Why did you leave your last job, may I ask?
It turns out that most people, according to statistics, leave jobs because of other people; usually their immediate managers or colleagues. The decision is often based on a few options: (1) I will just try to do my job and wait for other people to move on; (2) I will try to adapt myself to the situation and “tolerate” the situation; and (3) leaving the company.
The decision is usually difficult for a person especially if the person has been in the company for a while. I believe that if you were that person, then you would try option #1 and #2 for some time and see how they may help. After a period of time and if #1 and #2 options didn’t help, then you would take option #3, leaving the company. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The question I’d like to ask you (and you can think hard on this) is what your managers (leaders) have done during this period of time before you leave? I’d share my own story with you first.
I still remember why I left my last job. That was my first job after finishing my PhD and I chose to work for a public airport authority. I was confident and sailed through interviews without hiccups; I was proud. Quickly after starting my role at the airport, I then realised that I had the highest academic qualification in the whole organisation (not surprising). I was humble, but the management was not.
Leaders in that organisation “tried their best” to show me why they were “better” than I was, although I had a PhD in air transport. The funny thing was that I was not a ‘threat’ to senior managers, because it took years to move up ‘ranks’ and in the public servant system when I was there, there was no chance for me to jump ranks. I was not happy in the first month or two at my job. I liked what I did but I didn’t like the way senior managers treated me. Colleagues were wonderful and supportive, by the way.
So, what did the top leader do? He did nothing and chose to ‘side’ with my manager because my manager was his favorite. That’s OK. I started looking for opportunities 6 months into my job. I’ve tried option #1 and #2. They didn’t improve my situation, so I tried #3, leaving the company.
Politics or ‘favoritism’ happen in offices and that’s probably inevitable; just human nature. What good leaders do is to sooth the frictions in the company and try to accommodate as many people as possible because good leaders know that talents can always find other opportunities and leave the company. This is often a loss to the company than a gain. It costs a lot more to recruit new employees than retaining current employees.
Good leaders help and don’t side with certain groups of people, otherwise office politics will grow and harm people and the company. Junior staff can find themselves powerless when face the senior management. When conflicts happen between junior staff and management, what leaders can do? Many leaders would just ‘delegate’ and let the management team handle these conflicts. This often leads to staff turnover, because the leadership is not nice. The power of nice cannot be ignored in modern corporates.
I remember I told this to one friend in Hong Kong before. He told me: “This is not going to work. If you are nice to people, then people think you are weak and not competitive.” Well, we certainly remember who were mean to us before, but we also remember who were nice to us before. I’m pretty sure that you don’t want to help those people who were mean to you before, but more than happy to help those people who were nice to you. Who said that being nice is useless?
Good leaders listen and work with the team. The team doesn’t work for the leader, but for the company. So, are you considering changing your job because of people and because of lack of leadership in helping staff? If so, it may be a good move to leave the company and find a better job with leadership. It’s hard (if not impossible) to change other people, but it’s easier to change yourself for good and grow yourself.
Learn the lesson you’ve been through in your career and be a good leader when you have a chance. Work with your staff, so they work together and grow together for the company. Your staff don’t work for you (remember this!), although they may call you ‘boss’. Your staff work for the company and for the good of the company. If you think they work for you, then your staff will leave sooner or later.
Leaders help and listen; that’s good leadership we want.
Dr. C. Richard Wu @ REEAConsulting.com
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