Know this scenario? You had another impossible day at work, you’ve just
told a friend about it, you finish by saying, “What should I do?” and your
friend shrugs and say, “Get your resume ready”.
Many of us have a hard time accepting the fact that it’s time to get the
resume ready, but when that time comes, and you know it, give it a good finish.
When we start a new job or a new relationship, we put our best foot forward,
we give it our best shot, we're full of enthusiasm and inspiration. But what
about when we want out? It's just as important to end things well as it is
to begin them well.
Let's say you have a job you can't stand but you need to stay there for
a while, for whatever reason. How can you manage each day so you don't sabotage
yourself by poor work performance and/or alienate people whose goodwill you'll
need later for references? Your attitude is going to be crucial at such a
time because you want to make what I call "a graceful exit." This means managing
your emotions. What can you do?
- Understand your emotions and manage your reactions. It goes without
saying that the whole thing can put you in a bad mood, but if you approach
your day that way, it's going to make a bad situation worse. Spend your time
collecting yourself in the morning, allowing extra time for this if necessary.
Eliminate as many sources of stress as you can (get up earlier, shift a chore
to your partner) and have yourself collected before you arrive at your desk.
Don't dwell on what you hate. Focus on something positive, or, if you can't
get there, on something neutral.
- Find a good listener. If you can ventilate about what's going
on, it can help you manage your attitude when you're at work. Your partner
or your mother may not be the best choice for this. They aren't objective.
If they sympathize with you, they'll be emphasizing what's bad and that's
not what you need. If they don't sympathize with you, and say things like,
"Well, life is tough," or "Quit talking about it and DO something about it,"
this will escalate your sense of frustration. Coaches are a good resource
at such a time because they're objective and trained in this area.
- Realize it's temporary. It's just a stop along the road, so make
plans for the future, and conduct yourself in such a way you make your future
possible. Keep doing your job well. Don't throw the towel in until you walk
out the door, or it may not be your choice when and how you walk out that
door. You want the control to remain in your own hands. Furthermore, doing
your job will add to your self-esteem at this time, and you need that.
- Cushion the bad by adding more good. Your job isn't your whole
life. There are other hours in the day. Add more to your outside life to
make it up to yourself. Whatever adds pleasure to your life, and a lot of
small things are as good as one big thing. If you can't take a cruise to
the Bahamas, you can get a massage, visit friends, play with the dog, buy
a new outfit, or take a brisk walk in the sunshine. Actually this is a great
time to work on your "self." Many people use this time to shape up - losing
weight, working out, focusing on something they can do something about. One
client of mine temporarily in a dismal situation, managed to lose 40 lbs.
You can bet she had something wonderful to look forward to every day as she
watched the needle on the scale descend!
- Manage both your thinking and your feeling. Don't think too much,
as in ruminate; and don't let your feelings run away with you. If you arrived
at this point, chances are you've thought it through enough. There's no sense
going around in circles. If there were a solution there, you would've found
it. If it's something about the work itself, that's not going to change.
If it's some personality conflict with a person, the person isn't going to
go away, and you've already tried everything you now how to do. There's nothing
new to add to the equation, no “answer,” so it's time to move on. Let your
thoughts move on as well.
- Prepare. You will be leaving, so do a good job daily, but look
ahead. Make a plan. Get your resume ready. Start discretely telling people
on the outside who can help you that you're looking for another job, read
the want ads, and take action. Register with an employment agency or headhunter.
- The balance. It's possible to handle this difficult juggling act
well - of wanting to leave, but being determined to do it right. I have a
client who has a difficult position in a corporation that's failing, who
has endured a long line of changing management, who has nevertheless conducted
himself in such a way, while looking for alternative employment, that he's
been promoted twice while this was going on. This is a model to aim for.
One of the things he does is maintain an active interest in his family, and
in his own meaningful volunteer work.
- Hold your tongue. Other people may like it there. Others dislike
it but need to stay for their own reasons. It's never a good idea to engage
in negative talk and office gossip, and especially not now. Detach yourself
from the complaints of others. After all, they're stuck there and you're
going to be doing something about it, so limit your participation in these
discussions. Say neutral or positive things, or send it back to the owner
of the statement. For instance, if someone say, "This department's never
going to get anywhere as long as XX is in charge," you could respond, "I
know you're having a hard time with that right now."
- The future is related to the present and the past. You're going
to need references. You're going to need the goodwill of these people. Therefore,
don't burn any bridges. Keep your relationships civil with everyone. Limit
what you say about them to people on the outside. It's a small world, and
you know, from listening to others, that it's very hard not to hear a little
"sour grapes" in anyone's discussion of problems at work.
- Outlast it. YOU are the constant in the equation of your life.
You'll get through this just as you have difficult things in the past. You
will move on to other things. Keep your face turned toward the sun, making
the best of each day that you can and doing good work. This will make you
feel better for now, and will benefit you in the future, and that's what's
important, isn't it?
One last tip in reference to time. Spend as little time there as you possibly
can. Be sure and get out for lunch every day.