I frequently talk to professionals who are dissatisfied with their jobs. I find they are unhappy for too long or they react drastically and start sending out resumes after one bad day. I recommend an approach that is more measured and somewhere in between. If things aren’t going well at work, here are five things to try before deciding to leave.
1. Talk to your boss.
If you are feeling unhappy but believe there is potential with the company and your role, meet with your boss. Express your points in a positive and productive way, offer solutions to some of the issues and ask for ideas to improve things.
Heads-up; with some managers, the conversation may not go well. They may take it personally, and that can make it difficult to have a productive, honest two-way discussion. In a non-threatening way, try to prepare your boss in advance for the conversation, so he or she is not caught off-guard and is more open to what you have to say.
Remember, one conversation doesn’t always do the trick. You may need to plant a seed and revisit the topic after your manager has had time to digest the information, talk to others and reflect on your ideas.
Always choose your words carefully; avoid accusatory language and a negative tone. I know it’s hard; you may be dealing with a terrible situation that’s taking a toll on your everyday happiness. But, if you portray yourself as a disgruntled employee with one foot out the door, you will have very little chance of helping your boss help you.
2. Follow up, but give it time.
If, after your discussion, your boss tells you changes are on the way, be patient. People are busy dealing with many things at work. While your situation may not be their top priority at the moment, chances are they will get to it. That said, you should feel comfortable following up after a reasonable amount of time – even a time period you suggested during your initial meeting – to see how your requests are progressing.
3. Talk with people outside of work.
As a recruiter, I spend a large chunk of my time talking about candidates’ frustrations. A trusted recruiter or family member is a safer confidant to become animated with rather than your boss or someone at work. If you often raise concerns with your boss, you may earn the “complainer” label. If you vent to coworkers, word travels and people talk, it may not be your best move.
4. See what’s out there.
Set aside some time away from the office to look at job descriptions, interesting companies and work opportunities. This can help you better understand what you have and what’s out there and to make an informed decision. This approach will help you avoid making a rash decision about your next move.
5. Don’t wait too long.
Keep an eye on your job satisfaction. I picture a gauge with a needle, and if it moves to down to a six out of 10 for instance, you may want to take action; when it falls to a three or four out of 10 it may be too late. Waiting too long puts you in danger of running away from a problem rather than making a logical, strategic career move.
Talking about your frustrations in a productive fashion and keeping tabs on the progress over a given period of time may help you decide whether you want to stay or leave. Too often people let it fester, wake up one day and take drastic action to complain or quit or launch a job search without having had some checks and balances along the way. We all have bad days; you don’t want to make a career decision based on one.
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