I do some teaching in an MBA program and in chatting with one of the students recently, he indicated that he had worked for two years before returning to school for his MBA. I asked why he resigned to get an MBA. He indicated it was always in his plans, but he originally thought he would work 4 or 5 years before going back to school. When asked why he bolted early, he cited the fact that he was working for a boss who just would not make decisions. Even worse, the boss’s boss was just as bad, and other entry level management folks found the same problems with their bosses.
He complained that every time a tough decision needed to be made, his boss would demand that all his direct reports, as well as his boss, participate and that he would not make a decision until compromises were made so all agreed. The result was that decision-making was at a snail’s pace and nothing of real significance was getting done. Everyone was simply protecting their turf and blocking anything that created significant change.
This individual’s core concern was that it appeared the whole company operated that way and he would have no chance to grow and suggest and achieve some significant results. Hence, he decided to quit and moved up his MBA plans.
What is the right thing to do when you are in such an environment? Here are my suggestions:
1.) Talk to Your Boss – Tell the person straight out what worries you. Be as courteous as possible to not get the person immediately defensive, but I guarantee that you will learn a lot from the dialogue, and hopefully the boss will as well!
2.) Talk to Your Peers and to HR – Be constructive in these conversations, asking for advice and citing you interest in doing significant things and your concerns about your present situation. You will hopefully gain some useful insights.
3.) If the Picture Continues to Look Bleak, Bolt! – You need to be realistic about your assessment of whether you can have an impact and grow/learn in your current environment. If after proper probing it looks negative, move on!
Having fun in business, and making career progress, is all about driving things that make a difference, and being part of an organization that strives to continually improve. Don’t get bogged down with a bunch of wimps!