Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, October 16, 2023
by Neil Senturia
“Harry, you have done a fabulous job. I am promoting you to assistant VP of worldwide global advisory services, and I am increasing your annual salary by 31 percent.”
“Thank you. I quit.”
Now, I read the news about jobs, employment, quiet quitting, work-from-home, unemployment, unions, etc., but this piece knocked me over. “Payroll processor, ADP, found that 29 percent of workers who were promoted left within a month, compared with just 18 percent who weren’t,” according to a recent article in Fortune magazine.
I talked to my pal who lives in a luxury high-rise in Chicago. The biggest issue the condo board has is that they can’t get enough workers to provide the services that the luxury condo offers — or used to offer — until they find someone willing to be the doorman for $85,000 per year. Only in America.
Entrepreneurship is alive and well under your sink. A plumber Fortune interviewed left his company after getting a raise to $45 an hour. He can work for himself and make $90 per hour.
A young friend of mine is making $400,000 per year in a tech company. He refused a CEO promotion, no matter the money, because he wanted to spend more time with his family.
What is this world coming to? Where is the motivation for getting the Lambo?
Now here is the kicker. The study seems to indicate that by the time you get the promotion, you are already thinking of leaving. Too little, too late. (Padres, perhaps.)
But “leaving within a month of a promotion is a damning statistic,” according to the Fortune article by Irina Ivanova. Ivanova writes that it is a symptom of “the broader deterioration of our trust in institutions.”
CEOs need to remember that your IP walks out the door every evening and you hope to hell they come back in the morning.
I occasionally give talks to young entrepreneurs, brimming with ready-to-go and change-the-world passion. My advice, first get a job, pick their brains, learn on someone else’s nickel, then start your company and eat their lunch.
Another fishhook. The promotion with no increase in salary. You get a much fancier title but no more money. The title of “director of first impressions” sounds better than “receptionist.” Enough said.
I do not normally touch the third rail of politics, but a recent article by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal talked about politicians and the “river of power” and its inexorable pull and attraction and ultimately, perhaps, its deadly undertow. Hard to give up the adulation and the private jet.
That resonates in the entrepreneurial arena as well.
What I am touching on is knowing when to step aside in your company. This is not about age (Biden/Trump, etc.), this is about when the knowledge needed exceeds your ability to process and manage it.
At some level, it is about still having the energy, but I think the real issue is coming to the recognition and embracing what you are really good at. The title of CEO has really nice letters, but what it takes to scale, to grow the business may not be your sweet spot. A startup with seven employees is radically different than one with 77. Enough said.
Finally, I recently attended a Harvard Business School webinar with professor Arthur Brooks and Oprah Winfrey. They just wrote a book, “Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier.”
During the discussion, Oprah mentioned that during COVID-19 she was forced to stay at home for a year — in her $100 million mansion on 70 acres in Montecito. Seems like this happiness thing has some nuances to it.
Let’s agree that happiness is a nice idea, but like zombies, you and I know that there is no such thing. But, for the sake of the argument, I am going to give you the headlines from the book.
The three keys to happiness are faith, friends and family. Now you can continue to be miserable, but at least you know what to work on.
Finally, the classic and true entrepreneurial/happiness twist. This one matters. The book makes a clear and important distinction between “deal friends” and “real friends.” The real ones are “beautifully useless,” and those are the ones you need the most.
Rule No. 780:
To reduce envy, avoid mirrors.