Some work/friendship advice: leaving a job where a friend is 'the boss'

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by bender, Apr 25, 2016.

  1. bender

    bender Member

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    Sometimes I like getting a few different perspectives on a situation. Thanks in advance for the TGP wisdom.

    Summary:

    I quit a toxic environment where my boss is a friend. Should I be brutally honest? I think I should probably just walk away and not worry about it; it's not my problem any more.


    The Situation:

    I've been working in an industry that has really taken off in the last 5-8 years, especially in the last 2. I am one of the few in Australia with a significant background in the industry both from an academic and professional perspective. I have known a couple for a long time (15 years?) that 13 years ago started up a small consultancy in the field. This has now grown to 3 offices and about 75 people. About 40 people in my office.

    Mid-last year, the boss (let's call her 'boss lady') asked me to join them as they were now 'big enough' to use people like me (I took that to mean, they needed some mentorship for staff, skills in related areas that I had (and no one else had) and process improvement in some areas. I followed this through and left previous employment to pursue a bit more of a challenge.

    I should add that I went into this relationship eyes wide open: a former staff member of mine from way back had worked for them and had a terrible experience, a number of colleagues also had worked for them and left, my wife had worked for the in 2008 for 3 months and this ended in tears, etc. Terrible reputation as an employer, and, while now a big name in the field, rumours of 'short cuts' and difficult relationships abounded amongst my networks.

    I had a discussion with boss lady about these concerns: "Yes, I admit we had issues, but we've been working hard on sorting them out. Now is the right time for you to join."

    Note that this business has, apart from the founders, only 3 employees out of 70 that have been there 4 years, the rest sit at about 8 months to 2 years.

    So I joined at the end of November. Two senior people resigned before Christmas. (I am in the head office of 40).

    After Christmas, up until about 3 weeks ago when I decided to get another job, another 10 people have resigned included 2 directors that I had worked on a project with. In fact, including me, all people involved on the project have quit. This turn over (25% in 6 months) freaked me out, plus all the toxicity I noticed at the level above me (level below CEO/Boss). A number of my colleagues were routinely in tears.

    The problem: the boss does not listen to her senior management, and, while touting 'excellence', seems to be keen on running a body shop and continuing with the approach her head sales guy has: sell low, sell a lot, and blame delivery (the consultants) for not being able to deliver on time or budget, or even to his notion of scope. The head of sales is known for throwing people 'under the bus' as well.

    I decided to bail from what I see as potentially a sinking ship--and have landed a job that pays more, has less hours, and is probably a better fit (more engineering oriented, rarer to find, growth area, and better longevity for someone who is hitting mid to late 40s).

    Needless to say, my boss was pissed at my resignation email to her and the director I report in to. She mumbled some nasty stuff under her breath. (I should also add that I was one of two people to resign that day--I did not know about the other one).

    I think the crux of the matter is the boss "knows better than all the people she has ever hired." Respect where respect is due--they built up a business that makes enough money to see them through a recent sale of the business and perhaps an early retirement. Still, they just can't retain talent and burn through a huge amount of people. I certainly didn't trust the boss lady to tell her what was going on as I saw how other people were treated and lived in fear.


    The question:

    Do I bother being brutally honest in my exit interview/with exit interview form? Part of me has this 'die on my sword' feeling--be honest, and walk away, perhaps burning out a friendship (that ultimately has little consequence for me (I might see them once per year, they live 3 days drive away) apart from history and that I don't mind them as friends).

    Another part of me: "Meh. Whatever. Not my business any more. Good luck."


    Here is an excerpt from what I wrote last week when I resigned and received 'the form'. It's probably not too constructive at the moment, but was rather a private vent. If I do go forward with leaving something, I'll probably tone it down.



    "I’ll list out some of the factors leading to my decision:


    - A pattern of sales proposals (not all, but some) that under scope and under resource, leading to frustration and stress on the part of staff involved in the execution of this work.

    - Lack of director time factored in to large projects when needed. Directors end up being involved because they have to, and costs exceed targets.

    - Volume selling approach—get a lot of jobs at a cheap rate, while the firm internally talks about itself as a center of excellence, the quality suffers.

    - Some sales proposals that are so detailed and filled with buzzwords prior to commencement of a project as to confuse the practitioners and leave them wondering what they should actually be delivering.

    - Senior salesperson increasingly standoffish and petty, building frustration and mistrust in the organisation.

    - Some shared experiences of people being ‘thrown under the bus’ (and being afraid of this) if work doesn’t go to plan—certainly I had no confidence that a blame game would not emerge in one of the projects that I have worked on. This leads to increasing fear and frustration on the part of practitioners, and is anathema to a collaborative work environment.

    - 94% utilisation targets and the talk of a 50 hour work week in contracts seems indicative of a body shop consulting model, seems reactive to an underlying structural issue in the business, and likely a consequence of pressures from the parent company and a narrow view of management accounting.


    - A lack of dedicated project managers on larger projects (say 3 month+).

    - A significant diaspora of staff over the 5 month period I have worked here:

    o ¾ people involved in my interviews when I was joining have left

    o 2 of the directors on the largest project I was working on have left

    o approximately 25% turn over (at least 10 staff out of about 40) in the 5 month period

    o probably indicative of significant issues in the organisation


    - a low morale and low trust environment that leaves a number of people biding their time to find something else more constructive."
     
  2. Stratonator

    Stratonator Member

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    Never be honest in an exit interview. No real point. If anybody contacts your previous boss, you want glowing reviews and not a stench associated to your name, whatever the reasons are.

    Just quit, be humble, thank them for the job, and simply state that you have an opportunity elsewhere that you owe yourself to explore.

    Honestly, you're REALLY overthinking this, IMHO.
     
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  3. straightblues

    straightblues Member

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    I obviously don't know the business you are in, but is sounds like it is a small industry. You will likely be running across them in the business world again. Second you have said they are friends, I like to help my friends. So I would put your true reasons in writing and send it to them prior to your exit interview so they have time to digest it. Stay away from personal attacks and talk about their processes.

    If they weren't friends or the business was large enough so I wouldn't see them again, I would just move on without saying anything.
     
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  4. bender

    bender Member

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    I think you're right.

    After all, she has senior management saying the same thing to her, and ignores them. Not my issue anymore anyway...
     
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  5. bayAreaDude

    bayAreaDude Member

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    I would think if this person was a friend, you could have talked about all this before sending an email. In fact, if it was my friend, I'd be a bit mad that they reassured my after I voiced concerns prior to joining and that seems to have been a bunch of BS to get you to join - not something I'd expect a friend to pull.
     
  6. rangerkarlos

    rangerkarlos Member

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    I would go to the exit meeting, say "Good morning. Goodbye." And on to your new gig.
     
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  7. Madsen

    Madsen Member

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    i try & keep personal relationships separate from the "work role". some people make this impossible, but a nice standard to aim for.
    this has come in handy down the road when paths cross again which often happens within an industry.
     
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  8. RussB

    RussB low rent hobbyist Silver Supporting Member

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    For sure. Look forward, not behind you
     
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  9. Jon C

    Jon C Silver Supporting Member

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    If I was a friend of boss and brought in to help manage and solve problems, the issues you outline would've already been the subject of private conversations w boss lady.

    Given your description there's little (no) hope anything you can tell her will be received constructively or be constructive for you to tell her.

    She's clearly highly toxic as a manager and won't change based on your feedback (you describe a stunning level of dysfunction IMO based on the number of people leaving and how rapidly they go.)

    I don't necessarily believe in never providing candid opinions in exit interviews -- I had a couple of very frank conversations with my senior manager before retiring (after 20 or so yrs as a manager in my office)

    But I retired so maybe had more leeway to be painfully honest re which managers were killing him and the organization and what he might do to deal with them.

    In the 3 yrs since, he's dealt with none of them so he now owns the dysfunction, it's on him now.

    Good luck. I'd write it out to get it out of your system, keep or shred it, and smile and shake her hand and wish "good luck" (she'll need it!) on your way out the door.
     
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  10. bender

    bender Member

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    Honestly, I really think she doesn't understand any perspective except her own. They (the two founders) once had an organisational psychologist come in to diagnose what was going on. The org psych told them that they were essentially the root cause, and they told this person to f off and get out of the business.

    As I get older I am more convinced that change in situations like this will only be in response to a crisis.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2016
  11. Stratonator

    Stratonator Member

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    Not surprising since most people reject the notion of being accountable.
     
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