Over the past couple of years, there has been a lot of discussion about the future of work—whether people will continue to work remotely, the trend toward quiet quitting and the rise of the gig economy. But all this fascination has ignored a big and important change already well under way in the U.S. labor force: the widespread use of legal contracts to manage employees.
Companies’ embrace of things such as noncompete and arbitration agreements, as well as policies that spell out exactly what employee behaviors are desired and will be rewarded, can make it easier to manage people. But it also has a pernicious impact on organizations in the long run, because when companies start treating their employees like contractors, those employees are likely to start behaving like contractors.
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