Friday, November 30, 2018

If You Suck As An Employer - You May Never Find Out

The reason most people will not tell you they are unhappy but will simply start job hunting instead is that it is too dangerous to tell the boss when you're unhappy.  - Liz Ryan, Forbes Magazine

Most writing - including this blog - is simply commentary and regurgitation of someone else's commentary and regurgitation. 

As much as I enjoy diving into the trenches of Human Resource Management and Organizational Development, truthfully it's all been said and done before and there's not a lot of new stuff coming up lately - certainly not from myself. I'm just repeating what I believe to be mostly true, and mostly true as it relates to the small company workplaces of private estate domestic staffing. As the Beatles once said, "There's nothing you can know that isn't known; nothing you can see that isn't shown."  Same here.

And I'd say that my favorite Forbes columnist, Liz Ryan, doesn't have any original ideas to show for good team management, either. Yet, she's got a super talent for cutting out the fat and getting right to the meat of a good story - and that's probably why she's in Forbes. One of my recent favorites from Liz is her article, Why Great Employees Quit - Instead of Admitting They're Unhappy. I'd like to think that I improved on that title with my own version above (are the kids still saying "suck"? I don't know... I might be out of touch here).

Anyone who's managed anyone good - and then they quit - will relate to Liz's article. And there's another group, also: those domestic workers who've quit a household and then made up some polite lie to the boss, whether that boss be the Estate Manager, Family Office Director, or the grand poo-bah themselves. It happens all the time. Maybe even more often than that. Definitely - more often than that.


Everyone reading this with even the smallest interest in HRM knows the well documented evidence that good workers don't usually quit jobs. They usually quit bosses. Shitty bosses.

But what isn't talked about much is what Liz has brought out into the open: what happens in the time span afterwards - that awkward moment of two weeks in-between giving notice to the shitty boss and that final day of work.  

Good workers will always leave politely. 
Don't rely on them to diagnose and repair you - 
or even tell you why they're actually leaving.
Some people quit their domestic jobs while working for truly outstanding bosses - and perhaps they need to have less of a commute because their own little family is growing and they need to help their partner take care of the kids... or maybe there's really an opportunity on another estate to take on some more responsibility and grow professionally. 

But those cases are the exception, not the rule. The crux of Liz's article that is so interesting, really... despite whether someone leaves for those family or professional reasons - or it's just because their boss sucks - they will assuredly tell their boss it's for family or professional reasons. Instead of coming clean and saying what's really on their mind.

Naturally, you can't blame the departing worker. Because at that point, the most important thing to them is a letter of reference. And how does one do that? Mostly, by telling the boss on the last day of work how great of a boss they were, and how much they will miss working there. 

In 30 years, actually, I've only had one estate owner ask me what he could have done to make it a better work environment and keep me around. I respected that, because he had the courage to even ask that question. Most employers do not.

That would have been a great opportunity to share opinions. But as I recall, I passed up the opportunity. Because the most important thing to me was that magical letter of reference - not an improved boss who I wouldn't even be working for anymore. 

And out of six employers in those 30 years, only two of them I left for truly professional opportunities ahead. The other four just kinda sucked. Maybe they never found out. Probably they never cared.

But all six got the same story. And I got my magical letters of reference.

I wish the world was different, but unfortunately it's not.


I disagree with Liz that it's not a manager's right to know why a good worker is leaving. I think it is their right... I just don't think there's any way possible to ever know it from a worker that's leaving. That's asking too much.

The only way to know is with a great deal of introspective study of one's own habits and trends occurring under their command. What they have a right to... will have to be discovered from within. And that can be too scary a place for most people to go.


Sometimes, there's just no easy answer to get what's wanted in life. Because getting what's wanted in life - as employers often discover too late - takes a lot of effort.

But, for the good workers leaving, anyway, as the Beatles also said…  "Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game. It's easy."

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