Confessions of a Fully Supported Employee

This post originally appeared on the 15Five blog.

I love my job.

Sure, 15Five pays me to write blog posts that positively show our company culture and product. But I mean it, I genuinely love working here:

- My colleagues are brilliant and inspiring.

- I am treated with respect, and am fully supported by management in my personal and professional goals.

- I am celebrating my one year work-a-versary and have evolved from who I was when I joined the company.

You may be saying to yourself, “Employee retention is a challenge, and recruiting and hiring is expensive and time-consuming. How can I create an environment where my employees love the company and their work?”

The answer is simple: week after week, company leaders provide me the space to do my best work and to evolve into the best version of myself.

They do that by regularly asking a handful of questions about my goals and my ideas. They check-in with how I am feeling. They gather information and respond with supportive feedbackinstead of just making assumptions and perpetuating disconnection.

Replicating that environment in your workplace is easier than you think.

…And Justice For No One

I wasn’t always this excited about the company I worked for. Like you, I have had my share of lousy jobs.

While I am currently a content manager, I am also technically a lawyer. I am not licensed to practice law but if I wanted to feed my ego, I could put the illustrious “J.D.” after my name on my business card.

At one time grand visions of a legal career floated in my head. I saw myself in a three piece pin-stripe suit pacing before the jury. In my reverie, I pause to check my pocketwatch and hurl question after question at a witness in my southern accent (I do not have a southern accent, but in this dream I am channeling Atticus Finsch — so sue me).

I make the witness quiver with fear, exposing their lies with my rock-solid cross examination. A hushed awe fills the courtroom as I proclaim, “no further questions, your honor.”

In reality I would wake up every morning before heading to the law office, dry heaving as I brushed my teeth. The lawyer I worked for was impatient, rude and downright mean. The thought of going to work made me sick to my stomach.

Dream Job Turned Nightmare

I arrived at work (not in a 3-piece suit, but a cheap button-down and a hand-me-down tie). I would creep quietly towards my office, praying that my boss was on a call or in court so that I wouldn’t have to talk to him.

I was working as a contractor, a legal assistant being groomed to one day take over his firm. I was a hard-worker: offering litigation support for two different law firms and moonlighting as a waiter. All while finishing my law degree.

I could tell in our meetings that my boss was holding back rage for even the smallest flaw in performance, perhaps waiting to unleash once I agreed to come on full time. I was almost never recognized, only chastised.

Have you heard the saying, “people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses”? Well, eventually the stress got to me and I quit.

During my exit interview, I was finally asked about my experience. I said that family law was too adversarial and intense for me. My boss didn’t believe me and he kept prodding me for more information. I imagined that countless others had similarly left his employ, too afraid or embarrassed to confront him about how he treated people.

The experience soured my desire to be a famous litigator from the south. I grabbed my briefcase and my six-figure education debt and walked on.

Communication Breakdown

The meandering river of fate, landed me on the shores of the online dating industry. I was trained in direct-response marketing, and felt more supported in my work. But I wasn’t being encouraged to become my best self or align with my zone of genius as a writer.

I wrote email copy that waxed romantic about first kisses, long walks on the beach, and couples rolling around on a blanket in the throes of passion. I wanted our would-be customers to feel hopeful about making connections. I proudly forwarded my work to my marketing director.

“No”, she responded.
“No, what? It’s too long? Not romantic enough?”
“David, you have to make people feel lonely, sad, bad about themselves. From a place of desperation they will sign up for our product.”

That type of communication was such a departure from who I am as a person. I didn’t want to manipulate people so I shifted into a new role — project manager.

What could possibly go wrong there?

Ooooh Ooooh Ooooh Love Hurts

I was so excited for my new role! Wow, I thought, I can make our product better so that people will find each other and fall in love. I can heal the world by connecting people, I can make a difference!

“David, that’s not exactly what we need to do. We need you to gate certain features of the product so that people are prompted to pay.”
“Hmmm…well that sounds alright. I want the company to succeed financially. What features?”
“Text, chat, messaging, and winks.”
“So every feature that allows people to actually communicate with another human being using our ‘free’ service?”
“Exactly!”

So long dating site, hello freelance copywriting!

Employee Support = Employee Retention

I was scared to leave my secure job to go out on my own as a contractor. I also knew that I was a skilled writer, and I trusted that clients would emerge from within my network. Pretty soon I had more work than I could handle.

My biggest client, was a company that developed team communication and employee feedback software. I had experienced work environments where communication breakdowns caused employee attrition, poor morale, and lack of engagement and productivity. Now I was part of a movement to end all that through an agile software application. I believe in the product but that’s not what got me to seek full-time employment at 15Five.

After working as a contractor for only two months, I went on a week-long work retreat in Sedona to meet the rest of our globally distributed team. We all shared vulnerable information about ourselves including our personal goals. I said how grateful I was to be honing my skills as a writer at 15Five, skills that were feeding into my personal goal of publishing a novel.

Three weeks later, out of the blue, I received this email from our CEO:

That was it for me. I knew that my search for a fulfilling job had ended. A month later I was a full-time employee.

I continue to be supported as I write my novel. The company has paid for creative writing classes, and they check-in on my progress often. I have a strong desire to continue working here for as long as I can give my greatest gifts and contribute to the realization of our mission.

And all it took was one little question.

David Mizne, is Content Manager at 15Five, the leading web-based employee feedback and alignment solution that is transforming the way employees and managers communicate. David interviews some of the most brilliant minds in business and reports on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to employee engagement. Follow him @davidmizne.

Image Credits: The Court of the Brick — Louis K, Alot Like Love — Jason Clapp and Toothbrush and Toilet Paper

What nightmare employment experiences are in your past?

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.