Constantly overlooked by his boss, Mark was demoralized. Surrounded by talent, he pushed himself constantly to be sure no one outworked him. Ever the high achiever, Mark was heavily recruited his senior year in college by several top firms. Not only was he an outstanding student, but he had won awards for his innovative projects and he excelled in multiple internships. On top of that, he was recognized as someone who not only succeeded academically, but he had been able to apply what he learned in a variety of situations.
None of that mattered now that Mark was in year three at the firm. He was still a very hard working and talented team member, but his boss was currently more enamored with a couple of new additions to the team. Mark had noticed the subtleties of his weekly one-on-one video calls being cancelled and interesting assignments were given to newer members of the team. Of course, having to work remotely due to the pandemic only made things worse. The lack of in person connection complicated his circumstances.
He compared the situation to playing high school football and standing on the sideline, helmet in hand, hoping to go in the game, while the coach looked right past him. He asked me If I thought it was time to leave. Predictably, I responded, “It depends.”
Should Mark consider updating his LinkedIn profile and answering the calls from recruiters? Assuming the job market for your chosen profession is expanding, switching jobs is one solution when you are unhappy with your boss. However, it’s not always the best move.
Here are some alternative actions to consider first:
Schedule time to talk to your boss. Let her know that you would like to receive some feedback so she is prepared.
Prepare to receive feedback. If you ask for it, you need to listen to what she has to say. If your boss is reluctant, or gives you generic feedback, there is another question you can ask. Ask her for “the last 10%.” Explain to her that you would like to hear what she really thinks that she is holding back. The last 10% is often the difference maker in giving you what you need to improve your performance. It is likely the blind spot about which you have no awareness.
Prepare to offer feedback to your boss. She may not ask you, but if she says something like, “What can I do to help you?” be prepared to tell her. It is possible she is unaware of her nuances that have raised concerns for you. She might actually have a great deal of confidence in you and feel she needs to give more attention to newer team members.
Consider how likely your situation is to change within your current organization. How often do changes occur?
that you will be moved to another role, another team or even another division of the organization? What are the chances that you will have a new leader within months? If you like the organization and enjoy the work and change occurs often enough, you might not have long to endure the situation.
Pursue other mentors and sponsors within the organization. If you want to stay, seek out other leaders in the organization and build relationships to help you and your work become more visible. Be careful to be upfront and not appear to be working around your boss. Securing mentors and sponsors is a good practice regardless of your relationship with your boss.
Evaluate your purpose for being a part of your current organization. Are you learning skills and gaining experiences that will enhance your resume and prepare you for your next opportunity? Do you believe in the purpose and enjoy the culture of the organization? Is your long-term future likely to be better staying with this organization? If you answer yes to all of these questions, then you might want to stay for a while. If the answer is no, it’s definitely time to go.
Our discussion helped Mark realize that while his current boss is a big part of his day-to-day work life, there are other reasons that might cause him to consider remaining at the firm for the moment. Ultimately, leaving may be the best decision, but he recognized that doing work he loves in an organization with a great culture can be a rarity. If he moves too quickly, he might find himself worse off than if he waited and sought better understanding of the perceived behavior of his boss.
Career advancement is usually achieved by climbing with care and confidence, not jumping into the next thing every time we are dissatisfied in current circumstances. Click To Tweet Mark decided to wait it out a little longer. One of the relationships he created with a mentor turned out to be the path to his next role. With a little patience, Mark was able to stay at a company he loved and find a new role with a leader that is maximizing his talent. Today, he is crushing his career!
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