Ten reasons to flee your Midwest technology employer

Ten reasons to flee your Midwest technology employer

CHICAGO — Lots of us in the Midwest technology workplace — from kids right out of school to 20-year veterans of the industry and beyond — found ourselves in a new and unpleasant place over the last three years.
We may have taken jobs that we wouldn’t have remotely considered in the past (at least not during the go-go 1990s). We may even have stayed at a less-than-sensational company because the job market was so rocky.
As the job market has slowly improved, many of us have improved our work situations.
Some of us have raised our expectations after seeing friends and colleagues get better situations in recent months. Still, maybe you’re currently one of those people who’s mulling over whether to stay at your Midwest technology employer or strike out for greener pastures.
Here’s a simple guide to help you make your decision. These 10 characteristics mark companies that don’t deserve you as an employee. I’m not joking! If you take a job or stay at a job with a company that has one or more of these failings, you’re doing them a favor.
While I’m not saying you should give notice tomorrow, I am saying the company that fails this test is demonstrating by its actions (or inactions) that your long-term career success and emotional well-being are not priorities. If you want a justification for calling that headhunter pal of yours, read on and find it here.
If you’re fortunate enough to work for a company that has avoided each of these 10 problems, I applaud them (for managing so responsibly) and you (for choosing your place of employment so well) and wish you both continued good fortune. OK, get ready to rate your employer:

1) Unethical Leadership

I leave it up to you to grade your employer on this dimension based on behaviors you’ve seen, heard or read about. If the CEO or leadership team does not deal ethically with customers, suppliers, employees, contractors and the financial community, get out of there.
No good can come of continued employment with a company that has shaky ethical practices. Ask yourself: Are ethical standards published? Are they discussed? Are employee issues handled fairly and with compassion?

2) Forced Ranking Evaluation Systems

We put this up near the top of our list because for Nine2Five, the rating is binary: companies that use forced-ranking systems to calculate pay increases, layoff participation and other big career decisions are highly unevolved employers.
You wouldn’t dream of ranking your children or your friends on some random metric of “best” to “worst”. These systems are just as flawed when applied to employees. They’re insulting and you don’t need to be insulted at work.

3) Obsession With Hours Worked

Companies that revere the all-nighter and goad employees to eat, sleep and breathe work are unhealthy. We believe (and secretly hope) that they’re unsuccessful, too. If your job is a white-collar sweat shop, run. You deserve better.

4) Absence of Women, Minorities in Leadership

Women and minorities are still rare in the technology arena. We’re glad to see that changing. Still, if your company has an almost total absence of women and minorities in leadership, that’s a huge problem.
Aside from Wal-Mart- and Morgan Stanley-type lawsuits, the all-white-male company is out of touch with the public and with the face of the community. Customers won’t stand for that kind of homogeneity and neither must you.

5) Random, Petty Policies

You can tell right away if your company is the petty type that will send you on a customer visit for weeks away from home and then not reimburse you for a rented movie (PG-13 rating) in your hotel room.
Also, if the per-diem meal rate is ridiculous or the dress code policy is insulting to your intelligence or the policies in general are written as though they’re for children, you should move on.
You are a smart person and a grown-up. Who needs to be treated like someone who can’t pick appropriate clothes from your closet in the morning? Companies that obsess about the written rules are typically afraid of actual problem-solving conversations.

6) Inflexibility in Employee Matters

We hope and trust that you are a person who gives your all – a day’s work and then some – to your job. If so, you should receive some flexibility in return. If you’re a week short of your next vacation allotment, they should trust you and let you take it any way.
If you have a doctor’s appointment or a pressing personal engagement, your employer should understand. If the relationship is very one-sided (work really hard and you’ll keep your job but don’t ask for anything special), you should look around for something better.

7) Abusive Managers

Every office has one – you know, the volatile and sometimes apoplectic manager who rants and raves at the slightest provocation. You have to decide for yourself.
If the storms pass quickly and you’re generally respected and appreciated, great. If your boss or any boss in the place is demeaning, insulting, discriminatory, passive aggressive or mean, why is that person in management?
It’s the company’s responsibility to provide a workplace that’s free from verbal abuse. If they can’t do that, you can take a walk.

8) Unhappy Customers

Many Nine2Five correspondents have written to us some variation on the “I thought it was a great company when I took the job but the customers are all really angry” theme.
A company that doesn’t value its customers is a bad place to work. Period. If the attitude of management is “where else are they gonna go?” or if the business practices don’t support happy customers, repeat business and lots of referrals, you’ve got to move on.

9) Bad Workspace

Start-ups are famous for funky work environments, which is great as long as they are safe, well lit and sufficiently cool or warm. If your work environment is really bad, it’s bad for your mental and physical health. Plus, what does an unpleasant workspace say about your employer’s concern for the workers?
If your workplace is unsafe, unhealthily loud, too crowded or otherwise truly unpleasant (as opposed to merely humble), you’ve already received a loud signal about what your employer thinks of you. Boiler rooms are for boilers, right?

10) Incompetence

Last on our list is a job killer that can take a while to spot: incompetence among the staff. If your company values attributes that have nothing to do with brains, experience and creativity (like, say, being married to the CEO’s sister or having attended a particular college), you’re in trouble and should bolt.
Companies that hire and promote incompetent people are doomed to failure (deservedly so). Don’t be the only competent person in your group. Go to a new job where you’re surrounded by bright and enthusiastic colleagues.

Your Score

That’s our list. How did your employer make out? If your company failed on four or more points, write and tell us the gory details and how you’re dealing with it. If your company sailed through all 10 tests, we’d love to highlight your employer in a future Nine2Five column. Write and let us know!
Liz Ryan is the founder of ChicWIT (Chicago Women in Technology) and founder of WorldWIT (World Women in Technology). She can be e-mailed at lizryan@worldwit.org. Her column Nine2Five, which appears on ePrairie every Friday, is designed to keep you up to date with career trends and advice related to working and managing organizations in the post-bubble technology world. This article has been syndicated on the Wisconsin Technology Network courtesy of ePrairie, a user-driven business and technology news community distributed via the Web, the wireless Web and free daily e-mail newsletters.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.