Forget what you know about the world of work…
Meet Lisa. She works in the field of corporate communications and
marketing, and has done so for more than twenty years. We spoke to
her the other day about her recent experiences at work, in the same
way that we speak to hundreds of people every year about their experiences at work. Lisa told us that she’d recently moved from one company to another and then back again, and we wanted to understand
more. Here’s what she said.
Marcus and Ashley: Why did you leave Company A * after eighteen
Lisa: I’d moved from a role focused on events—the big events we put
on for our customers and partners—to a role focused more on
marketing. I found I couldn’t be creative in the marketing role, and then my prior events role had been filled and I had nowhere to go.
So the only way I could get back into events was to go elsewhere.
Us: That’s what led you to look at Company B?
Lisa: Yes. And anyway, after all this time at Company A, I felt like
exploring something new, and a new environment.
Us: As you considered working for Company B, what was most
important to you about the company?
Lisa: The brand—whether it was seen to be a name-brand company
in a market-leading position; innovation and the pace of innovation;
whether I could build something new; where the job was
located and whether I could work remotely; how cool the place
was; whether I would learn there; and whether I could try new
things easily. Those were some of the things I remember thinking
Us: And how did you try to evaluate each of those?
Lisa: Obviously, through the interviews I did for the job. But I’d
also done my research beforehand—I spent six months researching
the company and the job, on Google, on Glassdoor. I spent
two months prepping for my interviews, and at the same time I
talked to as many people there as I could find.
Us: What did you conclude at the end of this?
Lisa: I thought Company B probably wasn’t a perfect place, but
it had checked enough of my boxes for me to feel comfortable
Us: So you went to Company B. How long did you stay there for?
Lisa: Two years.
Us: Given you’d spent eighteen years at Company A, were you
expecting to be at Company B longer than two years?
Lisa: Yes, for sure.
Us: So can you explain why you were only there for two years, given
how thorough you’d been in your research about the job? What
Lisa: What happened is that I met my manager. I mean, I’d met
her during the interview process, obviously, and there were a
few things that bothered me—but when I started I saw her true
colors, and that’s when things started to go wrong.
Us: What bothered you during the interview process?
Lisa: Her style struck me as severe, and formal, and a bit hierarchical.
But I figured that was just her game face—how she was to
the outside world—and that if I joined her team it would be different.
But it wasn’t.
Us: And when did you realize that?
Lisa: It was on Day Thirteen.
Us: Day Thirteen? How can you be so precise?
Lisa: I wrote it down in my calendar. I wrote down all the key dates
during my time at Company B—it was my way of documenting
what was a really tough experience for me. On Day Thirteen I was
in a meeting with my manager and a more senior executive, and
the senior person asked what I thought was a simple question about
booking hotel rooms, and I answered, and my manager looked
shocked. As soon as the meeting finished, she took me to one side
and said, “We don’t share that sort of thing with senior people here.
Next time run it by me.” And from that point on she micromanaged
me, and I realized that she was fear-based, both in how she
thought of her bosses and in terms of how she ran her team.
Us: Were there any other days you noted in your calendar?
Lisa: On Day Fifteen I wrote down, “Possible last day at Company
B” for my two-year anniversary, and “Last day at Company B” for
my four-year anniversary.
Us: Crikey. Just to confirm—you spent months researching a company;
you did seven interviews, in each of which you had carefully
prepared questions to help you understand whether this
would work for you; and two weeks in you’d not only decided to
leave but given yourself a timeline. Is that right?
Lisa: Yes, that’s it. I knew fifteen days in that I wasn’t there long term.
Us: And the main reason for that was your manager, and her style?
Lisa: Yes. And it wasn’t just my manager—other leaders seemed to
operate based on fear, too.
Us: When you were at Company B, were you introduced to their
Core Values or Leadership Principles or anything like that?
Lisa: Yes! I was handed a laminated page of them at my orientation.
I was thrilled!
Us: Why was that?
Lisa: I read them and thought, “These are great!” There was one I
remember in particular—it was about disagreeing and then committing,
about having the courage to speak up if you disagreed
with what was being said, but then committing wholeheartedly to
the ultimate decision when it was made. I thought that was really
exciting, and would make for a great environment. But then I
started work, and I realized—darn, these just aren’t true. Worse
than that, some people here use them for evil.
Us: For evil?
Lisa: Yes, they justify bad behavior by pointing to the Leadership
Principles. So if they want to silence dissent, they tell people it’s
time to commit to the direction they want to go. Which is the
opposite of what that idea is meant to be about.
Us: Ah, OK. So pretty quickly you decided to find a path back to
Company A, right?
Us: And in the light of this experience with Company B, what was
important to you as you looked for this next role?
Lisa: Three things—culture, leadership, and the work I’d be doing.
Us: What do you mean by culture?
Lisa: It’s the tenets of how we behave. I think of it like a family
creed—this is how we operate and treat one another in this
Us: What are some words you’d use to describe Company A’s culture?
Lisa: Let me see. Inclusive, collaborative, kind, generous, trusting, fair,
supportive. And I think the senior leaders are good people who
Us: Were those things uniform across Company A, in your
Lisa: I think I was fortunate—they showed up in the teams I worked
on for sure. But I know people who were less fortunate, who
didn’t see these things.
Us: How do you explain that?
Lisa: For me, it’s a question of whether each team leader believes in
the culture of the company—whether they get the culture or not.
If they do, you’re fortunate. If not, you’re not.
As strengths guru and bestselling author Marcus Buckingham and Cisco Leadership and Team Intelligence head Ashley Goodall show in this provocative, inspiring book, there are some big lies – distortions, faulty assumptions, wrong thinking – that we encounter every time we show up for work. Nine lies, to be exact. They cause dysfunction and frustration, ultimately resulting in workplaces that are a pale shadow of what they could be.
What ended up happening with Lisa?
In the run up for the event, exclusively for HRSE 2019 (HR Summit & Expo) we share with you a FREE Chapter from this book.
Marcus Buckingham will deliver a keynote on building a culture of extraordinary productivity in an organisation at HRSE this November in Dubai.
You can purchase Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World at HRSE 2019 (4-6 November, Dubai) and get your copy signed by Marcus directly at the event, or purchase the book now, and bring the copy for the book signing with you!