Rosana Nedelciu

Dezvoltare personală și profesională, cu cap și cu drag 'Smart with Heart' personal&professional development

It’s Not Your Manager, It’s You!*

They say employees leave managers, not companies. I disagree. Surely nobody leaves a company, how could we? The entity itself is purely conceptual. A company is no more than a concept made up by a few certain elements: an idea, a building we call headquarters or office, people who wish to participate to empowering and extending that idea (ideally), and means and tools to do just that. And while together all these elements (and others) make up the company, none taken individually is the company itself. So to leave a company implies to have actually been in a relationship with all its elements, which doesn’t even happen for the CEO, let alone a mere employee. But the boss? Is our boss that important? Is our boss that powerful to determine us do something that we otherwise wouldn’t do? Hmmm. Wouldn’t we?

I strongly believe that we don’t leave our job because of somebody, we leave due to ourselves. If there is anybody to leave in this story, it’s only our old us.

We leave our job because we don’t feel appreciated enough or rewarded enough. We leave our job because our vision of ourselves does not match the reality we’re in, the reality of the job. We leave our job because we are either afraid to so something about it (since it usually comes with the risk of a conflict) or because we have tried but we couldn’t bend or mold the reality to match our expectations. So we look for another context where this can be possible. It’s not the boss her/himself. “X (the boss) is such an awful person, I’m leaving because of him” should be translated into “I am having a hard – if not impossible – time influencing X to contribute to the fulfillment of my own expectations. X’s expectations are opposite of mine and their realization would place me in a position opposite the one I desire for myself. Since X has more authority than me, I acknowledge that the most probable reality for me to continue working here is X’s reality. But I value myself enough to want to exist in a reality that meets my expectations. I value myself enough to go for that reality so I am.”

We are all aware of this: advisers, consultants, recruiters and anyone who has spent enough time listening to people’s professional stories. Furthermore, regardless of our position now, we have all left at least one company to know why we really did it. After all, out boss was the same for a number of years. When our expectations of ourselves coincided with their expectations regarding our role in shaping up or preserving their preferred reality for themselves, we had no problem with them. On the contrary, this is the phase we praise our managers. Well, all right, maybe not praise, but we definitely say they are nice and we like being in their team. 🙂 But we grow. In the most fortunate cases, our boss grows the same time with us, so we both happily orient ourselves to the next phase of our development, which means that our growth contributes to shaping up both our preferred realities. That’s when we stay. But it doesn’t always happen like this.

First of all, we don’t feel this urge to grow all the time. We sometimes need to take it slowly, let our newly acquired information settle in, experience it, get used to it, let it become knowledge. Secondly, we don’t all have the same learning needs, or the same learning rhythm. Some settle for less, others want to know more, the more they know. Some take the information at its face value, others are questioning, probing and digging for more. I guess it’s the difference between just accepting something and understanding (or “feeling”) it – which is part of the great mystery of top performance.

So even though our boss functions the same as we do – generally speaking – accelerate, go slowly, accelerate, go slowly, it may be that we find ourselves in different development stages. When we “take it slowly” for too long and our boss accelerates, we get poor performance reviews. When we step up the accelerator and our boss slows down, we say they have poor management skills and we complain that they don’t react positively to our initiatives and fail to support our (expected) accomplishments. So, for any of the “sides”, it’s the other’s fault. As if anybody’s business, in this world, is to breathe only to support our plans. And yet, that is what we expect! That’s why the disillusionment and leaving “because of somebody”.

Surely out of fear that their position in the company would at some point be threatened, some managers/bosses do not encourage and support their subordinates’ development beyond what they need to know so they can bring them success, thus strengthening the reality desired by the boss. Even so, to leave such a job wouldn’t be because the manager doesn’t invest in you but because you strongly believe you are worth it. People never leave when they are jaded or, the opposite, when they are in their comfort zone (which we already know is detrimental to evolution). So your boss’s personality is irrelevant. Pointing the finger at somebody doesn’t change the facts. We feel we are and can do more than we are given the opportunity to do so. And it’s only natural to look for a place where we can do that.

And yet, few candidates have the courage to say, when interviewed: My job has been great, I’ve learned a lot from my boss, but I am now a better professional than I have the chance to be here. I am expected to do a lot less that I wish to and I am not happy with remaining at the level the company – through my boss – expects me to be. I believe that I am so much more than I am considered here. Maybe I have failed to prove it, maybe the company wants me to be exactly as I have been for the past years because this is how I’ve brought them results and they are happy with the current state of things. Well, I’m not. So, it’s me. I’m leaving because of me.

Growing up is usually a trying process. It’s not easy to admit that it’s nobody’s fault when we feel “forced” to leave a job and come out of our comfort zone. For those of you who work for bad managers – yes, I know they exist, oh, and how they do! – remember two things: First, the idea behind every business is profit. Not justice, intelligence or empathy. Second, because of this, a company is a great place for you to prove to yourself your own development. You like spiritual quotes on social media sites, you attend personal development seminars or conferences, maybe you take coaching lessons, you read, you follow successful people etc. Your bad manager is a great way to prove yourself what it is you have gained from all those readings and seminars. Maybe it’s respect, maybe it’s learning to say No, maybe it’s growing stronger… Maybe it’s acting according to your own expectations of yourself and not someone else’s, allowing yourself to be exactly who you are, allowing yourself to become your own vision.

Yes, it’s so much easier to be socially accepted if you are a follower. Maybe your colleagues who kiss-up the bad manager and who never come with any valuable ideas are presented as model employees and get raises and promotions. But I promise you this: they never get respect, especially not from those they flatter and who promote them. And they never get to have a Vision, let alone the chance to fulfill it.

So remember, whenever anybody is trying to make you a person who only reacts – as in leaving because of somebody – and runs away from the responsibility that comes with a truly developed person – as do those who point the finger at somebody – smile and “blame” your inner leadership. Because you have it. And next time a recruiter asks you why you want to leave a job, think twice before giving an answer which empowers your deplorable manager. But yes, before you think twice on the answer, look twice at the recruiter! 🙂 (or read my post You’re a good professional but no executive search firm has contacted you)

*This article is not about employees who move from one job to the next in a couple of months for a few more bucks, a mobile phone or a title that ends in Manager. I don’t think they are such a conundrum to the human mind, nor are they entitled to special or any attention, as a matter of fact.

(foto: După ploaie la Băneasa, Ștefan Luchian)

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