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The Good Employer

By Marty Nemko

How good is your job?

The following are characteristics of good employers. How many of them apply to your employer? If you are an employer, rate yourself.

True or False:

The good boss:

  1. _____ Hires excellent employees and has the courage to terminate those who are incompetent, lazy, or so divisive that their liabilities outweigh their benefits.
  1. _____ Doesn’t micromanage. Mainly serves to inspire, cheerlead, and be a resource when an employee is stuck.
  1. _____ Encourages employees to be candid: to ask “dumb” questions, to say when they feel the expectation is too high or too low, to ask the boss for more or less supervision.
  1. _____ Has few meetings. Uses email and phone where possible. Meetings are short and focused.
  1. _____ Insists on ethical behavior even if it hurts the bottom line.
  1. _____ Encourages intelligent risk taking: for example, approves risky projects when the upside appears to justify the risk.
  1. _____ Adapts an employee’s job duties to maximize his or her strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and goals.
  1. _____Provides maximum opportunities for creativity for those who enjoy being creative.
  1. _____Doesn’t impose time-consuming accountability systems, except perhaps for weak employees.
  1. _____ Does most evaluation informally, in the form of observation and tactful suggestions for improvement.
  1. _____Provides training opportunities, especially those that will build on an employee’s strengths rather than those that attempt to remediate weaknesses.
  1. _____Allows as much telecommuting and flextime as possible. With the Bay Area’s master transportation plan calling for building no new freeways in the next 20 years (!!), it’s ever more likely that employees will be spending the first and last hour or two of every workday in traffic.

The good company, non-profit, or government agency:

  1. _____Offers products or services that make the world a better place.

We don’t need more superfluous widgets, especially those that would despoil the environment. No matter how good the boss, if the company’s product is, for example, tobacco or SUVs, the employer, in my mind, is a loser.

  1. _____ Has interesting projects afoot throughout the organization, and provides the resources to ensure that they are completed.
  1. _____ Offers a living wage to all employees. In the Bay Area, that’s a minimum of about $15 an hour plus benefits.
  1. _____ Gives health care benefits to all employees, and certainly doesn’t, as many colleges do, hire as many faculty as possible part-time to avoid paying benefits. You’re not a good employer if your employees can’t afford to get your ulcer cured or your teeth fixed. ?

Looking for a New Employer?

How do you help ensure that your next employer is better than your last one? A key is to do an intensive job search: In one week, ask 50 people in your personal network for leads, email then phone 50 potential hirers, and answer 10 want ads. Compressing your job inquiries into one week maximizes the chance that you’ll have more than one job offer to choose from. Then, to help make your final choice, ask permission to speak with your co-workers. Ask them about some of the above items.

Advice I'd Give My Child

Don’t worry so much about how well regarded the overall company is. Find a good boss. Then get yourself on a project you’re excited about and tailor the job to fit your strengths.

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