Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Five Avoidable Reasons Why You May Leave Your Job

When I was writing for Ad Age I wrote an article, Ten Signs It Is Time To Leave Your Job.  This posting is actually an extension of that column.

Every week people call me with their stories.  My observations based on the reasons why people want to “look” are following.  I have categorized them into five factors. The shame is that the high turnover in advertising is often very avoidable.  

1) Failure to give raises
There are many reasons given by companies for not giving raises.  Most are absurd and totally correctable – if the company wants to. Here are some of the excuses:

-       We only give raises once a year.  You will have to wait for the next cycle
-       There is a wage freeze 
-       It isn’t in the budge
-    Raises don’t necessarily come with promotions

-       The holding company has to approve
-    You haven't worked for me long enough for me to determine if you merit a raise (said by a                    new supervisor)

The worst part of all this is that the employee has no idea if it is true or not and if the person telling him or her can actually do anything about it.  (I could write a post about each of these responses.)  And in many cases, the employee knows that all they have to do is get another offer and the money will more than likely appear; this, of course, makes all the excuses suspect.

2) Lack of Equity
There are two kinds of equity: personal equity and ownership.

It usually takes a long time on the job to earn personal equity.  Personal equity is recognition by
management of talent and ability.  It is a seat at the table, so to speak. It takes a time to earn, because management and managers have to get to know you and see your abilities, but when it happens, employees feel valued and connected.  Lack of personal equity means there is no recognition which often is the because of a lack of visibility. When there is no recognition, employees become frustrated and leave.

Stock and ownership are something else. Even as an account supervisor, I owned shares of stock in 
the agencies I worked for; it gave me a sense of pride, ownership and belonging.  It rarely happens anymore, especially at the big holding company ad agencies, which reserve stock options only for their most senior employees.  But owning stock in a holding company is not the same as being an owner of the company you work for. Unfortunately, few smaller agencies offer stock to valued employees either. Too bad because ownership gives people a reason to stay.
Simply put, equity of either kind leads to loyalty. 

3) Learning Curve Has Flattened
People get tired of doing the same thing.  Once upon a time, rotations were guaranteed and a part of 
most agency cultures.  Today, under the client fee system, not so much.  Rotations are more  
complicated than they used to be because they are no longer built into the system.  That is the loss
of most agencies because  it is the cause of much discontent.  Creative people and planners get 
rotated, but not account people.  Clients rotate people all the time but ad agencies are reluctant to 
upset the status quo.

4) Lack of Training
Training programs are fairly nonexistent, especially at junior levels.  Those that still exist, don't teach advertising.  There are senior advancement programs at some of the larger agencies, but these executive programs are only for a chosen few. 

Training programs serve another purpose besides teaching skills. They instill a feeling of value and belonging in employees.  The promise of learning can be a valuable lure.  There were always complaints that most people in the training program did not stay.  While that is always the case and training programs are for the few people that remain, the reason most of these employees left has to do with promised raises that are not given or other reasons which can be found in this post.
5) Poor Supervision
I hear about difficult and nasty bosses all the time. There are many abusive managers. But because advertising is a service business,  most  companies simply accept difficult managers as the price to pay for a happy client.  Employees be damned.   All too often, when people tell me about an impossible boss and I suggest that they discuss with HR or other supervisors, they tell me that they have already done so and those people tell them that there is little that can be done,  often because the client likes the supervisor. Ouch.

I have known agencies that have actually sent difficult and troubled managers to counseling. Sometimes it helps, but often not.  When it doesn't help, turnover is high because no one wants to work for a screamer.

Of course there are lots of other reasons why people look for jobs, but most fall into one of the above categories. If you have any other thoughts, I would like to share them with my readers.



  1. Another great post, Paul. For me, #3 was the proverbial straw. Seeing my EVP do essentially the same thing I was doing didn't make me think there was relief in the future. Going client-side in the digital age certainly solved that!

    1. It is a shame that management wasn't paying attention. But ad agencies aren't structured that way.

  2. Excellent post.

    I would add to your list something to the effect of "giving credit where credit is due." I have long been a proponent of the notion that good ideas can come from anyone in an agency, regardless of rank or title. A suggestion which saves an agency thousands of dollars -- or even a client relationship -- need not be recognized with an instant promotion or raise, but it must be acknowledged. The leviathans on Madison Avenue continue to embrace an outdated management model in which wisdom only comes from above.

    1. @Anon; This is, indeed, an annoyance, but it relates to personal equity. When valued employees are allowed to express and get credit for their ideas, they receive the credit due to them. The boss who takes his/her employees ideas as their own generally gets found out quickly. And when that happens, astute management should quickly remedy the situation.

  3. Finances are definitely an issue. We all hear about absurd bank bonuses, but there are often large bonuses at the top in the agency world, and the people on the ground are denied raises as a result. Those bonuses wouldn't come to the higher ups if it weren't for the work being done by the teams!

    1. I couldn't agree more. In May of 2013 I wrote about the Richest People In Advertising. Their salaries and bonuses are unconscionable.

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