Related: Why Perks Don't Make a Company Culture

A typical small business can’t do this kind of stuff. We don’t have the resources to offer unlimited vacations. We can’t cover the cost of shipping breast milk to our employees. Our freezers can’t accommodate either fertilized or unfertilized eggs. And we’re sure as hell not going to pay our employees to take a nap in the middle of the day.

So, with all these awesome benefits that corporate America offers, why would anyone want to work for a small business? Why doesn’t everyone just work for a large company where they can clearly get paid a higher salary with better health benefits, free breast milk shipping and nap pods in the office? Is it because larger companies are more selective, making it tougher to get jobs there? Partly, yes. But remember -- those companies are in desperate need of skilled people. So, assuming you’ve got some skills, that would your ticket, right? The question is not about perks. It’s about the kind of person you are.

People who work at bigger firms are different kinds of people. I know these people. I meet them all the time. They are good people, and smart. They do good jobs, and they like their companies, mostly. But when I meet these people and compare them to the same employees who work at much smaller companies I notice a big thing that’s missing: control.

Let’s face it, big-company-workers: no matter how high up you are, your life is not exactly in your hands. It’s not your company. It’s just a job. Sure, you may have a few options or a couple of shares of stock. But even the CEO is taking orders from the Board and they’re in debt to the stockholders. Your stock (which probably makes up the lion’s share of your savings) is not only not fully vested but it’s subject to the market makers on Wall Street. They’re not thinking about you much, are they?

Your contributions are important, but you’re replaceable. Everyone is. The company has been around since long before you were just a twinkle in your daddy’s eye and it’ll be around long after your bones are settled in the ground. Your work is meaningful…kind of. You want job security. But no promises are made. It’s all good as long as you’re willing to just follow orders and enjoy the nap pods, free tuition and breast milk shipped overnight to your hotel room in Cleveland, where you’re working on a project to benefit the shareholders.

Related: Fancy Perks Won't Get You Top Talent

Smaller companies retain workers because they offer something that big companies don’t: control. When you work at a company with only 10, 20 or 50 people you are making a huge impact. You are vital to the owner. Your work counts. Your contributions really matter. Your decisions have impact. Your boss, like most owners I know, is in need of advice and help because no owner can do it all. Your departure would be extremely disruptive.  You aren’t participating in some made up team building exercise. You’re part of a team that is getting actual work done in real life. You go home at night knowing that you’re an essential part of a business, not just a worker in a department.

If you do all of this well you’ll have the devotion of the person who owns the company. Which gives you more control over your life. You’ll get all the flexibility you’ll need and all the challenges you can handle. You’ll have a boss who will help you when you need help and,  because you’re indispensable, accommodate you when you need accommodation. You may even get a chance to share in the profits. That would be cool. But it’s still not as cool as having control. And for many, it’s worth it.