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By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management, American Public University
A common question that I am asked by people I coach is, “When will I know that it is time to go?” My response has always been, “Watch how your employer treats you.”
Note that I said “employer,” not “manager.” When you deal with a manager, you have to cope with that individual’s personality as well as with how he or she perceives you and the quality of your contributions to the department and company.
But with an employer, it is the company culture that makes a difference. You go from interactions with your manager to how the company treats all its employees.
For instance, you can work for one manager, then transfer to a different department. Your new manager is more supportive and works to assist you in reaching your personal career goals, so you feel more content.
However, if you work at a company where the culture is to treat employees like slaves in a sweatshop, whatever manager you work for won’t matter. Efforts to change your personal situation may be derailed in a company that believes employees are a dime a dozen. If you burn out, the company simply starts a job search and hires someone to take your place.
Determining Whether or Not Your Employer Supports You
I have met many people who do not know if they have signed on with an employer who is willing to invest in their personal growth. How can you tell if your employer really does not support your growth and whether your career objectives are met or not?
Business Insider writer Rachel Premack developed a list of 19 signs that show an organization really doesn’t care about you or your career. Some of those signs include:
- No one cares about your ideas or what you have to contribute, even when your recommendations may be in the best interest of the company. You may have some good suggestions on how to improve or build the company, but no one really wants to hear what you have to say.
Also, another team member might bring up the same idea, and everyone at the table applauds that individual for the idea you previously presented. Your company likes innovative ideas, but not when they come from you. You are treated as an invisible person.
- You do not receive support, guidance or feedback, and your request for assistance is ignored. Your employer treats you as if you are the elephant in the room. The leaders know that you are in their company, but they don’t know how to deal with you. Instead of addressing any of your needs or concerns, they ignore you.
- You are not compensated fairly and are told that you can be replaced at any time. Believe it or not, some employers will deliberately pay you a low salary, hoping that you will eventually leave the company and find a new job.
Also, other employers only want to pay you the minimum salary for your position because they don’t believe you deserve any more compensation. In this way, they show that you are not a valued employee.
- You are passed over for a promotion that you deserve. One of the hardest practices for some employees to accept is that not all promotions are based on merit. Working hard doesn’t always guarantee a promotion. Instead, biases sometimes come into play and someone else gets the position.
- It’s hard to know where you stand, and you are not asked to work on high-profile projects. When you work for a company that has a highly political culture focused on the bottom line, your personal goals can be overlooked while you figure out how you fit into the organization.
Employees’ needs are not seen as a priority. High-profile projects tend to be given to a select few who are trusted by those in power.
- You don’t find out about project outcomes and are not included in the decision-making process. Some employers may view you only as a “need to know” employee and do not seek your expertise in making important decisions.
- You get essential information after everyone else knows about it, and the only feedback that you receive is when you make a mistake. It’s another way that employers show their disrespect for you.
- There’s a lack of trust. Your employer sees you as a commodity, not a person. For example, some companies have rigid policies about sick leave. In that kind of company, management is more concerned that you bring in a doctor’s note to prove your illness rather than inquire about your health. Your employer just wants to make sure you get back to work and perform and is not overly concerned whether you are ready to return to work.
If any of these signs is familiar to you, consider getting a new job and moving on to a company that is more receptive to what you have to offer. Although going to work at another company isn’t always easy, it may be the only way that you can grow and move up the ladder to a position where you will feel fulfilled and productive.
About the Author
Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.
Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and influential leader, manifesting people skills, a systematic approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.
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