Employee Education

As a follow up to yesterday’s post about bad bosses, I want to focus on the employee side a little. I had lunch on Friday with a CEO who just took a new job and is frustrated with several of the staff people she inherited. Under the previous boss, the level of work expected from them was not very high and the office, apparently, was quite dysfunctional. As the new boss is now starting to change things, she is getting pushback from the employees who, in her words, have a very strong sense of “entitlement” to the way things were.

I shared the story with a colleague who said “haven’t they heard of ‘at will’ employment?” And I thought, probably not. I doubt any of those employees (several of whom are in their first or second jobs, I would guess) ever received any instruction on what it means to be an employee.

We give people management and leadership training before they step into positions of greater authority, but we never give anyone any training on being an employee. We expect them to learn on the job, although we don’t particularly make any of that learning explicit. Usually you have to go through two or three jobs before you start to realize that things like organizational culture, pay level, benefits options, and workload expectations will vary from organization to organization. Or even one of the biggest lessons: there is a limit to what you can change single-handedly from the bottom of the system, and you don’t have to stay at a job you hate.