April 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm #158126
How do you know when enough is enough?
I have seen people who I know to be really great contributors, practically have their spirits broken by being in the wrong environment. Have you?
The story is simple: An eager person takes a job full of promise. They get in and discover that things are not what they expected. Later, they discover that things are worse than they thought. They feel unappreciated – maybe ignored. Certainly not used to full potential. The boss doesn’t seem to be helping.
Has this ever been you? Are you there now?
At what point do you decide that an environment is not right for you?
April 5, 2012 at 5:15 pm #158150
My first thought is that victory is in the fight, not in the circumstance or the outcome. As Winston Churchill said (I imagine him saying this in his London bunker during the dark hours of the Blitz), “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
So, when is it acceptable to step down in “convictions of honor and good sense?” I’d likely quit, if my presence has become a hindrance to the mission or if the organization’s direction/actions becomes morally unpalatable. I may also choose to leave if I have had a change in my life priorities:
- Life Changes — Children are born, my health deteriorates, or a parent needs aid
- Exhaustion — Personal resources (finances) or harm is being done to myself or family (work hours/travel/stress)
- Commitment to Mission — I may decide that the cause is not worth the cost to a life pursuit (e.g. Wilberforce against slavery) and another cause has risen in my mind
However, I am always mindful to ask myself if I’m retreating not in prudence but because I’m facing adversity. One conforting thing to think about is that change is inevitable — The circumstance will not last. There will be winds of change, and also remember that as Victor Hugo aptly stated, “There is nothing more powerful in all the world than an idea whose time has come.” That time may be this afternoon, next week, next year, or for the next generation, but if you leave, will that idea have voice or give an opportunity for the idea being inherited?
I’ve certainly left organizations before because of these reasons, but I’ve always figured out a means to support those people who remain on the field by 1) offering off-the-field by mentoring and/or providing financial support or by 2) being an outside advocate.
April 5, 2012 at 9:10 pm #158148
Curt – it’s an interesting concept that you’re suggesting: the ability to offer support “off field” for those “on the field.”
April 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm #158146
The two toughest things that I’ve had to learn, while in that role are:
- I can’t make them do what I think they ought to do. They are carrying the ball and have the responsibility of where it ultimately lands.
- I can’t be proactive in recommending guidance or new ideas. The relationship has been more effective, if it was a “pull” in that they communicate the support that they want. When I’ve tried to be proactive, it has been either disregarded as irrelevant (they don’t see what I see), or it is seen as interference (adding more noise/complexity/friction to the situation).
Have you found this to be true in your experience?
April 12, 2012 at 6:45 pm #158144
Most of us know. We weigh the plusses and minuses of leaving and moving on. Then we wait for an opening and jump ship.
April 12, 2012 at 6:50 pm #158142
I think you’re right, Susan. What kinds of things go into your plus and minus columns each time? Does it chane with each job or are there some things that stay pretty consistent for you?
April 12, 2012 at 7:49 pm #158140
Plusses: I wake up and want to go to work
Minuses: I wake up and dread going to work.
Always stays the same.
April 12, 2012 at 8:08 pm #158138
It sounds like you work to live, not live to work. Am I right?
There is a lot to be said about taking that perspective. I’ve seen a lot of friends retire, and for all but one, the process was tremendously difficult. I think the wrenching source was the fact that a lot of their identity was tied to their affiliation with the agency and the mission that they worked for. Without much monetary renumeration, their “pay” were serving and standing in the breach, and even at retirement, a lot of them had and continue to have a tremendous amount of passion and blood equity in its mission.
The one retirement transition exception is a Naval Accademy grad’, Naval aviator, and one who is one of my best friends and my closest spiritual/career mentor. His lifestyle and mental shift from work to post-work was done with such ease that I hardly noticed a a ripple in his demeanor, stress-level, or focus. I think the key to his ease was that his identity, priorities, and loyalty remained squarely fixed and unchanged: Christ, family, country, and friends. He continued to serve; it was just a matter of a change of location.
What a simply amazingly powerful place to be!
August 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm #158136
Curt, I think I’d enjoy meeting your friend. I’ve seen a lot of difficult transitions, and I admit that I’ve had some pretty difficult transitions myself. After putting so many years, sweat and blood into an effort, it takes a lot of inner strength to watch it crumble like sand castles on the beach within weeks of walking away. It makes us wonder if the initial effort was worth much.
The culture we live in also helps to set the bar for values. When we leave that culture, we suddenly find ourselves surrounded by different value sets.
I like the idea of tying oneself to something beyond the work environment. Volunteerism helps. Family helps. Friends outside of work help. Faith helps.
Good points. Thanks for sharing!
August 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm #158134
Susan, sounds like you’ve got a real yin/yang thing going. Does this provide balance, boredom or conflict?
August 18, 2012 at 12:51 pm #158132
Curt, I have found this to be absolutely true in my experience. Well said!
August 29, 2012 at 8:50 pm #158130
Funny you wrote about sand castles. The day that you wrote the post I was at the beach with my family, and I was watching my son and daughter play in the sand. They were building, creating, destroying, adding, subtracting, experimenting, arguing, and laughing as they worked on their creations. Each was unique. When they turned their attention to the ocean and abandoned their creations, I thought how temporary their creations were in that they will be washed over by the rising tide of the sea, but I also realized something: Their focus was on the moment and interacting with each other and the project at hand, not concerned about the longevity or impact of their creation. It was the experience itself that had value and satisfaction to them. They learned something new (a new skill set) to take with them, enjoyed the opportunity and interaction, and then moved on. . . Hmmm. Perhaps that is something I ought to take back with me as I come back to work.
August 29, 2012 at 9:11 pm #158128
Kurt, I like it! Very Zen. Maybe that’s a lesson we could all take into work. Thanks for sharing!
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.