Do you remember your worst job? I will never forget mine. I worked at a small company that sold licensing for expensive financial education curriculum that people then repackaged as adult education financial literacy workshops. This was in the early 1990s and I was involved in the curriculum design.
I knew the job was going to rank among life’s worst by the end of my first week. But in those days, job jumping was frowned upon so I committed myself to staying at least one year, hoping for the best. What followed was the opposite: I suffered multiple indignities from a boss who had no interest in coaching my nascent talent (or being a decent human being). She required me to work in the store room amongst the cartons of workbooks, for instance, despite the availability of three empty offices. She criticized my work by snapping her nicely manicured nails in my face, demanding I “snap it up!” She never defined what that might look like. I also learned the company wouldn’t pay its vendors unless litigation against them had been initiated. She actually baked this into her company policy.
I’ve been reading Simon Sinek’s book “Leaders Eat Last,” where he promotes the idea that good leaders create a “Circle of Safety” around the people in their organizations. The stress an employee might find inside of an organization includes intimidation, humiliation, isolation, and the feeling of not being valued, Sinek writes. It’s incumbent upon leadership to nurture a culture free of this stress. When freed of worrying about internal stress, the employees of a company are freed up to invest their energy (and creativity) to unify and thrive regardless of the market challenges that emerge. Sinek adds: “Weak leaders are the ones who only extend the benefits of the Circle of Safety to their fellow senior executives and a chosen few others.”
These days, job jumping is no longer a red flag on a resume. As you’ll read in our feature on hiring challenges facing the banking industry, unemployment is at historic lows, especially among people with bachelor’s or advanced degrees. It’s a job candidates’ market and experts say the recruiting strategies that have always worked to entice talent to your organization are no longer effective.
Workers are looking for advancement opportunities, a way to see that their efforts are making a difference in peoples’ lives, and a culture that fosters collegiality, growth and innovation. And guess what? All of these things trickle down from the top.
If you don’t look out for your people, they won’t look out for you. My worst boss didn’t keep me safe. On my one-year anniversary, I quit without giving notice. Now that was a good day.