You see, your company is probably not SpaceX, nor NASA. It's not pushing the frontiers of what's possible, or helping make the world a better place. That iPhone-app-cranking shop is just a marketing gig, nothing important on the face of this planet. And many people, many employees, have dreams. Or seek fulfillment, which they may not find in shipping out yet another webapp. They are in your company because it's fun to work on the problems it has - and it pays well - but that's not the extent of their dreams. Especially in this industry, where a lot of people were originally hobbyist programmers, which means tech is for them a part of life, a part of themselves, and not an otherwise uninteresting money-making skill set.
Happy people may very well leave their jobs, even if they love them, because it's unlikely that their life goals are perfectly aligned with company goals.
Rands lists the major ones, but there can be dozens of others. I personally call them "red flags" and once I see enough, it's resume time. I've tuned my own threshold pretty well and walked away from some perfectly good jobs and companies, only to see them implode in my rear-view mirror a year or two later.
My current employer, who has treated me well to date, just went back on a promise not to move the factory to Mexico. At the announcement they promised not to relocate Engineering. I updated my resume over the holiday break.
No, he doesn't. The full list from him includes:
Am I happy with my job?
Do I like my manager? My team?
Is this project I’m working on fulfilling?
Am I learning?
Am I respected?
Am I growing?
Do I feel fairly compensated?
Is this company/team going anywhere?
Do I believe in the vision?
Do I trust the leaders?
The sooner you become consciously aware of it, the better.
Not to mention that your answer implies that people only do things because of some list of personal criteria -- e.g. that they always take conscious and/or rational decisions.
Wanting to move to a different area for any number of life reasons
Wanting to change to a different career entirely
Need to take time off to deal with a new child, a sick relative, etc.
Finding an opportunity for something you can't offer them, like a chance to start their own company
And about a hundred other things that I couldn't imagine.
His job as a manager doesn't really include making sure your children don't get sick, or convincing you that California weather isn't that nice, or that you don't really want to have the life goal of starting your own company. I'd saying restricting the list to questions that a manager could have an impact on is more valuable than a more generic list that encapsulates everything.
Being fairly compensated and being adequately compensated are two different things. Sometimes you have to pay more than what is "fair" to keep people. Fair is tied to market forces, forces that assume people can/will move between jobs. To stop people from falling prey to market forces and leaving you need to pay them above the going rate, beyond fair.
An extreme example of this is where the fair/market rate is zero, or even below zero. People like interns on film/tv productions are paid nothing, sometimes for years. There are even examples of people paying for the opportunity to work without pay. If you want such people to remain loyal you have to pay them something, which would be more than the fair/market rate of nothing.
For an example of negative market rates in the medical field, see http://thetab.com/uk/uclan/2015/10/04/is-uclan-elitist-1193
"There has also recently been criticism of work experience placements in a private hospital being sold for £500 per week, which would help students improve their applications to study medicine at university."
But such markets are only approximated in practice, and the interesting part of Economics is studying the effects of how actual markets differ from being perfectly free and efficient.
Conditions leading to a shields down moment for someone switching to job that might be preventable by management is pretty well contained by this list. It doesn't account for life goals or circumstances that drive you in a truly different career path.
In one example in my career, a big employer was trying to change its culture, and set up a group to change its practices. Hired a lot of good, pretty expensive people. And it all worked well for a while, until one person decided that grass was greener somewhere else. Losing a teammate led to another, then another. The people that left had new employers, and happily recommended them. Others that were happy before were less happy with enough good coworkers gone, as management did nothing to special to keep them. In 6 months, everyone in that change initiative, and a lot of other employees they had contact with, were all gone. They ended up having to outsource everything said department was doing, because too much of the knowledge and expertise had left.
So beware when people leave, because coworkers leaving can a very common trigger for shields to go down.
It's weighted by whether the coworker was good or not, which makes you wonder if he knows something you don't. THAT'S when you start sniffing around and discovering other things that say yeah, he was right and it's time to bail.
The only implicit assumption in the author's thesis is that people value stability and are generally content with the status quo until it is challenged. I'm not sure this applies to all people, though I'm willing to consider the possibility that it applies to most. And if not most, then certainly many.
All of that said, your point about changing life goals is a great one. People definitely leave jobs for reasons beyond those articulated in this article. Rands' thesis is not completely encapsulating. But it doesn't need to be complete in order to be compelling. So long as what he's saying provides a decent, rough framework for managers and leaders to keep in mind -- which I'm interpreting as his intent here -- then it's still valuable.
Or have to begin at the bottom somewhere else. In other words: give up what you reached at the first company when you go somewhere else.
What I've done in the past though is simply mkae the older stuff increasingly terse to the point where the really old stuff is just the dates, company and title.
Conversely, if I had a job that paid well enough I knew I could retire healthy and happy, and in the meantime I didn't actively dislike it, I could tolerate a little monotony.
Unfortunately, most jobs couple monotony with long hours and think money will make up for it. This becomes a viscous cycle - the few hours you have to yourself are not a state where you are prepared to go out and learn new concepts, so you get locked into moving up the career ladder to get higher pay, rather than switching careers.
To me this is an attempt to look past the BS of generic reasons given while quitting. What happened a year prior to lead to that moment? Regardless if it's 1 or 20 years into the employment.
If what you said was the absolute case nobody would quit unless they were going to a job that is more meaningful to them in relation to their life goals, which happens to a degree but I believe is sill in a minority. Reality is much less idealistic and the 10 smaller reasons listed in the post can absolutely lead to shields down.
Even if you're at SpaceX you may treat it as "paying the dues" or apprenticeship period of your life until you can go off and have more impact somewhere else.
That said, there are 3 companies I've worked at I would have stayed at 2-3x as long if I'd been happier at them where in this particular instance happiness = having more fun at work and building stronger/closer relationships with my co-workers.
work is a means to sustenance. you help someone make a lot of money (either exploring space or showing ads in a plagiarized fart app) for a paycheck and then you use that money to sponsor your life style.
work is not supposed to be a hobby.
The most realistic shot at really working on what you love is to start your own business, but even then you often have to pivot to something less interesting to you, and either way, in time you're likely to end up doing mostly administrative work.
So yeah, I ended up assuming that work will not be my hobby, and it's up to me to maximize its profit while minimizing time spent on it.
impossible to start my dream job, and i already tried twice
A job working at MacDonald's is not the same as say Dactor or Vet.
Real people have real families. Kids grow. Parents age. Sisters have car accidents. Dogs rip their ACLs. At any moment any realworld person may have to walk away from the job they love to accommodate the needs of a family member. Maybe they need to go to a higher-paying job (if they are lucky) but more realistically they need a job at a different location or time so they can spend more time dealing with things totally outside the job.
Real people have real bodies. They get sick. They have heart attacks. They get devastating news from doctors. They need to spend less time at the keyboard and more time at the gym. The job you love, that you are willing to spend 24/7 working to improve, is often the job that is killing you.
Want to keep employees onboard? They want two things more than anything else: Either more money, fewer hours for the same money, or some balance between the two. That's what keeps people from leaving. It allows flexibility when that day comes that they would otherwise have to walk. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
The first two are obvious. The way I see the third one is that I prefer when a company respects my life, value entrepreneurial mindsets, and will let me accommodate the evolution of my personal projects over time. Too many companies want to own your life and influence your lifestyle. They have a one-sided approach to employment.
I once met a different kind of employer. I told him I was passionate about something and left my job a few months before to start a startup that was at the time already on the market. He asked me if I wanted to work part-time of full-time, if I wanted to be on the payroll or if I'd preferred to invoice the company, and if I wanted to work from home or to commute.
This is the sort of company one wouldn't leave for sure, and it really triggers a deep sense of loyalty. Respect and flexibility are the key things.
These sorts of managers/founders/owners/clients are worth their weight in gold; I follow these people to the gates of hell with suntan location in hand.
You're probably right that this probably how most people are motivated. I think the OP is talking about high-performing people at technology companies, who aren't mostly motivated by short-term pay rate or leisure time. They tend to be the best people precisely because they have more drive to succeed in the long-term than collect the best near-term paycheck or maximize leisure time. The best people in these companies could make more money for less work right now-- if they wanted to.
I'm not actually saying that's always (or even usually) a good thing-- the most common deathbed regret is working too much.
Harry Potter-type orphans with no living relatives and a magical ability to avoid disease are out there somewhere. Potter even had a trust fund that meant pay was not an issue. But an employer cannot bet on finding and keeping such people. Worse yet, trying to attract mythic people leads down dangerous roads. There are laws against seeking to hire or promote only single/healthy/non-disabled/sterile/rich people. If you run a workforce involving people you must accept that people are going to have unique problems and that pay will matter when those problems inevitably crop up.
No, that's not me. When someone asks me for a coffee in these circumstances I go out of curiosity - it gives me an opportunity to probe the career market in an indepth way and lets me upkeep contacts.
I'm happy where I work but I do need to know my market worth and what the job market is like just in case the management three layers up decides to do something which affects my position negatively.
I'm a neurotic about things that just need to work and my familys financial situation - for which I'm greatly responsible - is one of those things.
Networking and flirting with other employers is not treachery, it's common sense.
Also, I claim there is a hell of a statistic bias going here - I bet he does not collect this information from the people who are staying and which parts of this heuristic dataset actually explain why the people who left, left. One would need to compare these factoids with the population who stayed first. I understand the need for rules of thumb of course - just as long one remembers they mighy be completely wrong.
In a company, it's not as if you need people to stay for 10 years to be successful, but it's hard to go anywhere when 10 months is already considered a big tenure.
At the same time though, I also worry about having a core of people that never leave. A few jobs ago, I attended a 15 year celebration. 15! Straight out of school, to architect, without having ever worked anywhere else. Management never figured out that those 15+ year tenures were the reason many new senior hires were coming in and leaving quickly: Why would you work at a place that has such a long standing, very tenured network of people that trust each other more than anyone new, and that they'll never leave? You better love those people, because they are the technical ceiling of what you'll get.
In general, trust and longevity (in addition to a smallish size) are desirable qualities in a technical team of experts.
The product itself signals then the technical merits of the team.
There is the 'expert beginner' idea that it's easy to stagnate and entrench oneself in a dysfunctional organization.
A long lasting team of expert beginners is an antipattern of course.
But the way to get a high quality team is not by churning through hires - it's by successfull hiring.
As an example, seven years ago I asked my wife to leave a part-time job she loved. I was the family's main breadwinner, and spending 30 hours a week being a solo childcare provider was crushing my productivity.
She left that job. But it wasn't the job's fault in any but the most vague theoretical way, like "If they'd paid her a million dollars a year to work part time, we could have afforded a nanny."
(That change triggered additional positive changes in our lives, and today we are in a much nicer place for us to live, and she has a full time job she likes, though perhaps not quite as much as she loved that old job. But the environment that made that old job great ended years ago anyway, as her boss moved on to greener pastures.)
I have experienced this from both ends, as the employee who outgrew my current role, and as a manager who my direct report outgrew their role. In this case, apart from trying to create a similar role (which often than not is impossible), the best you can do is to wish them the best, and be proud of the fact that you've worked with such an awesome colleague that they have now surpassed what the role could do for them. :)
At least that was my assessment. Nine months after I left they spun off a small start-up that, if I had known was coming, would have made me more likely to stay.
Whatever I'm doing there's always a possibility of something better out there. Rather than throw up "shields" and shut off all possibility of serendipity, I just evaluate opportunities vs what I'm doing now (and factor in some switching cost). Obviously if I'm heavily invested in a long-term track, it would have to be something amazing to make me leave. But why would someone set up mental defenses against even the possibility of something amazing?
It might be comforting for the ex-manager to say "their loss, not mine," but that's not a very useful framework for analysis.
There's no such thing as "shields" I agree with you totally.
To me the best employee is one that doesn't have to use any kind of shields at all. If using shields is the only way an employee can pretend (to others or himself) he's happy in his job, he probably isn't.
I've left a great job to start a company. And I've had good engineers leave at my startup. Nowhere in there I noticed any shields going up or down. It just wasn't a good fit. End of story.
Not necessarily. Your organization might just not pay the same as some other equally pleasant place. Salaried employees now live in a world where it feels it's best to hoard as much money as possible throughout ones career just in case. It's not greed. It's a fear of destitution and miserable old age.
What I found was that the real reason people left was when they couldn't feel their own contribution in the company or when they couldn't grow insight the company anymore.
People will stand up to a lot of things as long as they feel like their contribution is part of the reason the projects succeed. It also turned out to be a great way to figure out how many people should be on a project. We would never have someone there just because we didn't know what else they should do.
As a founder leaving a company the reason at least for me was a little diffent. I left hello to join 80/20 because I felt we had the wrong conversations. I.e. I was spending too much time convincing the other partners of how the world looked like and they probably felt like they spent a lot of time trying to convince me how the world looked like. This is akin to having a relationship where you argue a lot about the symptoms and never about the root cause for the symptoms.
It always somehow about meaning.
Also I'd argue that you can be perfectly happy and still resign. Sometimes someone simply comes along and offers more money.
If someone comes along and offers you 50% more than you're currently making, doesn't that implicitly mean you're not being properly compensated at your current job?
I guess that's the "shields down" moment, when you realize that you'll become chronically underpaid if you stick around.
Yes, in a sense that your market value seems to be higher than what you were making. However you might have been earning appropriately considering your current environment (based on your work, compared to peers and what company itself can actually make).
Last year I turned down an offer that would be 2.5x increase on what I was making. This year I will nevertheless reduce my involvement in my current company to work on other things (while certainly earning less than the offer I turned down).
The reason for change isn't that I would suddenly be unhappy. I have a habit of regularly re-evaluating what I do and it just happened that last autumn it became clear to me that working in international development exclusively will severely limit my options as developer in future in ways that I am not comfortable.
I have been doing this evaluations for years and certainly all the while I was happily working at the company even though I was happy on an assumption that things change and someday I might come to a different conclusion. As I did.
But even in just the realm of money and career, there are companies that offer benefits beyond money - like a certain freedom and culture - so you might feel "properly compensated" there. A monetary crisis(children, health issues, accidents..) could easily force you to take a higher paying job and leave your dream workplace, though.
I had a job years ago where I was happy enough but completely unaware that I was massively underpaid. Once I realized that, I left as the pay difference did not warrant my comfort level I had with that job.
My current job is such that i could easily go find more money but there's no guarantee an offer would exceed my salary, let's call it the lower end of average. However I'm very happy. I'd consider leaving, but it'd have to be a lot of money, 10% isn't going to do it. There are certainly companies out there that could offer me a 50% increase though and while I won't go seeking them out I'd consider it if they came calling
Otherwise you'd be implying that the 'proper' rate is whatever the best paying company is offering in that field.
I'd easily take a 20% pay cut (all else being equal) if I could find a job I don't need to commute into Seattle, Redmond or Bellevue for. Unfortunately, I've had zilch luck so far.
Warding off thoughts about other possible futures seems like a classic bias: in order to protect your self-image, you handicap yourself when evaluating other offers. This may be "natural", but it seems bad, like a fully actualized person would not need to do that.
And then the author of the blogpost takes advantage of this psychological tendency in order to keep people working for him even when they would have better options. The whole metaphor gives off manipulative, cult-like vibes to me.
I mean, take, for example, learning computer related stuff. Learning six languages at the same time, togther with operating systems, shells, databases, network protocols, frameworks, all at the same time. For me, that does not work. It is better to find some area to grow in, and to stick to that area for a while. Pretend the rest of all-the-things-to-learn does not exist. Only after becoming fluent, it pays to take on a different thing.
I guess the same goes for relationships; with significant others as well as with employers.
It's the same reason HR never gives an honest answer when someone is declined for a position. There is no upside whatsoever for them to be honest about the reason, and lots of potential negative negatives.
But the reason I'm leaving is to pursue something else in my life.
I want to own my destiny, reach for what I consider freedom and make something I'm passionate about and that'll make me proud even if I don't succeed. I'm creating my own company.
I didn't see that mentioned in the article and I don't think a company can do much about it to retain its talents.
If your company isn't aligned with the employee's process or life goals, that's a desires/offers mismatch. It may not be possible for the company to solve that, but it doesn't change the underlying pattern.
And then the person is not unhappy, but they look for a better match. To use the terminology of the article their 'shields' would be down.
I don't think it's perfectly accurate, the core of the piece, mind. Because I go out with friends who work for other companies - so inevitably hear about them - as part of having a life. I've not had as many job changes as I've had coffees with friends. But it may be a reasonable heuristic.
1. As a language point, I detest the idea of calling it shields. It makes it sound like it's something that protects the employee, but of course it doesn't. It protects the employer for you not to be looking for something that better satisfies your desires.
It's a tricky analogy that, as you note, is easy to misunderstand. The writer may not have meant it in the sense that it was received.
I know folks who had a perfectly happy marriage and everything they wanted, but when someone new said, "Hey, you're hot - let's get together," things went off the rails. Sometimes it's not about whether you're happy - sometimes it's just the temptation that grass is greener on the other side. (And hey, sometimes it actually is.)
Sometimes accepting the coffee is just taking the opportunity to learn more about the ecosystem you're in. A job can satisfy you in terms of the work, the environment, and the pay, but it can't teach you what it feels like to stand somewhere with a different view. "Accepting the coffee" is an opportunity to stand there.
You don't start learning a functional language because you've made an assessment that you've reached the limits of imperative languages – you learn a new language because in part because it gives you new perspective that, critically, often cannot be gained without going there yourself.
In fact, after a time I started wondering if the whole thing wasn't a remix of a relationship article as so many points it discusses can be easily related to them, too.
Employers are unbelievably vulnerable. The single biggest commodity in the tech industry globally, is talent. When you employ people who do a good job you immediately become vulnerable. You attempt to cultivate and craft the perfect company culture. You try to ensure the work is pushing the boundaries and challenging the great people that are bringing you closer and closer to profitability. You convince yourself that its worth paying your staff ridiculous salaries because if you don't, someone else will.
The single biggest challenge in the tech industry globally, is retaining talent. You spend every waking hour questioning whether or not you are doing enough to keep your people happy. You assume they have shields when in reality, they just want to be happy.
Happy people leave jobs they love all the time. Not because you failed to keep them happy or because they believe another employer can make them happier, but because they are people. No-one will ever craft the perfect company where employee turnover is 0%, it's literally impossible but personally, I love the fact that so many companies are trying because ultimately, it means they are trying to make people happier.
Friendly work environment free of inappropriate humor = Good thing. Happy employees = longer retention.
Forbidding any discussion of pay/raises during work hours to foster better cooperation across pay grades = evil. Keeping employees in the dark may increase retention, but does real harm to individuals. (Also probably illegal despite being a widespread practice.)
Sometimes people take the job they need - not the job they want. If you're stuck programming databases for a bakery, and NASA asks you to help land a rover on Mars - what can the baker do to keep you employed?
That's not a failure - a person's needs doesn't always align with business desires.
So you can either pretend that employees will never leave and try to make that as true as possible, which is a poor way to manage the situation (but better than not paying attention at all), or you can try to figure out which employees are likely to leave and what you should do about it.
Pay more, offer better benefits, and give more PTO.
It may be a collective failure but the collection is bigger than you think it is.
Such decisions may indeed be bolstered by business choices (not getting enough pay anyways, no where to go anyways, and so on), but if the impetus is a non-business decision, then it's likely no amount of negotiation or "shielding" will change the outcome.
At least, in my experience, such tactics usually come more as a slap in the face rather than a tempting offer.
Some people can do a better job mimicking robots that others and some can keep it up for longer. For most, the longer you keep it going the more robotic you become. People leave because they need to feel human again. No one likes to admit this truth because once they do they have to live with it.
I can even see it in the authors writing; on two occasions he refers to his employees as "humans" as opposed to just 'people' or 'employees'. That's typical dissociative behaviour and the kind of stuff that leads to people feeling less than human and eventually leaving via whatever alternative reasoning.
When you start at a new job you want to prove yourself. Learning the code base and the system is new and exciting and a bit scary. After two years you feel like you have a good grasp of everything can relax, but then the fear and excitement is gone. The motivation is gone. I start slacking off, looking for the next job.
I had a great work from home job... one that was allowing me to learn a ton of new skills (im an expert html,css, photoshop front-ender yet my JS skills are still at a beginner level). All my co-workers were awesome .. they liked me.. i liked them and they would give me kudos for the hard work I loved doing for them and the company.
Then...Knock, knock, knock .... is heard at my door from a casting director for a new startup/inventor reality TV show. They sent me a message saying we'd love for you to be a contestant on our show you are perfect. These people arent small no names and I initially said no thanks I dont want to risk my job. Though they chased me; made me think this was the way to fulfill my ultimate dream job/professional life goal...a successful & prosperous inventor.
Needless to say, I gave up my job for the reality TV show and well now I am jobless and the TV show was another losing hand!
My New Years and forever year resolution is I WONT EVER RISK STABILITY again FOR ANYONE ELSE WHO KNOCKS ON MY DOOR UNLESS THEY ARE HANDING ME TONS OF MONEY. A few similar and outlandish opportunities knocked previously on my door, yet they too all left me in the long run with a losing hand!
Consider your audience. This is a message board with the startup crowd as their target audience. They are not risk averse by definition.
If you have certain obligations where stability is an absolute must then I understand, otherwise you got to take chances in this world to grow.
I've lived my life for years not adverse to risk, but at my age and with my startup war wounds and no financial success yet..I must tweak how I deal with risk.
There is a time when you get fed up with being the nice inventor who jumps at outlandish opportunities yet gets nothing in return.
I've gotten to the point where NO I WONT DO YOUR TV SHOW ... no Google I won't demo my tech to you, etc ... YOU PAY ME AND YOU PAY ME NOW, before I risk any stability in my life for your advances!!!
I had someone reach out to me on LinkedIn to try to recruit me to be a on 'brogrammer' reality show..
My former self would have told you .. you should have done that reality TV show. You only live once! Now I say ummm i did all that and the aftermath is painful.. you must demand money for your time and efforts.
This is on topic .. a different perspective on why you may not want to leave the job you love for the unknown PROSPECTIVE better opportunity...
More downvotes...is my thread here not on topic?
High salary and perks could never fix this for me.
So, i startd my own company about 5 years ago, and never looked back. I'm working more, but I'm the happiest I've ever been and never get tired of it.
It helps that my wife not only supports me 100%, but helps me run tje company.
It really made our relationship stronger. We also see each other 24/7, which could be a problem for some couples.
Happy people don't leave a pair of jeans they love.
Happy people don't leave a city they love.
Happy people don't leave a way of being they love.
Wait a minute, is he saying that happy people are averse to change? And that change is bad.
I can't believe this got so many up votes and comments. The premise is that if you are happy then you don't like change.
The only relations a happy person won't leave are those which continuously both challenge them and nourish them, and that's deacribing a vested familial relationship, not a f*cking job.