Why great employees leave

What do employees want? Their answer might be the secret to keeping the best ones around, says CNNMoney's Anne Fisher in Mary David's post "Here's Why Good Employees Quit."

David whittles the list of why employees quit — from work/life balance and conflict to micro-management and lack of communication — down to four top reasons why the best go packing and jeopardize company sustainability:

1. Poor reward system. It starts with a decent paycheck, but extends into recognition: additional vacation time, extra responsibility, a promotion, a pay raise, or a bonus. When employers find out what each employee values, they can help improve rewards on an individual basis.

2. Management. Employees need recognition and rewards from upper management — not just middle management — to stay happy and loyal. Good managers on both levels need skills at managing processes and motivating people.

3. Hiring/promotions. When good workers work harder than people who get...

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What is justice for targets of discrimination?

In the vast majority of employment civil rights cases, law leaves untouched the hierarchies and the alleged injustices that gave rise to employment civil rights litigation in the first place. Regardless, because satisfaction with outcome doesn’t necessarily equate to winning, there’s difficulty in defining what’s a win or a loss according to Rights on Trial:

Plaintiffs often get little or nothing of value — and suffer. Lawsuits can take a toll on plaintiffs: loss of their jobs (including structure and meaning) and identities, financial insecurity (including bankruptcy), toll on families (including divorce), mistrust, alcoholism and drug abuse, depression, and doctor bills — even if they win the case. Many plaintiffs simply want to be reinstated in their jobs, not large sum of money nor a verdict of guilt for the employer by the court. Other times, small settlements satisfy plaintiffs because plaintiffs have a chance to tell their stories. Winning might...

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How forces keep the best employees down

Two common effects keep the best workers from climbing as high in the corporate ladder as their often less competent colleagues:

High ethics and competence vs. low ethics and competence
Quite often, a subordinate with high competence and high ethics will report to a supervisor with low competence and low ethics. The subordinate may pose a threat to the often insecure supervisor. The best employees often do not rise to the top. Maneuvering and playing the kiss up political game most often get employee promoted rather than their accomplishments and work ethics.

The Dunning-Kruger effect
The Dunning-Kruger effect says that incompetent people overrate themselves, and competent people overrate others. According to Wikipedia, "the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average.... Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals...

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Employers' support of rights — but not employees advocating for them

Adversarialism and opposing views — rather than addressing potential discrimination — informs each side’s actions and perceptions in a legal case. According to Rights on Trial, plaintiffs see themselves as the little guy in a litigation system stacked against them with adversaries who believe discrimination exists — just not in their cases:

Defendants who insist they abide by the law yet find flaws with every individual case by using stereotypes. They become defensive and can escalate tensions with abusive legal tactics such as using summary judgment motion to tell plaintiffs they have 45-day time limit to take depositions, etc.. Inundated with other cases, plaintiff lawyers often push for an early settlements to get rid of the case, giving no attention to the merits of the case fro either side as they jockey for position.

Judges who often don’t see discrimination evidently in cases without smoking gun evidence and play a role not just in decisions but...

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Is a toxic workplace worse for your health than unemployment?

In his Mashable post "A bad job is harder on your mental health than unemployment," blogger Stephen Bevan argues that bad work can threaten employees' productivity, social inclusion, and even health. His ultimate question: are we actually better off working?

"Good work" and mental health

Bevan associates mental health with being engaged in "good work," or having "control, autonomy, challenge, variety, and task discretion." And results of a Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey in Australia say that being out of work is a bad thing: bad for income, self-esteem, dignity, social inclusion, relationships, and health.

As logic follows, getting back to work would then be a good thing. But not so fast. It's not just any job that supports mental health. "Being in poor-quality work which, perhaps, is boring, routine, or represents underemployment or a poor match for the employee's skills is widely regarded as a good way for the unemployed...

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How employers have major advantages in our legal system

While some plaintiffs understand that the legal system is a game they have to play once they sue, plaintiffs have far less control and receive much less support from their attorneys compared to employers.

There’s a huge asymmetry of power. According to Rights on Trial, there are major differences in:

Frequency of playing the game. Defense attorneys are repeat players and can devise systems to minimize legal risk. Plaintiffs are one-shotters who have to rely on others for strategy. Defense attorneys represent organizations with which they either have ongoing, long-standing relationships or with whom they are trying to cultivate one. (Legal defense funds and a specialized plaintiffs bar may help level the playing field somewhat.)

Power in number of team members and financial resources. Most defendant organizations seem to have more attorneys, a legal risk budget, and discounted legal fees for their preferred provider relationships. Representation is a given, and money shapes...

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Five people who ended their lives from workplace abuse

Workplace abusers tend to follow predictable patterns of behavior:

  1. The abuser initially repeatedly reprimands the better than average target for trivial matters and those that would be described completely differently by the target. The bully repeatedly puts the target down.
  2. The abuser convinces others that the target is incompetent, so others can begin to shun the target and unwittingly participate in the emotional abuse.
  3. The abuser drives the target to report the problem to the bully’s boss or to Human Resources and then escalates the bully behavior.
  4. The abuser makes their tactics so outrageous that the target’s support system (family and friends) doesn’t believe the target and can’t offer advice. Then these family and friends become tired of hearing the target obsessively repeat issues that can’t be resolved.
  5. The target is now very much alone and increasingly vulnerable to suicide. Targets try everything...
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How race determines access to legal representation

A form of institutional and interpersonal racism, people of color are far less likely to obtain legal representation due to these factors, according to Rights on Trial:

Their search for lawyers: inadequate information and networks, a lack of trust in the legal profession, and high cost (including fees for initial assessments). Payment for attorneys falls into three categories:

Contigency fee, paying the bulk only if a client prevails, and contingency fee plus, an upfront fee designed to screen serious clients or an hourly fee added to funds from the award if the case prevails.

Crucial factors to make economic sense: potential damages, which excludes low wage earners given their average annual earnings; potential to win, which often requires smoking gun evidence; minimal work in case of loss.

Hourly fee, guaranteeing payment regardless of outcome.

Crucial factors to make economic sense: clients understanding the unpredictability of recovery; clients with money. It’s a backup...

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How to stop sheepwalking at work

Seth Godin defines sheepwalking as "the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them brain-dead jobs and enough fear to keep them in line." These are the people who don't question their purpose at work, who color inside the lines, and are compliant with managers who lead by fear.

"The fault doesn't lie with the employee, at least not at first," says Godin in his book Tribes.

But what happens when you instead build or work for an organization that treats people with respect and trust? Simply put, "when you hire amazing people and give them freedom, they do amazing stuff," explains Godin.

A simple test for sheepwalking
Godin says that a thermostat is far more valuable than a thermometer. Here's the difference:

  • A thermometer points out when something is broken. "They criticize or point out or just whine," says Godin.
  • A thermostat, on the other hand, changes the environment based on the outside world. "Every organization needs at least one...
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How the adversarial conflict escalates between employers and employees

Plaintiffs often look to law or organization policy to object to management decisions, especially with new managers feeling threatened by high performers. They observe race and/or gender bias and attempt to resolve it through their employers’ internal channels: meetings with HR or higher-ups or ethics hotlines. Sometimes employers analyze and tackle claims at the source and help managers learn from mistakes to prevent future cases. Most of the time, they either assume managers handle the claim or simply don’t investigate or investigate only to understand if the employee has a legit legal claim and to re-position the claim as a miscommunication and meritless.

Because of this encouragement to report problems, plaintiffs report surprise to hostile reactions from employers when they report, assuming they will be receptive. With no resolution or with termination — and without awareness of the asymmetry of power in the workplace and legal system — employees contact...

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