Read Fire Your Boss Online

Authors: Stephen M. Pollan,Mark Levine

Tags: #Psychology, #Self Help, #Business

Fire Your Boss (23 page)

BOOK: Fire Your Boss

The culture of the organization was a mixed bag for Bill. It was very supportive of employees but tended to be a bit controlling. Bill joked that it was a nonthreatening cult, and actually used that phrase on his chart.

The company didn’t provide any disability insurance, so that line was left blank.

The environment in which Bill worked was quite pleasant, and he wrote that on his chart. The store itself was comfortable and was located in a large regional mall that, while sterile, offered many conveniences.

The company provided employees with a weekly stipend that could be used at the coffee shop in the store, so Bill noted that on the expense allowance line.

The company provided health insurance through an HMO that, while severely restricting Bill’s choice of doctors, paid almost all his medical costs. Bill wrote “restrictive but comprehensive” on the health insurance line of the chart.

Bill’s salary as an assistant manager was $35,000 a year. He noted that on the income line of his chart.

The company offered no life insurance, so that line was left blank.

The organization prided itself on promoting from within; however, those promotions invariably required a move to another store. Bill wrote “many if willing to relocate” on the opportunity for advancement line of his chart.

Working in the bookstore offered Bill some opportunity for learning since he could learn the music side of the business as well as the buying process. He simply wrote “yes” on that line of the chart.

Bill noted that he received one week’s paid vacation and three paid personal days in his first year of employment.

The bookstore was a thirty-minute drive each way from Bill’s apartment, so he wrote “one-hour round-trip” on the proximity line of his chart.

The company offered a retirement savings plan but didn’t match contributions until an employee had spent three years at the company. Bill made note of that limitation on his chart.

As the number two national chain, Bill noted, the company had moderate relative stability. That’s because it wasn’t as stable as the number one chain, but it was far more stable than an independent store or a regional chain.

Bill didn’t think managing a bookstore had any real status, so he wrote “none” on that line of his chart.

He wrote “assistant manager” on the title line of his chart, adding that there appeared to be so few titles in the business that the whole issue was “unimportant.”

Since the company didn’t provide any tuition reimbursement, Bill left that line on the chart blank.

On the final line, Bill noted that the company offered one week of unpaid parental leave and three unpaid personal days a year.

Bill hung the completed chart on his refrigerator door with a couple of magnets. He found that looking at it every morning when he made his breakfast provided him with the impetus to keep on fishing for other offers. After six months, Bill received an automatic salary bonus to $37,000, so he updated that line of the chart. (See the box on page 189: Bill Kaplan’s Job Factor Chart.)

Timing Your Next Move

When is it time to actually leave your job and take one of the better offers you’ve been soliciting through your job fishing and comparing to your job factor chart? Well, it depends.

As I wrote back in chapter 7, I think you can divide the twenty common job factors into three categories: unimportant, potentially important, and definitely important. The unimportant factors are amenities, auto, challenging, culture, environment, expense allowance, opportunity for advancement, stability, status, and title. The factors that may or may not be important, depending on the specifics and your particular circumstances, are disability insurance, health insurance, life insurance, retirement plan, and tuition reimbursement. The factors that are definitely of the most importance to everyone are income, opportunity for learning, paid time off, proximity, and unpaid time off.


While everyone’s situation is different, I can offer you some general guidelines I’ve come up with to help my clients.

If you’ve been at your current job for less than one year, I’d suggest you consider only those offers that provide an improvement in at least two important factors. In other words, give serious thought to offers of jobs that, let’s say, offer more money
are located closer to your home. Job hopping — moving rapidly from job to job — isn’t frowned on today as it was in the past. And shifting jobs in less than a year won’t trouble the company hiring you away — they’ll see it as a coup. But it might give second thoughts to subsequent companies. They will see that you’ve shifted jobs in less than a year, and that you’re still continuing to look for another job. While the first company will think they’ve “stolen away” someone who’s ambitious, subsequent companies will worry you’re erratic and unpredictable. Sparking such concerns is worthwhile only if you’re making a considerable improvement in your work life.

When Lisa Frankfort graduated from massage school she immediately took a job with an exclusive health club in Manhattan. She grabbed the job because, as a single mother in New York City, she needed to bring in an income as soon as possible. Within eight months of taking that job she received a job offer from a physical therapy practice located in Queens. Not only was that job within walking distance of her apartment and her son’s school, but it paid $10,000 more than her job with the health club. Despite being in her first job for only eight months, she leaped at the new offer.

If you’ve been at your job for between one and two years, my advice would be to consider seriously any offer that provides an improvement in one of the important factors. You’re now past the point where changing jobs might have an impact on your image. You’re also past the point where you’ve either received or been denied a salary increase. That could mean you’ve maxed out your earnings with this company. Many companies will give a decent raise to a new employee after a year as a way to cement the relationship. Quite often the raise simply brings the person up to the maximum amount the company would have paid to fill the job in the first place. In any case, getting another sizable increase the second year becomes more problematic. I call it the sophomore jinx. You’re no longer the potential savior or the rising star. You’re just one more expense line. That’s why you should be ready to jump for another position that gives you any increase in an important factor.

In his eighteen months with the symphony of a midsize New England city, Jerry Pryor had rejuvenated the percussion section. The first new hire in that section for more than a decade, Jerry revitalized a moribund element of the orchestra. That was reflected in his first raise after only ten months. Since then, however, he had become a fixture in an organization that was unused to much changeover. He could almost feel himself receding into the background. But before he disappeared into the shadows Jerry decided to accept an offer to join the orchestra of a nationally known opera company in a small Mid-Atlantic city. The job was identical to his current position, except it paid about 10 percent more than he was earning with the symphony.

If you’ve been at your job for more than two years, I’d suggest you seriously consider any offer that provides an improvement in any of the factors, important or not. In today’s job market, two years is a lifetime. You’re on your way to becoming an icon of the company…and that’s the last thing you want nowadays. I know it sounds radical, but I’d encourage you at this point to make a move to any job that represents a positive step. You must keep moving to stay alive in today’s job market. I’d prefer you make an external move, since it will lead to more money. But if you must, investigate internal transfers as well. If you don’t move soon you will find yourself sinking in quicksand.

Sam Betts loved working with wood. A fine-arts major in college, Sam first tried making it as a sculptor in New York. But after only a few months starving he found his way to a job at a custom cabinet shop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He knew right away he’d found his niche. Apprenticing with the owner, Sam became a skilled cabinetmaker, specializing in custom library bookcases. After two years Sam had become recognized in the business as the best in New York at what he did. The owner no longer looked over Sam’s shoulder when he worked. In his third year in the business, people had begun requesting Sam’s work, but using the name of the cabinet shop. Sam realized he was becoming too closely identified with the business. When he received an offer to work as a cabinetmaker for a custom builder in suburban Westchester County, Sam jumped at the job, even though the only added benefit was a bit more prestige.
Jumping Ship in Troubled Waters

Tenure isn’t the only consideration for when you should take another job. The relative stability or instability of your current employer needs to considered as well. You know all jobs are temporary today…but some are more temporary than others. The traditional response to an unstable situation has been to try to ride it out. I think that’s a mistake. In fact, I think it’s a kind of workplace denial.

Let’s say you’re one of five department managers in the regional office of a large company. You get word that the general manager of your regional office is being fired, and replaced with someone who managed one of the smaller regional offices for the company. While your initial reflex may be concern, the denial muscle soon starts twitching. You think maybe this new person coming in won’t be bad. He’ll have an open mind and will want to keep people, like you, who know what they’re doing and will help him meet his needs. Then you start thinking about all the faults of the general manager who’s being replaced. Soon you start thinking the new person may even be a savior, correcting all past faults, leading the department on to greater glory.

Wrong. Your first instinct was the right one. This is trouble, and you should get out while the getting is good.

This new person coming in has sold the company a bill of goods about how he is going to “clean up” your office, “light a fire under” the underperforming staff, “upgrade” the department. You can pick any of a hundred different clichés. Suffice it to say he was brought in to make changes, not keep things the same. If the company wanted things to stay the same they wouldn’t have fired the previous general manager. What’s the easiest way for the new boss to make changes quickly? What’s the best way for him to show the people who promoted him that he’s on the ball? Deep down you know the answer. He’s going to fire people. Most of the assistant managers will soon be gone. One may survive long enough for the new team to pick his or her brains clean. You might think you can survive by assiduously working to fill the needs of this new boss. That’s not impossible. But odds are he will be bringing his own people along with him. And the first person he’ll bring is the subordinate at his old office who was doing the best job helping him meet his needs there.

Your boss being fired is just one scenario that should lead you to quickly take another job. There are others.

If your company is purchased by another firm, get another job quick. The new firm will have its own “culture,” which those of you who worked for the old firm will never be able to adopt fully. This will always be a company divided into “us” and “them.” And as an employee of the purchased company you’re one of “them.” Believe me, soon all of “them” will be gone.

If your company’s owners sell out to new owners, get another job quick. The new owners will, much like the new general manager I described in the earlier example, want to make changes simply to show who’s in charge and that times have changed.

If your company merges with another company, get another job quick. You’ll start hearing words like “synergy” and phrases like “duplication of effort.” The new merged company will first fire half its employees and then, over time, will replace the remaining half with entirely new people, untainted by either of the previous incarnations.

If your company shows any signs of financial difficulty, get another job quick. You may hear talk of shared sacrifices, of belt-tightening, of fresh infusions of capital, or of restructuring. You may even read stories about reorganization to avoid bankruptcy, or hear rumors of possible mergers and buyouts. Some of this talk may actually be true. But it doesn’t matter. Financial trouble for the company spells financial trouble for you. And remember, you’re doing this for the money.

Whenever you’re facing a very unstable work situation, act as if you’ve been on the job for more than two years and grab the best offer you can, even if it provides just small improvement in some unimportant job factors.

Patrick McCleod had been the strength and conditioning coach for an Ivy League college football team for a little over a year. After the third terrible season in a row, the new athletic director fired the longtime head coach and replaced him with a well-known former professional football coach. At their first staff meeting the athletic director and the new coach stressed that they didn’t feel the need to make wholesale changes in the staff. “Stability” and “tradition” were important values of the university. The new head coach made a point of individually meeting with every member of the staff and asking him to stay. The new coach was a persuasive, charismatic individual, and Patrick felt tempted to believe him. Two other junior coaches whom Patrick was friendly with were convinced, and encouraged Patrick to stay on as well. Patrick, however, made it his business to line up another job as soon as possible. He found a job as strength and conditioning coach and head trainer of the lacrosse team at the nearby state university for an almost identical compensation package. Before the start of the next football season one of Patrick’s coaching friends from the former job was demoted and the other was fired.
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