I Quit The Boss, Not The Job

Posted by MarchFifteen & filed under Leadership, Positive Psychology at Work, Reflection.

When an acquaintance offered me a full time position within the company they owned, where I would work in several areas throughout the business, it seemed like a dream come true.  I had been looking for full time work and was drawn in by the chance to dabble in various areas of the business and to really pinpoint my interests and strengths.

Well, that dream turned out to be short lived.

Within my first week on the job, I realized I had signed up for front row seats to some pretty overwhelming unidirectional yelling matches (luckily not aimed at me), complete with name-calling, and all initiated by my new boss. I quickly learned that this would be a daily occurrence and realized that I had found myself working within a culture of fear. The enthusiasm I had initially brought to the job was quickly drained by a constant need to steer clear of the verbal abuse that could potentially come my way. Not only did this take a toll on my engagement and productivity at work, it also affected my mood during off hours and well-being overall.

I thought long and hard about how I would address this problem and after just less than a year the solution became quite clear – resign. So, without another job lined up and much uncertainty ahead, I handed in my two weeks’ notice…  And it was among one of the best decisions of my life.

While the details of my story are unique to me, the story as a whole – quitting a job because of the boss – is not an uncommon one.  In fact, according to an April 2015 Gallup study from the U.S., 50% of working Americans have quit a job to get away from their boss .

In their book titled First, Break All The Rules: What The World’s Greatest Manager’s Do Differently, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman put it best by saying, “…people leave managers, not companies…in the end, turnover is mostly a manager issue.”

Buckingham and Coffman’s research, in conjunction with Gallup’s past findings, led them to identify the following twelve key questions that measure the strength of a workplace and the factors central to engaging and retaining the most talented employees:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Based on these questions, it becomes clear that the key elements to leading in a strong workplace where employees are engaged and wanting to remain are:

  • open communication
  • recognition
  • opportunities to develop and grow

And if the answer to many of the above questions is “no”…then what?

Since my departure from the less-than-ideal work situation I had begun this blog with, I have learned that if the opportunity to address my unhappiness is not there, I should create the opportunity myself.  Communication isn’t something you should wait for the other person to initiate, especially when there is a lack of it in the workplace culture. It may be difficult for a manager to realize they are negatively impacting their direct reports, but if no one brings it to their attention they will forever remain in the dark.

And on the Leadership side, if you are a manager, acts such as simply fostering open and honest communication, genuinely considering that what your employees are telling you, actively recognizing good work and keenly developing your employees can go a very long way to keeping your employees engaged and retaining your top talent.

As for me, I have since moved on to work for companies where open communication is promoted and I have felt genuinely cared about… And the positive effect this has had on my engagement and overall wellbeing has been invaluable.

I hope my story and the twelve questions identified by Buckingham and Coffman serve to get you thinking about how engaged you or your employees are, and where you might consider taking action to create positive change.

If you have any thoughts or comments, please share below… I’d love to hear them!

– Denise Chyczij

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