Don’t sacrifice what you have in pursuit of what you don’t
You should switch jobs. Life would be better at a different company.
I mean, they’ve got better perks, better teams, better brand, better mission, better everything, and with none of the problems of your current company. Things would be so good over there. Right?
The reality is, there’s a pretty good chance the new company won’t be much better than the one you’re with now — but maybe that’s actually good news.
Two traps like to catch us all. First, there’s the “grass is greener” syndrome, where we fantasize about all the things we don’t have. The other is good old-fashioned pessimism, which makes everything look unfixable and hopeless.
When these forces collide, the desire to opt-out becomes incredibly strong. That’s when we start looking for a new job or become susceptible to those pokes from recruiters.
Now, it very well could be true that it’s time for you to move on, that it’s time for a change. The truth is, though, that every company has its own set of problems; the grass is brown everywhere. The secret to satisfaction is realizing what’s important to you, finding a place that checks enough boxes, and embracing it for what it provides.
How do you know when enough is enough, and how do you take inventory of what matters most? Let’s start by digging deeper into why the next might not be better than ex.
The company you work for doesn’t matter
Lie number one in the book Nine Lies About Work is that the company you work for matters, i.e., it doesn’t.
Authors Marcus Buckingham & Ashley Goodall explain that significant research has determined what makes happy, productive employees. The way this is done, they say, is by asking lots of questions to lots of teams. Then, you take responses from the highest performing teams and compare them to responses from average & low-performing teams, and look for the trends.
Through this process, the ADP Research Institute has determined that the following eight specifically-worded aspects are strong indicators of a high-performing team:
1. I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company.
2. At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.
3. In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values.
4. I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.
5. My teammates have my back.
6. I know I will be recognized for excellent work.
7. I have great confidence in my company’s future.
8. In my work, I am always challenged to grow.
These “pulse statements” are genius. It’s not obvious at first glance, but they aim to measure an employee’s sense of self (even numbers) and team (odd numbers) in each of four different categories: purpose (1 & 2), excellence (3 & 4), support (5 & 6), and future (7 & 8).
High marks indicate someone who feels good about themself, their team, and their company. Given the reliability of these indicators, one would assume the best companies have higher scores than bad companies.
But that’s not what Buckingham & Goodall found.
Instead, they discovered that companies good & bad alike tended to have the same distribution of responses. There was more variance between teams within the same company than between different companies. In other words, your team matters; the company doesn’t.
But what about all the articles and research that goes into those “best places to work” lists? Buckingham & Goodall tell us these are important influencers of why we join a company. The culture and perks are there to sell future candidates on the promise of lush, green pastures.
However, those coveted perks like 20% time, gym memberships, and free lunches lose their luster quickly, and then you’re back to the reality of being mostly at the mercy of your team. Their research supports this, too. They found that members of a good team at a bad company will stay longer than those on a bad team of a good company.
Okay, so it’s the team that matters. That doesn’t change the fact that things might not feel super rosy where you’re at. How do you know when enough’s enough?
That’s a very personal question — one that’s going to be very different for everybody since we’re all at different stages in our lives & careers and have different needs & values.
Indeed, a great place to start is by self-reflecting on your own responses to the eight pulse statements above. If you’re feeling bad on most of ’em, that’s a red flag. It doesn’t mean there’s no hope, but it’s not great for your long-term outlook. (If you’re in that boat, my suggestion is to have a conversation with your boss. Tell them about ADP’s research and your responses. Consider a similar conversation with the team.)
I also love this article by Jessica Donahue, PHR. She describes a coaching conversation she had with her boss where her boss asked her to “take stock of what’s important to you at work and put those things through a force-rank.” Her boss asked her to consider things like the people she works with, growth opportunities, job flexibility, and how much money she made.How to Help Your Team Figure Out What They Value Most in a Job
Because no job or company is perfect all the time.medium.com
In other words, find what matters most.
And in her case, she determined that her company’s lack of profitability — the thing that had her questioning if it was time to move on — wasn’t as important as the things her job did provide. Her top 3 needs were being met really well. That realization helped her to overcome, in her words, a piss-poor attitude. She ultimately stayed with the company through bankruptcy and liquidation.
Every career is going to have its ups and downs. We’re all going to have moments where things feel less than great. It’s impossible not to look out the window and dream about what could be.
Consider what you’re leaving behind before you jump ship, though. Acknowledge that no matter how careful you are — no matter how much research and diligence you pour into searching — you’re about to enter into a game of team roulette that will ultimately decide your satisfaction.
The team matters most, and leaving a great team for a lesser one isn’t easily undone. Make sure you’re not already sitting on a great thing before being lured away by another company’s shinies. Know what’s important to you, and discuss your needs that aren’t being met. You might find it’s easier to unlock happiness by fixing your everything-except situation than it is to throw everything in the air and hope for something better. Fixing it benefits everyone.
Finally, if you go through all this — your engagement scores from the pulse statements are low, you’ve determined your most important needs aren’t being met, and you’ve had conversations with your boss to no avail— then maybe it’s time for a change. Part of the gamble is that you might end up in a better place, right? Take solace in knowing that you’ve exiting for the right reasons, and find that better something.
This article was originally published on ILLUMINATION on February 15, 2021.
Thirsty for more? Try the book mentioned in the article, Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World. Note that I use affiliate links when linking to products on Amazon. Thank you for your support!