Is employee turnover a problem in your company? If so, it’s easy to blame the problem on any number of things – salary levels, benefits (or lack of them), size of the company, or your industry. These are just some of the circumstances that are often blamed for making employees quit and look to greener pastures.
But often none of those external factors come into play. Instead, the things that cause good employees to quit are often internal problems. And in many cases the small business owner’s management “style” is at the root of the problem.
Ginny Smith (not her real name) recently wrote to Business Know-How to explain why she quit a previous job and is thinking of quitting the one she has now. We asked for (and got) her permission to reprint her comments below because they are so representative of the way a wide range of small businesses operate. Here’s what Ginny has to say:
“Previous job: I was an administrative assistant for way too may departments (5), each of which argued over my time. I had one boss who was in charge of the departments. She had difficulty saying no, so instead of divide and conquer, the work ended on my desk. I was constantly busy with few breaks for three years until my health went and I had to quit. It took me two months to recover enough to seek employment again. Needless to say, after I left, there was a major reorganization, but too late for me.
“This time, I got talked into going to work for a small business with few employees. I worked there as a temp and they begged me to stay. As people, I love them. They promised all these wonderful things about an office, a desk, and how I was going to do this and that. Well, it’s been over a year and I do have a computer which sits on a table. I had to beg them to get me a decent chair.
“I can’t do anything without my boss looking over my shoulder. Answer the phone, take messages, and I’ve been there over a year and I know very little more than I did when I started because as soon as I get the hang of it, the rules change. Everything can only be done one way and that is her way. The problem is I can’t figure out what her way is, because as soon as I figure it out and start doing something on my own, she changes it. Initiative is frowned on. Everything must be done in tiny step. Efficiency is not a byword. Anticipating needs is impossible.
“We are always behind on our order processing and people complain about it. If she asks me to write something, I’ll write it and then she will rewrite it. It’s not just me, she does this to everyone. I understand why they have difficulty keeping anyone employed now. Since the business moved here two years ago, they’ve had three secretaries and one shipping manager who all quit without notice for the reasons I just gave. I spend my time on the phone taking complaint calls because all aspects of the business must be authorized by the boss. The boss spends so much time watching everyone else, we stay constantly behind. She takes contracts and walks around with them, leaving them lie around anywhere, then asks everyone if we’ve seen the contracts. If I get up to find information, she wants to know exactly what I’m doing. The only reason I think they are still in business is because they’ve been around for awhile and have a unique product (she’s only been around the last few years).
“Personally, I can’t take it anymore. Example: I was fixing the printer by cleaning it as it was printing badly. I’ve done this quite a few times with various printers and most of the time, I’ve met with success. The boss came in and took over without letting me finish and it gave an error message. She says hey it might not have been printing right but at least it was printing before. I said let me finish this. Then she yelled that she had stuff she had to do and needed the time to do it as if all her time must be spent babysitting me, therefore I was to sit there and do nothing so she wouldn’t have to attend to me.
“Well, I fixed the printer, and it’s printing okay now, but it sure left a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve been working for nearly 30 years and never had a boss like this. I can’t wait for her to leave, because that’s not going to happen. She’s the owner’s wife. I have a tremendous amount of computer, administrative, and writing skills, but I’m not going to get to use them here. I’ve never worked for a micromanager before and I hope not to do so again. I’m just waiting for the opportunity to bow out gracefully. If nothing else, now I know what to look for.”