It is very difficult to see the end of the road when you have been working at an organization where you have dedicated a great deal of your adult life. It almost feels like your second home. You probably have built relationships that will last a lifetime. Sometimes, you are so emotionally attached to what it used to be, that you cannot see what it has become. What once was a fun place to work; it is now the last place where you want to be. If you can relate to this situation, I invite you to review the following list of flags to look for, to help you decide if you want to quit and stay or quit and leave.
Roll Changed. – Change is part of work evolution. As such, is it expected that our employment role might change from time to time, primarily to adapt to changes in the business. However, it is really important to be aware of what is changing in your role. It is also important to understand why the change and how it will impact you. When your responsibilities are changed and you are not communicated the “why”, it should be a red flag for you to wonder, if the company has your best interest in mind. Typically unexpected changes in your roll, without notification or awareness to you, indicate that you are not part of the long-term plans the organization is preparing to adapt. (Flag 1).
Colleague’s Terminations. – While you might not always know everyone’s individual situation at work, it is possible you can tell who from your closest colleagues is doing his/her job. You can also make a good assessment of who is an under-performer and who is no longer a fit for the organization. Now, when the “solid” employees are terminated for no apparent reason, followed by a simple email indicating “John/Jane Doe is no longer with us”, that is not a good sign. When colleagues are terminated out of anger or because they can’t see the new big boss’s vision, you can add another red flag to the list of signs to look for when the organization is changing directions. (Flag #2).
Increased Workload. – Many organizations have been pushed to reduce the workforce while maintaining the same level of productivity. This puts a tall order on the people who remain at the company and need to pick up additional responsibilities. Most people I know do not have “Extra” time in their hands to welcome additional work. This typically means that any additional tasks will either; compromise the quality of your former responsibilities or you will need to put in longer work-days, work on weekends, etc. We all need to make sacrifices to support our organizations, however, when this increased workload becomes a habit and not a single event, you need to consider if you are willing to accept the new rules of engagement. (Flag #3).
Groundhog Day. – When you start to feel like you have done this before like you are re-living the worst workday ever, ask yourself, is your job still exciting? Do you love what you do for a living? Are you looking forward to coming back to work tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that? If you answer “no”, to many or all of these questions, it might be time to reflect and remember why you join the organization in the first place. Try to find within yourself what motivated you to apply and become part of your team. If you still can feel that spark that attracted you to your position, then feel lucky, because you just might have had a temporary episode of boredom. However, if after searching for that spark, you cannot find it, most likely, your job, your team, your organization has changed so much that it has become a different place. That feeling of Groundhog Day is just the realization that you are mentally and emotionally done with your role. Your inner self is screaming for a change. (Flag #4).
Frenemy. – Everyone has his/her own way of coping with change and challenges. Many friendships are put to the loyalty test when the entity is going thru organizational changes. At times, those who once were work-friends, turn into individuals looking out for their individual personal/career interests, even if this means making work-friends’ life miserable. (Flag #5).
No Leadership. – It is not the same being in a leadership role as being a leader role model. Often, people confuse the role with the individual. When organizations place resources at the top of the hierarchy, without leadership experience and with a number-driven philosophy, organizations tend to fail. These profiles are not successful in managing the business, mentoring staff, and drive customer success. These resources turn to do what they are used to doing, treat everything as a number in a balance sheet. The challenge with that leadership style is that the business, the employees, and the customers are more than numbers. These three groups are the drivers that give life to the financial statement numbers. (Flag #6).
Absentee Management Recognition. – It does not take much, maybe a simple “Great Job”, “Well Done!” or “Keep up the good work”. One of these short phrases can make a world of a difference after completing a project/report/task. However, the lack of management recognition towards your efforts, become an accumulative pile of discouragement, bad feelings, and eventually, a mountain of disappointment towards your job and your superiors. People expect recognition for their work. It should not be assumed that you did a good job, especially when your contributions to the team’s goals are critical to the overall success. Granted, your management team might miss the opportunity to recognize you from time to time. The challenge becomes when you never hear from your management that you did a good job, but always hear when something does not go right or as they expected. (Flag #7).
Hostile Take-Over. – In this day and age, companies are merging and/or restructuring so rapidly that employees do not get a chance to assimilate what has happened to their workplace. While change is a necessity for most businesses, change poorly implemented can be devastating. To make matters worse, the corporate culture is imposed on a workforce not used to this management style, without warning or training or support tools to navigate thru these turbulent times. High performer employees can be distracted from their main focus at work. Employees tend to spend more time digesting what is going on, and less time focused on their job. This situation can be managed if not avoided by properly communicating how the obvious changes will impact each team. It is not a good practice to allow employees to assume what is going on. Nobody likes to get to work one day and find out that things have changed and you just got to get used to it. (Flag #8).
Meaningless Work. – Not many people seek employment to do something that most people do not care about. Most people like to know that their role within a team is meaningful towards the team’s goal. Granted, work is not always going to be exciting. Now, when you balance your responsibility roster and realize that most of your tasks are things that nobody would notices if they do not get done, you should ask yourself why you are assigned to do them in the first place. Most people despite busy work. When all you do is kept busy and you are pushed to the side for important meetings, decision making, or planning strategies, it might be time to assess if your talents will be better used at another organization. (Flag #9).
Lack of Training. – When employees know how to do their jobs, feel prepared to complete the assigned tasks, and are equipped with the appropriate tools to do what is expected, job satisfaction reaches new levels. Employees tend to be happy to spend time at their workplace. If job changes come with the respective training, goals become reachable, and the team functions in a cohesive manner. Management should budget for employee training just like investments are planned as part of business strategies. If you do not remember the last time your received training and your management team does not discuss training opportunities as part of your expected annual evaluation/goal setting sessions, it might be a sign that employee’ development is not part of your organization’s overall objectives. Your goals and your management goals might not be aligned; therefore, it might be time to move on. (Flag #10).
It is difficult to make the decision to change employers. Especially when you have been at a job for a number of years. However, staying in a toxic environment can be damaging to your career, your mental health and it can have a negative effect on the people around you. What is important is to understand where you are and where you want to go in your career.
If your current employer provides you with the road map, the tools, and the ability to continue your career growth and you enjoy what you do, keep fighting for it. Do not let a bad day define your future at your organization.
Furthermore, if you have seen and experienced several of the flags described in this article, assess what you will do about it, develop a plan to improve the current situation, and start implementing it as soon as possible. Most of all, do not think twice about pursuing your future and what’s best for you.
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