Protect Your Career and Future By Thinking Things Through
Let’s review from where we left off in Part 1 — the options available to you. . Here is the quick list:
➤ Quit immediately.
➤ Lay the groundwork for moving on.
➤ Present an ultimatum.
➤ Appeal to your boss’s boss.
➤ Appeal to the human resources department and grievances committee.
➤ Get sneaky.
➤ Work it out.
➤ Live with it.
Look at the list and you will see it starts with the most drastic options and moves to more cooperative and constructive behavior. In an ideal world you would never want to get sneaky or appeal to your boss’s boss. But we don’t live in that ideal world (or at least most of us don’t). Still, we want to try to work things out before we escalate into a confrontational process that might make things worse.
Quitting immediately is the most drastic step you can take. It has the advantage of bringing fast closure and ending any suffering on your part, at least in one area. If you quit you don’t have to deal with the things that drive you crazy. Your nutty boss becomes a footnote in your personal life history. However, quitting immediately brings with it a whole host of other possible sufferings. If you quit you need a way to support yourself and your family. You have to deal with that situation, and it could last some time.
Here’s a question to ask: Which will be more stressful, being out of work and searching for a job, or living with the situation you have now with a nutty boss?
Only you can answer that for you. Some people bring new hope and revitalization into their lives by entering the job market and accepting a newer and healthier challenge. Others don’t.
I don’t recommend quitting immediately because I think the next option, laying the groundwork for moving on, is a more rational and planned way to accomplish the same thing. However, I can envision situations where immediate resignation may be necessary. In fact, I did it once myself.
If you’re in a situation where your company or your boss asks you to do something you can’t live with and there is no hope of getting the decision reversed, it may be in your best interests to leave. After all, you have to live with yourself, and sometimes having a secure paycheck means nothing if you can’t stand the person that stares back at you from your mirror every morning.
Here’s an example of a senior executive who gave up a $100,000 government position of great prestige. During a series of layoffs and downsizing, he was asked to compile a list of people to get rid of. His department was already quite small. His view was that if he went along with his superiors, his department would be unable to do what it was supposed to do. He also held the view that getting rid of employees was a last option, and in this case, one that had been used far too often. So he quit. He preferred to be able to live with himself. By the way, his integrity and knowledge stood him in good stead, and he is now doing well, both economically and life-wise. I would guess
if you asked him, he would say leaving was the best thing he had ever done.
So, is your boss (or your company) asking you to do something you can’t live with? Is it against your principles? Will you regret going along with it? If so, then a fast resignation may be the path for you.
One thing to consider, if you are asked to do something you can’t live with and you quit, is whether you are, in essence, giving up and letting the bad guys win. By not
fighting first to change the decisions or actions being imposed, you may be leaving
others in your organization unprotected. Can you live with that?
Lots to consider, huh? But that’s the point. Think before you leap. Consider where you’re at and what you can live with. That’s so important because many quick resignations are executed on the spur of the moment, without thought. Then the poor soul who quit has to figure out what to do with the rest of his or her life.
Laying Down the Groundwork for Leaving
If your boss or company is making you miserable and you can hold on for at least a little while, this is a better strategy than quitting immediately. Really, all we’re talking about here is preparing to leave by quietly exploring other job opportunities or transfers, networking (again, quietly), sprucing up the old resume, and mapping out your potential job market.
I think every employee should go through this process once every five years at a minimum. I’ll tell you why. It strengthens you and reduces fear by reducing the uncertainty associated with moving on. Is that important? Yes.
It’s amazing how much easier it is to protect your mental health and act with integrity when you have in place some plan of action to deal with the consequences of speaking up, or speaking out. Even if you end up
realizing you aren’t that employable elsewhere, at least you know where you stand, and any reduction of uncertainty is good.
So, when you realize your situation is unpleasant, then start preparing that backup plan.
Here are some things to do:
➤ Update your resume-writing skills. Read a book or two.
➤ Redo your resumé.
➤ Think about possible job markets and positions you might want.
➤ Decide what’s important for your next job (money, status, responsibility, a normal boss).
➤ Upgrade your interviewing skills.
➤ Network by joining associations and making some social calls.
➤ Read a few current books on management (if only to know the current buzzwords to use).
➤ Quietly explore transfer options in your firm (but be aware that it’s hard to keep such things quiet).
➤ Do a skill assessment — what are your strengths and skills?
➤ Get a feel for your job market possibilities. Are there jobs open? Are there fields related to what you do now where you could make use of your skills?
You can do these things over time. After you have positioned yourself to move on, it makes using other options much easier. Knowing you have other employment options gives you strength to stand up to that bully of a boss, or the boss that asks you to act dishonestly. And you can continue to try to change things within your company while you are there, secure in the knowledge that if you get your bottom booted out you will survive and even excel.
Preparing to move on is a good holding action. It leaves you with the most flexibility, and can be used with many of the other options available to you. In fact, it should be used with the other options.
Laying Down an Ultimatum
Here’s a fantasy for you. Mary works for a nutty boss. One day Mary goes to the CEO and says, “Get this guy off my back now or I’m out the door.” The CEO shudders with horror (Mary is his best manager), immediately fires the nutty boss, and promotes Mary to the vacant position. Nice, huh? I guess there may be a few people who have brought this fantasy to reality. Heck, it’s a weird, unpredictable world. But by and large it is a fantasy. Companies (and life in general) don’t often work this way.
You can use an ultimatum to stand up for a principle you feel is good and right, or even for your own sanity, but chances are your ultimatum is going to get your rear end escorted out of the building even faster than if you quit immediately. Yes, even if you’re extremely competent.
The reality is people get really pissed off when you threaten them, and an ultimatum is basically a threat.
People take it personally.
So, the rule is never lay down an ultimatum unless you are prepared to leave and can live with leaving more quickly than you had planned.
If this action has such a low probability of success, why do people use it? They get fed up. Or they don’t want to give up just yet. They want to give things one final try to see whether something gets better. So they give it a shot.
Laying down an ultimatum is a reasonable course of action if you’ve decided you can afford to leave but you want to give the company one more chance to rectify what you see as an impossible situation.
Something else you should know about ultimatums. They are power plays. Do you have enough power, pull, or influence to make it work out OK? Here’s some advice.
Far too many people think they are indispensable or irreplaceable. Perhaps there are some situations where that is true, but you’d be amazed how replaceable you will become if you drop an ultimatum bomb on a nutty boss. Don’t overestimate your position and always be prepared to lose.