A CIO’s Lot Is Not a Happy One

Though tales of ever-expanding compensation packages for executives and claims that companies have shifted their focus from hiring to retention continue to fill business news coverage, a study suggests that this has had little effect on the contentment of C-level employees.

Executive job satisfaction levels are surprisingly low as companies struggle to keep their management teams intact, finds a survey released July 12 by ExecuNet, an executive recruitment firm headquartered in Norwalk, Conn.

ExecuNet surveyed 2,149 executives with an average salary of $221,000. Nearly half (48 percent) reported that they were not satisfied or only somewhat satisfied with their current jobs. Fifty-two percent of those who were unhappy said they were preparing to leave their companies within the next 12 months.

Satisfaction levels varied considerably across professions. IS and IT executives were the least satisfied, with just 41 percent of the group expressing contentment with their jobs. Sales executives, with a 42 percent satisfaction rate, marketing, at 44 percent, and general management executives came in slightly more content than their technology counterparts.

Human resources executives and chief financial officers or comptrollers were, relatively speaking, the most satisfied with their top-level jobs, at 67 and 63 percent respectively.

Across all executive roles, compensation was the least of the senior professionals’ concerns. Cited as reasons for their dissatisfaction were limited advancement opportunities (13 percent), lack of challenges or personal growth opportunities (13 percent), difficulties with workplace culture (10 percent) or a boss not being a good match (10 percent). Compensation came in last at 9 percent.

Click here to read about why a strong economy is putting pressure on CIOs to recruit top talent.

“Chief among the reasons executives leave is that they want to be someplace where they feel their opinions are valued, where people listen to what they want to say and where they have the opportunity to express a point of view,” Dave Opton, CEO and founder of ExecuNet, told eWEEK.

While IT and IS executives expressed similar displeasure with their jobs, the group had its own unique concerns.

“On the tech side, we hear a lot that CIOs want to go to an organization that is going to be on the leading, not bleeding edge, of technology,” Opton said.

IT executives also often found themselves wedged within their organizations between groups with competing demands, and running into difficulties when they had to build bridges, he said.

Read more here about how IT turnover is reflecting a strong economy.

“In the IT world, what stands apart is, first of all, they’re in a uniquely difficult sandwich situation, and what I mean by this is that you’re talking about people that in order for them to do their jobs, they need to be extremely technically competent. They need to translate the needs of their internal customers, their users, and sometimes that happens and sometimes that doesn’t. The users don’t speak that technical language and it puts a person like a CIO or senior-level developer in a tough situation,” Opton said.

Furthermore, when a big installation goes wrong, or a vendor relationship turns sour, the CIO is often the first person kicked to the curb when blame is passed around.

“When something fails, you can’t just lay it at the doorstep of CIOs. They just did what they perceived to be the marching orders of non-technical CEOs who had said ‘Go and make this happen’ but may not have articulated particularly well what they wanted to get out of it,” Opton said.

Yet, when an executive, in technology or another field, is unhappy within his or her workplace role, the blame cannot be entirely placed on the unreasonable demands of others.

“It’s not entirely the fault of the customer. As a senior executive, part of your job is to understand what your customer wants and to be able to translate it,” Opton said.

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