Written by Russell Johnson
Do you have an uncomfortable feeling that maybe your job isn’t the right one for you? That you’ve given it a fair try, and the feelings you’re experiencing reflect a problem with your organization rather than with you?
Perhaps you sense that there’s a better opportunity out there, and maybe it’s time to find it?
It’s logical to examine yourself, of course. But sometimes we all just make the wrong choice and need to change it. In any case, organizations change over time. If what felt right to you when you signed on to your present path is no longer feeling right, it’s probably time to examine your options.
If you can’t change whatever’s wrong, you’ll only harm your present and your future by trying to ‘sweep the problems under the carpet’. Maybe it really is time to leave.
Here are three danger signs to watch out for. They may be subtle at first. Know that the best time to catch them and act is in the early stages. Even one of these danger signs can erode your morale and confidence without you realizing it’s happening. And that can stop your growth in its tracks.
1. Are You Dissatisfied with the Culture or Purposes of Your Organization 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 realize that the accepted behaviours of your organization 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 organization’s culture or its purposes, you may be able to find a way to help change them. You will harm your image of yourself if you try to fit in with them, however. It would be best if you found an organization where you can succeed by being true to yourself.
2. Are You Facing Unreasonable Expectations or Pressures?
In a competitive world, organizations 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, harsh though it can be, has delivered ever-rising standards of living even in the countries to which jobs are outsourced at a fraction of current costs. The global economic system that is driving this change is the result of humanity’s collective choices (including the choice for inaction in many cases).
On the other hand, you can change the pressures you’re facing. You can choose not to accept unreasonable expectations. And 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 is impossible, 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.
Firstly, recognize that in today’s economy, we are all a business of one. If you don’t like the path your current organization offers you, then you need to find another one.
You may simply need to market your own business better.
3. Is Your Company and/or Industry in Decline?
The old saying that a rising tide lifts all boats is true. So is its opposite. An industry or organization in denial about the effects of change is already on a short but ever more stressful journey toward its demise.
If you’re not able to change this, then you need to change jobs, or possibly even reinvent yourself and pursue the path that now motivates you. Do it while you’re still employed and can do so without undue stress.
If you’ve been trying to make a move and are finding it difficult to find the right role, then get high-quality professional help. The investment will be tiny by comparison with its benefits.
The default position of most people, unfortunately, is to stay and deny what might be evident to an outsider, in an attempt to avoid the pain of change.
You can’t help those who are committed to that path. The best thing you can do for those who are staying on is to set a good example, by leaving.
Taking the Strategic Path
If any of these three warning signs are present for you, then ask yourself whether it’s possible to create a situation that will meet your requirements within your organization. Within a reasonable time frame.
If so, it might make sense to stay. If not, you probably need to plan your exit.
That point – planning your exit – deserves to be emphasized. Without a reasonable amount of planning and careful implementation, it’s all too easy to ‘go from the frying pan to the fire’.
Many people do that, and then try to move on again. It usually begins a downward spiral, where options progressively become more limited.
No employer wants to hire a ‘job hopper’. Becoming one can cause terrible harm to your morale, your marketability, and your future.
However, while the impulse to quit immediately is usually not the right one, inaction can be even more dangerous. You can create a much better life for yourself, especially if you get suitable assistance. And the search for the right role usually can be conducted without leaving your current job.
If you find that you need to act to improve your circumstances in your current job – or to make the transition to another one – then do yourself a great favour and do it. Excuses for delay will only harm your future.
We can’t avoid the pain of change; it will come whether we want it or not. However, we can override the tendency to deny what is happening in an attempt to avoid it.
The discipline of embracing strategic change isn’t easy, but it’s a far better choice than its alternative, the pain of regret.