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What kind of boss?

Emory Mulling -- According to a 1997 Lou Harris poll, roughly 70 percent of the workforce is thinking about, or actively looking for, a new job at any given time. Perhaps you are one of them.

Many people are dissatisfied with their jobs and want another opportunity, but they may not know exactly why they are unhappy.

I have spent many years pondering why people are dissatisfied on the job. As both a human resource executive and an outplacement consultant, I have amassed vast experience consulting people at one of the roughest moments in their careers -- as they are losing a job. Some are terminated for poor performance, others are victims of mergers, reorganizations or budget cuts. But most view losing a job as an opportunity to re-evaluate their careers and look for new opportunities that hold more promise for success.

It's a similar situation for those already employed but considering a change. Since they are not under great pressure to find a new position, many of these people take the time to assess what they want out of their next job.

I have found that approximately two-thirds of job dissatisfaction is caused by problems with the boss while almost one third is caused by problems with the work environment; less than five percent of job dissatisfaction is caused by the work itself. I call this dilemma misemployment; people might be doing the right work, but for the wrong boss and/or wrong company.

Yet most job seekers and career changers look exclusively at work: what do I want to do? Few of the literally millions of workers facing a job change in the current five year period will explore what kind of boss or work environment they need, much less how to find them.

But when you ask people why they want to leave a job, or what they would change about their old jobs, many answers sound the same: My boss didn't recognize my potential and wouldn't give me new challenges. My old company put too much emphasis on competition and not enough on teamwork.

The interviewing process doesn't help the situation. Many hiring managers spend a great deal of time during the interview asking about skills and clarifying that the candidate's resume is a valid representation of his or her work experience. Savvy interviewers will ask more probing questions that assess the person's work style. But more often than not, a person is hired based on skill and then expected to adapt to the boss and company culture.

Once people understand why they are or were misemployed, they can take a more proactive role in finding the right job. I can almost see that light bulb go off over a candidate's head when he or she finds that missing piece of the puzzle. They finally realize that they need to be the ones asking a lot of questions during the interview and holding back until the right position is found. It's not easy to pass on a job opportunity, especially in these economic times, but sometimes it makes more sense to wait for the right job and not the right now job.

Emory Mulling is Chairman of The Mulling Companies, an Atlanta-based family of firms handling outplacement, leadership development and retained search.

(c) 2002

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