I had lunch earlier this week with a long term time client and friend who was talking about his mounting disappointment in the leadership of the company for which he has worked for more than 25 years.
He is one of these rare 100% people. By that I mean is he is a person who, no matter what he does, gives 100% (or more) of his capability every single day.
He can’t help himself. He doesn’t know another way.
In all the years I have known this man I have never once heard him complain or criticize the organization he works for, the industry association to which he gives a great deal of his time or the church of which he is an enthusiastic and contributing member.
This time was different. He explained to me that he has been watching changes in the viewpoints of the senior executives and has not found any of their change of perspective to be positive or encouraging.
Each month the CEO puts out a newsletter intended to keep all staff clients, customers and suppliers apprised of recent events or changes in the company.
Each edition includes several paragraphs devoted to the CEOs repeated statements that the employees of this company are truly one large family and that the organization is governed by family values.
Indeed in this monthly publication as well as many public speeches he has given across the continent he repeatedly points out his commitment to all employees to put their families first.
A direct quote from a recent address he gave to a large industry convention stated “I am a firm believer in treating everyone in your organization as my equal and as I place my family above all else in importance and certainly, notwithstanding how much I love this company and love my position within it, my family does, and always will, play a far more important role in my life than the company ever will.
My friend tells me that other senior executives in the company echo these words but what has him riled, in fact what has him sputtering mad, is that there is a giant mismatch between their words and their actions.
He has told me that on numerous occasions it has been made clear to him and other senior managers that if they have any aspirations of furthering their careers within the organization it must be clearly understood that the company comes ahead of all else and that any and all sacrifices made for the good of the company are not so much appreciated as expected.
He’s been told to pass that message to his direct reports and have it flow all the way down.
There’s an expectation in this company that if you wish to progress up through the ranks the company must be your life ahead of all else.
Those who choose not too heed the message quickly find their careers stalled.
And my friend has had enough. At lunch the other day, for the first time ever, I heard him critical of his organization and I was shocked to hear him say he was thinking of leaving.
He mentioned that several colleagues of his in other organizations report the same expectations. Like his senior executive, their management also publicly speaks of family values but within the walls of the organization it is clearly understood that 60+ hour weeks are minimum expectations and working on weekends cannot possibly be detrimental to one’s career.
Unfortunately I was unable to offer much in the way of encouragement to my friend as in my day job, I have frequently worked in organizations where that exact same culture prevails.
To the outside world these organizations loudly and frequently profess how much they value their employees but once the cameras are turned off and the microphones are muted, reality creeps back in and the prevailing values expand.
My friend says he has no issue with the culture of putting the organization ahead of one’s own life. His problem is not with the corporate expectations; his problem is with the dishonesty that surrounds them.
He feels that if this is the culture the management wishes to cultivate, it is their absolute right to do so. Their expectations should be communicated to all so if they choose to stay within the company they are making well-informed choices.
His problem is with the deceit – the mixed messages; the deliberate attempt to paint a vista depicting an idyllic organization which is so far from the truth.
We all understand that work needs to be done and that organizations, in order to thrive, grow, prosper and continue to create employment, must be profitable.
This can be done while still maintaining healthy work/life balance and without violating the sacred sanctity of family time. More importantly, this can be done without distorting the truth.
His story saddened, but did not surprise me. If you have similar stories I would love to hear them.
Till we read again.
P.S. My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours has its very own website. Please visit us at www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.
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