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5 “Its Time To Dump this Place” Red Flags

5 “Its Time To Dump this Place” Red Flags

Often we get busy in the day-to-day business of a job that it is easy to overlook red flags that might indicate it is simply time to leave.  We “get it” that there is no such thing as a perfect workplace. However, there are some that border, if not leap into the swamp of unethical, unlawful or dysfunctional culture that may have caused some of you serious concern. One might stick it out in a tough job situation, because they cling on to the hope that things will get better. But the truth is some key manager occupants, who think they are leaders, are really wearing blinders called “inexperience” or are driven by ego, arrogance or some personal agenda (i.e.: more money or bigger fiefdoms - how many boxes they captured on the organizational chart).

If you are not attuned to red flags, the worse case scenario is that the rug gets pulled out from under you, for whatever dubious or conjured up reason, and you are left asking “what happened?”  Learn to watch for red flags. If you see many of these occurring don’t be timid about looking for other options. “Think Like a Black Belt” author Jim Bouchard says, “Perseverance does not mean you stay in a losing fight at all costs. I don’t believe in retreat or surrender; but I know the value of “tactical redeployment.”

If these red flags are isolated it may not be cause for alarm. But if more than one are happening and increasing in frequency, then there may be an issue afoot and time to look for something else:

Here are five red flags to look for:

1) No acknowledgment for groundbreaking accomplishments: When you or your department is successful at accomplishing significant items and key players don’t/won’t acknowledge it. This is not saying getting credit for a job well done. Sometimes a job just needs to get done. I am referring to major accomplishments such as putting $ millions of savings on the bottom-line through your own department’s due diligence. But yet all you hear are criticisms from other department/division heads, silence or justifications for why “it doesn’t count.” If this happens frequently then it is a sign key players are refusing to acknowledge your value.

2) When a key manager member states out loud, “HR [or insert department] Doesn’t Matter” and means it: If this sentiment is uttered or felt in action or subtle cues particularly when your department is engaged reporting value metrics, holding people accountable for excellence and/or meeting every measurable standard (i.e. budget, productivity measures) then it is a huge red flag.  Even if the intent behind the comments is not to cut your department, if anything is an indicator this person doesn’t understand what value you do bring to the table.  In some cases financial managers believe HR should report into their division. A discussion of how this is “short-sighted” thinking, particularly in this new business era, could be covered in another article in its entirety. But the point here is to learn to listen and watch for those red flags coming from your cross functional counterparts.

3) If top leadership surrounds itself with “yes” people, seems uncharacteristically disconnected from reality and/or unavailable: Imagine top leadership that seeks and hires all "yes" people. Does this mean the CEO is a "yes" person also and that the board hired a follower and not a leader? If true we could now have a C-Suite full of followers, followers that see nothing but a bunch of balls in the air floating around in chaos until they begin to burst. There are also know-it-all "yes" people trying to be the "top dog" in the ring fighting to get every bone in his/her possession no matter who it hurts or who's career he/she puts into a tail spin.  Another thing to look for is if it suddenly becomes harder and harder to meet with your boss, or other key people.  If a culture is this dysfunctional, then it is problematic for those who stand firm on a functional, ethical or compliant foundation and best to look for other options.

4) Integrity is a buzzword and not practiced:  You’ve heard the stories of organizations such Enron having the word “integrity” included in their list of values. This is merely laughable given the historical negative final outcome of the organization. Trust me, employees see through this activity and consider it only management rhetoric if there is a lack of good faith dealings to back it up.  Employees are very much part of the surrounding community and have no issue with sharing their opinion with neighbors or friends. Excellence really does start at the top. If the integrity of the CEO or division heads can be compromised with very little prodding, then we can all agree they should not be in any position of power.  Leadership Thought Leader Scott Carbonara says, “Leadership without integrity is like a caterpillar without legs.” If the board or heads support a lack of integrity type of leadership style, then if by their own failures they do not decay, karma will succeed in the end. It might be best that you are not a part of the fate that appears to be in that type of organization’s ultimate destiny.

5) If the company’s culture is inept at providing honest feedback: This applies to the culture norm of telling people to their face that they are doing a good job, give raises but then "throw them under the bus" when not around to defend themselves. This is not a sign of a healthy culture, let alone competent leadership. It really is a coward’s cop-out of dealing with performance and more of a sign of favorites or “who you know” getting ahead in the organization. An organization that lacks a leader at the helm with an honest backbone, then it will fail to gain traction on its own set performance goals.

You may ask why not vocalize your concern versus quit? It depends on the leaders of the organization. If they are legitimately interested in “hearing” what you have to say then certainly try to communicate with the proper chain of leadership. But if your bosses are known for not wanting to hear the truth, avoid conflict at all cost, shoot-the-messenger, or simply ignore you, then you may want to weigh all your options.

I must also add a note about trusting your instincts. Granted, there is not a “trust your gut” guidebook for leadership. But if your ‘gut’ keeps you awake at night or you have a sense of increasing concern that something is not right, find out why. Get an understanding whether or not your concern can be substantiated. If it can be substantiated, make a resolution or an exit plan.

The Positive Flip Side

Now that we covered the red flags let’s touch on the positive flip side. Imagine working for a world-class leader. This is a leader that assembles and retains the best talent for their C-Suite. One that has mastered the art of communication and can make a decision concerning their organization without the need of “yes” people, because they have put together an internal team of the best of the best.  They accomplished this because they tend to invest time and energy in searching extensively for talent. This is as opposed to hiring people out of convenience or desperation, ultimately filling a position with inexperienced “yes” people.

Imagine working for a leader that can use critical thinking skills and determination to build a foundation, a kind of foundation that would create an organizational culture whereas people would consider their company to be the best place to work. Even with widely diverse employee demographics, the fundamental modeling should be a C-Suite that the employees can mirror themselves after. Employees watch C-Suite occupants very carefully and so this should go without saying that they do have responsibilities to that audience.

But if this isn’t the path your organization is on and seems dead-set in practicing those red flags previously outlined, then perhaps it is time to look for other opportunities.  After all a company is known for the kind of people it keeps.  What kind of person are you?

What are your experiences with this type of workplace? What insights would you like to share with others?



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Tresha D. Moreland, MBA, MS, FACHE, SPHR, SSBBP, founder of HR C-Suite, is an HR thought leader in Human Resource Strategic Management. She has held key human resource leadership roles for over 20 years in multiple industries most recently a senior vice president in the healthcare industry. Tresha is the founder and publisher of HR C-Suite ( HR C-Suite is a game changer results-based HR strategy website. It is a first-of-it's-kind site that organizes HR strategy based on desired business result. She has developed a business philosophy of integrating human resources with business strategy, thus creating a hybrid HR leadership approach. This approach enables the leveraging human resources to achieve business results.

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