Last week I spoke with two executive coaching clients who had recently concluded that, in order to reach their professional goals, they would need to leave their current organizations. Both felt, for different reasons, that their work environments were holding them back. Although they had only been in their current positions for a short time, they were ready to go back out on a job search to find new jobs that better fit their needs.
When a work situation is beyond repair or a work culture is a mismatch, seeking a new job is often advisable. What struck me about these two clients’ accounts, though, was how complimentary they were of their managers. Both spoke in glowing terms about the relationships they had with their managers and how effectively their managers led and supported their teams. This is not something I hear often, particularly from professionals who feel that their best option is to leave their companies.
What surprised me even further was that neither of them had spoken to his manager about his concerns. Despite the rave reviews, each felt that talking with his manager was a futile idea. In their minds, there was nothing the manager could do to improve the situation.
It’s certainly possible that there truly was nothing the managers could do. Even the best managers only have so much control over environmental factors that influence their employees. But isn’t it at least worth a try?
Managers like these professionals described are, sadly, all too rare. While they might find other benefits in a new work environment, they will be hard pressed to find leaders that possess their current managers’ leadership qualities.
When you find a great manager, it’s a shame to walk away prematurely.
If you’ve already determined that you’re willing to leave your job and find another career opportunity, why not express your concerns to your manager? You might be surprised. It’s difficult to find good talent and it’s disruptive to the business to recruit, on-board and train new employees. No manager wants to lose a valuable team member if they don’t have to. If they understand your concerns, they might find a way to accommodate your needs.
For example, I recently worked with a client who was frustrated in her role. She believed that she deserved a promotion to a higher-level title but was reluctant to talk to her boss about it. She assumed that, had her boss wanted to promote her, he would have done so already.
Her first thought was to leave her company and find a higher-level role elsewhere. There were a lot of advantages to staying in her current organization, however. She genuinely enjoyed the work she did and had established herself as a well respected resource across the organization. She also had highly strategic internal and external relationships that she was hesitant to leave.
Rather than look for a new job, she crafted a business justification for a promotion and developed a plan for how to articulate it to her boss. After role-playing and building her confidence with me, she spoke with her boss and was very quickly granted the promotion she requested. Had she left her organization instead, this would have been a missed opportunity for her and her leadership team.
Before you jump to conclusions about what is possible in your current position, take the following steps:
1. Do your homework
Think about what it is you’d like to change, i.e. your title, work schedule, or specific environmental factors, and try to find others who have successfully negotiated similar changes. For example, is there another colleague, even in a different department, who works from home a couple of days per week? Or is there someone who has recently stepped into a new leadership position?
Try to learn more about the circumstances surrounding these changes. Is the colleague willing to share with you how he/she approached the situation? Or is there information available elsewhere? If no concrete examples exist, are there influential people within the organization who can provide insights into whether or not the company would support the type of change you’re seeking.
2. Plan for your discussion
Before approaching your manager with your request, think through what you’d like to say. These types of discussions can often feel intimidating or anxiety provoking, so don’t try to wing it. Be thoughtful about how you position your request and how it will benefit the organization. For example, my client who requested a title change spoke about the benefits this would have on others as well. She indicated that a higher title would give her greater credibility and status when interacting with key stakeholders, which would benefit her entire team. And it would give her external clients/constituents the respect of being assigned a higher-level internal contact.
Be prepared for the possibility of objections. What types of questions might your manager ask and how will you respond to them? Do you anticipate any pushback? The more you can prepare for this in advance, the more confident you’ll feel in the discussion.
3. Approach your manager strategically
Be mindful of your timing and approach. If your manager is facing a stressful deadline, this might not be the best time to raise your concerns. Or if you’re behind on an important project, complete all outstanding deliverables before making your request. Choose the right time and setting to have a thoughtful and candid discussion with your manager.
Be honest with your manager about how important this is to you. Don’t make threats or issue ultimatums but let him/her know how strongly you feel about this issue. If you manage the discussion with respect and professionalism, what have you got to lose? You’ve already decided that you’re willing to transition to a new opportunity, remember?
If your current job is not meeting your needs, don’t make an impulsive decision to look for something new. Take your case to your manager before concluding that your only option is to leave.