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The People You Work With September 24, 2011

Posted by Tim Rodgers in job search, Management & leadership.
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The other day I was reminded of something that my favorite manager once told me about the suitability of a job, or, how well it fits, “There’s who you work for, who you work with, and what you’re working on; and that’s the order of importance.” In other words, if you’re working for people you like and respect, you’re more likely to be happy and productive at work, regardless of what you’re working on. Conversely, it doesn’t matter if your job description is interesting or stimulating if you’re working for people you dislike.

This makes a lot of sense when I reflect on my career and the highs and lows along the way. I’ve tolerated some tedious jobs and terrible work environments simply because I liked my manager and the people I worked with. In those cases there was a sense of personal loyalty that kept me going, but, more importantly, I felt that I could learn from my superiors and co-workers, and that I had their support when things got tough. On the other hand, there have been times when I’ve been miserable working for a manager I didn’t get along with, even though the job seemed like a dream assignment initially.

I think there are two lessons here. First, when considering a job change you have to find a way to assess the hiring manager and their team, using anything you can learn during the interview process and from other sources. Of course it’s always important to assess the culture of the company you’re considering, but that information is usually easier to find (see for example Glassdoor). It’s hard to turn down a job that comes with a promotion or a significant increase in compensation, but those plusses have to be weighed against the emotional toll that comes with an ongoing clash of styles or values that will surely reduce your productivity and effectiveness.

Second, when you’re the manager your “likability” and the culture you help create will be a factor in attracting or retaining employees, whether intentional or not. Some years ago I worked at a company that instituted a salary freeze. I wondered whether I would be able to keep the star performers in our team if I couldn’t offer them more money. What I ultimately realized was that I could improve the chances for retention without exceeding my budget by providing challenging work assignments, encouraging communication and collaboration within the team, and hosting team building activities to give people a chance to get to know each other. I didn’t expect co-workers to become best friends, but when co-workers spend more of their waking hours together than with their own families, they should at least not dislike each other.

A final thought: just because you like your manager and the people you work with doesn’t mean you should stay at that job forever — it depends on the available opportunities and your career goals. On the other hand I think you will eventually leave a job where you work with people you dislike.

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Comments»

1. Liz Ness - September 27, 2011

Hi Tim!

Just noticed you had a blog (via LinkedIn). Love what you’re writing and will be back to soak in more!

=) Liz

PS: You were always one of my favorite people!


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