Written by Russell Johnson
Are you giving too much in your job for what you’re getting in return?
If this question resonates for you, it may be time to find a new position, either in or outside your current organisation. In fact, it may be well overdue, because a deteriorating experience of work usually erodes morale. This is likely to undermine your future by lowering your expectations and goals.
Because the erosion of morale is gradual, far too many people stay on in jobs they should leave.
The decision to leave may not be easy. However, if it’s time to move on, inaction will cause further demoralisation and thus do further harm.
This two-part article will address seven danger signs to watch out for. If any of them are present in your career, drastic action is probably needed.
Here are the first four:
1. Have You Stopped Growing?
As Ray Kroc of McDonald’s fame used to say, You’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting.
If you’re growing, your working life can be meaningful despite the challenges you may be experiencing.
But if you’re not growing, the rotting process will accelerate over time and getting back onto the path of growth will become progressively harder.
If you’re not frequently experiencing the kind of absorption with your work that makes you forget the clock, or the satisfaction that allows you to finish the day on a high, it’s likely your growth has stopped or is plateauing. If that’s the case, it’s likely to be putting your future at risk.
2. Are You ‘Selling Out’?
Your job may have been fulfilling in the past but somewhere along the way, that has been lost. The gratification you’re receiving now has nothing to do with who you want to be or to become. You’re only staying on for what it provides in terms of status, perception of security, pay or power.
This is the path of alienation – of becoming the anti-hero whose goals have narrowed to being all about you and perhaps your family. It’s too narrow, and will harm you as well as those around you, including even your loved ones. They need the example you could provide, of success through an attitude of abundance and a focus on a wider level of contribution, instead of clinging to a job that diminishes you.
Are you ready to accept such a narrowed ending to the exciting journey you once believed your career could be? If that’s not acceptable to you, it’s time to rewrite the script you’re living out.
3. Are You Dissatisfied with the Culture or Purposes of Your Organisation or Your Area Within It?
Perhaps you’re surrounded by people you don’t respect. It may have occurred suddenly in a situation of wholesale culture change such as often occurs after a takeover. Or maybe you’ve gradually come to realise that the accepted behaviours of your organisation are inconsistent with your values. To fit in, you’d have to become someone you couldn’t respect.
Perhaps you’ve come to see that you want to be part of something more personally meaningful. You want a greater sense of contribution than you can gain by remaining in your current role or industry.
If you don’t like your organisation’s culture or its purposes and can’t see a way you can help change them, you will harm your image of yourself by trying to fit in with them.
It takes courage to reset your course. But you’ll experience the rewards very quickly when you begin building your future in the right role and the right organisation. And you and all those around you will have reason to celebrate the difference you’re making.
Just remember that you don’t have to adjust your standards downward. You can be a light to others instead – a real leader, in other words.
They’re needed as much today as ever.
4. Are You Facing Unreasonable Expectations or Pressures?
In a competitive world, organisations are under endless pressure to do more with less. Only a monopoly can avoid this pressure.
There’s no point in blaming anyone for the economic system that, as harsh as it can be, has delivered ever-rising standards of living, even in the countries to which jobs are being outsourced at a fraction of current costs. The global economic system that is bringing such relentless change is the result of humanity’s collective choices (including the choice for inaction in many cases).
But you can change the pressures you’re facing. If you’re experiencing unreasonable expectations, you don’t have to go on accepting them. If you’re being micro-managed, harassed or bullied, the principle is of course the same. The first preference might be to change your current environment so that it becomes acceptable. If that can’t be done, then the necessary alternative is to leave.
Our economic system has made a fulfilling and balanced life possible for the overwhelming majority of us – especially for adaptable executives and professionals. If this is not your current experience of your career, you may have to make some hard choices to make it so.
This begins with recognising that in today’s economy we are all a business of one. If you don’t like the path your employer’s business offers you, then you need to find another one.
You may simply need to market your own business better.
There’s much to discuss regarding marketing yourself more effectively and in future articles I’ll write about this. In the next article, however, I’ll add to this list of potential reasons to examine as to whether you need to leave your job.