Considering Greener Pastures in Work Situations

Two years ago, I wrote my impressions of Suzy Welch’s article about comfortable careers. The article I wrote, Considering Suzy Welch’s Velvet Coffin, concluded it is often best to stay in a job, even when there is a circumstance in which you are less likely to grow professionally or as an individual. Spontaneously exiting an organization is not a good idea in terms of society’s structure around economic exchange in order to live. Instead, endure situations as there is always the possibility they can turn around.

Mrs. Welch has also written a short article describing the 4 signs you should quit your job immediately. I still think immediate is an adjective that leans more to the spontaneous than prudent deliberation would allow. However, there are a few things to think about in any position. After 2 years, I think I can expand on the points in the original article I wrote.

Relationships. Very few jobs will be productive without solid relationships between you and the people you work with. I’ve heard people say that it does not matter if people like you as long as you get the job done. I’ve heard that for decades (except on 1 or 2 occasions).

  • A false statement. It does matter and it matters a great deal. Here is why:
    • Bad relationships = Overt or subtle back-stabbing. That can undermine your ability to “get the job done” and eventually lead to either self-termination or waltzing into situations that produce involuntary termination.
    • Conflicting agendas = When person to whom your are bound become at odds with others, that can create a type of relationship fallout that sweeps up even the most apolitical personalities. The result is a weakened ability on your part to collaborate productively due to you not being on the same page as those “at war” with other personalities because you personally have no issues with those “others”.
    • Lack of Trust and Openness = An increased awareness of the discrepancy between what people say and what they do. Many of us are capable of overlooking slights against us or absorbing an increased incidence of error from collaborators (small or large). However, the more you notice a pattern of bad information, contradictory statements, and growing, subtle criticism veiled behind non-verbal expressions, then you become further removed from congruent action and acceptance by those who you most need in terms of regular collaboration.
  • Perception is reality. A common phrase managers have mentioned to me in the past is “perception is reality”. Is that really true? When I was younger, I often dismissed phrases such as this. I do not hear that phrase as often these days. However, I’ve grown to realize that what is in a person’s mind is of central relevance to how they view others and understand situations and other people.
    • False Perceptions = Your undoing. Once a bad perception about you begins to take hold, it is often too late to reverse it. The energy you put in to dispel false perceptions can often be a poor investment due to the fragile nature of relationships and unspoken preferences. Impressions do matter as do authenticity and you have to find situations in which your authentic self is naturally the right impression for the environment.
    • Disagreement on Form = Eternal political warfare. You may be good at what you do and have a track record of delivering results. However, all it takes is the right person or persons who disagree with the form of your results to find yourself undermined at key junctures. I have seen situations in which a peer or other colleague fundamentally disagrees with the way you do things (or sustain the status quo) and that can lead to others with whom they have better relationships to attain false perceptions around your work. Before you know it, your proposals fall on death ears; you are on the receiving end of efforts to steer things around your role; or others generally distance themselves away from you. It is obvious you can never live up to their standards and it is even worse when they are regular armchair quarterbacks.
    • Winning is Everything = High risk for losing. Perceived loss of political contests can sometimes result in the emergence of a vulture like quality among those who may harbor dormant antipathy to your position. They may perceive an opportunity to pile on in ways to expand their influence into matters you typically deal with but in which they have little upside contribution. Meanwhile, others who supported your position or whose position you supported may become more distant and less supportive of your personality and operational approaches. You sense quiet disapproval and thus are challenged to imagine that you have a future in an environment in which you must always win and never falter.

You possibly view some of that as know the truth of a situation. You are hired to do certain things and often to do it a certain way. Sometimes however, you have to take what you are instructed to do but still follow the overall consensus of the organization. The organization may want you to go fast, but you are instructed to go slow, the organization may want you to go slow, but you are instructed to go fast. You can ignore the organization and follow direct instructions and still falter. That is a hard lesson to learn and I still don’t embrace all aspects of that truth. That can be easy to work through at times. It is when direct instructions and the organization oppose solid experience, knowledge, and practice is when the true dilemmas can emerge.

Take all that in and yes, there are times in which you must think to yourself, there is a moment for a reset. Sometimes opportunities to contribute start out good but they decay. This can be natural. Some people go through that cycle over many years or decades and others go through that cycle over many months before each has reached the end of productive contribution or acceptance of their participation in an overall enterprise. I can speak from experience that life does provide a chance to step away and discover again simpler modes of operation, perception, and experience that are fulfilling. Each person can lock themselves into a mental prison and the real spirit of what Suzy is talking about thriving as an individual who is healthy of mind, body, and spirit but you have to make the choice when it is the right choice.

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