It’s a truly strange thing to watch the difference in behavior between people who are hired on as freelancers at a company and those that are actual employees, hired on full time.
The biggest differences I’ve noticed come in two large points. The first is the attitude towards the company. Oddly enough, I’ve found that freelancers have what I would call a more “professional” attitude when it comes to dealing with the company. They come in, do the job they have to do and then go home. They don’t get in to the office politics. They don’t try to impress anyone for a raise. And while they don’t have any true loyalty to the company, at the same time, they don’t usually wish it ill will. Most of this changes with someone hired on fulltime, as it is nearly impossible to stay out of who has done what or what is going on. I applaud those somewhere out there who do, but I’ve yet to meet anyone fully divorced from the antics of the workplace. Secondly, there seems to be divine, blind loyalty to a company or complete and utter hatred of it. Neither of which are particularly good as they can both poison when taken in the appropriate doses.
I suppose that a lot of these attitudes are due in part to a workplace becoming a second home and for better or worse, people bring a good deal of themselves in to that place. I remember one co-worker who told me that because of her boyfriend’s work schedule, I was the guy in her life she spent the most time with. A very weird thought, but I’m sure it’s true in many situations.
Beyond the social issues in a freelance vs. fulltime discussion, there is another item I am particularly in tune with and this is the attitude towards technology. With a freelance person, they have an independence to the way they use their computer and the surrounding ammenities such as printers, copiers, etc. This can be good sometimes. Often the people are able to figure out their own problems that come up and will often try to diagnose something pretty thoroughly before coming to the tech people. Naturally there is the other side of the coin in that people will often get frustrated if they think they know more than you and you’ve locked something out that they want access to. Then there are the extreme cases where you’ll find them with the case of their machine open because they, “heard a noise” and were trying to fix it or the best one where I found two freelancers tearing apart a copy machine to try to “fix it”. Since I simply won’t touch copiers or fax machines, I let them “fix it” until it was fixed really good and the outside tech had to come in and properly piece it back together. Naturally, those two didn’t get called back in for work and the tech did, because as a freelance body, he did what was needed by coming in, fixing the problem, and going on his merry way.
All of this changes greatly when you look at a fulltime employee’s relationship to technology. They are much more dependent on tech support. It can be good because they get you involved in discussions and there is more of an effort to work as a team to solve problems. Of course, it can be bad when they get too reliant and want you to put paper in the printer(s) every time they run out. I kind of don’t have my mind made up as to whether their approach is good or bad, but at least it’s generally consistent.
So, where does this all come to? Eh… I don’t really know. It was more of a diatribe on what I’ve seen when working with companies that have a heavy freelance element. About the only thing I can say for sure if that a lot of 1099’s in a building does add a strong air of instability, but of course, a good number of W2’s will make things get staid and stymied at times as well.