January 21, 2020

A Time to Flee

A bad boss can take a good staff and destroy it, causing the best employees to flee and the remainder to lose all motivation.

When I saw this on Facebook recently, it resonated with me.  Here’s why:

A few years ago the health care agency I worked for started to explore the possibility of amalgamating with three other local agencies that provide similar services, the rationale being that we could provide better, more streamlined service to what was essentially the same list of clients.  So two years later things were almost complete and ready to be signed when one of the agencies decided they wanted out.  There were a number of problems that they could not overcome, one of the main ones being their staff were much higher paid and as a result would be “red-circled”, or held at their rate of pay until the rest caught up at some point in a few years. 

Hindsight always being 20/20, I wish my agency had also withdrawn at this point.  Instead, the remaining three agencies decided to continue and signed the deal.  The new CEO was hired and as of the “go live” date, we became one agency.  On paper at least. 

There were problems even before the official start date for the new agency.  The boards had opted for the agency to become a member agency to a national organization.  There were a lot of good reasons for this.  Unfortunately, one of the three agencies party to the amalgamation was already a member of that organization and the name the board chose for our “new” agency was pretty much exactly the same as that previously-existing agency.  Topping this off was the fact that the new boss arrived from having been CEO of another agency that was also part of this national brand.  Now, although my agency had been the largest of the original four agencies, it felt like this much smaller agency had taken over. 

The CEO, who was supposed to bring us together under one umbrella, has not really managed to do so.  On moving some staff (from my original agency) from one location to another, he told them that they were the visitors to the new site.  Other moves saw some of those other agency administration staff joining in with my staff group.  Despite our being the larger, more financially viable agency, and the fact that the Board had largely decided to use our policies for the new agency, he has managed to make us feel like interlopers on our own turf.  When staff from my agency have any issues, they are pooh poohed away.  When staff from the other agency even make a whimper, he bends over to kiss their asses and makes it better.  For example, with most of us not being able to see the reception area, there is a doorbell to alert us when someone comes in.  This is needed because our receptionist works only 4 days a week and because she does seem to spend a good portion of time away from her desk on the days she does work.  For the rest of us, the doorbell is not only an alert, but a safety thing so that we know when someone has come in, rather than simply being surprised when they show up at our office door.  But the receptionist (who came from the other agency) didn’t like the doorbell, so it’s gone.  In its place is a little bell that you have to tap.  I don’t think anyone has used this yet and instead they still walk down the hall and surprise us. 

Here we are almost 18 months later and it’s not improved – at least not for staff from my original agency, managers in particular.  Out of the ten managers we had at the outset, only four remain.  Sadly he’s managed to drive away or outright fire the very people who could have helped him manage this transition smoothly.  He seemingly operates in a vacuum, without consultation with any managers.  In fact, he clearly prefers to consult with individuals outside the agency.  I’m somewhat outspoken and early on even suggested that his managers would be invaluable in the transition.  Nope.  He bowls ahead without even consulting the accountant before making financial decisions that will have long-term impact. 

While I work in healthcare now, my background was in the corporate world.  What I’m observing is just blowing me away.  How could the hiring committee, the recruitment agency, and the transition consultant have gotten this major decision so wrong?  How has he managed to successfully pull the wool over so many eyes as to keep going?  I see bad decision after bad decision and it’s unchecked because he’s the boss.  His boss is the board of directors and they are not present on a day-to-day basis so they only see him once a month.  This would never fly in the corporate world.  Never. 

Also, unfortunately, I am in a position to know what I’m talking about.  I report directly to this CEO as I’m his assistant.  While my spouse thinks I should stick around to see what happens over the next few months, I’ve updated my resume and have started looking around because he is a bad boss and although I’m the best assistant he will ever have (in my humble opinion), I find I’m not happy coming to work each day.  I’m not motivated to do my best for this boss.  It’s time to flee.