Unfortunate truths

Nov 26, 2023

A lack of willingness to confront these things honestly has caused way too much frustration and unhappiness in the individuals who work in our organizations.

Like it or not, there are many “unfortunate truths” we don’t really want to tell our employees. A lack of willingness to confront these things honestly has caused (and will continue to cause) way too much frustration and unhappiness in the individuals who work in our organizations. That leads to reduced productivity and turnover, along with low growth and poor financial performance in many AEC firms.

Here are some of these unfortunate truths:

  1. “If you aren’t here, your career growth will be stymied.” This is in reference to those people who want to work from home versus coming into the office. We may be able to accommodate you, but there is a price you will pay for not being here and being exposed to the chatter and being seen by management.
  2. “Technical and design skills alone are not sufficient if you want to make more money working here.” You could be the world’s best mechanical engineer but that isn’t all we need here. We need people who can deal with clients effectively, who can sell, and who can manage other people, and they are in shorter supply than good technical (or design) people. That’s a fact.
  3. “Your inability to write well is a huge impediment to your growth here.” When every single email you send out is hard to understand, when you consistently misspell things, when you use the language improperly – all of these things are embarrassing you and making people inside and outside of the company think you aren’t as intelligent as you really are. That is hurting your career. You MUST learn how to write better.
  4. “If we are going to be able to hire the new people we need to grow this business, the reality is that we may have to pay more to some of the new people than we are paying you.” Salary compression in a job market like we are in is real. We won’t be able to hire anyone if what we currently pay people is a constraint. Sorry to say it, but it’s true. We hope you will understand and give us some time to make it up to you.
  5. “Yes, I understand your desire for work-life balance and all of the family duties and responsibilities you have, but the fact is time worked here every week is a factor in how well you are going to do here.” Yes, working smart is great. But we also have to work hard and put in a lot of hours at times. When YOU do that, it sets an example for everyone else. Sometimes we have to put in extra effort and our families and spouses have to pick up the slack for us. We are short on staff. We have to get projects done and have to make progress on some of our longer-term initiatives. It’s just the reality of our situation.
  6. “You may think it shows how smart you are when you tell us why something we want to do won’t work, but instead it makes us think you are negative and are working against management.” We need positive people who can figure out how to get things done in spite of obstacles, versus those who tell us about all of the obstacles. That is the difference between being an entrepreneurial organization that evolves and grows along with the markets we serve, versus one that is mature and gets passed by other younger and more nimble organizations.

I could go on here but am out of space. Let’s try being more honest with our people and see what happens over time. My guess is that you and everyone else will be happier if you do! 

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at mzweig@zweiggroup.com.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.