Sometimes you’re the thing that has to change

How many times do you bring up your concerns to your bosses? How many suggestions for improvement do you make? How do you do good work when you’re prevented from it?

These were the questions that nagged me and many of my co-workers at a job I had a few years ago. We’d brought up our concerns to the CEO and COO. The COO would assure us things were gradually changing although we never saw the big things change. The CEO (when we could nail him down) would speak in grand visions (i.e. bullshit) about changes coming.

But where the rubber met the road, nothing changed. Project management was never brought under control. Design and Development were always ignored. (To the point that no designers or developers were invited to strategy meetings.) While new directions were pursued (like social marketing), they were pursued in the same old way with no structure or appreciation of them. The firm chased money where money seemed to appear and didn’t build any infrastructure to continue business.

The result of this is that we, the individuals building websites for the firm and servicing clients, were unable to do good work. You can’t code a site well when project management won’t contain the scope and you can’t design well when you’re given only a few hours to turn jobs around.

So at some point, something has to change. And it might be you who has to change. This may sound elementary but it’s very much like being in a bad relationship with a person. You do the right things: you voice your concerns, you explain that your needs aren’t being met. It’s easy to get trapped in that situation. At some point you just have to give up on lasting changes in that person or company and move on.

In the last year I was there, that small firm of about 20 (in the USA) that I worked for turned over about 50%. Obviously, many employees were realizing that the business wasn’t going to allow them to do good work there. So we had to change. We had to leave to be able to do good work.

And that isn’t surprising, when a business is nothing but churn, you have to expect your employees will churn too. But if you do good work, it’s not difficult to keep employees interested and involved. If you’re losing employees, ask yourself: are we doing good work? Are we allowing our employees to do good work?