Dear Leader,

I am your front line staffer, your worker bee. I’m the guy who talks to your customers all day, who builds the stuff that you sell, who does the heavy lifting so this company can keep its lights on. And I have a message for you, because it seems they failed to teach this in b-school:

You can have my heart and brain, or you can have my unthinking obedience. You can never have both.

I want to love the company I work for – who doesn’t? When I started with your company, I had really high hopes that this was the home for me, a place where I could really apply myself, and add true value! When I started, I brought not just my butt for your chair, my fingers for your keyboard, my back for lifting, and my mouth for your customers: I brought my zeal, my energy, and my heart! I brought my smile, and my desire to make a real difference.

I brought my hope. I was engaged.

I found out pretty quickly, though, there’s a reason all your veterans are so jaded. I’d say by my third month, it wasn’t so easy for me to shrug off their negativity. You see, while I was new to your company, maybe even new to the world of work, I wasn’t new to the world. The controls and countless “metrics” you have in place to ensure our “compliance,” the enormous bureaucracy that we all seem employed to serve… as one of my more tenured colleagues put it, your company is soul-quashing.

I don’t think you want your employees to hate their jobs, and your company. I just don’t think you have any idea. Maybe you’re too insulated by the immense hierarchy you have between me down here and you way up there. Maybe you’re too preoccupied with the spreadsheets that report on our performance metrics to actually spend any time talking to any of us down here on your front lines. I’m not sure. But somehow, you appear to be missing an important point: you have your staff’s time, but you don’t have our hearts.

In short, you can control us, or you can engage us.

Right now, we are far from engaged. I think your spreadsheets will tell you what that means to your bottom line. It’s costly to have employees who are turned off; who check their brains at the door when they come to work each day.

I’m putting you on notice. Not today, maybe not even this quarter, but at some point I’m leaving. I’m going back to grad school. I’m going to find a company that gets this whole engagement-versus-control thing better than you. Maybe I’ll start my own company, and learn from your mistakes! Whatever the case, I’m outta here. My heart is already gone. My butt will be soon, too.

Of course, it’s never too late until I’ve actually left. If you want me to stay – and if you want my engagement to return from its long absence – all you have to do is ask. I’m dying to tell you all the ways you’re killing my morale, just so long as you promise to act on that insight.

You see, I wouldn’t be writing you this Dear John letter if a tiny little part of me didn’t still care. Will you meet me half way? Will you start helping me, and stop commanding me? If you can do that, I promise, you’ll quickly learn what a creative, energetic worker I can be!

Just like I was when I was new.

A version of this post previously appeared on Ted’s previous blog.

About Ted Coiné

Ted Coiné is CEO of The Extraordinary Network, a group that is rewriting all the rules of influencer marketing by cutting out agency middlemen to work directly with B2B and luxury brands. Proud “bleeding heart capitalists,” he and his team have built support of a great cause into every for-profit campaign they undertake.

His entire career, Ted has collected fascinating people, most notably other thought leaders who also have a large and loyal audience of large enterprise leaders. He has watched the Wild West that is influencer marketing until he realized an opportunity to fix this broken system, and give influencers the sway they need to move markets together, and to get paid what they’re deserved for this power they bring to bear.

An Inc. Top 100 Speaker and one of Business News Daily’s 15 Twitter Accounts Every Entrepreneur Should Follow, Ranked #1 authority on the Social CEO and #3 in the Future of Work, Ted is also a serial business founder and CEO.

Ted is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership gave Ted a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive.

He lives in Naples, Florida, with his wife and two daughters.

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