This is what happens when you ask Twitter what you could write about when you want a bit of writing inspiration…
@sukhpabial ok….how about the psychological impact of realising you've no choice but to leave an organisation??
— Neil Morrison (@neilmorrison) October 24, 2013
Wow. I mean you may as well have asked me to write about how the psychological contract in an organisation is broken before it’s even begun.
There was a time not so long ago when it was deemed crazy to have what we now call a portfolio career. Job for life was the attitude of the day, and the only way to get more pay was to become a manager. Gosh how times have changed. If you’re in a position for more than three-five years people start to question why, and think you don’t have ambition or drive to earn more.
I think, though, this portfolio career brings with it some unexpected repercussions.
1) People start to think more of their abilities than are the reality. They believe they have earning power because they have a particular skill set, and that this can drive their future career prospects. This presents a very sombre reality where these people are left wanting because their desire and dream is not being matched by the job market, and not being snapped up at a moment’s notice by potential recruiters. That’s a harsh bit of feedback right there.
2) If we’re moving from one position to the next, when are we bothering to take the time to attain mastery? That’s the real currency right there, not experience, but a skilled craftsperson. It’s easy to get caught up in the zeitgeist of building a brand for your name. What this doesn’t do, though, is allow for reflection and careful development of your craft to truly offer something of value. True skill also breeds confidence and determination.
3) You just stop giving and trying at work, and that serves no one – especially yourself. There’s a lot written about employee engagement these days, and what we forget is that a person can be engaged, but this doesn’t always equate to productivity. Which begs the question of why we’re bothering with engagement at all then? When you lose your mojo, you’ve already left the organisation.
4) We just become selfish and look out for our own interests, and assume everyone else should do the same. There’s some sense to this, because the only person who can make things happen is you. What I mean here though is that you just stop caring about others around you, and are only interested in how things affect you. I struggle with people like this, because I have a fundamental faith in people which is about everyone being their best self.
I don’t know when you should leave the organisation, and Lord knows there are myriad reasons for justifying it. I make point of the above only to balance the accepted wisdom about leaving to make a better career for yourself.
I’ve not considered here the impact of poor treatment in the workplace which necessitates leaving the organisation. Thankfully we have laws and procedures that protect people against such things. And, also thankfully, companies do try to uphold these obligations.
To come to a sense of forced leaving though isn’t easy. To reach a point where the work environment is doing you harm – either physically, emotionally or mentally – and you are exhausted by it is hard. We need to be better as managers in spotting the signs in our people that they’re not happy. And in other cases senior managers and leaders need to understand their own impact on teams that may be having detrimental effects. If work is meant to be a force for good, it constantly amazes me how easy it is to make it hard for people.
We always have a choice in everything we do. It’s the debate that persists in life – those who believe they have a choice and act accordingly, and those believe they don’t and act failingly.
For me, though, leaving an organisation should genuinely only happen when you can say with some confidence that you might leave the organisation a better place because of your efforts. Imagine that as a legacy statement. Imagine that as a condition of recruitment and employment. Imagine that as a condition of remuneration and increase in pay/responsibility.
There is a lesson here. Don’t ask Twitter for a topic to write about when you’re seeking writing inspiration.