With the start of a new year, it is the traditional time to take stock in many things in our lives, including our relationships, our diet, physical fitness, and financial picture — to mention a few. I would like to encourage you to add your job to that list.
We encounter many people who are consummate complainers. They have a “my life sucks” attitude and they blame everyone in sight for their plight (an idiot boss, senior leaders who don’t ‘get it’, a co-worker us is not cooperative, etc.) What has always amazed me when I meet people who feel this way, is why they haven’t chosen to leave if they are so unhappy.
Anyway, this made me think about how to objectively decide when it is time to consider bailing out. Here are some things you might think about.
The Ship Is Sinking. It is interesting to see why people tend to overlook looming crises and even steadily declining performance. Some warning signs:
- When sales revenues are not growing (or growing slower than the industry or market). Declining top line revenue is a problem and will take away resources from doing just about everything that helps the business thrive. Recessions do happen, but if we don’t have a plan and continue to lose market share – sooner or later the tsunami will catch you.
- When there are prolonged hiring freezes, or we are on a cost cutting frenzy (and there seems no end in sight). You can’t cost cut your way to success. If you see no logical plan or strategy being shared by leadership, they may not have one. This is not good.
- The stock price is plummeting (again – check your PE ration against that of your competitors.)
- All the press reports about you are not flattering.
When you see these things, grabbing a lifeboat early is generally better than being last one to go down with the ship. Yes, we all appreciate loyalty, but no one admires poor judgment. Don’t love a business that doesn’t love you back.
I Have Far More Unhappy Days than Happy Ones. Think about it: over the past month, put all the “good days” on one side of the balance, and the “bad” ones on the other. Does the bad side far outweigh the good? Often I see people who are unhappy at work, but they can’t put their finger on the reason why. If that is where you are, some good soul-searching is in order. Talk to your spouse or some trusted colleague who knows you well. Think and talk about what’s wrong. Once you have identified it, objectively ask “is it likely to get better?” If not—you need to find another home.
The Stress Is Killing Me. Every doctor I know will tell you that this statement is for real. Stress kills. If that is how you feel – whether due to overwork, unrealistic deadlines, a boss who hates you, acrimonious relations with co-workers, or whatever . . . ask yourself when ‘enough is enough’. You may be in an organization whose culture is just not aligned with yours. It doesn’t necessarily make you – or your employer – bad, but a strong mismatch will not lead anywhere good for you. What could be in store if you don’t address it? Health problems, marital problems, diminished healthy friendships outside of work… and you can really mess up your kids.
My Star Isn’t Shining Brightly. We all screw up. We sometimes make political missteps, and sometimes we are not at our best. Once your organizational leadership forms an adverse opinion about you (whether deserved or not), it can be really hard to shake it. You are now the walking wounded. What are some of the signs?
- Your boss talks to you less (or even avoids you)
- You don’t get picked to work on special projects or teams
- You don’t get invited out to lunch with others in positions of authority
- People stop talking when you walk into a room
- People seldom come to ask for your help or opinions
When you get branded this way, it DOES NOT MEAN you are a “B” or a “C” player. It just means that you are so in your current organization. If you stay, you will likely not be promoted, get raises, or be in a position to grow professionally. This is really hard to fight. It may be best to find someplace else that appreciates you.
So Much of What We Do Does Not Feel Right. Sometimes we are a fish out of water, trapped in a place where our values and ethics do not match those of the organization as a whole. People tell “jokes” that to you seem offensive, there may be an overemphasis on metrics over people, the environment may be highly competitive and aggressive, etc. This again, does not mean there is something wrong with your company or with you, but if there is a mismatch between company culture and your value system, this will only lead to unhappiness and stress. (I remember a woman who was from California and was, shall we say a “free spirit” working in a very good, but very conservative company. She felt she had to adapt her dress, her behavior, her conversation style, and so forth. Over time, it really started to wear on her psyche. In the end, job performance she admitted her job performance was impacted.) There is only one answer, and you know what that is
. . . From where I am at this stage in MY life, I am struck by how short it really is. If you are not doing what you love, in a place that appreciates you, and where you feel excited about whom you work with, you need to take a step back. You need to get your life back in balance. Aren’t you worth it?