By Paula Lau
I stared at the shut door in total frustration. Once again, I found myself wondering what was going on behind closed doors. This job at the domestic violence agency had become an increasingly hostile working environment — which is kind of ironic when you think about it. After a number of months working for my boss, I realized that our personality styles and our ways of approaching work and the community at large just were not going to mesh. My biggest problem? I really needed the job and wanted to make sure that my next job was a good fit. I stayed for the sake of my family and our continued reliance on my paycheck. However, I was clearly unhappy and knew a change was in order. What to do?
People today may find themselves in less than ideal job situations, but due to rising unemployment, many are choosing to stay. I heard one person describe it as “hunkering down.” Pretty apt description when the excrement is hitting the fan. Are you one of those unlucky people who find their job uncomfortable (if not downright miserable), but for a number of reasons you have to stay? As you consider your options, a very simple, but good place to start might be with Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” Here are some suggestions when it comes to “the things” you can change.
First of all, begin focusing on what is right about your job. A couple of things to keep in mind are that sometimes the grass may only appear to be greener on the other side. The reality is that many folks have jumped straight from the frying pan into the fire in an attempt to leave an uncomfortable situation at work. Deciding to make a job change is something that requires careful thought and consideration. My husband is currently finding himself caught up in the uncertain insanity of corporate downsizing. He shared that, in light of recent events, his colleagues say things to one another like, “Would you rather have a 5% pay reduction or a 100% reduction?”
In reality, looking for another job is a much more relaxed process when you are currently employed. The worst kind of decision making happens in an environment of fear. Fear over keeping the lights on and food on the table can bring emotional and mental instability. We aren’t able to think clearly. We ignore red flags and look before we leap. Having a stable job, even though it may be less than ideal, will bring an element of relaxation into your job search.
As you think about that job change think about employing outside resources such as a mentor, a job coach or someone who can help you think through your decisions. Do you have a five year plan? Many people make critical life decisions at a very young age (namely our late high school and college years). However, what we thought was good for us then may, in retrospect, seem less than “on purpose” now. Additional schooling may be in order. Many people find the time to train for something that sparks their interest and gives them hope about a new future.
If you find yourself in a truly threatening and unhappy situation at work it doesn’t hurt to start documenting your view of the situation. Save inappropriate emails or voice mails, talk to colleagues whose advice and counsel you trust, and begin planning an exit strategy. Planning to leave and figuring out how to do it can lift you out of depression and hopelessness. Planning a brighter future brings a much needed resource of hope. Hope comes from believing that things can and will change.