I waited patiently.
Secretly hoping things would change.
Or that someone else would speak up.
But no one spoke up.
No one seemed bothered or the least bit dissatisfied.
Then I thought:
Maybe it’s just me?
I’m the one that’s dissatisfied.
I should be more like the others.
Let me find out how to be more like the others.
So I started quietly meeting with my teammates. Asking them how they felt about our boss. How they felt about the way our boss interrupted us, micromanaged us, gave us glowing feedback to our faces, but then our performance reviews came back with Meets Expectations.
As I met with each teammate I discovered that I wasn’t the only one that was dissatisfied.
Each one of my teammates was just as dissatisfied.
I tried to convince them that we should bring this up.
They didn’t want to. They didn’t want to rock the boat.
I told them we could be civil about it.
But they felt like we’d be ganging up on our boss who wasn’t so bad.
They added that I should be so lucky to have this opportunity.
They convinced me that I just needed to suck it up and get used to it like they had.
Used to what?
Being ordered around? Being second guessed?
I understood where they were coming from, they didn’t want to take a risk. They didn’t want to rock the boat.
They had felt like they had a lot to lose. While I felt like I’d lose more by not doing something.
I trusted my gut, which told me not to take it any longer. To say something. Anything!
Then I thought through what would happen if I said something.
It’s not like my boss would say, “You’re right, let’s change things around here!”
I realized I was in a culture that didn’t value feedback, and it was evident by the reluctance to change.
So I did the only thing I could: I quit.
Quitting was just the first step. I needed answers. I needed to know that it was possible to foster a culture that was happy, productive, and caring.
I wrote out all the things I didn’t like about the previous environments that I had been in and started to do my own research.
I thought about what I would differently if I was responsible for other people’s careers.
I read books like The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team, Why Leaders Eat Last, and Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst. I interviewed people like Kim Scott author of Radical Candor and Darin Swanson VP of New Relic to learn from their experiences scaling teams and dealing with conflict as it arose.
I applied as much of my learnings as I could. And yes I made mistakes along the way, including reverting to the old habits of my boss. But I quickly recognized what I was doing and worked with my employees to build a better environment.
I still don’t have all the answers.
What I do know is that when others don’t want to rock the boat, and you’re not afraid to, then you’ve got to recognize it’s time to jump ship, save yourself, find another boat, and take it upon yourself to be a better captain.