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I Quit, But Forgot to Tell You

Subtitle: Attacking the Spreading Virus of Disengagement
New & Condensed Version
by Terri Kabachnick

"Do you love what you do? … If your job is not satisfying, your behaviors may be revealing how you truly feel about your job. You may have to change your behaviors or do yourself and everyone else a favor: QUIT!"

Thanks, I'll just tell my kids and my spouse and my landlord that I quit because I wasn't satisfied with my job. I'll let you know how that works out.

In the course of cataloging hundreds of periodicals every day and prepping them to be microfilmed or scanned, I occasionally see review copies of books and products. Luckily I caught this one before my supervisor read it and got any ideas. I Quit, But Forgot to Tell You helps you recognize employees who (you might want to sit down before you read this) do not like their jobs, and how to fix them and when to fire them. You might find it helpful to read this book for the same reasons that Osama would want to read the U.S. Army's many "counter-terrorism" manuals.

The author's naivete about working people reminds me of the proposed psychiatric diagnosis "drapetomania". The term comes from "drapetes" (a runaway [slave]) and "mania" (madness, frenzy). New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal published a paper by Dr. Samuel Cartwright in 1851, explaining that slaves run away because of a treatable medical disorder. His proposed treatments included whipping and amputation of toes.

So I was curious to read what treatments Kabachnik proposed for employees who commit the sin of letting it show when they are stuck in unsatisfying jobs with no hope of advancement.

According to research by The Kabachnick Group,

If you want to convince people that everyone can love their job and only a few people get disenchanted, those are the kinds of claims you might make. My personal research leads me to believe that there are few paying jobs which people will enjoy enough to stay "engaged" for more than a few months. Most people have to earn money any way they can, and they've learned from advice of family and friends and employers that expecting to enjoy your job is juvenile and unrealistic. However, Kabachnik got one detail right:

The problem is that she pictures workplaces where learning and development and the prospect of promotion are ongoing. She's right that people can stay excited if you offer that to them, but there just aren't many jobs where a person can expect it. Maybe she's only talking about sales and middle-management employees, not factory grunts who obviously won't get new training every year, or who have little chance of promotion.

Some of these statistics seem unfounded or based on rickety foundations. "According to a recent Gallup poll, disengaged workers cost U.S. based organizations more than $250 billion a year. Our own research has found that as many as 65% of all employees are disengaged." How do you define "disengaged" precisely enough to get those kinds of numbers? Maybe that info is spelled out in the "Old, Uncondensed Version."

Later in the book, Kabachnik hits the nail on the head with a list of factors that create stress and lead to disengagement:

And then she'll piss you off again with a chapter titled "Firing is a Favor". Kabachnik gives an example of one of her own employees who was a good worker but "not a good fit" with the company because she was shy. After firing, this person found a position at another company where she was a good fit and they all lived happily ever after. "Since then, when we talk, she has repeatedly told me that the best thing I ever did was to convince her to leave." Sure, that's the typical response you'll hear from someone who hates their new job, but who has an even bigger grudge against their old job and against the bitch who fired her. The Kabachnik Group needs to do some research on Aesop's Fables, especially the one about "The Fox and the Grapes," A.K.A. "sour grapes."

It's worth noting that Kabachnik can't bring herself to say she fired that person. "Repeated attempts at changing her behavior proved fruitless, so I 'accepted her resignation.' " She consciously uses a euphemism for firing, which you can tell by the quotation marks. I suppose she would claim that she actually talked the person into quitting, which is a pointless distinction if you let the person know they'll be fired otherwise.

There's some genuinely helpful advice to managers in this book about what kinds of little things they can do to increase or decrease job satisfaction for their employees. Try to keep teaching them new things. Communicate clearly. Show good workers that they're not taken for granted, but don't expect incentives or contests to make everyone suddenly love their jobs.

After all that, the treatment for the "virus of disengagement" is basically firing those who have it, or having sincere talks with employees who show symptoms of it (letting them know they'll be fired if they continue to let their attitude show), or convincing the employee that they might not be a fit with your company or department or this specific job (convincing them to pre-emptively fire themselves).

Here's the pruning shears, Johnson. It'll be a big help to the company, and to your co-workers and this department, and to your children, your husband, your in-laws, the electric company, your mortgage holder, and to you, if you'll snip off just one or two of your toes. Mmm-kay? You'll be up and walking in no time, and you'll find a new employer with whom you'll be a better fit!