These are all hard-working people and loyal employees. One of them has abandoned a long career in pharmaceutical marketing, one a lifelong career in electronics engineering, another the manager’s role in a store. They all have skills and educations suited to their jobs, and they have all tried very hard to work with their teams and to satisfy their bosses. But, in the end, they reached their limits. In spite of having family responsibilities and debts, they would rather be unemployed than suffer workplace misery. This was not just occasional unhappiness. It was daily emotional torment.
These job-leavers all had in common one thing (aside from being acquainted with me!); they each have a relatively new, really bad, boss. One of these bosses is a spectacular example of bad hiring practices. He was a pastry chef who married the electronics company owner’s daughter. As if by magic, he became the boss when his father-in-law retired, and he then chose to ignore the advice of the senior engineers.
Another bad boss took a proud and productive manager and increased her workload until it was impossible to be successful. The manager sacrificed her family and social life to work longer hours, but still the work could not be finished. She begged for more staff and was repeatedly declined. Each day, the work which had been satisfying and enjoyable, became burdensome and frustrating. Her boss characterized her concerns as “whining.”
All of the people I am talking about bent over backwards to try to please their bosses and yet, day after day, week after week, they suffered the steady drip, drip, drip of criticism wearing away at their self-esteem. Sometimes the criticism was supplemented with spiteful gossip or actions that undermined their authority. Decisions were made that devalued their work, and praise was non-existent.
As I heard about their experiences over weeks and months, it became clear that emotionally-speaking their bosses never really left junior high school. They made very little attempt at open dialogue or debate, there was no attempt at conflict mediation, no clarification of roles, no expressions of empathy or appreciation. Those behaviours would have been mature and wise, but their absence made progress and productivity impossible.
Interestingly, none of those new bosses had the benefit of training in business management. I like to think that appropriate training would have made a difference, but my gut tells me that some people resist learning those life skills that are essential to good workplace relationships. They are bullies, and bullies don’t take kindly to being corrected .