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In the professional domain, security features as one of the most important motivators, if not the prime motivator, for people to stay at their current jobs.
If there is one thing, the desire of which drives people fleeing across oceans and traversing continents, and the thought of which helps people make it through the unkindest of circumstances, it is ‘security’. It is the affirmation of a sense of security that would lull us to sleep as a baby and send us back to bed as a child. As we grew up and self-dependency became not an option but a reality and necessity, the emphasis of life shifted towards working to ensure a ‘secure future’ for oneself. So over time, while the meaning of security changed, the desire for it never did.
In the professional domain, ‘security’ features as one of the most important motivators, if not the prime motivator, for people to stay at their current jobs. But even something as reassuring as security can prove harmful when it stands in the way of achieving growth and long-term professional satisfaction. As it turns out, more often than not, people prefer to dwell in a prison of their own making and work day in and day out operating in a comfort of known miseries. Overlooking essential factors such as adverse work conditions, lack of effective people management or even an overall dissatisfaction with the professional opportunities available, employees all over the world can often be found choosing to stay with their jobs for myriad reasons.
So, what exactly are these reasons that make people spend a considerable share of their lifetimes tied up to a job that they are unhappy with, thus sacrificing the important work life balance?
To begin with, the conversation around staying at an unsatisfying job understandably begins with the elements of their job that people feel do work for them. For their book on employee retention titled “Love’em or Lose’em”, writers Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans surveyed more than 17,000 employees across several organisations to come to a better understanding of the prime reasons people stay at their current jobs.
The usual suspects arise. The top ten reasons on the list featured expected points such as fair pay, supportive management, benefits and great work environment; in a Utopian world, a combination of all these as well as the other favourable job elements on the list would lead to the ultimate ‘right job’, and hence lead to an ultimate achievement of employee satisfaction across the board.
As it turns out, however, an employment situation ends up being a package – a complex arrangement of elements, some of which prove more favourable to the individual employee than the others, and dilemma arises when the employee needs to decide whether this combination of factors that do work in his favour are worth staying around for. So, for instance, you find yourself in a situation where you know that you are getting paid fairly and can also foresee a considerable scope of growth at your current firm. But it may also be the case that despite these points, you have ceased to find any true meaning in the work you do or that your dissatisfaction with the management has reached a new irreversible low-point. How do you proceed? Do you stay glued to your current job and all the pains it might bring along, or do you leave this job and all the associated opportunities to go in the search of other ones?
From my experience, I can tell you this: there is no one truth, no one right answer to this question. As prevalent as this dilemma might be, and I would go so far as to venture that it might be ringing in the heads of a million employees at any given moment, the answer to this dilemma can be as subjective as it gets. So, while a situation might necessarily call for a final bow-out in order to venture towards newer, more satisfying job opportunities, there are times when you might find yourself in the same situation but which, unbeknownst to you, can be resolved without you needing to jump ship. Let me explain with the three most common, seemingly complex job-quitting scenarios and the cases in which they do and do not warrant a resignation.
You feel undervalued
If you feel you are not being paid fairly, your first course of action should be to do ample research on figuring out your market value. Yes! Don’t hesitate to place an analytically justified monetary value on your talent and skills, because if you won’t, your employers will, and it’s possible that they may not do justice to your skills.
The onus of taking the initiative towards earning what you truly feel you deserve, is with you, and when fair pay stands as the only roadblock between you and job satisfaction, it is vital to address the issue head on. If your employer seems unlikely or entirely unwilling to have the conversation at all, think about this: Is salary your only motivator? Or is it the lack of recognition that makes you feel like you are lost in a sea of people where your opinion just does not matter, let alone a healthy work culture. Where your ideas are taken up by others, repackages and presented as their own? Or is someone giving you a tough time only because they don’t know how to manage things. The sense of being ‘undervalued’ can come from aspects besides salary and if you find yourself nodding to this statement, think again and address the right problem. Often, salary discussions stem from an inert sense of discomfort towards other elements playing on your mind.
You’re unhappy with your work
Depending on the scope of growth and the range of opportunities at your work, your job profile may be modified internally to provide you with the professional opportunities you are looking for, and to ensure that you actually have fun at work (yes, it is possible!). So, if you find yourself saturated or exhausted with the scope and type of work you currently manage, do not hesitate to have an open-hearted conversation with the management regarding the matter. There is plenty of work to be passed around and if you have proved yourself as a hard-working talent worth retaining, your organisation will happily direct your endeavors towards a cause or section that interests you more.
On the other end of this spectrum lies an organisation that is unable or unwilling to offer you more opportunities than the roles and responsibilities outlined for you at this moment. A situation such as that leaves you restricted and unable to progress forward towards your professional goals, and marks the right time for you to move on from this job opportunity.
You’re unhappy with the work culture
In most cases, this problem arises due to frequent disagreements with generally one individual due to clashes between strong personalities or radically different work or management styles. In such a case, taking a mutually agreed upon initiative to have open discussions and sessions with the concerned individuals could help lead to greater understanding, smoother functioning, and in turn, a more positive work experience.
In other cases, however, it could be a general competitive work culture, an ineffective, oppressive management or even a lack of fun employee activities to make work life interesting, that might be adversely affecting employee morale at your workplace. If these factors define the work culture prevalent at your organisation, there is little that an initiative or a shift in perspective can do. It is just as essential to thrive in a positive work environment as it is to progress professionally, indeed the two are even inter-dependent. Hence, it might be a better idea to walk away from a toxic work environment or leadership sooner than later.
In conclusion, I’d like to say that, at times, while the miseries of our current employments might linger heavy on our heads, it is important to look at our situations objectively and from several perspectives before taking the decision to stay or leave.
Having said that, it is just as important to not dwell in the comfort of the factors that work in our favour while ignoring the niggling voice at the back of our heads, begging us to pay attention to the deeper issues and concerns. After all, it is we ourselves who can best judge and analyse our professional situations and take charge of the (often difficult) decisions that must be made at the end of the day.
So, before you take a leap in either direction, take a deep breath, sit back and be critical to all the reasons you give yourself to side with Team Stay or Team Leave.