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When The Sure Thing…Isn't

Published December 7, 2016

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I have two great friends who just lost their jobs suddenly at one of the worst possible times of the year. These friends are amazing, and they will pull through with flying colors. But it got me thinking about their situations and situations I have been in before. What are the warning signs we should be seeing if we are somewhere that we know deep down inside we shouldn’t be? And more importantly, what can we do about it before we are forced to do something about it. 
The best of intentions lead us down certain paths we are sure are the right ones. We can get counsel from friends, pray about it (if you are so inclined), talk the decision through with family, do our research, and meditate about the decision we are about to make. But in the end, even with all of these boxes checked, we can end up someplace that isn’t a good fit. That of course is super frustrating because we did everything we were supposed to do. We did everything that society told us to do in order to be sure. But we are someplace doing something we don’t love, which is a huge problem. And as renowned chef and author Mark Bittman says, “You’re not going to succeed at stuff you don’t want to do.” Truer words have never been said. 
I would add that you aren’t going to succeed at something you don’t love doing, but you also can’t love it so much that you sacrifice the things that are truly important. So, if you find yourself in this unenviable position what can you do to course correct, and hopefully improve the situation? And if that isn’t possible, what can you do to reset?

  1. Make sure there isn’t a misunderstanding. Seth Godin wrote a fantastic blog post on November 20th titled “Is it possible there was a misunderstanding?” He asks the all important question. Is it possible that you misunderstood the person on the other end of the question? Is it possible that they misunderstood you? The only way to know for sure is to ask the question and be up front about how you’re feeling. That should clear things up one way or the other.
  2. If you take Seth’s advice and there aren’t discernable or sustainable change, than you go back and ask again. Clarify expectations. Make sure you truly understand what is being asked of you. Can you do those? If sthen go do those things.
  3. If you are still struggling than you have to ask yourself, is the mission of the organization you are a part of important to you? Is it important enough that it can transcend a difficult personality? Can you rise above the drama and affect change? If so, great. Mush on and do the best you can in your circumstances and be the change you want to see. If not, see #4.
  4. Be up front with your boss and tell them how you’re feeling. Tell them that while you appreciate the efforts they have made to help you navigate the culture of the organization and assimilate, it just isn’t enough. Depending on your position in the organization, allow for a smooth transition and be available to do whatever it takes to ensure that there is a proper handoff of responsibilities to the person taking your place.
  5. Leave with grace and don’t burn any bridges. Finish well, but get out of there. Life is way too short to be somewhere that you will be consistently frustrated by the people you are working for. Take the passion and commitment you have somewhere that will appreciate the gifts you have to offer. Be that change. Be that difference.
  6. Learn from the experience. What, if anything, could you have done differently? Don’t beat yourself up, but truly seek to understand so that you can prevent a similar thing from happening to you again.

There are no sure things in this life. All you can do is what you can do to vet an opportunity and give it your best effort. In the end you have to be able to pivot as needed because it can be a great organization but be a terrible fit. Don’t allow yourself to be caught in the crossfire of competing interests of work, friends and family and try to balance it all, because there is no work/life balance. There is only life. And then work. There is and should be a constant imbalance and when your focus is on your family and friends, you will make the right long-term decisions professionally, even if no one else can understand why you are doing what you are doing.