A different kind of career advice ~ A message for employers

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for other people.  I was a drifter who didn’t move around, a good employee that ironically never worked out long-term.  It’s been 13 years now (holy god(dess)) but I still remember the (un)thrill of the job hunt and the dark side of the moon that revealed its face after the (typically brief) “honeymoon” period of the early days of the job was over.  I remember all-too-well what that was like.

I remember that the majority of the people responsible for this headache were those in superior (a word I use lightly) positions and probably had half the IQ.  It’s been said that people are promoted one level above their level of (in)competence, and it sounds about right.  I remember what that’s like, too.

Maybe I can throw my two cents in and make some suggestions.  I’m pretty sure that the people who actually see this post will more likely be able to relate on a firsthand (or at least empathetic) level, as opposed to the CEO who says, “wow, did you hear that, George?  We’ve been doing it wrong all along!  Let’s make huge, sweeping changes for the sole purpose of improving employees’ lives.”  But hey, I can dream, right?

OK, let’s go ahead and dream, shall we?  Come, come with me! 😉

Thing 1 – Vague (Absent) Salary Range:

Employers and hiring managers, can we please do away with “Negotiable” or “to be determined” in the spaces for salary specifications in a job ad?  Can we instead start disclosing the salary range of a job position in order to attract the type of applicant who is willing to work for the stated wage (or salary range)?  That would be really cool.

Because, see, there are different groups of people out there.  People you don’t want to have wasting time (yours or theirs) looking at your ad, thinking it might be doable, when in reality, it might not be.

Thing 2 – The Case of the Fake Job Ad:

Another strange tactic is the placing of a job ad when the employer isn’t actually hiring.  Placing job listings costs money (I should know!), so why bother doing so if you’re not actually taking applications?

Yeah, yeah, I know–they’ll claim they’re “keeping their options open”.  But that’s not a legitimate reason for playing with peoples’ minds.

Thing 3 – “Demonstrations” As a Ruse For Free Work:

I would also like to see an end to the growing (?) custom of having a prospective job applicant submit to various “tests” of practical skills in order to solicit free work.  For example, I listened to the accounts of colleagues in the massage therapy field, who would apply for open positions in massage therapy centers, only to have to submit to several “practical tests” – i.e., giving hour-long massage therapy sessions to several different supervisors/owners.

Please don’t get me wrong–I completely understand the need for one, maybe two relatively brief samples of one’s work; after all, massage therapists are definitely not all created equal, and if an establishment is going to entrust their clientele to the massage therapist and their work, it has to be able to vouch for the skills and abilities of the therapist in order to ensure that their business isn’t going to take a nosedive due to an inept, incompetent, or otherwise less-than-qualified therapist.

But under very few circumstances would the session need to last an entire hour, and under hardly any circumstances would it need to be provided to multiple people at the establishment, prior to hire.  That’s just a thinly veiled attempt to scam a free massage.  That’s finger-wagging bad.

Thing 4 – More Cryptic Crickets:

Then, throughout the application, interview, and practical skills evaluation processes, there’s often a cricket-like silence on the part of the employer.  This is irksome and anxiety-producing for the employee, who may be hanging on by a fragile thread, wondering about the fate of their livelihood.  It feels like you’re being left hanging, wondering if you said or did something wrong.

From behind the employer’s walls, I know (firsthand) that they’re usually evaluating multiple applicants, often while attempting to deal with the extra work created by the vacancy in the open position.  I know that they’re usually waiting to say anything to anyone until they’ve evaluated all of their options, which often involves waiting for other applicants to return their messages and whatnot.  The waiting game (for both parties) might ultimately be an inevitable part of the process.  But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. 🙂

And I don’t, under any circumstances, support the tactic of leading an applicant on to think they might have applied/interviewed well when actually, it wasn’t a good match or the right fit.

Thing 5 – Practically On The Clock…But Unpaid:

Just as bad is the concept that any employee should be “on-call” without being paid for it.  This happens a lot in retail, where an employee will be on the schedule as an on-call backup, but since they’re not physically at the store and they’re not technically on the clock, they’re not getting paid for it.  So the employee has to set aside the entire time of their shift, wait by their phone, and be ready to go at a moment’s notice, which, frequently, doesn’t even materialize, which means they ended up dedicating the day to noting–and wasting their time.

If an employee is being paid to be on-call, then that’s a totally different story.  But this business of intruding on one’s personal time on the off-chance that they might be needed spur-of-the-moment, is middle-finger-wagging bad.

Thing 6 – Your Schedule Isn’t Really Your Schedule:

Mandatory overtime is also an annoying concept.  Seriously, why not just hire more people?  Temporary or seasonal workers or something?  I know that training is expensive and thus, the idea of drawing from the current talent (and body) pool is more attractive than recruiting, evaluating, hiring, and training another fresh group from Square One.  I get that.  But if you’re having to heap on loads of mandatory overtime, that only burns out the current employees, because they signed on for a particular work schedule, consisting of specific hours, and even though the possibility/requirement of mandatory overtime is usually disclosed from the git-go, the candidate often agrees to that in order to land the job, thinking that if the mandatory overtime ever comes to pass, it’ll be temporary and they’ll be able to get through it.

That’s not always the case when the mandatory overtime actually materializes.  And when the current talent/body pool of employees gets burned out, guess what?  The employer is going to have to do all that recruiting, evaluating, hiring, and training of the fresh group anyway–you know, the one they put off hiring that led to the overuse and burnout of the current employee “stock” in the first place.  Tsk tsk tsk.

Thing 7 – Employees As Machines – Not “Really” Human:

One practice that is unfortunately nearly-universal is the sentiment toward–and accompanying treatment of–employees as though they’re simply dime-a-dozen peons that the entity is entitled to use and exploit at their whimsical discretion.  Umm, no.  Employees are human beings who deserve dignity and recognition of their humanity.  I understand that it’s not the employer’s job to be the employee’s friend, nor is a tough time in an employee’s life an employer’s problem.  There’s still work to be done, a job description to be adhered to, and a paycheck cut in return for the understanding that the job description is being fulfilled consistently.  After all, that was the point of hiring the employee for the position!

But there’s a fine line, and I don’t believe that line should be crossed.  When employees are putting in hours that prohibit a life outside of work, or the loss of their humanity, or feelings of chronic depletion, that becomes a problem.  The solution, of course, is to create an additional position (or more than one), to lessen the burden on each employee.

It’s also important to recognize each employee as the crucial front-line representative of the company that they are.  If the employer is treating them like unimportant peons, then that’s what the employee will project in return.  They’ll resort to the lowest level of mediocrity they can get by with and still keep their job, a response that is an understandable, predictable element of human nature.

Thing 8 – Quantity Over Quality:

I also never understood the tendency to focus on numbers and metrics as opposed to the more subjective quality of one’s work.  Otherwise-stellar employees often find themselves under stress about meeting numerical goals and statistics-based standards, a concern that often actually prevents them from being able to put forth their best efforts and produce their best work.

I understand that metrics, numbers, and statistics are the easiest yardsticks by which to measure performance, and they’re efficient ways of comparing and contrasting employees to set standards, or perhaps to/against each other.  But just because it’s the easiest or most efficient way, that doesn’t mean it’s the best way.  Quality gets overlooked in favor of quantity, when the truth is, quality matters, too.  In many industries, quality may matter even more.  I’m in favor of providing supportive and stimulating environments in which employees can flourish and take ground-breaking liberties to produce (create) revolutionary results.

Thing 9 – Micro(scope)managing:

Another uber-annoying temptation for many employers (or managers/supervisors) to engage in is the act of micromanaging.  And all of the memos and meetings that it entails.  Oh My Goodness, this practice must die, and yesterday.  There’s (almost) always someone (or more than one) in an entity who goes on a power-trip safari, attempting to puff their chests, strut their stuff, prove themselves to their own superiors, and justify their existence.

That’s the sign of emotional baggage, which, while absolutely legitimate, does not have a Place In The Workplace.  This kind of insecurity–and the temptation to overcompensate for it at the office–simply must be checked at the office door.  Or seek counseling.  Or something.  There’s no shame in getting help.  But good lord, don’t unleash personal insecurities on employees.

Thing 10 – Don’t Monkey-Do What You Monkey-See:

Then there are the supervisors who fail to set good examples for employees.  They don’t walk the walk.  It often leaves employees confused and, at times, resentful.

Thing 11 – Orwell In The Office:

Then there are annoying concepts like groupthink and newspeak – the rah-rah, ultra-motivated, Total-Type-A, “what’s good for the company” yes-manship.  Everyone pretends to agree on everything and the atmosphere becomes saturated with what is almost a contest to see who can be the most compliant and amiable, who can come across as the most emotionally/mentally invested in the company, and so on.

That’s the groupthink part to which I refer.  I might be using the word differently than it’s usually used, but meh.  It works here.

The newspeak part borrows an Orwellian term to describe an incredibly annoying practice, which is the empty, flowery, meaningless, and too-well-tread vocabulary that reflects the rah-rah yes-man attitude described above.  Words like “vision”, “mission”, “personalized”, “values”, “experience”, “innovative”, “passion”, “relationships”, “community”, “support”, “solutions”, “culture”, “leading/leadership”, “quality”, “revolutionary”, and so on.

Sometimes this gets so generic that I can’t even tell what purpose the entity serves.  Here’s an example:

Gag me.

What does that even mean?

Thing 12 – Two Hands, Two Consciousnesses:

Last but not least, I’d like to see the phenomenon of “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing” die a timely death.  I totally get that it’s tough for various department heads to come together and stay on top of the affairs of the others on a consistent basis.  (This isn’t just the case for bigger businesses, either; my partner and I are a mom-and-pop-shop, where it’s just the two of us (and we’re even married, at that!), and sometimes one of us doesn’t even know what the other is doing (or has decided to do, or what-have-you).)  I absolutely understand.  But far too many entities fail to meet up on a semi-regular basis to synch up their operations, philosophies, procedures, and even policies.

Gah lol.

To the Employers: The Finger-Wagging:

If you’re an employing entity who does these things, please–stop.  It’s not like the rest of us can’t see it, and it only negates every warm fuzzy vibe that might have come from that uber-revolutionary Mission or Vision Statement.  It makes the employer look like a hypocritical clod.

To the Employees: I Feel You:

I’m an employer now, but I was also an employee once, and I refuse to conveniently forget where I came form.  If you’re an employee caught in this craptastic undertow, well, there’s not too much I can say except that I feel you and support you.  Try to hang in there. 🙂

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