Can This Job Be Saved? How to Know When It's Time to Go
By Michelle Goodman
We've all been there. Sunday night rolls around and suddenly we're covered with hives. Or we find ourselves frantically searching WebMD for some exotic new disease to call in sick with the next morning. Or we begin entertaining "kill the boss" fantasies that rival the pink-collar revenge scenes in the movie "Nine to Five."
But suffering from a chronic case of the Mondays doesn't necessarily mean you should dust off your resume and start looking for greener pastures. Some workplace woes are fixable. The trick is knowing which ones -- and how to mend them.
The magic is gone
So you've been at your job a couple years and now you're bored. Or frustrated. Or disgruntled. Sound familiar? It's possible you've just fallen into the age-old workplace habit of griping for griping's sake, says Cynthia Shapiro, author of Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You to Know -- And What to Do About Them.
Instead of pissing and moaning, Shapiro advises, try to tap into what you originally appreciated about your gig and company. If you come up empty, take a long, hard look at your job: Has it changed for the worse since you started? Has the company? Have you changed, perhaps outgrowing the work? If the answer's yes to any of these, it's indeed time fly like the wind.
"I hate my boss" syndrome
Sure, a lot of bosses are crummy managers, but only a small percentage of them are sociopathic misanthropes. "If your boss looks like he's terrible, it's probably just that you're terrible at managing up," says Penelope Trunk, author of Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success.
The solution, says Trunk, is to tell your boss what you need to succeed in your job -- be it more lead time on deadlines or more backup when the workload's piled sky high. But remember, it's not all about you. It's about supporting your boss and doing a bang-up job so that she impresses her superiors. Keep your boss happy and you hold the keys to the kingdom.
"I think my boss hates me" syndrome
But what if you are doing a heckuva job, only to be snubbed when your boss hands out the plum projects, pay raises, and promotions? Maybe you're constantly getting the difficult clients dumped in your lap. Or your job title's changed so many times your coworkers have no idea what you do anymore. Or you just received a poor performance review, seemingly out of the blue.
If no matter how hard you shine, you're ignored or sidelined by management, it's time to wake up and smell the pink slip. "That is not just job ennui," says Shapiro. "That is danger -- you're in the exit lane." And while it may be tempting to sulk, your focus should on looking for a new employer. Pronto.
The Titanic is sinking
When the company's in trouble, your job is too. If you haven't been paid in three weeks or the CEO's starting to blog about how the company's willing to do anything to boost profitability (translation: layoffs ahead), make like the Lutz family in "The Amityville Horror" and get out now.
Your health is failing
"If you tell someone you're in an abusive relationship with a guy and he's making you physically ill, they're like, "Get out, get out,'" says Trunk. "But if you tell them your job's making you sick, they say, 'I know, I hate my job too.'"
As Trunk implies, we're freakishly loyal to jobs that beat us down. Either that, or we're utterly complacent. But it's a safe bet that there's no rule in your employee handbook saying you have to put up with work-related migraines, insomnia, and ulcers. If Sunday night dread is costing you a small fortune in doctor's visits and prescription drugs, it's high time you got out of Dodge.
Quick tips for jumping ship:
- Look into a department transfer. Sometimes a change of scenery or job duties within a company is all you need to feel the love again.
- Before you quit, line up a new gig. When it comes to negotiating salary, employed people have more bargaining power, says Shapiro. A candidate in search of his next paycheck is likelier to accept a lower wage, and hiring managers know this.
- If you think your job's on the line, start interviewing ASAP. You can't lose here. Either you get a new gig, your boss wishes you well, and you part ways (proof your job was in jeopardy, says Shapiro). Or you resign, and your boss offers you a raise and promotion so that you'll stick around.
Michelle Goodman is author of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube. Her articles and essays also appear in Salon.com, Bust, Bitch, Bark, Seattle Times, and several anthologies. She regularly blogs about career change and self-employment at www.anti9to5guide.com.