There are some sobering statistics out there regarding people who change jobs. Did you know that according to several polls, 50% of people who leave their jobs do so to get away from their boss? 50%. Wow. Sadly, I totally get it.
I’ve worked for some of the scariest and worst managers. Ever. Take Walter (yes, I’ve changed the names although frankly none of them deserve the courtesy). Walter was so busy kissing up to those above him that he barely knew what was going on in his group. And, in fact, he had us write our own performance reviews. Except we could never be ‘exceeds expectations’ because he didn’t want to be seen as an ‘easy marker’. That seemed to work for him – he got promoted quite steadily and reached the highest level in a matter of years. I didn’t even care when he got promoted because that meant I no longer had to work for him.
Then there was Sean. Sean didn’t like women with opinions, and back then I hadn’t learned to hide them yet. I was doing a great job though, so he couldn’t actually give me a bad performance rating. But he considered me to have no potential, given my propensity to have an opinion and voice it. Oh, and he was an armchair psychologist who also decided, and announced to anyone who would listen, that the only reason I even gave my opinion was because I needed attention. I won’t bore you with the abuse I suffered under Sean (who I hauled down to HR at one point because his mental abuse was so bad.) It would take more than just a few paragraphs.
And lastly (oh, there’s more but I won’t subject you to all of it in one sitting) there was Penelope. Penelope and I were peers and friends at one point, although we were in different departments. When she got promoted and was able to hire staff, she asked me to come and take a position in her organization. It was a great offer, and I said yes. And then she proceeded to use every private and peer conversation we ever had against me. She systematically destroyed my confidence by using the very personal exchanges we had had in the past as evidence that I was not a) a good performer and b) worthy of good work assignments. It was awful and at the first opportunity, I ran screaming from the department. Well, not literally screaming, but you get the picture.
And lest you think these are all anomalies or that this is about me, not them, I will remind you that 1 in 2 people leave their jobs today to get away from their boss. 1 in 2. 50%. Again Wow.
Well, folks. You might be appalled by what you read above. You might even recognize some of the behaviors (from observing others, of course). The truth is, as leaders in organizations you brought it on yourselves.
You brought it on yourselves, or rather, you brought it on our employees because you are so enamored with ‘leadership’ that you have completely dismissed and frankly, dissed, management. We want our people to be leaders. We send people to ‘leadership development’ courses. We focus performance reviews on whether or not they are showing leadership. And we don’t really seem to care (even if we do) about whether or not they can manage their way out of a paper bag.
We love individuals who show ‘leadership’, but we don’t pay attention to those who show a talent for managing others. We say things like ‘are you a leader or are you a manager’, insinuating that leading is ‘good’ and managing is ‘bad’. We take an individual contributor who excels and give them people to manage. And then let them figure it out for themselves. OK, maybe in sophisticated sales organizations there is more emphasis on being a good people manager. But what about the other parts of your organization? Even in HR I rarely see new managers being sent to manager training, or even encouraged to develop in that area.
Because today it is just a ticket punch. Being a manager is something you do on the way to being a ‘leader’.
And the fallout is horrifying. I’ve said it before – 50% of people who leave a job do so to get away from their boss. Most of whom will suffer from some form of PTSD from the situation for the rest of their career.
As I work with organizations today in various capacities I can tell you that these situations still exist. And perhaps are even getting worse. Now I hear, ‘I don’t have time’ a lot when it comes to developing others or even developing their own skills. Well, folks, as we used to say in the Quality world – if you have time to do it over then you had time to do it right in the first place. Instead of investing in ‘leadership training’, organizations need to take a hard look at how they are developing their people managers and invest in that instead. And they need to start holding people managers accountable for their actions – and compensate them on how well they manage people, not on the amount of work they do. And we should do those things, not because it is the right thing to do (even if it is) but because if you have great people managers, you have great employees and if you have both then you also have great profits. That may seem simplistic, but it is true.
When I left corporate America I was a shadow of my former self. I had learned to ‘shut up’ and keep my opinions to myself. I had learned to just allow disasters to happen, even though I could see them happening. Because I couldn’t stand the displeasure when I pointed things out, and the resentment when I turned out to be right. I had learned that I couldn’t trust anyone with my truth. And yes, it took its toll on me – but it also cost the company lots of money in lost revenue and productivity.
And if you are saying to yourself that I should have spoken up, then clearly you have never been slapped down time and time again for doing so. It took me a long time to get my voice back and to feel confident in speaking my truth. And honestly, sometimes when I come face to face with someone who reminds me of one of my former bosses, it takes a huge effort for the words not to stick in my throat.
Multiply that by all of your employees who are working for a bad manager and consider how much bad management is costing you in lost productivity and lost creativity; how much it costs your employees in lost confidence, sleep, job satisfaction and well-being; and finally, how much it costs your reputation when employees leave their bad managers and tell others about it.
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