Everything is transactional. How do we fix it?

In order to exist, you must interact with people in the hopes of getting something in return. This exists everywhere. You pay money for goods and services. Rarely is anything done out of charity or altruism; even efforts to help the less fortunate or those affected by natural disasters (global pandemic for instance) come with strings attached.

I’ll be completely honest: even making this blog post is transactional, in hopes of adding to my online writing portfolio and getting paid for writing jobs. Can we escape it? Probably not. This is just my opinion though, and I’m open to people proving me wrong on this. People will say that billionaires give away lots of money to charity and to help the less fortunate. This is true, but at the end of the day, they’re still billionaires, and many of the people they try to help are still considered less fortunate.

The government’s relationship with you is transactional, period.

Let’s scale this up: the government gave stimulus checks so that they can spend money on the economy, which is full of transactional relationships. Even that was viewed with skepticism, and rightfully so: giving money with no strings attached attracts cynicism and questions from either side of the political aisle. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who apparently has become more powerful than the president, suggested that child tax credits would be used on drugs. People have used PPP loans to buy luxury cars, even when millions of people could have used that money to maintain a decent standard of living.

Pictured: Everyone who has gotten a stimulus check ever, according to the government.

A recent proposal to track anyone making a transaction over $600? Transactional, in more than one sense of the word. While they say it will only track business payments, what stops people from sidestepping that and just using friends and family payments? I have had to add everyone on Venmo, PayPal, CashApp, and more to pay them back for meals and other things. Now they want to place the responsibility of tracking side hustles to the IRS. They need their cut because the powers that be couldn’t close tax loopholes that their donors (ironically) paid for, and everyone trying to get by in the world loses because of greed.

Job hunting is transactional, period.

One of the biggest examples of this is job searching. You give your resume in the hopes of getting a job that can keep a roof over your head, food on the table, and clothes on your back. Unfortunately, to get a job that will ensure these (given that wages haven’t kept up with the cost of living), you have to use your network instead of getting by on merit alone. While this means fostering relationships, the end goal is, obviously, transactional. I dread most of my conversations because I hate asking people for favors, knowing I will have to repay them eventually. While I don’t mind this, it just reinforces my belief that people are naturally self-serving and need to be transactional to move up in life. It’s a sad reality that we should change.

A recent article by Zippia has shown a lot of averages for job seekers: 24 weeks for a hiring and interview process to find a job. One interview request for every six applications. Women are 30% less likely to be selected for a job interview than men with similar qualifications and professional backgrounds. A corporate job opening gets 250 resumes, on average, and only 4-6 get called in for an interview. What does this all mean?

  • There is a 1.6% to 2.4% chance you’ll even get to the interview
  • Assuming women are 30% less likely to be selected for a job interview, that number drops to 0.48% to 0.72%

Yet these numbers don’t add up, because just two bullet points later, they say the average applicant applies to 27 jobs before landing an interview, which means that you have a 3.7% chance of getting an interview, once again, on average. These numbers don’t add up, but of course, different studies will yield different results.

If you’re disabled or a minority (which I have the misfortune of being both), those numbers plummet. Yet, paradoxically, there are more women in the workforce than ever, and companies often hammer the point home that they’re equal opportunity employers or diverse. I believe that this is mostly virtue signaling. How many minorities or disabled people are actually in positions of leadership or management? How many minorities or disabled people were actually hired for a living wage that accounted for these factors?

In their eyes, these factors make them less likely to perpetuate the status quo of every relationship as transactional. Once again, I want to be proven wrong on this, so feel free to send me examples of a relationship not being transactional in some shape or form.

Transactional vs. transformational

One of the main topics that I wrote about for clients was the value of transformational leadership vs. transactional leadership. I see a lot of people posting on LinkedIn about leadership and how they want to help others. This woman claimed she and her son would be homeless because of job loss. Connecting with everyone and anyone on LinkedIn (once again, people are on LinkedIn in order to have transactional relationships), got her lots of reactions, shares, comments, and possible job offers. She didn’t even expect people to help her, which shows you that people expect relationships to be transactional more often than not. So what is transactional leadership vs. transformational leadership?

Transactional relationships are simple yet effective, yet leave more to be desired. It’s agenda-driven, solves an immediate need, is motivated by conditions, and has limited interpersonal interaction. Every relationship is transactional in nature, whether you think about it or not, whether you like it or not. We are all guilty of this at some point.

Transformational relationships take time to cultivate, don’t expect an immediate reward, aren’t driven by an agenda, and leverages personal relationships. This is rarely the case. In fact, one of the people’s biggest criticisms of me is that I treated every relationship like a business relationship. I often leaned into this as a teenager, but little did I know that I was actually making a point that was so far above their heads (and probably still is to this day, I know some of you may be reading this) that it was taken out of context and made to make me look like I was a jerk or insensitive.

How do we fix this problem?

I have always said that there should be a solution to each problem that I write about, and if you’ve read this far, you’ll get to read it. The solution to this is that we should stop trying to deny our transactional nature, and instead, look at how we can grow from this mindset. You should help people because it’s the right thing to do, not because you’re going to get clout or a giant paycheck.

Sadly, many of the systems in place today are mostly transactional in nature, such as our relationship with the government, or workers’ relationship with their employers/companies. It is very rare (if not non-existent) that a purely transformational relationship exists. However, I would like to also point out that this is not some absolute dogma that I have clung to forever. I want to be proven wrong. So please, prove me wrong about this blog post. Let’s hear what you have to say.