I report to a CHRO in a large global manufacturing company where I’ve worked for 15 years. About two years ago our company was sold to a group of investors, and they installed a new CEO.
At first the CEO said all the right things about how important the people are—but over time it has become clear that his mandate is to squeeze as much short-term profit out of the company as he can.
He has demanded the kind of cutbacks, especially in HR, that make it impossible for us to do our jobs without working absolutely all the time. He keeps telling us to do more with less, leverage technology, blah blah—the usual. We went from having beautifully designed and delivered onboarding, management training, and leadership development programs to essentially doing the bare minimum for compliance, compensation, and benefits.
It is so demoralizing. Most of the work I am now doing are things I am not well trained for and don’t care about. Our department has made countless presentations explaining the need to bring back development with well researched return on investment. He basically laughs at us and openly insults our work.
My dream was to retire from this job. I am 56 years old and never anticipated I would be looking for a new job at this point in my career. I have watched our CHRO get beaten down to the point where she is just going along to get along. I just keep thinking reason will win the day, and that I have to keep fighting. What else can I do? How do I know when it is time for …
Dear Giving Up,
It can be so hard to let go of a dream and face the truth. It sounds like your heart and soul were in the job—so, essentially, you were hooked in a good way. But now you are hooked in a bad way.
You have let the hooks get yanked on long enough. It is time to take those hooks out and walk away. I don’t think anyone would accuse you of folding at the first sign of sign of opposition. And it really wouldn’t be giving up—there is a fine line between falling apart when things get tough and facing reality.
All terrible situations—ones in which you find yourself tolerating the intolerable—come down to three choices:
- Do nothing.
- Do something.
- Leave the situation.
Let’s break this down.
- You can, as your CHRO has done, do nothing—or as little as possible, anyway. Stay where you are and do what is required as well as you can in a reasonable work week and don’t try to do everything. Wait it out until you are fired for not doing three jobs or until it is time to retire, whichever comes first. This is what is commonly referred to as “quit and stay” and people do it all the time. For me it would be a recipe for a drinking problem, but it clearly works for some.
- You could keep fighting until your CEO is so annoyed with you that you get fired. You could also escalate your observations about the long-term cost of the lack of training and development to the organization. Of course, the board or the owners may be well aware of what is going on and may have plans to use the profit record of the last few years to re-sell the company at a much higher valuation. You will have to feel that one out.
- Save yourself, save your sanity, save your health, and get out as fast as you can. My vote is for this one. There is so much movement out there right now, so much re-shuffling, so much hiring. Get your resume shined up, get out on your social media platforms, and work your network. Go find yourself a grand new challenge to be the capstone of what has been a great career (until recently).
I am truly, deeply sorry that this has happened to your company and to you. No one asks for these kinds of professional hijacks, government takeovers, or pandemics and wars for that matter. But they happen and all you can control is how you respond. There will be no medals for dying on this hill.
The choice is yours. I am rooting for you.
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.
Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response soon. Please be advised that although she will do her best, Madeleine cannot respond to each letter personally. Letters will be edited for clarity and length.