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How Long Should You Stay In a Job?

Eric Frederick |

Over the past five years, I’ve had many discussions with fellow laundry managers about job security. This certainly has been a hot topic around the country. Several managers have asked, “Can you stay in a job too long?” and “Is the concept of working for just one or two employers during your working years a thing of the past?”
Here are the main issues that always come up in our chats:MARKET VALUE
It’s difficult for any organization to keep up with changes in the market. Managers can effect their potential market value by increasing their education, developing better productivity management skills and by getting certifications or registrations.
Certain management skills are in higher demand today than in the past. Managers are expected to be proficient in using word processing and spreadsheet programs, budgeting, cost justification, linen tracking and employee relations.
Productivity management is an area of great emphasis now and will continue to be in the future. The greater your demonstrated skills in these areas, the greater your market value.
It’s difficult to determine what your skills are worth in the employment market. Most of us assume we are being paid fairly, wish we had a little more and go about doing our job.
There are several ways to establish your market value. You can occasionally apply for an open position that looks interesting, you can talk to one of the laundry recruiters who make a living matching managers with openings, or you can simply listen when opportunity comes knocking.
Many managers are uncomfortable trying to determine their market value. The needs of their family and an unwillingness to move are their principal reasons for not exploring their options.
For those managers who have greatly increased their skill level, a substantial salary increase is possible if they get closer to their market value. The down side is that they must be willing to move in most instances.LOSS OF RESPECT OVER TIME
There is a tendency for organizations to focus on what you’ve done for them lately and downplay the importance of what you’ve done in the past.
There is a danger in doing your job properly by handling customer complaints as they arise, thus keeping your boss and other administrators free to concentrate on other matters. Because of your good performance and lack of problems, there is a tendency to downplay your performance.
After a number of years, administration looks at a smooth-running department and begins to think that almost anyone can do the job.
A well-run laundry can be effectively compared to a duck on a pond. To the casual observer, the duck seems to glide across the water with little or no effort. Meanwhile, its webbed feet are splashing furiously just beneath the surface. In our effort to instill confidence in our bosses, we try to insulate them from seeing what it takes to make the laundry appear to run smoothly.
Administrators average about four years in a given job. This means that the organization’s memory may be only four years long. If you were hired by an administrator to take over a poorly run laundry and you made significant improvements in the operation, the memory of that event will fade over time or be completely lost if that administrator leaves the organization.
It has always amazed me how quickly an organization can forget about the poor processing quality and service their previous textile care supplier provided. It seems like they are doomed to repeat the same mistake of assuming that all outside service vendors are alike with every other contract. Price then becomes the only thing that matters.
I have seen the same thing happen with management positions. The memory of what happens when poor or inadequate management runs the laundry or other service departments is quickly forgotten. The salary of existing management becomes the key consideration in the cost/benefit analysis. It is, therefore, not surprising that a number of highly competent laundry managers are replaced each year as healthcare facilities and other institutions and businesses face ever-expanding financial challenges.
One case in point involves a healthcare central laundry in Memphis, Tenn. The manager had been with the organization more than 15 years and had built the laundry into a large, well-run organization. An aggressive administrator out to prove he could save the organization money put his faith in the promises of a management company instead of his manager.
The manager read the handwriting on the wall and beat the administrator to the punch by retiring before his employment could be terminated. The administrator then proceeded to contract out management of the laundry. Over the next year, costs rose dramatically, productivity plummeted, and work had to be sent to other laundries in order to satisfy customers’ needs. The first management company was replaced by a second.
Once a company or service line develops a bad reputation in the marketplace, it takes years to re-establish a good reputation.STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT!
Many managers I know have turned down job opportunities because they came knocking at a time when they were not looking. In my discussions with others, it was agreed that it is in a manager’s best interest to seriously consider any job offer he or she receives between the fifth and 10th years of employment.
The simple fact is, a manager is more employable while they have a job than when they are not working. I personally believe that one should never make opportunity knock twice. Of course, the parallel is that the light you see ahead when walking through a tunnel can either be the end of the tunnel or an oncoming train.
Never take or seriously consider a job offer that is not acceptable to you based on scope of responsibility, salary and area of the country.
The new rules of management say that job security is based on what you know how to do and what you have done for your organization lately.
Entertaining an occasional job offer could help you decide if your salary is in line with existing market values. After 10 years on the job, my group recommends seriously looking around for a new job. Your value as a manager in the open market is now at its peak. The consensus is to strike while the iron is hot!
The manager who chose retirement found it very difficult to find another job when he decided that he was too young to stay retired. Even with excellent connections in the business, the stigma of not being currently employed in the laundry industry plus his age made it difficult for him to find another job. He did eventually find a new management position in the industry, but he freely admits he should have paid more attention to the job offers that had come his way over the years.
 

About the author

Eric Frederick

Carilion Laundry Service

Director of Laundry Services

Eric Frederick is director of laundry services for Carilion Laundry Service, Roanoke, Va., and past president of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM), now called the Association for Linen Management (ALM). He’s a two-time association manager of the year. You can reach him by e-mail at efrederick@carilion.com.

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