When Your Employer Doesn’t Support Success

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

What if you are a person who really wants to succeed, but you are stuck in a financial services firm that doesn’t allow you to do so? I have advanced credentials do well with clients, have no problem asking for business and am continually self-reflecting to improve, yet every turn I take, the system shuts me down. My employer doesn’t support success. In many cases, the system deters it. The internal processes are arcane, many of the people who support me have bad attitudes and my ideas are shot down without being explored. I make a good living, enjoy my clients and believe I add value, but “fighting city hall” every single day gets exhausting!


Dear P.R.,

Sadly, this is a story I hear and observe often. You don’t say the size of your firm, but this can happen in the smallest advisory firm or the largest, most bureaucratic ones. Many times the firm will blame the people and keep trying to find the right fit instead of trying to uncover and remove the obstacles to success.

So what do you do in this situation? Ultimately, that’s your question even though you don’t pose it that way. You have a few options, one of which is leaving for greener pastures. That said, the symptoms and problems you outline occur in many organizations, so don’t jump for the greener unless you can verify that it will be a better situation for you.

First, you want to define what success looks like for you. What are the criteria that matter most to you? What has to be in place for you to be “happy” and to believe you are “successful”? Then, look at the obstacles in your way. What can you control? What can you influence? What’s out of your control? It’s important, for effectiveness and for personal sanity, to focus on those things you can control and influence. The greater systemic issues may be completely out of your control. You need to focus on what you can do.

Consider whether you can influence change. I find that many senior leaders don’t like to hear “complaints” or “problems” but they will look at facts, data and specifics about how business is being interrupted. If your experience goes beyond you (and based on what you have written, I assume it does), is it possible to gather data somehow and make a case for things that need to change? Can you recommend some alternatives to address the issues?

I have been low on the totem pole in organizations, and I’ve been at the very top in my career. One thing I have learned is that, when you are at the top, making change happen is not as easy as you’d like it to be. I liken the process of change to the Jenga Tower you may have played as a child. If you remove the wrong piece, the whole thing can come crashing down.

That doesn’t mean you don’t strive to change things and make the environment more conducive to success for everyone; it just means you have to be thoughtful and plan what you will do and how you will do it.

Bringing specific information to light, along with ideas, may help senior people fix some of what’s broken. Otherwise, you will have to do whatever you can to personally succeed in the environment. If you find you can’t do that, based on your own definition of success, you have to consider alternatives for your career.