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Jumping from the frying pan into the fire

I had a conversation with someone recently about wanting to leave their job because the workload had become overwhelming.

One of their comments was…

“Anywhere I go has to be better than this, it certainly can’t get worse.”

I pointed out that it certainly can get worse! Often people get so focused on a negative aspect of their job or organization, they don’t see the good things they have or how other circumstances can be worse.

Some background from this conversation, and other points to consider…

Look for the good. In the conversation I had, the person really did have a lot of work piled onto them over the past couple of years. There were multiple reasons for it, including the fact that the company is struggling through economically tough times and can’t hire the additional staff they need. And the person was highly effective at their job, causing others to give them more because they knew it would be done well.

In the cloud of feeling overworked, however, they didn’t pay as much attention to how much they were being appreciated. As they thought through some of the recent interactions with their boss and others, they started to realize their work wasn’t going unnoticed. They were highly respected and valued. They were getting the maximum salary increases that the company would allow. And they were regularly getting recognition for accomplishments and achievements.

While they certainly weren’t overstating the downside of the workload, it did help to realize the likely long-term career investment they were making and knowing they were valued.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. In difficult times, most companies expect more from their employees. In order to regain financial health, they need higher productivity from every resource they have. While it’s not always the case, it’s not unusual for most companies to be increasing workloads on their employees at the same time. Changing companies doesn’t necessarily lighten the burden.

Furthermore, when loads are increased, tensions often increase as well. Company cultures will usually determine how that tension is exhibited. Do they show respect to employees, express some empathy, and help people understand they are valued? Or do they simply ‘crack the whip’, yell or shame people into submission.

A tale of two companies. There are two companies in my area that are great examples of the point. Both are successful companies, financially. Yet they have very different cultural environments.

One is well known as a very tough place to work. It requires a thick-skin. Managers have been known to scream at employees. There is virtually no loyalty; today’s performance is all that counts. And as a result they have a relatively high degree of turnover and they have to offer significantly higher than market salaries to hire the people they need.

The other company tends to pay significantly below market salaries. Yet they always have people interested in positions there and they enjoy extremely low turnover. They excel at helping people along in their careers. They make people feel valued and appreciated in a multitude of ways. They recognize people that enhance their culture and generally make it a great place to go to work each day.

In the case of the conversation I had. They thought they might be better off taking a job at the first company I described for a bigger salary. They wrongly assumed it couldn’t be worse than what they had now. They were definitely wrong. Even if the workload decreased, the lack of appreciation and sense of worth can make each day much more miserable.

Be careful not to jump from the frying pan into the fire!


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