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Why It’s So Hard to Leave a Job (Even the Ones We Hate)

Posted by | March 26, 2015 | Change, Jealousy, Leadership, Productivity, Workplace

Via LinkedIn : I’ve just watched Fiddler on the Roof with my youngest. It’s a movie rife with traumatic life changes and the subtle, yet inevitable evolution of tradition. Just as the family in Fiddler, my grandparents left Europe under nearly identical circumstances. They were faced with the challenge of leaving everything behind to start anew. I cannot even begin to imagine everything they went through. (I’ve heard bits and pieces of their journey.) But, they managed to find their way and embrace a new path.

Change had forced them into a new life.

I fully understand why my family would have feared what the future held. However, I’m not entirely sure why we have such intense difficulty embracing career change. Leaving a role behind or even an organization seems such a traumatic experience — often avoided until we’ve been stretched into someone completely unrecognizable. When we do finally move on — it is often viewed as a stigma. There is that uncomfortable pause when we hear of a transition. Why did she leave? Was he let go? Will she find another role? Where will he land next?

We rarely consider that a transition could have been planned or embraced.

Personally, I now view career moves as an inevitable occurrence — not unlike the coming sunrise and sunset. People evolve. Organizations change. When we move on seeking balance and fit, it is often for the best. These are transitions, not sentences. (I’ve been through a few. Reflecting back, most were needed.) We should always seek an environment (and a role) that allows us to thrive as contributors. Unfortunately, certain conditions block our way.

A few examples:

We’ve been conditioned to hold on for dear life — long after the chances for a meaningful exchange have past. Often the psychological contract which serves as the foundation for a healthy employee-employer exchange has already been broken. However, we fail to examine this exchange and remain. Often we are physically present, yet mentally absent.

We expect everyone and everything to remain static. As a result, we are unhappily surprised at each and every turn. Interestingly, we are most inaccurate about how we might change — and can rarely envision our “future self”. The roles that fulfill us now, will not be the same roles, five years on. We need to actively prepare for this. (Learn more about the “End of History Illusion” here.)

We fail to have honest conversations about our needs/skills and how these align with the work. We avoid these conversations — and the culture of an organization can unknowingly stand in the way. So, ultimately we are left at a loss. We stay in roles that do not suit us — and keep team members with us that are virtually stuck in neutral. No one wins.

We don’t discuss how career paths are affected by evolving organizational initiatives. Moreover, we ignore the daily learning and development needs to support that internal evolution. In many cases we do not provide the fuel that contributors need to meet those changes effectively.

We can only address these issues through open conversation that encourages a needed level of honesty. This must be openly supported by the culture of the organization. We should discuss what we bring to the table, what is expected of us and what we can expect in return, career-wise.

If after all is said and done, it is best that we move on to something new — this should be openly discussed as well. It’s not a tragedy. It is simply acknowledging change.

We should be ready and willing to have these conversations. Moreover, organizations should encourage and facilitate their completion.

If not, I fear we will not be ready for what inevitably arrives next.

When was the last time you spoke about your career goals and how they align with organizational initiatives? What happened?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is Senior Consultant at Allied Talent and brings The Alliance Framework to organizations. She also serves as Director of Thought Leadership at Kilberry Leadership Advisors.

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