Should You Make a Move?
We’ve all experienced it at some point or another in our careers: New management comes in, and suddenly a surge of closed-door meetings has the office buzzing. Or a new boss is hired, and you quickly sense tension throughout your department. Sometimes you can’t quite put your finger on it, but something at work just doesn’t quite feel right.
These are all signs your job could be jeopardy, and experts say more often than not, the problem isn’t just in your head. “When you feel threatened, you usually are,” says Ellis Chase, president of EJ Chase Consulting, a career and executive coaching firm in New York City and author of “In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies That Work.” Here, Chase and other experts reveal the red flags that should have you polishing up your resume.
Red Flag: Your Boss Changes Her Attitude Toward You
Regardless of whether you and your boss currently have an awesome relationship or an arduous one, if you notice changes in the way she treats you — from something as seemingly innocuous as avoiding casual conversation to the more concerning move of taking away some of your responsibilities — it could be a sign your job is in jeopardy.
First, try reaching out. “If you’re feeling excluded, follow up [with your boss] directly, if you can,” says Michael Townshend, owner of Carpe Diem Coaching in Silver Spring, MD. “If you can’t — if you feel that it would be way too awkward — that means something, too.”
If you do schedule a meeting with your manager, be sure to keep your check-in positive. “Go in and say, ‘I’m doing some self-assessment and I want to know what your advice would be as to what I could be doing that would make me a stronger performer,’” Townshend says. This gives your boss the opportunity to give you honest feedback and also lets her know you’re an ally, rather than an antagonist.
Keep in mind, however, that your boss could be experiencing her own stressors, particularly if your company is under new management, so take her responses at your check-in meeting at face value. Sometimes if they’re less-engaged, it means that they are preoccupied themselves, Chase says.
Red Flag: You Have a New Boss (and There’s Tension)
In today’s tenuous economy, this may be something that happens to you on a yearly basis. And while the fact that you get a new boss isn’t a warning sign in itself, how this person treats you can be. “If your boss is being mean to you, or your boss is ignoring you, it can be a blow,” says Stacy Kim, certified career and life coach and founder of Life Junctions in New York City. “But rather than jump to, ‘Okay, now I have to find a job,’ ask yourself, ‘Now what do I do?’”
Why temper your gut reaction? Because it doesn’t always mean the end is near. “There are always mixed messages with a new boss, because she may be more effusive or is putting out signals that aren’t necessarily true,” says Townshend.
So, what can you do? Kim suggests asking a mentor for advice on how to deal with your new boss. Or reach out to her directly so you can understand what her expectations are for you, and get a chance to show how you can support her objectives. If the situation doesn’t improve after the dust settles, start putting out feelers to see what other opportunities are out there.
Red Flag: You’re Being Left Out of Meetings You Once Attended
This, experts say, is a telltale sign. If you’re being left out of decisions or meetings, or a formerly well-connected boss isn’t connecting to you as much, you should activate your network immediately. But don’t jump to catastrophe mode quite yet. If you think you’d like to stay within your current organization, start paying more attention to new opportunities your HR department announces or reach out to trusted colleagues for more information about the environment and working relationships in different departments.
If you’d feel more comfortable at a new company, put out feelers to your external contacts. “If you’re not involved in professional organizations or building relationships, I would get really involved with that right away,” Chase says. In fact, whether your livelihood feels threatened or not, you should always be maintaining your network, he adds. “It shouldn’t be, ‘I’m going to build a network when I lose my job.’”
Red Flag: Your Company Announces It’s Headed in a New Direction
New management comes in, and though you still have a job, it’s not what you originally signed up for. If such a change doesn’t excite you, you need to ask yourself a few key questions. “The first one is, ‘Is this the organization I had hoped it would be?’” says Townshend. “’And if it has changed, am I foursquare behind the change, or is this problematic for me?’ That is a set of questions only you can answer.”
And the answer you come up with will be a huge sign, he says. “If you can self-assess that staying with the organization is going to cause you some inordinate amount of stress, you’re better off making the move earlier rather than later,” he advises.
Red Flag: You Feel Uncomfortable
Amid any kind of change at work, you may find yourself wondering if your current job is the right one for you. That’s normal. The issue is when the problem persists. “In a way, you can always answer this question on a Sunday night,” says Townshend. “Are you looking forward to work? Are you dreading it? If you can gauge that, then you’re answering part of the question of whether you should stay.”
And if the answer is that you are dreading Monday morning, it’s time to start researching your viability as a candidate in today’s economy, says Chase. “You’ve got to test markets and do informational interviews and find out: ‘Is it my work, or is it me?’” Especially if you are midway through your career, you should be focusing on making your career choices fit you, rather than making yourself fit into a career, he adds.
This is where women tend to get fearful, says Kim. “We think, ‘Oh the economy is bad, there’s nothing out there,’” she says. “Well, you won’t know until you try it. Take baby steps. If there is someone in your network you’ve always admired, find her email or phone number and say, ‘Can we get together for coffee?’”
Red Flag: You Feel Too Comfortable
Being comfortable can be a bad thing too. If you’re too comfortable at work, you’re likely not very engaged — something no boss likes to see. “If you have a burning desire to go and do something different, but your job is so comfy that you’re not pursuing that other thing, then isn’t that a shame?” asks Kim.
And like before, she says you won’t truly know if you’re too comfortable until you test the market. “I have women who go out and explore and then say, ‘Oh my gosh, I have it so good right now!’” she says. Appreciating your current situation drives better performance in the future — something every boss likes to see.