Have you ever wondered if you be more content, productive and successful in another job? If so, you are with the majority. In a recent Workplace Health Survey of more than 17 thousand workers across 19 industries, 70 percent of respondents said they were thinking about leaving their current job and/or already searching for greener pastures on the other side of the fence. 1 But, how does one really know if a decision to jump the fence is an auspicious one?
As an author and speaker on job satisfaction, it is my objective to not simply provide hope for heightened levels of job satisfaction, but to outline specific strategies and tools that when applied through a team player’s mindset, will connect your desires for job fulfillment to your reality as an employee.
The seductive temptation to drop and run from workplace dysfunction must be carefully measured by your why for leaving. In other words, what is the specific source of your discontentment?
The essence of being cautious must be filtered through a decision reality that confronts the unhappy worker with two options: If you are unfulfilled at work, you either change jobs (or careers) or change the way you approach your job.
Although there are certain cultures and conditions in which you cannot and should not remain, for the far majority of employees, changing the way you do your job, not running from it, results in turning up the happiness dial. The subject of changing the way you view and do your work is too detailed for our discussions here and therefore for purposes of this article, I will focus strictly on the key questions to consider when deciding if a job change is right for you.
Beyond the obvious red flags of a toxic workplace – unethical or illegal behavior, bullying, threats to staff, a history of management’s unwillingness to change, disrespect, hostility, unfair or substandard pay – there are four questions to ponder when deciding whether to stay or leave your job.
- Do you feel incompatible with the company’s mission or values? Either clearly articulated or subtle and non-communicated, every company exists for a reason and knowingly or totally unaware, its workers plug into the daily operations of work through a set of company values. When compared to other businesses in the same field, your company’s mission, vision and values are as unique as you are when compared to other individuals.
It is worth noting that most head-butting at work appear to result from value incompatibility rather than competencies or the work itself. To remain in a job where your set of values opposes or competes with the company’s is extending an invitation to stress, conflict and job dissatisfaction.
Once you are clear on your company’s unique purpose for existing (mission), next ask yourself what is the most important thing you do (chief value), where does the company hope to be in a few years (vision), what must you do to help get them there (your role). With clear answers, you can then do a compatibility check.
If the organization’s mission, values or your role does not excite you or is out of sync with your desires, then it is wise to move on.
- Is there is a staff consensus of toxic history within the organization? Have a casual chat with co-workers, especially senior staff. Interview former employees. Ask open ended questions and be careful not to imply dysfunction or accuse anyone.
Robert Kiyosaki once remarked, “The best way to predict the future is to study the past.” If staff turnover has been high, morale is low, management is stubborn, there are no opportunities to grow, there is a sense of unfairness, employees feel like nothing more than a set of hands, there is a resistance to change or staff members do not feel cared for but rather taken advantage of, maybe it’s time to move along.
The critical markers for drawing conclusions from past behaviors and cultural norms are to note the frequency of the claims (isolated instances are not reliable predictors of future behavior), whether leadership has recently changed, if there is little accountability of leadership to staff, if leadership refuses to grow and whether there is a general agreement of validity regarding the specific toxicity.
If your staff reports that dysfunction has over the years consistently strained and negatively impacted the staff as a whole, we suggest you heed Kiyosaki’s popular maxim and begin looking for a new employer.
- Do you have a toxic boss? Before you write off your boss and start packing, ask yourself this question: Is my employer a toxic boss or a bad boss? Yes, there is a difference. And, yes the difference matters.
This differentiation is more than semantics. Although both types are unattractive and bring stress, bad bosses are more benign and workable, whereas toxic employers are hopeless and unreachable. You need to free yourself from the toxic type of individual as soon as possible. But if you work for a bad boss, like everything else about your job, for the most part, you do not have to leave to gain happiness.
Bad bosses come in many distasteful flavors. There are those that demand unreasonable targets, are capricious, proud, obtuse, micro-managers, support-stingy, poor communicators, disingenuous, selfish, procrastinators, leadership incompetent, uninspiring, know-it-alls, indecisive, critical and dare we not forget, those who love the blame game.
As terrible as these sorts are to work with, the degree of dysfunction, chaos and stress they unleash fail in comparison to the immoral, amoral, unethical, indignant, threatening, manipulative, autocratic, abusive, insulting and inappropriate bosses. For various reasons, toxic bosses are unreachable. What you see is what you get … and will continue to get.
You only need to be around a toxic boss for a short time to realize that his or her methods and behaviors are detrimental to your happiness and well-being, as well as the health and culture of the entire organization. The way you feel now around a toxic boss is not going to change.
Your health is more important than wealth or any other factor, so when a toxic boss pumps up your anxiety and stress level, you cannot wish it away or think positively enough to diminish the incremental damage.
Take a moment and reflect back on your feelings at work. How would you answer these five questions?
- Does your boss make you feel awful, even when you are not to blame?
- Does he or she use you to the extent where the win-lose is obvious – both from your and other’s points of view?
- Does he or she threaten your job, intimidate or humiliate you?
- Have you detected a manipulative personality where the boss presents herself/himself as friendly and even empathetic, but underneath the cloak is a running ulterior, selfish motive? This type of toxic boss is cooperative and complacent but only as long as he or she is controlling you and getting something bigger and better from the relationship.
- Do you feel like a tool or instrument, used for the master’s purpose and you know that as soon as you show signs of wear, you will be discarded? This type of toxic boss only cares about your production in so far as it benefits him or her, but is apathetic with regards to your feelings and well-being.
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions and/or are aware of any illegal, immoral or unethical activity from your boss, you are not working for a mere bad boss but are employed by a toxic employer. To continue working here will result in veritable emotional torture or at least, place you in an unsafe environment. For your safety, self-worth and well-being, you have only one real choice: get out as quickly as possible.
Before anyone proceeds to administer the job satisfaction vaccine, one must be wary and wise enough to grasp the reality that for job satisfaction to be fully attained and sustained, both the employee and employer must be committed to their respective roles in achieving win-win outcomes. This analysis is not an arduous task, but will require some reflection over time to determine if you both play by the same rules.
Many well-intended workers become so engrossed in their efforts to be superstar employees, they fail to assess the character of the one who signs their cheque. You only need a brief experience working with your employer to realize the caliber of the decision makers, their willingness to learn and listen and whether or not they are locked in on a selfish mission.
There is no need to allow stress and frustration to take a stranglehold on your health before accepting that your employer is a taker and not a giver. There is never a need to willfully participate in an unhealthy relationship.
If you are like many, your insatiable desire to fix a broken business and create the ideal workplace can blind you to the reality of your position. As employees, we must be ever mindful that we indeed have an integral role in our own job fulfillment but we must also be aware that we have limitations.
If you have at least six months of working experience, you likely know the character of your employer and his or her team player status. You have to be clear on the type of person under which you work. If you continue to work for a poor leader and selfish boss, and choose to remain in an unhealthy culture, you choose the dysfunction and stress as well.
It is with hesitancy I discuss this because I fear many will be too quick to fire their boss and reach premature conclusions. Be cautious not to confuse character with competencies. Toxic bosses rule through bad character whereas bad bosses have competency shortcomings.
When it comes to bad bosses, there is hope. Great leaders are not born; they are grown. Your influence may be all that is needed to grow your employer into a super boss. Do not be too hasty after your first or second disappointment to throw in the towel. Change is a process; not an event.
Having spoken to thousands of employees, I have witnessed many workers’ first failure was to ignore the reality that their boss was fixed in his or her ways and therefore could not be reached. For many disgruntled employees however, their failure to exert the same passion towards investigating the type of workplace dysfunction as towards their efforts to be a MVP, was the root of their demise.
Then there are many who struggle through hurt feelings and frustrations of indignation but never inform their bosses about their feelings. Fortunately, there are many happy stories about how bosses were unaware of their employee’s feelings and once they requested a sit down with their employer, became vulnerable enough to pour out their feelings and expectations, things suddenly began to improve.
If you find yourself burdened with disappointment and stress at work, it is worth the investment to take one minute of courage and request a sit-down with your employer.
Don’t be too hasty to write off your bad boss. Attempt regular positive influence, keep your personal standards high, discuss feelings and ONLY AFTER DOING THIS OVER TIME, perform your assessment.
Before deciding to move along, take some time to become clear on:
- the leadership nature of your boss (Can he/she be influenced towards achieving win-win outcomes, does he/she make a positive impact on his employees, and can he/she be worked with for mutual success?)
- his/her willingness to learn and grow (Is your boss open to change, approachable and is your employer a lifelong learner, beyond his/her area of expertise?)
- his/her past relationships with employees and customers (What is the boss’ track record
in interpersonal and business relations and what is his/her reputation?)
- whether the boss shares your desire for mutual happiness (Does he/she have a good team
standing and a healthy relationship with you).
An honest assessment will then direct you to move on or begin working with your employer as you make efforts to become happier at work. Maybe a trusted friend or co-worker’s assessment can remove some personal bias and blind spots.
- Do you sense in your gut that something is off? Trusting your instincts is often prudent when assessing an uncertain situation. If you feel like something is just not right, you are likely correct. Although you may not be able to pinpoint what it is precisely, if there are signs or feelings that something is not what it seems, we suggest trusting your gut feelings and review suggestion three.
It has long been established that people who quit their work do not leave jobs: They leave relationships. And which relationship matters the most? Hands down, the determining factor for people leaving their job is how well they get along with their manager or employer. In fact, 75 percent of workers who quit their jobs did so because of their bosses and not the position or work itself. 2
The work-dissatisfaction virus that leads to the Nine to Five Syndrome is not something to simply sneeze at or take lightly. Universally, it is taking a pernicious toll on our emotional strength, mental well-being, productivity, happiness and physical health. 3-11 Carefully consider each of the four questions posed above and allow your answers to shed certainty on your decision. If you must work, why not chose a business that meets your personal and social needs while utilizing your strengths to contribute to the wealth-generating activities of your organization? Work does not have to feel like a prison term.
- The Workplace Health Survey collected 17,140 responses in 21 months (June 1, 2015-March 1, 2017). Mental Health America outlines the study and its findings clearly and thoroughly in the online article: https://www.mhanational.org/sites/default/files/Mind%20the%20Workplace%20-%20MHA%20Workplace%20Health%20Survey%202017%20FINAL.PDFn
- Much research has been done on the effect of a bad boss on an employee’s decision to quit his or her job. The results from the bevy of research, including extensive research by Gallup and Forbes, are virtually all in agreement with the one I stated here, cited from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/employees-dont-leave-companies-managers-brigette-hyacinth/ There may seem some discrepancy in the various studies that report numbers from around 50% – 75%, but this variation is due to the focus of the study. It seems that approximately 50% leave their jobs directly because of a boss’ behavior but 75% quit due to factors the boss can control.
- Mackey, J. D., P. L. Perrewe, and C. P. Mcallister. “Do I Fit In? Perceptions of Organizational Fit as a Resource in the Workplace Stress Process.” Group & Organization Management (2016): 2
- Ganster, Daniel C. , and Christopher C. Rosen. “Work Stress and Employee Health.” Journal of Management 39.5 (2013): 1085-122.
- Schneiderman, G. Ironson, and S.D. Siegel, “Stress and Health: Psychological, Behavioural and Biological Determinants,” 1, no.1 (2005): 607 -28; American Psychological Association, “Stress in America: Our health at Risk,” press release, January 2012, www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2011/final-2011.pdf.
- Schnall PLLandsbergis PABaker D Job strain and cardiovascular disease. Annu Rev Public Health. 1994; 15381- 4117 +
- Gallup, Inc. “Gallup Q12® Meta-Analysis Report.” Gallup.com. Web. 02 June 2017. 26.
- Baldoni, John. “Employee Engagement Does More than Boost Productivity.” Harvard Business Review., 07 Aug. 2014. 02 June 2017.