With Women Like This…Who Needs Men-emies? Pt 1.

working mom

I gave up on women’s magazines along the lines of Cosmo and Glamour right around the time that I was sufficiently confident I didn’t need advice on how to please a man.  While it’s entertaining and I’m a lover of fashion and a bit of gossip, I didn’t have enough time to allocate to fluff so I began weeding out my magazine consumption. Who survived the cut?  Marie Claire.

Marie Claire was like having a GNO with the best girlfriend.   You know the one…smart, interested in you, informative, fashionable and mature.  She was Ms. with shaved legs and a smoothed out feminist vibe.  I like to think of her as the girl you’d marry if you were a boy, liked girls, or she wasn’t imaginary.   It always seemed like we agreed with one another; she would say something and I’d smile or nod my head in agreement while congratulating myself on choosing my friends so wisely.   But even your best friends can disappoint you.  Enter the July edition of Marie Claire and article by Ayana Byrd, The Single Girl’s Second Shift.

According to the article, single women are suffering workplace discrimination at the hands of their married counterparts, including: 1) Carrying an unfair burden, batting “clean up” for the married-with-kids co-workers. 2) Being perceived as people who “don’t have lives. (Making people think that) No life means no need for balance.” 3) Having work shifted to them because “she’s single, she has time to do this.”

In a lengthy article, the author discusses this major issue “simmering below the surface”.  With a plethora of feeling based surveys of single workers and a book written by Bella DePaulo, a PH.D., who is cited as America’s foremost authority on the single experience and who happens to be the author of numerous “marriage bad, single good” articles, she opines about the impact of married people on singles in the workplace.

DePaulo has coined the term “singalism”, which doesn’t need much of a breakdown for definition:  racISM, chauvanISM, sexISM, you get the point.  Basically, singles feel that they are being forced to carry the lion’s share of the work hours and work load to accommodate the busy lives of working women—while she avoids the direct hit that she would take by verbalizing gender, it’s obvious that the impact she is reviewing is the one caused by women on other women.  You can just see her target on female parents in particular—you know the ones that are using their kids as crutches as they limp out of the door at 5 pm.

My irritation with the article may not be for the reasons that you think.  I’ve worked with women at all stages of motherhood and I am one.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been an office professional as long as I’ve been a mother, having chosen to get married at 18 and have children by 21 (no, I’m not Amish or a member of the Duggar family).  While I’ve had school plays, cheerleading competitions, and sick children in the mix, I’ve also had to fight to prove that I appreciate and value my career, just as much as the single girl—now I see that the justification is necessary to women as much as men.  I knew that I would have to manage my career closely in order to progress.  When I was going through a divorce, I kept it out of the office out of concern that someone would assume that I would use it as a crutch.  That’s right I managed an entire divorce with children transitioning from middle to high school without forcing a single working woman to shoulder the burden of my disintegrating marriage.    All of this while working in the cut throat world of sales where you’re only as good as your current numbers, so taking time off could be the death knell when a new territory or opportunity to lead arose.

I can also look beyond myself to a Corporate Sales Manager that works far longer hours and more Saturdays than her single subordinates or male counterpart in the business as she balances being the parent of three young children.  She has done what I would recommend any professional do if they are seeking personal and professional fulfillment:  Adjust where necessary.  Some days may require a heavier workload than others and others may necessitate the peace of mind afforded from quality personal time.  She isn’t striving for perfection or looking for someone to share her responsibilities, instead she has the maturity and focus to identify what it takes to get the job done.  Does she find it easy?  I can’t speak for her but understanding the duality of the role of working mom and successful employee, I would say “no”, but unlike the single people noted in the article, she doesn’t have the expectation of ease and comfort in all situations.

To avoid sounding contrary for the sake of, I’ll give in to certain things:  Working mothers take time off for things that single women can’t/don’t use as an excuse, working mothers will often adjust their hours or ask for that time so that they can take care of parental responsibilities—often carrying the burden more than working fathers.  And, full disclosure, I’ve worked with women that have children and taken days off when school is closed and I’ve given the “get a sitter” eye roll because it had become excessive or seemed like something they should be prepared for, so yes, GUILTY! I’ve also worked with women who have taken time off for personal ailments (cramps, etc) while I’ve had to save those sick days in case of kid emergency so I’ve dragged myself in through the flu!  I’ve also worked with singles that miss work because of mismanaged late nights out or worse, have come in with ‘walk of shame’ stench.  You know the look:  haphazard pony, ballet flats because their balance is still off, and the outfit that is more casual than professional because they didn’t have enough planning time between the club, rolling out of someone’s bed, rushing home to change and making it to the office.  My point:  slackers comes in all forms.  Ms. Byrd assumes that the slackers impacting singles would be married, I say don’t make the argument about the people you can’t identify with and rather than giving you a platform to whine, I’ve included tips to help:

Suggestions for dealing with true slackers in the workplace:

1) Focus on the things that will make you rise to the top and you will have less time to reflect on what’s being done around you

2) Toot your own horn.  It’s okay to engage in well timed, smartly phrased self-promotion, which doesn’t include pointing fingers.

3) Refrain from negativity.  Going to HR or your supervisor to continuously point out what others are not doing will eventually make you the target.

4) Understand that it’s not your job to understand.  There may be things happening with a co-worker, in the office or out, that may not be within your rights to know.  If it doesn’t involve you directly, keep it moving and stop trying to figure out why they “aren’t in on time, leave early or don’t seem to pulling their weight.”

5) Be insightful enough comprehend your motivation for complaining about a colleague.  If there isn’t a direct, unavoidable impact to your position, it may not require addressing.  Also, if it feels like “complaining”, it probably is.

6)  Spend more time managing your career and emotions with the perspective that you’re in control of both of those things.  If your mission is to be promoted and to grow in the workplace, any time spent pointing fingers is counterproductive to that cause.  When there is work to be done there are few successful leaders that care more about who’s accomplishing it than that it’s being accomplished, when they see you willing to dive in, it does more for you than anyone else.  Don’t let your emotions get  in the way of that perspective.

7)  Seek and create your version of balance.  There were instances of women feeling like they weren’t able to enjoy their personal  lives because they were working too frequently.  If you’re working too often this is less about the other person and more about you.  I always believe that anything we WANT to do, we DO.  Schedule your work out sessions, networking events, and regular happy hours and build them into your calendar.  It’s very likely that your boss has pastimes that they enjoy and will respect that you have found an outlet of your own.  Also, finding an opportunity to do more than work creates a better employee, many surveys have cited that employees with successful downtime are more productive during the workday.

8) Don’t assume that the “powers that be” are blind to workplace happenings.   This isn’t a school project that requires working in teams at home while the teacher is unaware of who is pulling the weight.  If you are working in tandem and producing the lion’s share of the work, believe that it won’t go unrewarded or unnoticed. Corporations and it’s managers are proprietary about money and rarely want to pay people for the work that they aren’t doing.  Outside of the less rare but often discussed cases of nepotism and workplace favoritism, leaders typically promote those that are comfortable diving in.  If you feel that your work is unrewarded, refer to #2.

9) Learn to say “no”.  Leaders respect professionals that can be decisive.  The “no” sentiment doesn’t have to be conveyed in a cutting manner, it can be creatively and respectfully delivered.

10) Referencing #9, Be courageous.  If you absolutely believe that you have a reason for declining the work, you shouldn’t have a problem delivering the news, just remember that nothing is done without risk!

Notice that points 1-10 reflect on the most important thing that you can do as a professional:  focus on what you can do without making it about someone else.

Dear Journal: I Used To Be A Salesgirl

lbg tumbler

Not me…but isn’t she a cutie?

I used to be a sales”girl”.  Way back in the early days of my career.  Youthful and eager.  Yup…eager to please, eager to be liked, and even eager to impress without expectations of ROI.  Youth, I’ve held on to (hence my Hello Kitty creative glasses) but I’ve learned to taper eager.

Am I enthusiastic? Yes!  Do I still embody the idea of bubbly? Absolutely! But the understanding of being more than a sales girl kicked in and I put my personal and professional need to succeed ahead of my need to please others!   As a matter of fact, I can clearly identify the things that I used to do when I was younger girl and what has changed:

1. I struggled with conversations about my paycheck or desired pay raises because my priority, in that area, was being grateful for my job.  My gratitude interfered with my desire to have frank conversations.

2.  I was hindered by FEAR.  The reason that I didn’t ask the questions about MY money is that I was afraid of the reaction and response.  I allowed the same level of fear to keep me from questioning prospects too firmly…maybe I was afraid of a “no”, maybe I was afraid of offending.  Who know’s.  The bottom line was I was afraid!

3.  I allowed things to happen TO and AROUND me.  When things were being changed in regard to process or procedure I would smile and keep silent.  Could the changes negatively affect my results?  Sure, but in my mind I would figure it out so I worked up a smile and kept silent.

4.  I let others determine my value to the company or team.  This is a fault of many women that I come across in the workplace.  I’m sure that it happens to some men as well but let’s focus on the women for this one.  At some point in our career we become happy with the praise that we are receiving and the feeling of being needed.  The companies need for me to produce and the occasional “thanks” was enough for me to keep doing what was necessary to please them and put my professional ambitions on the back burner.  For the people who fall into this trap you will find that they can’t clearly communicate their value when asked on the spot.

5. I gave away my one true power:  control over my career moves.  Early in my life, I believed other’s perception of me instead of understanding my true ability.  After a few disappointments and misdirection, I paired with the RIGHT mentors and became more introspective and honest about my desires and abilities.  I decided that I didn’t just want to be a saleswoman, I wanted to be THE saleswoman, the number one producer..and so I worked toward that.  When I accomplished that mission I didn’t allow it to make me stagnant, I changed course to move into another area of Sales that would use other aspects of my personality and skill set.  When I decided that professional mentoring, writing and sales leadership were also passions, I began my quest with this blog and other ventures.  The key to all of this:  I DECIDED, I MOVED, AND I TOOK RESPONSIBILITY.

6.  I did a lot while expecting very little in return.  My thought was that when you do well, people see it and reward you accordingly.  I learned the hard way that even in sales you must “tactfully toot your own horn”.  It doesn’t mean that you have to stand up in your cube wearing a tiara (I prefer a fascinator) and a I am woman, hear me roar sign, however, there’s nothing wrong with cataloging your successes and knowing when to use them strategically, whether it be to ask for a raise, a promotion, or a change in sales territory.  I often saw that men were allowed to beat their chests and howl at the moon upon closing a contract while women had to be gracious in their successes.  My belief there’s always a dignified yet direct way to howl at the moon!

7.  I bought into the myth of being misunderstood.  I didn’t want the perception of being ungrateful, angry or immature let alone the stereotype of the “angry black woman”–(I still don’t know where that came from) –so I was a notorious tongue biter.  After countless lost opportunities, I decided that I was less worried about being misunderstood and more concerned with being understood.  You would no longer have the opportunity to speak for me or mischaracterize me because I was going to say exactly what I needed to.  I picked my timing, place, tone and battles and moved forward accordingly.   This helped me tremendously.  If at that point a colleague or manager chose to misrepresent my intentions or expectations, I wouldn’t focus on it because it was out of my control.   The upside?  Misunderstandings happened a lot less when I spoke up for myself!

8.  I cried publicly because I was holding in my frustrations.  There is nothing worse than crying at work.  I hate it….but I’ve done (and will again) do it.  I’m emotional and it’s not because I have lady bits.  I’m emotional because I’m competitive, a bit of a sore loser–although I keep it to myself and congratulate others well, passionate about my clients and their needs, and I have an expectation of parity.  When I was younger, and not nearly as wise, “that’s okay” was my favorite phrase.  This was a personal trait that seeped into my professional life.    Commission short by a couple hundred dollars:  that’s okay.  An account that I worked on and developed closes and a slimy sales guy creeps in to fight for the spoils: that’s okay.  Use that phrase often enough and you become a volcano of dissatisfaction sure to burst into tears at the most inopportune moments.  Times have changed, now I address what I need to WHEN I need to.  The occasional tears spring up in frustration but I’m usually balling my fists up prepared for the fight of my life by then and I WILL get what I want.

9.  I allowed someone else to sell me on their intentions where I was concerned.  For a native New Yorker, I was one of the least cynical people I knew.  I had an innate desire to believe that when someone said they wanted the best for me that they truly did.  Unfortunately, there were a few mishaps before I learned that not everyone wants to see you succeed and the sales world can be full of “Mr. Mean #1 Salesreps”.  The nature of an individual sales territory is that you are focused on your results, your money, and your growth.  If you’re not first, someone else will be is usually the name of the game so many salespeople find it hard to encourage each other.  After my experience, I was determined not to be insecure in my wins or losses.  This allowed me to become a salesperson that wanted to help others grow because I knew that their success didn’t have an impact on my own.  There was enough money for all of us!

10.  I didn’t focus on the three things:  Who I spoke to, What I said, and How often I said it.  Sales is a number game, no matter how you look at it.  Instead of dialing as often as I could, asking the proper qualifying questions to get to the decision makers and moving quickly past the “no’s”, I became consumed by contracts that didn’t come in or missed opportunities.  I was a mess.  One of the first sales mentors that I had, Paul, told me “you can’t lose what you don’t have” and it was a lightbulb or Oprah Aha! moment.  I was wasting time putting thought into why I didn’t get the contract when I could pick up the phone and say “NEXT”.  Gratefully, it didn’t take me long to learn to focus on what I could control, say next and rebound quickly from failures…this has been a great key to my success throughout my career.

That’s right, I was in sales”girl” city.  Because of my reluctance to rock the boat, things happened to and around me, not for me.  While others touted the “smarter not harder” mentality, I worked hard with the understanding that it was the only smart way to achieve the results, yet I didn’t get the results that would matter in the long term.  I readily committed to working after hours both for myself and to impress leadership with my commitment, which is exactly what an eager little sales girl would do.

As I gained time and experience, I realized that I wasn’t managing my career, I was allowing others to do it for me.  I met metrics that satisfied the immediate goals for the company and my own small, personal gain but I didn’t set up metrics that would allow me to move beyond the cubicle.  I knew that I wanted to lead but I didn’t let the “powers that be” in on the secret.  I just figured that my hard work, tenacity, obvious commitment, and pace setting would be enough to earn the ultimate reward.

Little did I know that being a sales “girl” didn’t allow me the ability to use production as a means to an end the way that the boys did.  I had to do more.  I had to do things that would be risky.  Instead of producing and silently returning to my cube for the next dial, I had to smoothly announce and celebrate my wins.  Yes, I had to bring them to the attention of the boys that ran the club.

I had to take advantage of my positioning by making it clear that not only was I money motivated, as many great sales people are, but that I had career ambition and aspirations that reached far beyond the gray cloth walls that I lived in.  In one position a CEO told me that he wasn’t sure if “I was ready to lead a team of salespeople”, but acknowledged that colleagues were already coming to me for education and mentorship.  When I referenced the promotion of a freshly minted college graduate with no experience but a collegial affiliation with him, he ignored that statement but noted that if I “just stick around, you know that (sales management role) is a revolving door”.  Just stick around?  That might have worked when I was a salesgirls.

Growing out of a sales girl role required that I determined what role I would fill within a company and what strengths I brought to the table.  I understood after years of being agreeable that I would have to take the risk of politely reminding bosses of the accomplishments and achievements that should have earned me a higher standard.  Sales in a good environment is a perk laden world. It’s the only industry where discussing money isn’t taboo but actually is public measurement of achievement.  Even the most humble individual is looking for a little “scratch” on various levels.  A mentor once told me that the best ways to reward salespeople was “time and money”.  I figure the best reward myself is to make the best use of my career (time) and identify ways to have more resources (money).

A Road Full of Potholes

Each day as I’m making the trek to and from work it ends on a road that is chock full of potholes thanks to the abuse it takes from the commercial trucks making the same journey.  It’s quite interesting to watch all of the 4 wheel vehicles jockeying to avoid the massive potholes that are often side by side, veering into the other lane or snaking along to avoid the risk of a necessary realignment or new tires.  Every now and then they will notice that a new divot has formed but it’s too late to swerve and so the tires sink into this hard bed of disaster…such is life!

That’s right, such is life in the professional world.  Careers are rarely paths of straight, perfectly paved asphalt.  More often they are bending, winding, and pothole filled with a few fender benders along the way.  The difference is how we navigate and the impact that we allow the potholes to have on our vehicle.

There was a movie called, “Why Did I Get Married?” that was fairly popular a few years ago.  The title gives the obvious impression of what you will see for two hours.  Another movie that could easily be made is “Why did I Take This Job?”.  There are few guarantees in life and I would put jobs and companies at the top ten on the low guarantee list.  I often hear and have experienced the feeling of professionals struggling with a career choice made.  Some linger on choice, consistently reflecting on their “mistake”, while I EXPECT it to happen to everyone at least once and think it’s necessary for growth.

A recent graduate questioned his decision to accept a position with one engineering firm over another.  His reasons were numerous and genuine, his quest was the magic feeling that this was a guaranteed “right” decision.  My question was, “how do you know that something is a sure thing?”   His response: “That’s my problem, I never feel ‘sure’.  Maybe he was looking for too much.  The Oprah Aha moment doesn’t come in every situation!  Just about every decision we make is based on a combination of what we know (research, etc.)  with a healthy dose of what we feel: intuition, emotion, gut feeling, an inkling…whatever you want to call it!  The facts that you know are based merely on the information that you have.  When it comes to career decisions, after you’ve read Glassdoor reviews, interviewed the employer, spoken to other employees (a rarity in today’s corporate climate), and weighed your options the finality is based on “your gut”.  You ask for assistance from friends and families and  they will give you advice but more often than not you’ll hear “what’s your gut telling you?” or “go with your gut!”  By the way, going with your gut is obviously popular since the phrase results in 186,000,000 Google results, at press time….just saying.

The decision to study one major over another during college is rarely based on the fact that this is what you’ll want to do for the rest of your life, it’s the fact that it’s something that interests you wrapped in the feeling that you want to do this.  How many of us are actually doing what we planned to do as 17-year-old high school graduates?  Even more interesting is how few of us stick with the major that we chose during our freshmen year….did we panic? For the most part, I would say no.  Our youthful energy and flexibility convinced us that change was okay and we didn’t have to have a sure thing.  Why is that so hard to accept with a career decision?

If you’re struggling with what you want to be when you grow up, BE COMFORTED, at some stage in the game most of us will (or are)–many times over.  We will evaluate and re-evaluate at different stages in our lives, based on our renewed needs and focus.  What works at 21 will not at 35 and again at 50.  Know this and in the meantime:  Take risks, Trust Your Gut, Make Decisions, and Don’t Look Back!  If things don’t pan out as perfectly as you planned…rinse, wash, repeat.

The Things We Should Know: Three Questions to Ask About Your Potential Boss

You’ll invariably have more than one interview in your life, unless you’re self-employed.  The days of getting your dream job on the first try or never being required to make a change are rare, so why not be prepared with the right questions.

While I promised some readers that as a former head hunter, career counselor and expert interviewer, I would put together a solid list of questions you should ask during an interview, I’ve had a few encounters that made me jump ahead and address this one:  “Who Will I Report To?, What’s His Professional Background? Who Does/Will He Report To?

 

Who Will I Report To?   It seems simple enough: You’re a salesperson, you’ll be working for a sales manager, right?  Not so fast.  Depending on the perspective or size of the company, this isn’t a home run.  Sales could be perceived as an arm of the Financial division or even more likely, Operations.   Truth be told, while everyone thinks that “they could be a salesperson”, not everyone could; and therefore, not everyone should be managing them.  Identify the traits that you want in a sales manager and be sure to ask the questions that help you understand whether you will learn from and grow under the direction of the person that will be your boss.

  • Has he ever been in a role where his pay was a direct correlation to his activity?  Is that the case now (does he make more if you make more?)
  • Has he been a quota based or “hard metric” managed individual during his career?
  • What traits did he have as a salesperson that he brought into his leadership role?
  • What’s his management style?  Coach?  Driver?
  • Has he managed a diverse team:  producers and non-producers?  Rookie and Experienced?  Are his techniques different for managing them?  If so, how?

What’s his Professional Background?  I alluded to this earlier but I’ve had the interesting experience of working at companies where: a Director of Operations had significant impact on the corporate perspective of the sales team, a Chief Financial Officer was the final authority in the sales process or a former corporate Trainer was the Sales Manager.  Which was worse?  You’re welcome to take your pick on this one, but I’ll go with the CFO.

The role of the CFO in an organization is defined with the same verbiage in most reputable financial or business dictionaries, all include, ‘responsibility for how a company manages its income and expenditures’.  Further, most CFO’s have risen through the ranks by exhibiting (at some point in their career), an ability to save money.  When I was a head hunter one of the best lines that you could use when presenting a resume of a Financial or Accounting candidate was, “he saved his company X dollars over X period of time by doing XXO“…yep, every company loves a phenomenal penny pincher in that role.  No one expected visionary CFO’s unless the vision demonstrated led to tightening the belt and leaving more coins in the coffers.  I don’t blame anyone that hires a CFO in that manner, kudos to them, everyone knows that the CEO is the visionary for the most part and the CFO will have an impact or perspective of whether the vision will move forward….BASED ON DOLLARS AND CENTS!

So, back to the original question.  Do you want the guy who was an awesome Accountant, phenomenal Controller, or Financial Analyst determining how you should and could make your money?  Only if he’s your direct financial advisor.  If you’re a salesperson you want to know how spending money makes an impact on the direct assessment of the job of the sales leader.  Sure, the sales manager should invest any budget dollars or resources wisely but a wise spend to a TRUE sales manager is different from what’s wise to a CFO–and closed-door discussions between the two can be rough because of these differences in opinion.

Additionally, the school of thought for a Chief Sales Officer is developed in a different environment than that of a CFO or Operations guy.  The way that they think about money is just the baseline measurement of their differences.  Temperament, personality and perspective are usually at opposite ends of the spectrum as well.  Have you ever seen an Accounting Manager jump out of his cube and have a “happy dance, pat myself on the back” publicity moment?  I’m sure you’re thinking hard or trying to make someone fit but you wouldn’t have to think hard to identify a Sales Manager that has run the aisles high fiving his troops!

The typical sales leader loves a rock star and doesn’t have a problem accommodating a high roller on the team.  I had a great Sales Manager that occasionally sprung for Starbucks as a show of appreciation (I loved that guy) while many CFO’s think that perks and incentives are feeding diva mentalities and your paycheck is your perk.  Remember that gift card would be the equivalent of $20 off the gross profit (yes, I’m wagging my finger here).  The CFO will apply the same spending mentality to how he structures your sales plan–that post is coming!

Ever been a “shushed” salesperson?  Walk through an Accounting Department using  your normal tone of voice and you may be!  Salespeople are notoriously social and talkative, you want a Sales Manager that will know the difference between wasting time and normal sales chatter.

Those are some of the basic reasons that you should be comfortable asking:

  • How did you get into sales?
  • What was the best sales job you ever had? (people often formulate their leadership style from early experience/exposure)
  • What were the steps of progression in your career?  (Does his experience allow him to identify salespeople that are ready for the next step?)
  • Tell me about one of the best salespeople you ever hired.  (Don’t you want to know what traits he likes in a salesperson and if you fit, outside of the usual buzz words?)
  • Is sales culture a myth or reality?  How do you define it? Who’s responsible for it?

Who Does/Will He Report To?:  To prevent repetition and insulting smart readers, I’ll just “say” this.  A great Sales Manager can be limited by his leader just like a great salesperson could.  When you have a phenomenal idea, have the occasional need to discuss your contract/comp plan, or want to discuss the plan of progression for your career, you want your direct supervisor to feel like it’s a worthy discussion.  If he’s working for a cost conscious CFO or process oriented Operations guy those discussions will require him “fighting on your behalf”, which ultimately will determine how long he is able to survive in that environment.  High turnover of Sales Managers that are salespeople at heart can often be linked to who they are managed by.  My experience:   A CFO’s impact on a sales team can be consistent changes in sales leadership as he searches for the person who will always say “yes” regardless of the impact on the emotional tenor of the sales team, i.e., changes in comp plan mid-stream, etc.

Ultimately, everyone  has a position to play.  I worked in an environment with a Harvard educated CFO, one of the best and I appreciated his worth, conversely, it was obvious that he appreciated the value of the productive Sales Unit and Leadership.  He was so confident in his role that he had very little interest in delving into murky sales waters although I’m quite sure he knew how every dollar was spent!

Bottom line, before you ever accept an offer be sure that you’ve taken the time to follow the salesperson’s rule on any deal:  QUALIFY, QUALIFY, And QUALIFY!

(If you enjoy this post, the “like” button is waiting for a click!  Have a great day!)

Let’s Dissect This: Smiling, Happy People Pt. 1

  Ever been involved in a meeting that makes you want to get up and leave the room?  I got that feeling when I heard these words:

‘Never hire people who left a company because they were unhappy, they will just be unhappy working for you.  It may be eight or nine months down the road, but they will be unhappy’.

Really?  Never?  I’ve heard the statement that “no opinion is wrong”?  Well, the person who first said that statement is probably the one who also determined that every player gets a trophy because “there are no losers”.  My belief?  Somebody has to lose (I just don’t want it to be me) and there aren’t just wrong opinions, there are stupid opinions.  The opinion above is a generalization about something that is way too complex to be generalized.  It’s hard for me to sit still in the face of individuals who make these kinds of remarks and believe them!  I guess I should give credit to anyone that is so confident in their understanding of the world but I have a hard time quietly dealing with narrow perspectives, so let’s dissect it a little…shall we?

Qualifier: Unhappy people exist.  Employees are people.  Therefore there will be employees that are just unhappy people.  Most people aren’t unhappy by nature.  Call me an optimist but unhappy people are so easy to point out because they are the exception not the rule.  I say this because it explains my belief that if you work with unhappy people or morale is low there is usually a reason for this.  And no, the reason isn’t that they are just all Debbie Downer’s.  Going back to the qualifier, I’m sure that there are a few Sad Sally’s (I promise no more alliteration) but that would be minimal. Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s move on.

I have objections to the idea that when someone is unhappy at Y Company and chooses to leave they will be unhappy with Z Company and eventually do the same.   Unfortunately, there are many corporate leaders and managers that have this frame of mind, especially during an employer’s market (when there are more people in the job market than available jobs).  A wealth of thoughts, some in the form of questions and others retorts, came to mind, none of which would be perceived as positive by someone living that reality so I’ll share them here:

Thought:  A “leader” who believes this statement can’t possibly have the ability to see the full needs of their employees.  When you decide that people are unhappy without good reason you’ve thrown away valuable opportunities.  The behaviors that encourage a dissatisfied employee to come to the table with their concerns or issues are the same ones that motivate a satisfied employee to share their successes.  Both are teachable moments.  A manager that conditions himself to believe that grumbles of disapproval are the sounds of the generally unappreciative, is making a foolish error.  When someone decides that people are whiners and would be whiners anywhere he is choosing, consciously or otherwise, to ignore the needs of his people–that’s dismissive.  It’s impossible to have anything other than a shallow relationship with a dismissive individual.  If I don’t trust that you have my best interest at heart, how can I trust your opinion on my career value to your company?

Thought:  Aren’t generals responsible for the morale of their troops?  You can substitute coaches/players in to this analogy and it all boils down to the same thing, the leader has great impact on the emotions, behaviors and perspective of those who must follow.  Not a great leader, but any leader.  Every General portrays an external belief that the war can be won, how else can you get the troops to pick up their guns and march?  He leads by example because he understands the sway that he has over his soldiers.  Additionally, when the battle is won he is lauded for his bravery and leadership, shouldn’t he be held accountable if the war is lost?  Bottom line, if your people are unhappy you bear some of the responsibility.

Thought:  This is a level of denial that could destroy or hinder a company.  Acceptance is the first action step in taking responsibility, denial has no place in that process.  Acknowledging and accepting issues at hand allows you to address and resolve.  That’s right….Acknowledge, Accept, Address and Resolve.

What do you get from denial?  Repetition of detrimental behaviors.  If being on time is important for a project oriented workplace, the employee that’s consistently late has to be addressed or the behavior will continue and the work will be impacted, right?  So, why not openly discuss employee concerns that are hindering internal success.   When someone feels undervalued or overlooked the best option is to speak about it.

Thought:  Holy Generation Gap, Batman!  Woe to the man who seeks the resume with one job!  You’ll be searching a long time.  The days of the gold watch and retirement are gone–employees know that, some employers want to ignore it.   Today’s corporate structures, financial economies and behaviors don’t provide as much access to the 25 year pin that many would welcome.  Sure, there are people who are proverbial “job hoppers” but they aren’t included in the masses that are seeking the best opportunity for their success and a place to call home.  Staying and working through the pain, year after year without a commitment to change is no longer the way of the world.  I believe that great employees have a sense of expectation based on their work and poor employees have a sense of entitlement.  Identify the two and take care of your people.

Thought: Says the Rich Man to the Poor Man.  No need to bring out the socialist banner and slap it on me, I’m just acknowledging that it’s very easy for the rich man to call the poor man ungrateful when he has full control of his destiny.  Employees that choose to look are often doing it because the environment isn’t theirs to change and they are aware that they can do better.  How ironic that we hold people accountable for their lack of wealth and positions in the world but call them unappreciative when they attempt to change it by seeking new opportunity!

The interesting thing is that I have heard this mindset expressed in other ways throughout my professional career in other ways, from people who have believed themselves to be visionary managers.  Statements like: “If you’re not happy, there’s the door”,  “This trains leaving the station and if you’re not on it, oh well”…lots of quipped, little expressions of power from small minded perspectives.  If you have said something like this or think this way, today would be a good day to reevaluate your standard of leadership.  Is it possible for those words to come from a good place?  Are they actually motivating? If this is your modus operandi, should you be managing?