A Job With Great Leadership & Colleagues Matter Most. Now what?
I recently started to share a series of articles about the criteria that people say matter most to them when making a career change. The first one that was published is a goal to Make a difference. One of the others that often merits mention in the Family Feud style countdown is about locating a Better Boss & Colleagues.
Often what matters when making a job or pivot is a strong reaction to something that troubled you in your former or current job. My role when advising others is to get them to see how there is nuance in those reactions. You want to be sure that you are not setting yourself up for a different job, but a better job. Different could be worse whether we are considering romantic partners, apartments, or jobs. If you have shared with me a priority about your boss and colleagues what follows are the set of questions that I would ask next. Knowing your answers will help you seek out situations that will be better for you.
A Better Boss
I do not agree completely with the popular Marcus Buckingham quote, “people leave managers, not companies”, but I think it is the case for the majority of people who leave jobs. A company may allow or prefer cultures that diminish their people or choose to offer lower wages or benefits. But if you tell me you want a new boss, I will want to understand what you are responding to.
So, what happened with your last boss that prompted you to take action? The most common behaviors that people share for leaving a boss:
- Dismissive of your work
- Took credit for your work
- Never gave you attention
- Negative or aggressive communication style
- Unrealistic schedule or productivity expectations
- Not someone you can learn from
- Intolerant of aspects of your identity
Given the issues above, you can direct your search to new bosses that align with the set of qualities and attributes that are important to you. If you have an aspiration to finally have a coach who is a woman, or a lesbian, a mom with younger children or a Latina, or a set of intersecting attributes, you need to name what matters to you so that you can direct your search and position your network in the best way to help you.
Maybe you finally, finally want a boss who sees your potential and will champion your growth in the field or company. Sometimes, you need to just have a boss you respect and can learn from. Whatever the driving issues are for you, like driving, your best chance of getting to a good destination is to know roughly where you want to go.
While issues with one’s boss are common, I have also had people offer up concerns about seeking a very different set of colleagues. The most common complaints people share about their colleagues:
- Not enough diversity (including race, gender, age, ability, and life experience)
- Lacking the qualities I want or respect (including intelligence, humor, passion, training, curiosity, adaptability, work ethic, kindness)
- Having a social style that fits with me or allows for me (too friendly, too reserved)
Given the issues above, you should form your questions about the people you will engage as peers from current and former staff and those you know who have partnered with the institution in some way to begin to understand the norms.
A Better Culture
Your boss and colleagues do not exist in a vacuum. There is a set of structures that allows or changes behaviors. When you look at all of the issues above, they can be reduced to how employers are locating candidates, who they are deciding to hire and how they are training, supporting, and promoting staff.
What are some possible indicators of a better culture?
- People who share your identities are visible, in leadership and given space to connect
- Policies that offer resources, time, or money, to your growth of development
- Policies that respect your time and life outside of work
- Meaningful external connections to the community
- Efforts to promote retention including fair salaries and intentional leadership tracks
It is always your responsibility to know what matters to you and to do the research or ask the questions to reveal what is true of the opportunity before you.
How do you assess these things?
Once you have done the hard work of knowing what matters to you, next we need to understand what is true of an employer, boss, or role. The ways we figure this out:
- Looking on the organization’s website
- Asking questions when we interview
- Locate people currently employed, formerly employed, or working in adjacent spaces who can answer questions. LinkedIn is usually easiest to search on, but use what we have (one caveat is we need to know who we can trust to have conversations with)
This should help you to determine places that will fit better. Enjoy finding a better place to work!
—Russ Finkelstein is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor. A career coach, social entrepreneur, and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship, and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and his new book, "Let's Sort Out Your Career Mess, Together..." is forthcoming in 2021.