I separated from a company after two months and I’m agonizing about it. As supervisor, I scrutinized time-off requests, mandated that the employees keep families off the job site and required that lunches and breaks be taken in accordance with California law. I also developed policies for stellar customer service. Employees fought with me when I required them to clock in and out, when I told them that they could not put a customer on hold to answer their cell phones, when I told them that they could not eat at their desks while talking with customers, and because I did not allow them to hang up on customers. The call-center manager said I was too mean, even though I had spent $100 of my own money purchasing incentives. I also worked 13-hour days. I think this manager was setting employees up for failure in their vocational lives (most lived in underprivileged areas and carried low-programmed thinking). Clearly, no one wanted a supervisor; they wanted a friend.
Oh sweetie! Your disappointment is so clear. But analyzing the situation to determine who is more right—you or the manager—is hopeless. Instead, give yourself time to admit your feelings and mourn the loss of your expectations of success. Then you can begin to see the value of this experience.
Here’s a start: rules provide structure and allow consistency in how we treat each other. But always take care not to make rules more important than your compassion for the people you manage. That doesn’t mean that employees should bring children to work. It may mean that you consider a childcare center on site. Or that you assist an employee in finding a job (even one at another company) where their personality, skills and personal schedule are a better fit.
Ultimately, though, if people are incapable of doing their jobs and you have provided all of the guidance possible, you must do them the favor of firing them. When handled well, that “firing” actually can launch them into a better reality.
Your choice of “separated” to describe leaving your job is revealing. Like any other union, marriage to our careers requires truth, trust and commitment to blossom. Remember, you can’t buy love. So investing your own money in incentives won’t inspire admiration or affection beyond the moment when the donuts or pizza is consumed.
Here’s another reality: Most people want their jobs to reflect their experience of kindergarten—sweet storytelling, free snacks, creative outlets and the person in charge gently reminding everyone to share and be nice. But most workplaces are like high school—cliques and hierarchies, gossip galore, teacher’s pets, busy work, homework, quirky personalities and stress.
Changing workplace culture is difficult, even if you are the CEO. Perhaps a better career path for you would be working at a transitional-living center where you can help prepare former addicts or the homeless to return to the job market. In my experience, they welcome information on self-improvement. And they will teach you why compassion is a requirement of good management.