Have you ever worked for a company that was listed as “best of?” You know, “Best of XYZ Industry” or “Top 100 Companies to Work for” and so on. No? Well then you might have wondered: just how cool is it to work at one of those companies? Yet another “best of” list came out recently—Forbes America’s Best Employers of 2015. If you haven’t worked for an award-winning company, from the outside you might see these lists and think, “What an amazing place! I wish my company would do more of those things.” And, you might be tempted to put in an application, because you know, “it’s a great place to work.”
But let me share with you something: I’ve worked for a few of those award-winning companies and from the inside, the view is always different than the glowing reports offered by the “list” people. That’s not to say that the companies didn’t deserve their ranking; in fact from my standpoint they were pretty cool places to work. But they weren’t perfect. What thing in life ever is?
When reviewing these lists, keep in mind that many of them are derived from companies who nominate themselves for the ranking. And, there’s this thing called the PR department, whose job it is to make everything look as great as possible. Even with the Forbes list, which asked actual employees of the ranked companies (a refreshing twist) the data collection methodology created a skew in the results because only companies with more than 2500 employees participated in the survey.
An unfortunate outcome of these lists is that people start to compare their employment situation with a completely unknown entity. Unless you have friends working at that company, you have no context. And even if your bestie Corrinne works there, you still don’t see the whole picture. And, most importantly, you are not Corinne. So be careful about comparing your situation to what others apparently do or don’t have.
I liken it to the “social media envy” that researchers have noticed: users of Facebook report feeling envious of people’s photos of vacations and are possibly even made sadder by a review of their newsfeed. With social media, most of us tend to highlight the really great things that are happening in life. Yes, there are the exceptions – those who document every single thing in their life, good, bad, and every excruciating detail in between. For the most part, social media sharing is only a partial view into what’s happening in our lives.
What’s needed here is a little perspective: reading lists of (reputedly) stellar companies should be only one data point for in your quest to find an optimal working situation. It can be very interesting to see how other companies create engagement, foster creativity and provide unique employee perks. It’s good to stay informed. But keep this in mind: just as social media tends to portray one element of the person’s life, so, too, does the company present its “best face” to the public.
Yes, folks the grass IS always greener on the other side. So just be sure you’re looking at the whole of the landscape, not just the pretty green blades of grass that might give you a serious case of “employer envy” when none is due.