Alex is a middle manager who seems stuck in his job forever. His boss has been in the position for years and there is slim chance of her moving anywhere. This leaves him little opportunity for growth to next level in his department. There are probably other departments that may have positions but it seems there is already a queue of talented and eligible people out there and finding a one that matches his skills and interests is not an easy task either. He is frustrated, angry and unhappy yet he doesn’t want to create a lot of instability in life by looking for a completely new job. The organization he has been working for many years does not seem that bad but something is in a rut and he cant figure out what.
Is this a familiar scenario. Many of us relate to it , isn’t it?
In this complicated business environment, vertical growth is not always easy. It will not happen automatically or in its natural course, at least not for most people.
This is a challenging life stage but its like a maze. We need to use some skill to come out of it or could be lost there forever – frustrated, angry and unhappy.
The first step in this journey is self introspection. We need to introspect and look at things which really drive and influence us.
Drivers and Influencers
Looking at the drivers of our aspirations, there are a few obvious and a few not so obvious ones
The obvious ones are better job security, financial prospects and lifestyle. The not so obvious ones and maybe the real drivers in many cases are things like if not getting that promotion, do we feel we are not getting our due recognition , does that boss/organization really appreciate the contribution I am doing.
Another could be that however interesting the job is, doing it over and over for a period of time has created boredom and all we really need is a change, do something new, get a breath of fresh air.
The task here is to find what really drives us and will motivate us to want to come to the workplace.
Effects and Impacts
The situation needs to be solved to ensure that it does not have negative impact on our overall well being. For employees who feel they are in a rut with nowhere to get out; the effects on the body and mind could be damaging. Many time such employees would feel tired at the beginning of the day and just carry on with their duties in a mechanical way, doing just enough to sustain. This is the classic negative spiral – some may accept the situation and lead a life with unrealized potential. The more worrisome ones some get very deep into it. Unhappiness in the job affects other spheres of their lives as well – especially relationships aggravating the situation. Its like having a flat tyre in your car. Instead of fixing that one, they go about puncturing the rest.
Most common response
Most common response to such a situation is job change – internally or externally – because that is where we believe the problem is. It is easy to attribute the problems to a crazy boss or stagnant organization – in our view. Our view may or may not be correct. But this is the easy way out – look elsewhere for a job change and change the situation temporarily. This more often than not results in a similar situation that was left behind – because the fundamental problem was not fixed. This is like taking pain killers. It would relieve you of your immediate pain, but does not cure the disease and if done more often – has long term negative impacts. So we need to find a permanent way out.
The Way Out
Coming out of such a situation requires determination and effort and a some structured focus and organization would help
The first and foremost being acceptance– if your boss is not going to move for whatever reasons he/she might have, you have to accept the person as he is. He might not really be the villain, just has his priorities set differently. if your organization growth trajectory is not creating enough opportunities for senior positions to be added, you have to accept the situation as it is. It is not easy but nevertheless it needs to be done. This acceptance of the situation on the ground is the first step and the most important one.
Analyze – Introspect and analyze if the situation is really what you think it to be. Human beings highly emotional as they are don’t always see a situation with the facts, it is through a clouded glass with layers of emotions, prejudices and opinions.
Maybe it is not as bad as it seems and there is hope. You have to also analyze what you are really looking for, what your constraints are and what are the priorities. Will that much sought after promotion really make you happy? Why are you really looking for that international assignment? Is this just a façade and the real satisfaction would come from something else. Essentially you need to find what really motivates you to be able to take on the next step – strategize.
Strategize – Once we have made a clear analysis of the situation based on facts, next step is to plan a response. But before we work out the nitty-gritties of a detailed response, we need to lay out a clear strategy. Don’t we do this for the projects/programs we lead? We need to do the same – for the most important project we have undertaken. The strategy needs to be laid out first – it could be that you discover that there are hidden opportunities in your organization itself. Either you decide to explore those or you decide that something as drastic as exploring options outside your organization/industry is needed. For some it could even be exploring their ideas to start new ventures.
Plan – Once you have a clear strategy, you need to work out the plan of how to achieve what you really want. Day dreaming is not going to help. Let says your analysis says your real motivator is not the promotion but the need for recognition and the strategy you build is to achieve this by becoming a writer. Just dreaming of it wont help, you need to go to the details. Think out in detail what are the subjects you will write about, who will your target audience be, research and plan how you are going to get there. Will it be a blog or a article or a book ? You need to plan the details.
Execute – This brings us to the crux of it. You need to execute. You need to put your heart and soul into getting what you really want. Execution is the difference between those who achieve and those who day dream.
To all those out there for whom it seems “stuck in a rut”, there are enough real problems around you waiting to be solved. All you need to do is be observant and find the one which really motivates you to do something about it. Put on your creative hats and if you could do something meaningful about it, this could be your ticket out of the rut. Success and the paraphernalia attached to it – are a byproduct – so they cant stay far any-ways.
Hrishikesh is an enterprise agile coach with interests in varied disciplines. Frequently writing on Agile and Lean related topics, he also occasionally ventures into other stuff like Artificial Intelligence as well..
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