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Ordinary People Taking Action
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As she finally reached the gate for her flight home, Sarah had time to reflect on the job interview she’d flown two thousand miles to attend. The leadership team had called her a solid candidate. The interview panel actually used the phrase “perfect for the job”. She’d been hired on the spot.
As passengers lined up to board, she rummaged around her purse for her phone, upending the organizational system she’d devised that morning to ward off the jitters. When her husband answered, the words tumbled out. “I got the job, my dream job! Great fit, it’s right up my alley, doing what I love. I’ve found my purpose. Have to board plane now!”
It’s in that early phase of getting a new job when everything seems perfect from both sides – employer and employee. We don’t see, or we choose to ignore, any indication that this new relationship will be anything but ideal. The first day is typically a combination of nervous energy and excitement. There is so much potential.
In Sarah’s case, it didn’t take long for the excitement to start to fade.
She went to work and instead of doing what she was hired to do, she would do what she was told to do. Management had said they wanted innovative problem solving. Instead, that very creativity had given her the reputation as a disruptor. Management didn’t really want to change; yet that went unspoken.
Her husband noticed her demeanor had changed. She no longer thought her job was perfect and she definitely didn’t love it. Periodically, however, a spark would ignite. She would see a glimmer of the job she was hired to do and that would give her energy to power through.
“It’s been one year today. My review was surprisingly good. They think I am bringing creative value and a lot of contribution to the organization. They are eager for me to ‘do my thing’ in this second year,” she said to her husband over dinner the night of her performance review.
His response: “That’s great, you’ll find your groove and shine. Stick with it.”
The second year brought small steps of change. A lot of process improvement. Peer feedback confirmed she was knowledgeable, professional, graceful and well-liked. She would take their compliments to heart and use them to get through each day.
Sarah questioned why management didn’t seem to appreciate her. More and more, she was left out of conversations. She felt as if she was on an island, alone, with just enough supplies to stay alive. There were rumors that she was a perceived threat to her direct manager. She didn’t understand why.
Turnover was a struggle. She would take one step forward and then five steps back. Every day came with a new list of people who’d resigned from their roles. She often wondered why her peers left so suddenly. Was it the pressures of the job, of the industry? Exhaustion was rampant.
It would be several more months before Sarah realized the problem wasn’t her or her peers, it was management. She recalled a well-known quote, “People don’t leave companies, they leave their managers.” By the end of her second year, poor management was causing employees to leave and miss deadlines, putting an end to creativity and innovation. Management was stuck in status quo, believing it needed to be their way or no way. No empowerment. No human connection.
It took another year for the grim reality to sink in. No matter how hard Sarah worked, management would continue to impede her success.
Only four months later, her manager called. They missed her. They realized her impact. Her potential. Her expertise. They wanted her back.
All that potential seen on the first day of the new job. Gone, from both sides. Forever.
Or, until the cycle starts over with the new candidate.