An informal poll of 10 people who are either in jobs that they have merely tolerated for many years or have left a position they hated after only a couple years.
For this article, we engaged Diane Boulanger to help address a pervasive issue. To begin, Diane conducted an informal poll of 10 people who are either in jobs that they have merely tolerated for many years or have left a position they hated after only a couple years.
For the “merely tolerating” people who have been in their jobs for many years, the reasons cited for continuing to stay were practical. The respondents were mainly within corporate cultures that allowed for some flexibility and remote working:
“Kids in college or soon to be in college.”
“Ability to work remotely.”
“Cost of living requires me to work.”
“Sheer complacency...I’m getting a steady paycheck, for just doing my job.”
“It’s a good company that allows for flexibility and I like my boss.”
“While the work culture is positive, I don’t ‘drink the corporate Koolaid,’ but I don’t really have to for my position; I’m content where I am, and I’m not seeking advancement.”
For the people who left their job after just a couple of years, or less, the reasons cited were more related to culture and aspiration:
“An oppressive and toxic company culture.”
“Absolutely no opportunity for flexibility to work remotely if need be. MUST report to office.”
“A horrible boss---Although I was a department director, the VP to whom I reported undermined me at every turn.”
“All my ideas for improvements or different ways of looking at things were summarily ‘shot down’ because it didn’t come from the boss.”
“Unable to establish a positive ‘sub-culture’ within my own department because the overall corporate culture was so oppressive.”
“A ‘glass ceiling’ that was impossible to break through.”
“At a certain point, money wasn’t everything to me, especially when I dreaded going to work every day.”
What are the lessons here for employers?
Most employers need a good force of the “merely tolerating” people, and if you treat them fairly, they will do their jobs diligently and without complaint. You also need to listen to the “aspirationals.” They want to make a difference in your company: perhaps to improve processes, introduce new ideas. These people are not trying to undermine you, so check your ego. They are trying to help you.
Culture is key with both groups. You need to create a culture that recognizes the value of both the “merely tolerating” and the “aspirational high achievers.” And offers flexibility for both. Not only will your retention rate be solid, but you will have people who want to work for you.
Diane Boulanger is the founding principal of Kickstarter Communications.