Benjamin Wey is an accomplished investigative journalist and a Wall Street financier. Benjamin Wey holds two master’s degrees and is a graduate of Columbia University, Benjamin Wey is a senior adviser to several government entities and businesses. Mr. Wey shares his thoughts about management issues.
Long ago, one could get a job with a company and, 40 years later, retire from that same company. Those days are long over, and most of us will have numerous employers before our working lives end. So long as you are the one deciding when to quit, that’s cool. As we all learned during the financial crisis, though, a lot of companies in times of trouble do the deciding for you, and you wind up unemployed through no fault of your own.
That isn’t going to change any time soon, but here’s some advice on how to know when it’s time to jump before you get pushed:
The first clue that you probably need to leave is when top management announces major changes. Think about it: If things were going well, there’d be no reason for change. Business is a conservative environment; you don’t fix things that aren’t broken. Risk is acceptable only to the extent that the rewards justify it. If the rewards are shrinking, you are forced to change. “Adapt or die” is code for update the resume.
Are you part of the team to implement “Project X,” which has been delayed twice and has a new project manager and the budget has been redefined? This is change that isn’t being implemented well.
Do you walk past the conference room and the corner offices and see the big wigs in closed-door meetings all day? Their time is valuable, or at least expensive, and every minute they are together, they aren’t running their own fiefdom in the firm. So whatever it is they are discussing is serious. And when serious things go well, those meetings are short, and they leave the doors open. Long meetings with the door shut means review your LinkedIn profile.
Another hint is to check out the conditions in the accounting department. Are the bean counters working late? Sometimes this is perfectly normal, like right before a regularly scheduled audit. But if the last audit was a few months ago and these guys are burning the midnight oil, it might be a sign that there is more money going out than there is coming in.
Related to that, for those of you who get reimbursed for expenses (travel or whatever), do you get your expenses paid easily and quickly, or is it like pulling teeth weeks, even months, after the fact? If they aren’t paying you, and you’re part of the team, what outside suppliers aren’t getting paid? Probably most of them. And why? Because there isn’t enough cash to take care of everyone.
Did you just get a promotion without a raise attached? Does this promotion give you greater responsibility, or as the bullshitters in H.R. call it, “scope for professional growth?” Without more money, they are trying to get more out of you for free. Let’s try a thought experiment. What would happen if you go to the grocery store and get a loaf of bread and a pound of butter, and offer only to pay for the bread? Even if you call the free butter “a unique professional opportunity,” you aren’t leaving with the stuff. If they don’t want to pay you more for extra work, there could be trouble across the company.
Ever been at a company that has a hiring freeze? Someone leaves the company, and the desk sits unoccupied for months or permanently. It could be that the company has outgrown the need for a person in that role, but more likely, not filling that seat saves some cash. And if you’ve been given some of that person’s duties (without a raise), then you should see if that interview suit still fits.
To get rid of a lot of people at once, management sometimes likes to redraw the organizational chart. Have you had four different supervisors this year? Has your department changed names three times? Are you on a different floor or on the opposite side of the building just because? Beware of employees playing musical chairs.
How’s morale? It’s quite possible for you to be totally miserable, but everyone else is thrilled to pieces to get to work every morning. Or are you the happiest camper in the company despite crying yourself to sleep every night? Bad morale is hard to fix. Better to leave.
When you get to work, do you know what you are supposed to do? Or have they moved the goalposts so many times you have no idea where to begin? You have a function within the organization that contributes to the success of the whole, and if you don’t know what that function is and how it fits into the overall operation, maybe no one else does either.
If you’ve been in the company a couple of years, how many new faces are there? If the answer is “a lot,” that means many people have left. High turnover is never a good sign. You probably ought to join the exodus.
Some people think that quitting a job means that they have failed somehow. Rats abandoning a sinking ship, and that kind of thing. That’s the wrong way to look at it. You’re just firing your employer for failure to perform. If they can do it to you, you ought to be allowed to do the same.