I love my job.

Sure, I get paid to write blog posts that positively show our company culture and product. But I mean it, I genuinely love working at my company. I am surrounded by people who work with dedication and joy, and I am given just enough challenge to grow personally and professionaly.

You may be saying to yourself, “Employee retention is a challenge, and recruiting and hiring is expensive and time-consuming. How can I create an environment where my employees love the company and their work?”

The answer is simple (and also our company mission): week after week, company leaders create the space for me to become my greatest self.

They do that by regularly asking a handful of questions about my goals and my ideas. They check-in with how I am feeling. They gather information and respond with supportive feedback instead of just making assumptions and perpetuating disconnection.

Replicating that environment in your workplace is easier than you think.

…And Justice For No One

I wasn’t always this excited about the company I worked for. Like you, I have had my share of lousy jobs.

While I am currently a content manager, I am also technically a lawyer.

At one time grand visions of a legal career floated in my head. I saw myself in a three-piece suit pacing before the jury. In my reverie, I pause to wipe my brow and then hurl question after question at a witness in my Southern accent (I do not have a Southern accent, but in this dream I am channeling Atticus Finch — so sue me). Light whispers fill the courtroom as I return to my seat and proclaim, “No further questions, your honor.”

In reality I was just performing research for a tyrannical lawyer who was impatient, rude and downright mean. The thought of going to work made me sick to my stomach.

Dream Job Turned Nightmare

I would slip quietly through the front door every morning and tiptoe to my office, praying that my boss was on a call or in court so that I wouldn’t have to talk to him.

I was a hard-worker — offering litigation support for two different law firms and moonlighting as a waiter while finishing my law degree. But In every meeting my boss was holding back rage for even the smallest flaw in performance, perhaps waiting to unleash once I agreed to come on full time.

Have you heard the saying, “People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses?” Well, eventually the stress got to me and I quit.

During my exit interview, I was finally asked about my experience. I said that family law was too emotionally involved for me. My boss didn’t believe me and he kept prodding me for more information. I imagined that countless others had similarly left his employ, too afraid or embarrassed to confront him about how he treated people.

The experience soured my desire to become Atticus Finch. I grabbed my briefcase and my six-figure education debt and walked on.

Communication Breakdown

The meandering river of fate landed me on the shores of the online dating industry. I was trained in direct-response marketing, and felt more supported in my work. But I wasn’t being encouraged to become my best self or align with my zone of genius as a writer.

I wrote email copy that waxed romantic about first kisses, long walks on the beach, and couples rolling around on a blanket in the throes of passion. I wanted our would-be customers to feel hopeful about making connections. I proudly forwarded my work to my marketing director.

“No,” she responded.

“No, what? It’s too long? Not romantic enough?”

“David, you have to make people feel lonely, sad, bad about themselves. From a place of desperation they will sign up for our product.”

That type of communication was such a departure from who I am as a person. I didn’t want to manipulate people so I moved on again.

So long dating site, hello freelance copywriting!

Employee Support = Employee Retention

How exhilarating and scary to hang out a shingle! I trusted my writing skills and knew that clients would emerge from within my network. Pretty soon I had more work than I could handle.

My biggest client was a company that developed team communication and employee feedback software. I had experienced work environments where communication breakdowns caused employee attrition, poor morale, and lack of engagement and productivity. Now I was part of a movement to end all that through an agile software application.

After working as a contractor for only two months, I joined the team for a week-long retreat in Sedona. We all shared vulnerable information about ourselves including our personal goals. I shared how grateful I was to be honing my skills as a writer at my company, 15Five, skills that were feeding into my personal goal of publishing a novel.

Three weeks later, out of the blue, I received this email from our CEO:

David Hassell 15Five Email Support Employees

That was it for me. I knew that my search for a fulfilling job had ended. A month later I was a full-time employee.

I continue to be supported as I write my novel. The company has paid for creative writing classes, and they check-in on my progress often. I have a strong desire to continue working here for as long as I can give my greatest gifts and contribute to the realization of the company mission.

And all it took was one little question.

David Mizne is Content Manager at 15Five, the leading web-based employee feedback and alignment solution that is transforming the way employees and managers communicate. David interviews some of the most brilliant minds in business and reports on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to employee engagement. Follow David on Twitter @davidmizne.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

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