The Break Up: Why Leaving a Bad Employer Early Is a Good Idea
You can put lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig.”
Since the dawn of chat rooms, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Glassdoor, and Quora, an employee has access to more information on employers than ever before – a treasure trove of a company’s Good, Bad, and Ugly. One thing is certain: There is no employment branding that could ever disrupt the general psyche of a bad working environment, only white wash the inevitable turnover.
Recently, Yelp felt the sting of social backlash from a now former employee who wrote about the inner workings of the company and the lack of general caring for its employees (An Open Letter To My CEO). Although I don’t necessarily agree with her on the decision to post this while working for the company, her subsequent firing and the actions of the news vultures clearly demonstrates the need to focus not only on candidate experience but employee experience as well.
While Talia Jane’s missive has unleashed the anti-Millennial social media trolls, what she has also accomplished has been to bring more light to how many employers treat their employees like yesterday’s garbage. Frankly, this bad company behavior and associated policies are going out of style fast – and they deserve to be called out for the craptastic way they view their people as little more than inventory turns of canned goods yet shout to the Heavens about their unique company culture. Heck, you never really know what working for a company is like until you have been there a few months to get a real feel of what is under the perfect smiles of the Stepford wives and husbands. Only once you catch a good wiff of the vibe of an office environment can you determine if it is – or is not – for you.
I have always believed that interviewing for a job is like dating someone. You go out on a few dates with someone to see if there is a possible love connection. You wear nice clothes, you smile a great deal and both of you ask questions that are not that deep but deep enough to illicit a response that may gleam a peak behind the curtain to see the real you. The choice is made to move forward and enter into a relationship and the romance begins – or so you thought.
All is not lovely in this fantasy land of milk and honey and there are issues. Some small – some not so small – and you now feel trapped in a relationship that is showing the true colors of the person you have chosen to date. You are, in fact, not truly trapped but after making an emotional investment many decide to “work out” their issues. Most fail miserably, ending in a bad breakup and leaving both parties trying to figure out how they missed the signs.
Interviewing with companies is dating with a twist. You meet with multiple companies and are on an emotional roller coaster high as you dress to the nines, do phone interviews, meet face to face, sometimes multiple times, and then wait to hear if you got the role in order to consummate the relationship. You dive in to the role, just like you do with a new partnership, and look around the Utopia of the work space – and see what you want to see.
You really WANT this to work out so you take a few lumps and maybe the occasional verbal thrashing from a manager but you chose this role. You took the company culture spiel hook, line, and sinker yet now you are dropping emotionally lower than a lead zeppelin. The difference here though is you cannot just break up and move on as this is your career, your brand, the way you pay bills, etc. You are in three months or maybe a few more and the honeymoon is over with, you are done, you may even be emboldened like the young woman that wrote the post above due to your frustration.
Here is the rub, as Sherlock Holmes would say: Unlike dating where you can have a good cry, a few drinks, and chat with friends, this can affect you career-wise for future employers (not that this will automatically happen for Talia Jane; I have it from a very reliable source that many companies are reaching out to her because of her honesty and the fact that she truly did attempt to bring internal light to the problem). There are just too many managers, HR reps, and yes, recruiters, who will put your resume in the NO pile, tossed into the Land of the Misfit Candidate’s bin, and easily forgotten.
No one wants to hear your story and they dismiss you as a job hopper who will not last. You have become, for a lack of a better terminology, a pariah and the stench of the stigma will carry you to special employers who will take a chance on you only because they themselves are chop houses that have high turnover. And so the cycle continues and the wounds only deepen.
“Trying to sell people on a job I knew no one should have. I had to move on to another company.” #ImpossibleDecision – Stacy Donovan Zapar
What can we, as a community, do about this? The answer, in the simplest form, is what Stacey says above. We can move on – yet we too will fall into the same trap into which the very people we are vying for have discovered. They are reading the reviews of companies and as the unemployment tide shifts to favor the job seeker, they’ll decide not to respond to the tepid canned email you sent followed up by the robotic phone message on their cell phone. They’ll now wield the power and many will employ the same sadistic frat hazing mentality they felt previously from you. It’s up to us – sourcers and recruiters – as the faces of the company to be more vocal and effect social change within the company. Even if the CEO doesn’t recognize the problem.
I have often spoken of the association that we are in the process of putting together and this is yet another reason why I feel we need to have this happen. We already cursorily share information in the catacombs of private Facebook pages and LinkedIn groups, hiding like Christians from the Romans – but we need to shine the light on these companies and help force the real sweat shop mentality out of business and how the employee experience could be a change for good.
It is already happening around us. Yahoo is up for sale; Yelp’s and Geico’s turnover rate has consistently hurt the bottom line year after year but the pain it seems is just too tolerable. I know the collective few that have raised their voices to deaf ears who often say, “We have always done it that way.”
The truest definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. When it comes to speaking to the Senior Leadership of companies I have worked for in the past, I am often reminded that no matter how strong the case I could provide, I wouldln’t sway them. I have often wondered though if I could go to my peers, and not just the few that are on line but an association, dedicated to recruiting and sourcing, could help with case studies. We as a profession could and can do this.
I am often taken to the song Imagine by the late great John Lennon:
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
There are more Talia Janes out there – but many feel isolated, alone, and confused. We can, as a group, be a powerful voice and rise against the machine in a positive way. What do you say? Do you want to be part of the solution or part of the problem?
It’s up to all of us, everyone. #truestory