Suicide Leaving a JobA suicide note from a 17-year old boy read in part:

No one cares about me anyway. You won’t miss me when I am gone. You won’t even notice I’m not here. Goodbye to anyone who actually loved me, because I never knew you did.

Let that sink in for a minute before you move on. Picture this teenager writing those words. See the angst and frustration, the sadness and the hurt, the loneliness and worthlessness that he felt.

Well, this note just as easily could have been written by someone leaving his or her job.

The #1 reason why people commit suicide? “No cares about me anyway.”

The #1 reason why people leave their jobs? “Lack of appreciation,” which is a fancy way of saying “no one cares about me anyway.”

No one cares that I missed all of my son’s baseball games. No one cares that I’ve lost sleep over the sales decline this quarter. No one cares that I have faithfully come to work on time every day for four years, come hell or high water, despite sickness, family deaths, and anniversaries.

No one cares that I beat every goal for 16 straight quarters and stayed under budget every year.

No one cares. Or at least I never knew they did. You won’t miss me when I’m gone.

This is not extreme comparison. We are hardwired to care and be cared for.

When we don’t feel cared for and don’t care for others, our brains stop producing enough of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, causing us to feel alone. We feel unloved and unwanted, at home and in the workplace.

Conversely, when you show that you care for someone, you both experience a rush of the caring hormones. You both experience a sense of euphoria, leading to increased energy and productivity. It also forms a unique bond between the caring and the cared for, leading to high levels of loyalty.

Here are four easy and effective ways for leaders to show they care:

1. Time.

I highly recommend one-on-one meetings. The simple act of giving my undivided attention for 30 minutes per week is the single most important thing I ever did as a leader. It must be undivided and consistent.

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2. Listening…carefully.

I made sure that 2/3 was their time. That’s 20 minutes out of every 30. It was the single hardest thing I ever committed to doing in business…and the most effective.

3. Gifts.

But not just any gift. You must follow #2. An example is probably the best way to show you what I mean. One of my team members mentioned in a one-on-one that his son loved to play golf. I happened to know a local instructor who specialized in children’s instruction, so I got him a gift certificate for 4 lessons. This gift showed that I listened to him, cared about him, and cared about his family. His son and his wife were big fans of me and our relationship flourished. Any fool can give a Honey Baked Ham and say “I bought you a gift,” but no one remembers that 3 years later. Real gifts come from listening.

4. Sharing with them.

I’ve found that the most effective way to get others to share what’s going on their lives is to share what’s going on in mine. When your team learns what you care about, it opens their hearts to receive caring from you. It’s then that real families and successes are born.

How are you showing your team that you care?

10 thoughts on “Suicide (Or…Why People Leave Jobs)

  1. Erik Fisher says:

    Under appreciation for doing what is expected seems to be a common issue. Even if it’s a good job, and the team members you have are doing what they are expected. Reward shouldn’t always be for those do exceed expectations.

    Showing up day in, day out and performing can be hard even for those who make it appear easy. You never know what issues they have outside of the workplace. I try hard to catch other doing good, even if they aren’t under my supervision .

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Wow Erik. Two really powerful points there:

      “Reward shouldn’t always be for those whoexceed expectations.”

      “I try hard to catch other doing good, even if they aren’t under my supervision.” Honestly, I can’t say that I have done that more than 10 times in my life…in business that is. That is something we should ALL do. Adding that to my repertoire now.

      Thanks Erik!

  2. Lily Kreitinger says:

    You’re certainly not beating around the bush with this one, Matt. So sad, but so true. Being under appreciated and facing high demands will definitely cause physical and emotional distress. The only bad work relationship I’ve had with a boss caused me to feel depressed for months. I felt like I could do 1000 things well and he would focus on the one that was not up to his standards. I never received a compliment or had any plan on how to perform my job. He blew a gasket when I missed a work event on a Sunday to help my brother who had been in a very serious car accident. The relationship got so strained with that even though I thought it was my dream job, we terminated the work relationship 6 months into it. His wife invited me out for coffee once and I confided in her saying that my work relationship with her husband was not going well at all. Her words were “We’re very concerned about you. You should seek professional help.” Say WHAT?!!! Never heard from them ever again. Thanks for a good reminder of how big of a damage a bad work relationship can create.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Ugh, that sucks. What a horrible situation. It helps to hear that…because I know I made others feel at that way, or at least really close.

      1. Kevin O'Donnell says:

        Yes, yes you have. 🙂

        But you more than made up for it over the years man.

  3. Bret Wortman says:

    Wow, this really sums up all the reasons behind a decision I had made months ago, but you just gave me the talking points for when I need to communicate it in a few weeks. Thanks, Matt!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      No way! That makes me feel really good this morning Bret.

      Thanks for letting me know and as I said over on Chris’ blog, keep me updated on your decision. If I can help in anyway (I do have a few connections in the techie world) let me know.

      1. Bret Wortman says:

        Thanks, Matt. Much appreciated.

  4. Jeremy Carver says:

    #3 is RIGHT ON, MATT! Make it a priority to do this once a week with someone! Engaged giving changes us!
    That note was a little too light, try to darken it up a little next time… Geesh!
    Oh, no were you reaching out just then?
    Matt……. I care. No really Matt, We all care. If you’re sad, you know we can talk. ( I was going for genuine compassion… How did I do?)

  5. Jody Maberry says:

    Matt – I have lost a family member to suicide and I have left a job due to lack of appreciation. Until I read your article I never caught the link between the two. It gives me a new perspective on showing appreciation to other people.

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