When the workplace becomes intolerably stressful, what are your career options? Often, a career path is anything but linear. You may be charging toward advancement one minute, and ready to charge out the door, never to return, the next. Most of the time, you roll with the punches. But sometimes the pattern becomes increasingly intolerable. Conditions are degenerating, work is a struggle, and you leave each day feeling frustrated and exhausted.
When things get tough, take a few minutes to step back, focus, evaluate your position and strategically plan your next moves.
Take an objective look at where you stand.
- What specifically frustrates or angers you about your job?
- Are you at risk of being fired?
- How easily could you find your next position?
- What are your salary requirements?
- What is your career path?
- What are the positive factors in your current job?
Consider the Trends:
Assess the trends and evaluate the future.
- Is this cycle of misery any different from previous ones? If so, how?
- Is the trend toward improvement or are things degenerating?
- Have there been any major shifts or changes? If so, what are the implications? Have any career options been added or closed off? Is top management aware of the underlying situation? Are they taking action? If so, is the action on target to improve things?
- Are co-workers bailing out? Are you saddled with their work without acknowledgement?
Career Options: Choosing a Path
Regardless of the situation, you do have options.
Option I: Tolerate it.
Doing nothing is always an option. You know the cycle, and have lived through it before; you can probably live through it again. Placate the antagonists, do your job and weather the storm. In the short term, this is a low risk option. You don’t rock the boat, and the boat lumbers on.
On the negative side, the stress you continue to experience is disrupting and can be physically unhealthy. There may by repercussions in your home life as you attempt to deal with an overloaded plate at work.
If the trend in the workplace is degenerating, be aware that things indeed are becoming worse, and likely will be less tolerable as time goes on. Things may be out of control, or there may be a purposeful attempt to push you out. In either circumstance, you may be wise to consider a different course of action.
Option II: Seek an internal solution.
This is perhaps the riskiest option. It involves approaching your supervisor, stating your concerns, and suggesting a course of corrective action. If your supervisor is supportive, this can produce excellent results. If not, you may have taken an irreversable step.
In seeking an internal solution, if possible, identify one small area and one small change which can make a material improvement in the underlying situation. It may be as simple as a 15 minute weekly meeting, or adding one question on a form. If you’re successful at this, and the change is incorporated, you can seek additional changes, and work toward improvements.
The inherent risk is that your supervisor does not agree with your assessment, and may view you as a complainer, troublemaker and/or a threat. In that case, expect things to veer toward the worse. You might be able to backtrack to a position of quiet tolerance, but be ready, if necesary, to be involuntarily thrust into Option III.
Option III: Move on.
Regardless of how wonderful your current job may be, and especially if your job longevity is in question, always have Option III in the background. Keep a record of your professional accomplishments. Keep your resume updated and in a current format. Nurture and maintain your professional connections, both in your industry as well as in a wide range of disciplines. You never know who may be the conduit to your next fantastic job.
If you are abruptly fired or quit, you have the advantage that your job search can be in the open. Use social media, job boards and personal contacts to identify possible positions. Check the websites of targeted companies – often there are available positions which are only posted there.
If you are starting a job search while still employed, you may need to search privately. Use your own computer and search on your own time. Regardless of how disagreeable your working conditions may be, you are still an employee of your current company. Conduct yourself professionally.
The Bottom Line:
We all hope to be employed by oroganizations which are supportive, engaging and a great fit professionally. Every job has its highs and lows, and in most cases, there is a positive balance. When conditions are perpetually negative, it is time to evaluate your position, consider the trends and decide on the best course of action.
Assessing your position can be empowering. Take the time to examine your status, consider your career options, and make the career choices which are right for you.