Treat their employees like crap? Not all American businesses.
But many do. With some exceptions.
A recent article by Business Insider discussed how one CEO paid employees $2,000 to go on vacation.
As a result, employees are happier and more productive.
This isn’t big news or even rocket science.
Of course they are happier.
But why do many American businesses treat their employees like crap?
The term is “turn and burn” – bosses squeeze what they want out of their employees, and when the staff member leaves (or drops dead), there’s a ready labor supply ready to jump in to fill that staff member’s shoes.
But really, how far does that get you?
Companies treat their employees like crap many ways, including:
Crappy job titles.
Companies give employees lower-sounding job titles that don’t reflect the employee’s actual job duties.
Real motivation: many employers want to avoid a title “upgrade” because, of course, that means an immediate employee request for higher pay. (Employer: “Gotta keep those costs down!”)
Management refuses (or ignores the need) to deal with a toxic employee and just lets the situation fester.
I don’t know if it is because the manager likes to play games pitting staff against each other, or if they simply don’t know what to do.
Toxic employees mean that other staff are constantly visiting with their co-workers to complain about the situation, rather than working.
So, Boss, how are those productivity levels working for ya then?
Crappy handling of layoffs / RIFs (reduction in force).
Several friends have suffered getting a pink slip.
They weren’t being laid off because of poor performance; it was an economic decision. That’s fair.
The way they were treated was crappy, which involved being told to drop what they were doing, pack their things, and be escorted off the premises.
Like a criminal.
Up until that moment, they were trusted, productive staff members.
That’s just plain and simple- super crappy.
Crappy vacation policies.
Someone I knew worked at a company that had very stringent vacation policies which didn’t provide 2 weeks vacation until after 5 years of employment.
He wanted to go on a trip and offered to take non-paid time off.
They said no.
Please, someone, tell me how tired, stressed out employees who feel under-valued really are going to bust their butts to be top performers? Where’s the motivation?
And by the way, is it 5pm somewhere because this is the kind of job that makes people start drinking.
Crappy hiring processes.
Inconsistent (and often biased) hiring processes often place under-qualified people over people who are perfectly positioned to step in.
This results in a perfect recipe for an implosion.
Crappy succession planning.
Similar to above, the “pet” employee of the supervisor gets promoted while the people who do the day-to-day heavy lifting are neglected.
Another ingredient for a crappy work environment.
And, there’s nothing worse than being handed an empty promise that you’re next in line for a higher job title (or even raise), and while you are waiting your “turn,” the boss reneges.
Crappy corporate culture.
Going back to the first part of this post about the CEO who paid employees to take vacation… many bosses are cultivating a crappy corporate culture.
Many people can’t quite “let go” on vacation, let alone actually go on one, because there is a palatable fear of missing out.
But after the Great Recession of 2007-2009, people lost their sense of job security.
They can’t relax because they don’t feel like employers have their back.
American employers have a lot of work to do to improve how they handle employee relations, and need to take the time to look past their P&L statements to realize that treating their employees like crap actually ends up hurting the company in the long run.
Recently, a client in pharmaceutical sales (a declining career due to so many consolidations / acquisitions) lamented that yet again, she is being laid off.
She’s been a sales dynamo who has a loyal clientele following.
The problem is that she is loathe to leave the field even though this is her now third pink-slip – not due to her performance but the company itself.
How can she make the pivot into a different career?
It’s easy. She needs to see the transferrable skills right in front of her.
Since she is in sales, she has the ability to prospect potential clients, highlight product features, do research on possible targets, engage in active listening, keep detailed notes on client interactions, and close the deal.
Presto! She is primed and ready to go into a different industry, but she can still do sales – just for a different product type.
You can do it, too.
Uncovering then understanding what skills you can pack up and transfer with you to another field can help anyone engineer make a career pivot.
What if you aren’t sure what those skill sets are?
A good trick is to take a target job description and paste into a website like http://www.wordle.net/ which will visually demonstrate the keywords (the keywords are the biggest font size).
Having an idea of what skill sets are required when you want to make a career pivot will help you understand if you are qualified or not.
Missing skills? Never fear.
If you are missing some skill sets, then a proactive career move is to start taking classes to address those gaps or update your skill sets.
That way, you are in the best possible position to make the leap, and also theme your resume around your skill sets, not what industry you’ve been in.
This post isn’t about how to negotiate compensation – it’s about changing your perception of what this word means and what other things are included in an overall package.
Show me the money.
Well, let’s get this one out of the way first. Money is obviously the first thing that comes to mind when people are getting ready for negotiating a job offer.
Fair market value in your compensation is important – after all, if you don’t do a good job now in the negotiations, you could be setting back your total life time earnings with a low-ball offer that you accept. So do your research.
The doctor will see you now.
Health care is another part of the compensation package. With ever-rising costs and a tumultuous health care market / exchange, anything an employer can do to cover a portion of health care expenses means more money in your wallet.
Plan on those golden years.
It’s shrinking, but the amount (if any) employers still plunk down in employee 401K or other retirement accounts with matches or vestments is a huge compensation package plus.
Here’s the keys to your new car.
Larger companies often offer a perk to management that includes use / lease of a car, which can avoid putting wear and tear on your car. This can mean a lot of costs that you won’t have to foot.
Get that healthy glow.
Health club memberships are often tossed into compensation packages with a two-fold purpose – give active employees a great place to work out while also encouraging behaviors that keep health care costs lower.
Time to take that trip you always wanted.
Vacation time is a coveted compensation package item. If the employer won’t budge on the salary numbers, perhaps they’ll toss in another week of vacation!
Welcome to the team!
Increasingly tight labor markets can mean you might be offered a signing bonus as an incentive to join the team. Any time someone can get some additional cash for starting at a dream job is a great thing!
Hat Tip to Top Performers
Another compensation option is performance bonuses, but be careful about this one because you should really be clear on what metrics are being used to determine who gets this bonus and who doesn’t.
Make sure it is within the realm of possibility in your performance, rather than a tempting tidbit that gets yanked right when you think you’ve reached that goal.
FSAs / Disability / Life Insurance
These options can help employees defray additional costs, which counts as a compensation offering as much as the other ones.
Depending on the industry / company, certain perks might be additional compensation pluses – an example might be someone who joins a brewing company gets a certain allotment of free beer.
Keeping in mind all of these compensation options will help you gain a bigger picture of what your overall package might be valued at, and remember, don’t get fixated on just the paycheck you get!
Why leaders fail has roots in many different reasons.
Talk to anyone, and it seems that most have had the experience of a bad boss. (I fondly call this type of supervisor “Bosszilla.”)
True to form, Bosszilla (aka the leader) spreads terror in their wake, and frequently squish people not wise enough to get out of their way, or eat those alive who dare to stand up in the face of such ferocity.
But let’s talk about why leaders fail.
And it’s about them, not you.
Spread the blame, keep the credit
This particular type of Bosszilla thrives in an environment where they like to diffuse blame onto others – either directly through accusations, or indirectly through whispers and murmurs.
It’s always someone else’s fault, according to them. (Sound like any bosses you know?)
This particular bad behavior of pushing the employees into harm’s way happens when things are going bad.
But interestingly enough, when things are going well, Bosszilla literally elbows their way up to the front to be the first recipient of kudos and recognition, keeping it all to themselves.
This is why leaders fail that are like Bosszilla.
It should be the exact opposite – letting the limelight fall on employees other than themselves when great things happen, and then stepping forward when things aren’t so rosy in order to take the heat off employees.
Applies to everyone else but them
This is when Bosszilla refuses to look in the mirror for a self-reflecting moment.
“Am I cause of this?”
“Did my leadership impact this situation?”
Their answer is that the rules only apply to others, not them.
Why leaders fail is when they don’t see how they are just as accountable as the lowest-paid person in the company.
Lack of self-awareness
Bosszilla with their tiny arms, and even tinier brain, oftentimes refuses to see themselves as part of a larger organization.
To them, it’s all about lumbering through the workplace forest, mowing down trees in their wake.
They don’t stop to think about the impact they are having on the organization, and that’s another reason why leaders fail.
Unwillingness to admit failure
Other reasons why Bosszilla is an example as to why leaders fail is when the chips are down, they won’t admit that they messed up.
How they handle loss, failure, or any other disappointment serves as the example they set within the organization.
Failure is never easy, but it is only complete when you don’t learn from mistakes. Proactive leaders will be willing to sit down, hear the hard facts, and do an autopsy to find out where things went south. And then learn from it.
A new breed of Bosszilla lurks out there. These are the creatures who have a throw-away mentality… they make a mess, and don’t care what they leave behind because there’s always someone else who will hire them… until they don’t.
These are the most dangerous creatures because every single employee is at risk from a self-centered, zero moral beast ready to destroy and without a care as to who or what they might hurt.
How NOT to be a leader that fails
The only inoculation you can get against transforming into Bosszilla lies within yourself.
It is a resolve and a desire to be BETTER.
You want to become a best-in-class leader.
And you can do this by taking formal training on management principles in supervising people, processes, finance, culture, and strategy.
And going into it with humbleness, willingness to learn, and active listening.
If you really want to not fail as a leader, the tools are already there at your disposal so you don’t.
You’ve put in the time. The blood. The sweat. And of course, the tears.
But sometimes, getting to the next job level seems impossible because no one can see how much you bring to the table and the level of responsibility that you hold.
When you are at that point, getting to the next job level requires being strategic and mindful in making a business case that SELLS, not tells, the full story that you are ready for that next job level.
And it all starts in one place.
Change your career perceptions
How you position yourself lies in how you think of yourself.
It’s about how you align yourself to the next position in your career ladder ascension.
That begins in your resume.
While you may not have held a position in title, perhaps your job duties have strayed into areas that include the level of responsibility that is the next job level up.
So, that’s where you can change your mindset from your current level and start asserting yourself at the higher level.
At the top of your resume, create a job title headline that is an accurate reflection of where your job responsibilities lie. And if you aren’t quite there yet, I would suggest that you proactively ask for stretch assignments and professional development that can help you get there.
But once you have that background, whether you held the title in your actual role or not, you can claim this at the top of your resume.
So let’s say you are a sales manager who really is doing a lot of management, training, and goal setting, which are normal responsibilities of a director.
As long as you have that in your background, it’s time to put SALES DIRECTOR at the top of your resume.
Then provide concrete examples of sales leadership underneath that employment record.
And here’s the trick to also help you make the pivot to the next job level: under your current employer and after you list your current official job title, put in parenthesis (equivalent to: Sales Director).
You are being honest about the official title, but also providing insights as to the level at which you really operate, then providing those concrete examples.
Ask for the promotion
Additionally, beyond the resume, another good way to get to the next job level is to start talking it up, tastefully and discreetly.
Women in particular are not very good about making their career intentions known and advocating for their own advancement.
The success is to ASK for the advancement. Not just assume that your credibility speaks for itself.
Remember that if you don’t advocate, someone else will beat you to the punch. Be clear with your supervisor on your interest in growing your career and the company (make sure these two factors are aligned).
Additionally, as mentioned before, be eager to jump on leadership opportunities, stretch assignments, and professional development trainings.
By constantly adding to your knowledge base, you are advancing your skills, abilities, and knowledge that can also be factors that boost you to the next job level.
Is your job target one you love, or one you are actually qualified to do?
It’s a painful process for some people.
Sometimes, I get clients calling me who want to do a complete career pivot, which I love. It’s fun to completely reinvent someone using their transferrable skills that can point them into a different direction.
However, once in a while, I get a gushing client who is so entirely fired up about their job target that they lose their perspective.
Loving your job target
We all have things that light our fire and really get us excited. The fantasy of having that dream job doing all those cool things we’ve always wanted to do… and getting paid to do it!
We should all aspire to have such a position.
Interestingly, many baby boomers and now Gen Xers are starting to repurpose their latter years in the workforce into what is commonly known as an encore careers.
That’s when you leverage your existing skill sets into a new direction that is more purpose-driven versus monetarily-driven.
Cool concept, and given the fact that most of us spend more time at the office in our job than with our families, I’ve always held the belief that we might as well enjoy what we are doing during all that time out of the home.
However, there’s also the reality check.
When LOVING a job idea clashes with qualifications
But sometimes, no matter how much you are in love with a potential job target, there just isn’t a business case to hire you for it because you simply don’t have the chops.
It might be that your background is entirely dissimilar, or your skills don’t transfer. Or perhaps the position is so specialized that there are simply better-qualified people out there.
So what I urge clients to do when they are faced with this scenario is to take a good, long look at their background and then go line-by-line in the description of the job target, asking themselves, “What specific experience do I have that relates to this requirement?”
If you find that you can’t make that big of a stretch, I don’t want you to despair.
It only means that you simply can’t make that leap… yet.
What this tells job seekers is that there is going to have to be an interim step between where they currently are, and where they want to go.
We can work with their background to parse out the most relevant aspects, but the rest of the work is yet to be done… either through skill acquisition, training, internships, or more of entry-level position to gain the fundamentals in the new direction.
Having a realistic approach in whether you are in LOVE with a job target and qualified, or simply in love and NOT qualified is critical to determining your next steps.
Job titles can be a slippery slope. In a previous blog, I discussed how employers can be stingy with the job title for a position, especially when it might mean having to pay the employee more based on additional responsibility.
Similarly, job titles can be a slippery slope on resumes.
Putting All of Your Experience Under One Position Title
More often than not, I will be working with a client and they mention that they had held multiple positions at one company.
However, their resume only reflects one job encompassing multiple years.
Upon further questions, it is clear that they have taken their job titles onto a slippery slope.
If a prospective employer were to call the previous company, it would be discovered that the candidate was NOT in the higher-level position(s) for the duration of their employment there.
In a way, it’s deceiving to try and make it sound that all the time that was spent at an employer was in a higher-functioning title / position when in fact, there was a progression to getting there.
Job titles can be a slippery slope because you ALWAYS need to show the progression. And here’s why:
By showing career advancement at a company, it demonstrates that you were a valued asset and therefore promoted or reassigned to a new area to apply your career expertise.
It actually HELPS you to show progression on your resume, rather than trying to lump the entirety of your job experience at that employer under one job title.
The easiest employment check to do is to verify dates of employment and job titles.
So why try to claim more time in the higher-level position when in fact that’s false, AND by clearly articulating promotions, you come across as a BETTER employee who has been valued?
Dangers of Up-Titling
Another problem I see is that people will, after a certain amount of time and distance has separated them from previous employment, will adopt what they feel to be a better job title than the one they ad.
Similar to employers who won’t provide accurate job titles, some people decide to revamp their career based on what they felt was the true job title.
Here’s where job titles can be a slippery slope from the candidate side.
Again, employment checks are the easiest ones to conduct, so if you aren’t accurately reflecting the job title which is on file in the human resource department, you could get into trouble.
My advice is to do this:
State the actual job title you held, then, in parenthesis, include “equivalent to” and add the more accurate job title.
That way, you are providing the truthful answer, while also equating your level of work to what translates best to your job target.
But remember, you always need to be able to substantiate that claim in your workplace accomplishments.
Show how you performed at that level and the wins you achieved at that level.
These tips can help you navigate what to do when job titles can become a slippery slope on your resume.
Sometimes, it’s your current boss / company who is pretty stingy with how job titles are structured.
Other times, it is a simple lack of understanding about what the job entails that results in a poorly-created job title.
So, what do you do when you hit either one of these scenarios?
Current Job Title Doesn’t Reflect Your Current Work
First of all, if your current employer has given you a job title that in effect, doesn’t remotely reflect the work you are doing and at what level, this can be a road block to your career.
This could be the result of a badly-built organizational chart, internal agendas, human resource designations, or simply put: a boss doesn’t want to up your job title because that means more pay… which usually is the main reason.
I had a client who was technically a VP at a large, international company worth billions of dollars. However, his job title was that of a manager. That could definitely hurt his career advancement simply because the job title was holding him back when in fact, his next justifiable move would be the C-suite.
When you are facing this kind of dilemma, don’t give up. There is one tool in your favor, and here’s how it works:
Report your actual job title in your résumé as it would be listed on file in the human resources department. But immediately after including that, then put into parenthesis the actual level at which you performed.
Example (using my client from above): International Manager (equivalent to Vice President)
This way, you are factually reporting the actual job title but also letting the reader know that there was a job title discrepancy between the title and the work being done at a certain level.
But always be careful about not over-reaching. You don’t want to peg yourself up higher than what your background can actually justify!
Target Job Title isn’t Accurate
If you are applying for a position, and the description reads like a higher-level job, but the title itself doesn’t match, that could be a red flag of something wrong internally at the company.
For example, if you are super excited about a job and everything in the posting is exactly what you were hoping for in the next career move upwards, but the title seems like a demotion, that’s a signal to pause.
You have two options here: Go ahead and apply for the job and hope that in the interview, the title / positioning of the work can be negotiable.
I’ve had multiple clients who have had this situation happen and went for it… and as part of the job offer / negotiation process, they have managed to get the job title changed to more accurately reflect the work to be performed while also ensuring that this is a step forward in advancing themselves up the career ladder.
But there is always the possibility that you’ll hit a road block, and the title will remain as is. That’s the gamble you have to take, and eventually, you will come to a decision point as to whether you will accept a lower-level-sounding position or not.
That’s not to say you can’t employ the “equivalent to” tool for future applications, but it does help to actually capture the correct job title from the get-go. Otherwise, it is an uphill battle.
Job titles can be deceiving, and that’s where you always need to be vigilant to ensure that yours is the most accurate reflection of your work so you can spring board into new, higher-level career opportunities.