A reader writes:
I work in a government department of about 25 people. Due to a poorly executed reorganization and COVID19, we lost about 5 people to other jobs, retirement, or budget cuts in the past year. Obviously, it’s never optimal to lose 20% of your staff, but that could be recovered from if it wasn’t for the incredibly horrible and downright disasterous management that has, from my count, at least 9 other people actively looking for jobs to leave by the end of the summer.
I don’t think I need to go into the reasons all of these people (myself included) are looking to leave, but a general overview would be expanded duties with less staff and no pay increase, lack of respect and outright disrespect of non-professional staff, punitive policies that change weekly, and the refusal of management to acknowledge any issues or even areas where staff are excelling. (Think being written up because I asked why they were tripling my job duties without telling me which of my original duties I could step back from. I was accused of being chronically negative and put on a “positivity plan”.) They just smile and say things like “you should be happy to have a job,” “all companies have communication issues,” and “you need to get on board and be a team player or maybe this isn’t the job for you.”
We are about to lose the backbone of our department and be left with almost no institutional knowledge, anybody to train incoming people, and worse, in my opinion, nobody to help this department carry out its mission. The people we support may very well fail because of this mass exodus of staff.
I know that nothing short of a complete management overhaul will get people to stay at this point, but I’m wondering if there’s a way to tell (incredibly toxic) management that this is about to happen and that they need to prepare (or completely change their initiatives and focus on staff morale)? I don’t want this department to fail and have the people we serve lose access to our resources just because our upper management is a glorified train wreck that is little talk and even less action.
They won’t listen.
These are managers who wrote you up because you asked what to take off your plate when your workload was tripling, and who tell you that you should be happy just to have a job. These are managers who threaten you when you express concerns.
If you warn them about what’s happening, they won’t listen. They might even find a way to blame you for it.
I know the angst that comes from seeing people you serve at risk of losing access to services they need or, more broadly, from seeing work you care about fall apart. I wish you could solve that, but you cannot.
Sometimes the only thing that prompts real change is letting things implode. It’s hard to do when you care, but the reality is that you don’t have the power in this situation to do anything else.