I get this question at least once a week from my blog readers so I thought I’d just answer it to the masses.
We probably spend the majority of our time working with owner-advisors to make their firms a better place for their professional employees to work—and with professional employees to help them get the most out of what their firms provide.
Consequently, we find that most employee/employer problems can be worked out in ways that make both parties happy. Occasionally, however, we come across a situation that just isn’t a good fit for an employee. While we believe that quitting your job should be your last resort (you can always quit, so why be in a rush?), there are times when it’s the right choice. Here’s when you should look for a new job (and if you’re an owner-advisor, how you should not handle your employees).
Situation 1: Lack of Training
Most young advisors want to become lead advisors, i.e., working with their own clients. Reaching that goal almost always requires more training than they got in school. Additionally, at least part of that training can only come from supervised, hands-on experience. While these are issues that should be discussed in a job interview, sadly, the reality of some jobs doesn’t always live up to their hype. If your firm doesn’t have a process for training you to be the advisor you want to be (or any plan to start one), it’s probably time to start looking for a firm that does.
Situation 2: Your Current Situation Doesn’t Fit Your Long-Term Goals
In addition to working with one’s own clients, most young advisors want to become owners of their firms. These days, with many Baby Boomer firm owners approaching retirement age, planning for a succession is even more of a pressing issue.
If ownership is important to you, it’s never too early to start a discussion about how that’s going to happen. If your firm doesn’t have a clear succession process in place—and it’s an important issue for you—it’s time to find out what the owner(s) are thinking about it, and what they plan to do about it. Today, there are too many older advisors looking for a successor to waste a lot of valuable time with an owner who isn’t serious about the future of his or her firm.
Situation 3: Persistent Owner Behavior Problems
Some firm owners are micro managers, who want to direct every employee task. Others are compulsive clock-watchers, who want employees in by 9 AM and out after 6 PM. A few are even verbally abusive with their employees. Sometimes owners will change their behavior after it’s pointed out to them a time or two (or three), but often what you see is what you’re going to get, and get, and get. So if you have a problem with your owner’s management “style,” and I mean a real problem, like a major personality clash, life’s just too short: go find a job that’s a better fit, the sooner the better. (Owners: this works both ways, so it applies to a problem co-worker whom you can’t or won’t control, too.)
Situatin 4: An Imbalance Between Work and Home Life
We firmly believe that for employees (and firm owners) to be happy, they need a balance between their jobs and their personal lives. While it’s mostly up to each of us to find a balance that works, sometimes there are situations that just won’t work. Maybe the commute’s too long, or a rigid work schedule conflicts with the changeable needs of children or even a spouse.
Whatever the case, if you’re not happy chances are it will affect both your job and your relationships. Every owner of a small business such as an advisory firm is different: chances are you can find one who will be a better fit for your lifestyle.
With all that said, we always recommend that employees discuss serious job-related problems with their owner-advisors (or supervisor). But if you don’t get assurances that things will change—and within a reasonable timeframe—that’s all the answer you need.
There’s usually no need to act rashly: as I said, you can always quit. However, if you find that your current position isn’t right for you, it’s time to find one that is. There really is no substitute for a job that truly makes you happy: it literally will change your life.