Reassess Work and Your Work Relationships -- Michael Clinton

The Age of Aging
Cover image for  article: Reassess Work and Your Work Relationships -- Michael Clinton

Wondering if your career is still right for you? Or if it's time for a change? Are you living your best work life? The following excerpt from the upcoming book ROAR into the Second Half of Your Life (Before It’s Too Late) by former president and publishing director of Hearst Magazines Michael Clinton might help you make key decisions.

Having over a year full of uncertainty, many have started to ask themselves: "Am I happy in my job?" As we continue to determine the time to go back to work, back to social gatherings, and back to normal, reassessing our careers and work relationships is simply just another step forward.

For the majority of us, work will dominate our lives in one form or another, whether you are an hourly worker who puts in forty hours a week, a part-time employee, afreelancer, or a hard-driving professional or executive who puts in sixty or more hours a week. Whatever your level of engagement, work and what we are paid for it is the fuel that allows us to live the life we want to live or hope to live in the future. Yet when asked, "If you could have any job you wanted, would it be the one you currently have?" 41 percent of the ROAR Into survey respondents said no. And 34 percent said that if they could do it all over again, they wouldn't choose the same career path. Those percentages may seem high, but I would argue that they represent a significant amount of people who seem dissatisfied.

Perhaps the real sentiment came from the question, "If you never had to work again, would you quit your current job today?" Fifty-eight percent of all respondents said yes, and 61 percent of those between ages forty-five and fifty-nine, in mid-career, said yes. It's probably not going to happen, but there sure is a lot of daydreaming about the idea of it.

A significant number of triggers can cause you to step back and look at your work life. They might include disillusionment with your company or management; a desire to get off the corporate treadmill; a realization that you are on the wrong career track or choice and you need to course-correct; an illness that makes you rethink your life; or you may have been downsized or pushed out, forcing you to design a new future. The reasons for work–life reassessment are myriad, but the important thing is to ask yourself if you are happy with what you are doing and who you are doing it with!

At mid-career, you've pretty much figured out what it is that you do and how you do it, and hopefully, you have become pretty good at it. But if you are miserable, what's your plan to change? The same can happen toward the end of your primary career, as you reimagine.

My friend Valerie explained that she spent three years trying to re-create a scenario that was similar to her highly successful executive life, once she retired. When she accepted that it wasn't possible, she found a new path as an executive coach and mentor to other women who were developing their own career paths in business. Her knowledge and experience were indispensable, and today she is thriving in a completely new career that brings her joy and satisfaction.


At work, we spend a lot of time with colleagues. It's important to learn to like and respect them, whether they are above you, next to you, or in more junior roles.

When I think about my own work relationships, I've had a few amazing bosses like Jack, Cathie and David (and I've had a few whom I prefer to forget about). My favorite bosses had impressive vision and leadership skills and empowered me to do my best work. They were also admired by the organization and the industry. Jack was my early-career mentor, who helped me get my first publisher job. Ultimately, I followed him into the executive suite and then as board member and chairman of the Magazine Publishers of America. To this day, he is a mentor and a friend.

In our thirty-five-year friendship, he has always been there to give me the straight talk on career and life. Needless to say, having mentors like Jack, who always have your best interests in mind, is priceless. I would also recommend "reverse mentoring" in your work life. Talk to those twentysomethings in the office to get their point of view, their ideas and an understanding of what is important to them. Their input will help you see the world in a fresh way and will allow you to grow.

Ultimately, we all have good bosses and not-so-good bosses. Stick with the ones who believe in you and adopt them as your mentors, regardless of where you are in your career. Those relationships will be the ones that let you grow in new and sometimes unexpected ways. If you are stuck with a not-so-good boss right now, figure out how you can navigate away from that person with a new assignment or even a new company. No one should tolerate a situation that is unfair or an environment that is not based on collaboration or transparency. Fortunately, we live in a time when more and more employees are calling out bosses who don't fit that bill.

My great bosses allowed me to hire the best in the business who were my own direct reports. As a result, I had the best publishers in the industry on the team, and they, in turn, hired the best people under them. The culture we fostered was one of teamwork, fairness and respect for the individual. As they say, it all starts at the top. Sometimes companies can get sidetracked with bad management. Acknowledging a fast course correction is in the best interests of an organization, its culture and its people. I've watched companies lose their special luster with the wrong people at the helm, resulting in the loss of focus, belief in the mission, and talent -- all of which can destabilize a company.

In a world of ongoing change and upheaval, be aware of self-proclaimed "disruptors." They are oftentimes destroyers of companies, institutions and brands, and especially of older, talented employees. Ultimately, respect for seasoned and knowledgeable professionals is what makes a business stronger. Don't fall for the "you are afraid of change" accusation from someone who doesn't respect your expertise.

Here are my five management tips for building effective business relationships with teams -- in my case, a group that drove over $1 billion in annual revenue.

1) Listen. Sometimes people just need someone to listen to them, so they feel that they are being heard and can be vulnerable without any repercussions. By listening, you'll develop an open and honest relationship with no business surprises, solving issues together.

2) Be honest. If someone isn't doing a job to their fullest, explain it to them and see if they agree. If they aren't going to get the promotion, sit down and tell them. If you are going to change their assignment or take pieces away from them, sit down and explain why. People may not be happy, but they will be grateful that you took the time to explain it.

3) Evaluate people objectively. We all have numbers next to our names. In any business, we have to deliver the goals, the budgets, the revenues, the profits. It's that simple. Rule by results, not by favorites or cliques or some agenda that is off the focus. Create opportunities for the need of the business, not for the need of an individual.

4) Treat everyone with respect. My boss Cathie had a brilliant line: "You treat the most junior member of the team with the same respect that you give the CEO." That has always served me well. When I think about the incredible influence that a CEO's assistant can have with the boss, it can never be under-estimated. But more important, it's the right thing to do. Everyone deserves dignity. A zero-tolerance environment for bullying, bad behavior, or treating people disrespectfully should be what every company and manager foster.

5) Stay humble. When I was a thirty-four-year-old publisher of GQ, I felt pretty full of myself. A senior colleague reminded me that it was all about the seat I was sitting in; it wasn't about me. I never forgot that and have passed that wisdom onto many people who, as my grandmother would say, "got a little too big for their britches." Remember that most of us are hired hands, whether we are the big boss or not. I was incredibly fortunate in my business life to meet presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, celebrities such as George Clooney, Beyoncé and Barbra Streisand, and sport stars such as Michael Jordan and Serena Williams. But it was the seat I sat in that afforded me those special moments, and I was always grateful for the opportunities.


If you don't have a team that reports to you, then take my five management tips and turn them inside out. Does your manager bring these ideas to the workplace? It will foster effective business relationships, producing excellent work. And use those tips in working with your colleagues. You'll develop a reputation as someone whom people want to be around to work on projects and help solve business problems.

The people you have around you can make or break your success, your promotions, your raises, your ability to save more money for your future and your overall well-being in your current workplace. Surround yourself with positive people who focus on innovation and results. No matter what stage you are at in your career, you can always learn something and grow into another role or assignment. Stay out of office politics and away from divisive, toxic environments. This all sounds like common sense, but step back and assess your situation.

It will make all the difference.

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