I have always believed that people join companies, but leave managers.
Surveys tell us that over 70% of corporate departures are because an employee was not able to build a working relationship with his immediate supervisor, which seems logical as one’s boss does totally control the major elements of your working life.

But there are times when even having a great boss is not enough. Here are some of the times when you should think about whether you are working for the right company.

1. When the politicians get promoted

There are companies where the ability to “play the game” becomes more important than just getting on with it and doing the job well. People who spend a lot of time telling everyone how hard they work usually aren’t, and those that tell everyone how good they are, are generally not, so when self-promotion is mistaken for a true indication of skill, it means that the politicians, rather than those who are the real contributors to company success, are getting recognition through managing upwards, which is a serious sign of a dysfunctional environment.

Author: Alaiche (own work); GDFL permission; via Wikimedia Commons

2. When senior execs don’t have integrity

Integrity is when what one believes is the same as what one says is the same as what one does. Talk is cheap, and anyone can tell the world that the most important element of business is, for example, the customer or the employee, but behaviour is the only measure of whether senior executives in a company actually live their beliefs. Lying is never acceptable. Kenneth Lay, Chairman and CEO of Enron, said just before its collapse “Our liquidity is fine. As a matter of fact, it’s better than fine. It’s strong.” Any company where reality and behaviour do not match rhetoric is not a worthwhile employer.

via Wikimedia Commons

3. When the customer is not a priority

You can survive for a while on clever marketing (“We are the dot in dot.com” didn’t save Sun Microsystems) or great technology (the Segway is sexy but used mainly only by lazy tourists), but ultimately if you disregard the needs of the customer you cannot have long term success. Modern communications enable customers to be widely heard, and the old maxim that a happy customer will tell 10 others while an angry customer will tell 100, now needs to be updated to the reality that an irate customer can tell tens and even hundreds of thousands.

4. When people are not treated as the major asset

Ultimately, people are the only sustainable competitive advantage, and companies that do not treat their own people with respect will never accord respect to anyone else. Companies that are serious about their employees ensure that they have a chance to develop and grow, and ensure that there are opportunities available for them to progress in their skills and their careers. If you can’t go off to work “with a song in your heart” you should find somewhere else where you can sing with passion and gusto.

5. When the bureaucrats take over

Doing the thing right should never get in the way of doing the right thing. Making sure that the right processes are in place ensures accuracy and consistency, but when the processes delay the ability to act, and get in the way of actually running the business it is a slippery slope. Data General in the 1980s had a reputation as a dynamic, fast moving upstart that could have given Digital Equipment, the much larger mini-computer market leader, some serious competition. The reality was that it was a centrally controlled, process-bound, bureaucratic, administrative nightmare. The only person in the company who could make any real business decisions of worth was Edson De Castro the founder and CEO, who ran everything from his office in Westborough, Massachusetts. Despite being four times larger, and despite DG having better “bang for the buck” offerings and a more aggressive sales force, Digital could hold them at bay just through being less bureaucratic and hence more responsive to competitive needs.

6. When the silo walls become impenetrable

When departments compete rather than co-operate and openly bad mouth each other it will be impossible to align strategies and therefore difficult to drive success. When Sales and Marketing can’t say anything good about each other, people complain about HR, Engineering whinge about the lack of financial data and everyone hates the IT Department it is time to accept that something is seriously amiss with both the CEO’s and senior executives’ abilities to build cohesive, supporting teams to effectively run the business.

7. When the majority of promotions are from outside

Great companies build their people and prepare them to be able to compete for vacant senior roles. One measure of a worthwhile employer is that at least 70-80% of promotions are made from internal candidates rather than mainly rushing to steal from a bunch of look-alikes at competitors. If there is not any effective succession-planning or mentoring process implemented, and little emphasis is placed on personal development, it is unlikely that it is a company with great advancement possibilities for internal candidates.

8. When pay for performance never quite rewards the best people

Nearly all companies tout their commitment to rewarding people for their contribution to the success of the enterprise, however that is defined, but few have true performance based reward systems in place beyond sales commission schemes. Reward systems need to go beyond the sales organisation, and beyond a token “bonus for all”, and should include rewards based on more than just monetary incentives. Effective reward programmes need to include individually tailored elements such as opportunities for overseas assignments and paid learning to be truly worthwhile.

My belief is that to be truly successful in whatever job you do, you need to do something you really love, working for a boss you respect and admire, in a company you can be proud of, and which values and rewards you as an individual. It may not be easy to find, but it is definitely worth the effort to try to do so.

As best-selling business author Harvey MacKay said

“Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”



  1. John Du Bois says:

    Have had two jobs in my lifetime where most things were aligned and it was sheer pleasure going to work….

  2. Frank says:

    Les, great list again, and the “lack of integrity” catches a lot, including “do as I say, not as I do” and “not walking the talk”. I find it is time to move on when:
    1. I no longer believe in the company or its management, or at least the passion has gone.
    2. Staff are not communicated to, they are “directed” (without explanation)..this is disempowering and trust disappears.
    Regards, Frank

  3. Tim Ebbeck says:

    Les – you are absolutely spot on. nice analysis and to the point….

  4. Holger Adams says:

    Gosh, my last job / company met each of the points … should have left them two years earlier … 🙂

  5. morry says:

    gday Les,
    Have just caught up on your blog for the first time since i changed jobs/employer in January. As always, i find them mysteriously consistent with parallels in my life. Happy to report that as reluctant as i was to leave, i am now exponentially happier in all regards in my new position. Looking forward to a Tuesdays With Morry session with you……….
    love, mozzzzzzzz

  6. Adriana says:

    Mr. Hayman,

    It is probably the moment when one feels s/he cannot go on without being contaminated by one of these diseases, the decisive moment when s/he must leave. Adriana

  7. leshayman says:

    Adriana, you are right. When any of these become “acceptable”, it’s time to rethink. Les

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