I work for a scrappy startup that offers a system for weight loss and coaching. It’s for folks who need extra help losing and maintaining their weight and who want a healthier lifestyle. All of the interaction is over text, with some notes being automated to offer specific messages at different points in the program. The service is good, we are helping a lot of people, and I am proud of what we do.
I manage a team of 20 coaches. All have been carefully selected and have received a ton of training. My problem is the owners of the company are constantly trying to cut costs. They keep making decisions that impact the quality of the service and cause my coaches to have to work far more hours than they are supposed to. They are paid by the hour and aren’t paid overtime—but it isn’t humanly possible for them to do what they are supposed to do in the allotted time.
The owners don’t share the financials with us, but I can do math, so I have a sense of what is going on. It is clear they are making bad decisions to amplify profits.
The most recent situation is a perfect example. Several of my coaches put in for and were confirmed for time off this summer, but the plan that has been put into place is absurd: When coaches take vacation, they are not tell any of their clients. The automated messages will go out and when individuals do interact by text, a back-up team will handle all communication. The idea was fine, but it turns out that vacations weren’t coordinated between team leaders so we have a lot of coaches out at the same time. The back-up team is far too small—and some of them, it turns out, work only part time.
My coaches who are on vacation are freaking out. They are getting messages from clients who are upset that no one has replied to them. Some are jumping in and doing the work because they are worried their clients will complain about them and they will get bad reviews or even lose their jobs. I have raised the issue with the owners, who, true to form, seem unconcerned.
Some of our coaching is about having good boundaries and taking care of oneself so stress and resentment don’t turn into emotional or stress eating. It is really bothering me that my coaches aren’t getting their vacation time.
I don’t believe the owners of this company really care about our customers or our employees. I feel like a hypocrite continuing to work here. I would appreciate your view on this.
Of course, I do have a view on this. But, honestly, you could just read your own letter out loud to yourself and have all the answers you need.
I don’t fault the owners for wanting to make money—that is the point of being in business, after all. However, the problem here is that if they keep up the corner cutting, they won’t be in business much longer. The weight loss/wellness space is exploding and the competition is brutal. The only way to survive is to be better than the other companies. Lying to customers (!), taking advantage of employees, and poor planning do not bode well for long-term success. Feeling hypocritical is fair—and unpleasant. But lack of confidence in the management of the company might be an even bigger concern.
I’ll bet you could find another similar job elsewhere, with an employer that values their people and has figured out how to run their business. You would be a role model for being proactive, having integrity, and taking care of yourself.
As you look around for another gig, of course, do try to talk to your employers. I imagine they will lose customers just from this last vacation debacle, and maybe they will pay attention to the holes in the systems once the dust settles from this mess.
Honor your instincts that something is wrong in the business, and that you know unsustainable business practices when you see them.
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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