Last week, LinkedIn released its 2018 Top Companies list. LinkedIn says that these are the “most sought-after employers . . . that have figured out how to attract top talent and keep them.”
that best job is somebody’s worst
Amazon and Alphabet (Google) are LinkedIn’s top two U.S. employers, but we know from Business Insider that many people can’t stand working for either Amazon or Google. Faced with this contradictory information, how can all the lists and complaints help you find a good employer?
How can top employer lists be helpful when they are often contradicted with the complaints of current and former employees?
my “top employer”
I used to work for a “top employer.” Before I got that job, I talked to people who worked there. They loved it. They worked with great people, did interesting and meaningful work, felt valued, had fun and had a great future. The company had the nicest offices. They paid the highest salaries and gave the most vacation. Everybody wanted to work there. That day, when I finally got the job, I felt lucky. I remember walking into the lobby of the coolest building in the city, my new work home, and thinking I wanted to spend the rest of my career with that company. I was with them for 7 years.
Looking back, I can honestly say that, for the first 2 years, it was the worst place I’d ever worked. All I saw was political, mean and disruptive behavior. I saw a business poorly run by incompetent leaders. So many of my coworkers loved it, but I hated it. Yes, there were a few others, very few, who felt like me, but most of my coworkers couldn’t understand how I could be so dissatisfied at a company they loved so much. How could a company that was supposed to be so good be so bad?
it must be me
I remember having coffee with a friend who I hadn’t seen since I started my new job. She said, “You’re so lucky to be working there. I hear so many great things about them. I’d give anything to work there.” I thought, what is wrong with me? Maybe it’s not them, but me. Maybe I’m not good enough or smart enough to fit in at a truly great company.
Luckily, after 2 years something changed that made the next 5 years my most productive and meaningful years of organizational employment. That something that changed was me. The company and the workplace didn’t change, but I did.
the power of illusions
Around that 2-year mark, the wisest person I know, my wife, said, “You can only be disillusioned if you have illusions in the first place.” That did it. The company wasn’t as bad as I thought it was, it just wasn’t as good as they said it was. The gap between what they said and what I experienced was huge, and I fell face first into that hole. I was grieving the loss of my illusions by being angry with my company.
When I finally accepted the death of my illusions things went from bad to real. I was more reasonable and objective. People actually behaved quite well, and I saw a company that was led by good people doing their best. I had coworkers who helped me and I helped them. People appreciated my ideas and I was able to improve the organization in a way that was meaningful to me.
it’s about you, not a list
How does a top employer list help us? Well, it doesn’t. My experience is that the lists actually make it more difficult for us to find work that is authentically meaningful to each of us. A best employer is about what’s important to you, not them. Lists can set our expectations too high or too low. Lists can create painful illusions.
eyes wide open
You can’t know what it will be like to work somewhere until you work there. You can’t know if you should stay or leave until you’re working there. You can’t know if you’ll be valued and supported until you’re there.
I’d work at Amazon or Google. I have no idea what it would be like for me, but I hope that I’d go there with my eyes wide open and unclouded by the good or bad experience of others.