In my technology career I’ve had the opportunity to work for and with lots of companies. Part of that comes from my full time work, consulting done while going to school, and work on the side. When I’m starting out working with a company I do a lot of listening and ask a lot of questions. After all, isn’t that what a good consultant or analyst does; ask questions?
Inevitably, a listener gains a certain amount of trust. I’m not sure if this is because being mostly quiet allows them to speak with certainty when certain or if this is because, in general, people like to be listened to. It’s probably both. That being said, what follows this earned trust is the burden of being the sounding board. Every company I’ve worked for has included an elite group of unhappy and restless individuals whose productivity is lacking due to feeling unappreciated. Inherently, like any good listener, I end up listening to them and nodding in agreement. The story they tell me usually resembles one of these short vignettes:
1) My boss won’t listen to my advice. I leave each conversation feeling confident he will execute; knowing full well that what he promised isn’t going to happen.
2) My manager disagrees with me on this fundamental issue. I’ve spoken to several people that agree that she isn’t running this department correctly. This seems like a very reasonable request, but I got the feeling she won’t ever change her mind.
3) I’m bored and I don’t feel like they challenge me enough. I’ve volunteered my time, insight, and spent hours and sometimes even days researching solutions that could turn this company around, but nothing ever comes of it. I’m really having a hard time staying motivated.
Of course I’m generalizing here, but you get the gist. After talking, everyone wants a response from the listener. Who wouldn’t? My answer is always the same to all of these situations and it goes something like this:
The truth is your situation may never change because the company you work for may not value what you have to offer or maybe it’s just that you don’t fit. If you’ve been trying all this time to make change from the bottom and pushing up, it’s probably not going to happen. You have two choices:
1) buck up, quit complaining, keep your head down, work hard, and hope that change is ahead or that you are given the opportunity to be that change
2) leave. Chances are that the behavior is coming from the top down, so the issue is fundamental. If you can’t be on the bus, then you should get off and get on another one.
For the talker, I really believe the “leave” option is the best because I’ve had to do it several times. When the operations of business feel more like a cult rather than a business trying to run efficiently, and you can’t drink the magic Kool-Aid, then it’s time to leave the cult. It’s that simple. At this point in the advice cycle, it’s either a point of offense or realization that begins to internalize and then take on wings.
Don’t get me wrong (and some will), the problem may not be the manager or the leadership, it could just as likely be the complainer. Either way, if they leave they’ve done themselves and their firm a favor. There’s nothing as contagious as a bad attitude or disdain for someone who just doesn’t belong. From there on out, it’s up to them. They already know my opinion.