I was enjoying a delicious meal at a restaurant last week. I had just begun to dive into an appetizer when I became an inadvertent eavesdropper. The booth where I was seated with my family was located beside a server station. This particular server station had become the proverbial water cooler. Though it was the dinner hour and the restaurant was fairly busy, the steady stream of customers did not deter the servers from stealing a little time for conversation. The conversation was lively and focused. It was all about leaving their current employer for another restaurant. I felt a bit like a traveler in an airport. It was as though I was staring at the screen filled departure times. With a little work, I could have listed the names of servers and estimated when each one was going to take off. Is turnover a problem in your world?
As I listened to the conversation between the servers, I picked up on a couple of themes. I realize that every employee has a unique story and every workplace has a unique culture. But, I have been around enough to notice when common elements surface. I tend to notice themes that have more to do with people and perspectives than places. Whether you are considering a change for yourself or concerned about an unstable workforce around you, it’s worth your time to ponder a few of these themes. In particular, I would like to suggest that there is a corresponding leadership lesson underneath the theme.
The grass is greener. It’s no surprise that this is first on the list. I could not hear the entire conversation between the servers, but I did detect signs of this classic perspective. In the course of the conversation, I noticed that several other restaurants were mentioned. The servers talked about mutual friends and their experiences at other restaurants. It’s worth noting that during this survey of other opportunities, I only heard positive comments about the “other” restaurants and negative comments about the “present”. That’s a common feature of “the grass is greener” perspective. Have you ever been guilty of selective analysis? When you feel a twinge of dissatisfaction in your current job and begin to look at the pasture across the fence, be sure to check your methodology for measuring green. Frustration can cause temporary color blindness. If you are unhappy, you will see green everywhere you look. No job is perfect. If you are only considering the positive aspects of a change without measuring the costs and challenges, you need to take a step back and consider your approach to decision-making.
I will be happy there. This is a slight variation from seeing greener grass. This is much more personal. Have you been guilty of building a substantial list of statements that begin with the words “if only?” If only I worked there. If only I made this amount. If only I could do this. Effective leadership requires a different perspective. Do you bring meaning to the job or expect your job, title, pay or location to provide meaning and fulfillment? Does your happiness come from the outside in or the inside out? It’s a tough question and you will need to take inventory of your life and values in order to provide an honest answer. It may be that you need to move on. But a move will never change your identity.
If a change is needed, a thoughtful and accurate assessment of your current situation begins with you. Before you look across the fence, make sure your lens is clean. Begin with reflection and improve your self-awareness and then you will be able to view other opportunities with greater clarity.