Staying too long in a role can have extremely negative ramifications for a person’s mental health and marketability. If that’s so, you may be asking, what then is too long and how do you know? What can be done about it? Is it necessary to jump ship? All of these are valid questions and require careful consideration. Before taking any drastic measures, it’s probably time to reassess your own goals and have an open conversation about what the organization’s goals are today. Evaluating the organization’s goals to determine if they are in alignment with yours will help you to decide if there is anything worth holding on to and also clarify where changes need to be made.
If you have had a tough time at work for a few months or, heaven forbid, years, then maybe it’s time to examine what has changed from the way things were like when you first started. Has the organization changed its mission or purpose, or simply changed its approach? Are you still playing for the same team or have the players changed? Has a new leader taken over the helm and made dramatic changes? Has leadership demonstrated they are out for themselves or that they have the greater good of the organization in mind when making decisions? How is that demonstrated?
If your team used to get along intuitively but some members have changed, assuming it may still work well the way it always has may not be wise. New people come with their own ideas and may not be privy to what has passed. If new goals have not been clearly stated, then new leadership or new team members may form goals of their own that are decidedly different from the existing team’s assumptions. Motoring along believing everything will continue to happen intuitively may no longer be an effective approach. Feeling like you are constantly scrambling to try to make others happy isn’t pleasant, and continuing the same way without a discussion isn’t going to help you feel heard. But jumping ship may not be the only way to make improvements to your situation.
Jumping ship may not be the only way to make improvements to your situation.
If change has created discomfort for you and for others around you, it’s important to identify what is different. Is it caused by someone new who wants to make a big splash and in doing so disrupts or ignores processes that are already in place? This could play itself out over time, or a conversation with the person could help you find mutual ground. Or is the discomfort caused by something higher up? New leadership may have started a drive to “do more with less.” Tightening of the belt often creates fear or demotivation. Do you know which part of the budget is being scrutinized? Is the focus on reducing staffing resources or is it other costs? Asking for specific expectations or clearer directives from leadership could be a good start. If your team has the opportunity to ask questions and discuss changes, some concerns can be quickly resolved. If everyone receives the same message, then you are all better able to rally together toward a common goal or immediately recognize why things are very, very wrong.
Once you are clear about what is needed and the organization’s/team’s goals appear to be achievable, then you and your team can evaluate what can be improved to accomplish them. Setting specific expectations about desired outcomes and their related time lines will help ensure you are accomplishing what is necessary. Developing objectives and creating visible benchmarks to work toward as you tackle your own projects or your team’s collective workload can immediately improve overall project management and increase productivity. Clear and specific expectations can also help support the development of an agreed-upon process for accomplishing a desired goal. Putting a plan in place with built-in accountability will help you and others improve time management and become more productive. It can also help to improve communication between coworkers or other groups. Specific goals with a carefully thought-out action plan will allow you and others to more easily prioritize, adjust and adapt to changing circumstances. Ultimately, no matter what happens, improving your project and time management skills and making yourself accountable will help you move forward with any goals.
If it turns out that everyone believes the team’s goals are unachievable and there is clearly no support for accomplishing them, then at the very least, you can support each other throughout an ensuing wave of chaos. And to be clear, support during tough times doesn’t necessarily mean to commiserate together. It means helping each other cope the best way possible. It means helping to find each other’s strengths and pulling together to move forward, even if that effort ultimately turns into a beeline headed straight out the door together.
If you continue to face goals that are moving targets or if you are always feeling exhausted, bored or unsure, it’s time to stop ignoring the signs and being complacent. You’ve probably overstayed your stint with this employer, and it is time to move on. A change is needed, and it is essential to take action. Even if you haven’t really nailed down the precise issue that was causing your discomfort in the beginning of the process, creating and/or clarifying your own goals and working through the process of achieving the organization’s goals will benefit you in the end. It leads you to the awareness of what needs to change, what you want to gain by moving on to a more deserving employer and how much is really in your control to make things happen the way you want. To a greater degree than you think, you really can drive your own bus.