Overview: Keeping a Job or Knowing When It's Time to Move On

How Can Work Environment Affect Career Decisions?

There are many factors that determine whether a particular job will be a good fit for you. While job duties and compensation can play a critical role in job satisfaction, your work environment, along with the resources you have to help you cope with any challenges that arise there, may also have an enormous impact on how you feel about your job.

One of the most common reasons employees give for leaving a job is a difficult boss or colleague. Difficult bosses come in many varieties, from disorganized managers who provide employees with little direction, to micromanaging tyrants who rule through intimidation. In such situations, you may be forced to give serious thought to whether or not you want to stay in the job. If you do choose to stay, there are strategies you can use to manage the difficult relationship. On the other hand, if you choose to leave, there are things you can do to minimize your chances of getting into a similar situation in your next job.

If you plan to stay in a job with a difficult boss, some experts advise looking at the situation as an opportunity to build your own leadership skills. Your goal might be to develop strategies to maximize the positives and manage the negatives of the relationship, while maintaining your own professional integrity. You might start by getting to know your boss. Observe what he or she values and where his or her strengths and weaknesses lie. A good understanding of your boss's personality and motives can improve your communication and increase your chances of being heard on important issues. In addition, being aware of his or her areas of weakness can give you ideas about how to provide support to help compensate. For example, if your boss is notorious for losing paperwork, while you are highly organized, you could offer to track the documents

There are times when it is better to go than to stay at a job that may not be the best fit for you. You may need to leave so that ultimately you are successful in obtaining your career goals.

There are times when it is better to go than to stay at a job that may not be the best fit for you. You may need to leave so that ultimately you are successful in obtaining your career goals. IQONCEPT/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM.

that come in and out of his or her office. Even if such a task is not part of your official job description, reducing his or her stress can benefit everyone, including your coworkers.

Overview: Keeping a Job or Knowing When It's Time to Move On

While often less stressful to deal with than a difficult boss, an unpleasant colleague can also wreak havoc on your work life. One of the most powerful tools you can use to handle conflict with a boss or peer is to speak up when a problem arises. It may be challenging to initiate conversations about problems (such as a coworker's failure to complete his or her share of the workload or your boss's repeated inattention to e-mails), but doing so may ultimately be beneficial if the subject is broached in a positive, solution-driven manner.

If problems with a boss or colleague are irresolvable, making it necessary for you to find a new job, there are things you can do to lessen your chances of getting into a similar spot elsewhere. Before you make a move, investigate the culture of the workplace you are considering. Find out all that you can about the management team you would be working under and what type of reputation they have cultivated in the organization or industry as a whole. A high employee turnover rate can be a red flag on this front.

Overview: Keeping a Job or Knowing When It's Time to Move On

Employee turnover: The rate at which workers leave a company and are replaced.

With or without difficult coworkers, most employees experience workplace stress at some point in their careers. For example, when you are rushing to meet a deadline on a big project, you may experience short-term stress; this may be intense for a brief period but may not have a significant impact on your overall job satisfaction. Chronic stress, however, can have a large impact not just on your work but on your life as a whole, harming both your physical and your mental health. In addition to interpersonal conflicts, common sources of chronic stress include low pay, a heavy workload, work that is either too difficult or completely unchallenging, and an inability to advance within the organization.

Overview: Keeping a Job or Knowing When It's Time to Move On

There are a variety of ways to manage work-related stress. Tracking your triggers is a good first step. You might want to keep a journal for several weeks to see if you can find patterns. Once you have a clear idea of what is causing your stress, you can make an action plan for improving both your job circumstances and your reaction to them. If there is an ongoing problem (for example, a lack of performance feedback), talking to your supervisor is important so that together you can work on solutions.

You can also take steps to make sure you are using healthy coping skills during times of stress. Examples might include meditation, physical activity, and talking about your troubles with friends and family. Establishing clear boundaries between work and home is also important. When you allow your employer 24-hour access to you via e-mail and phone, you may end up feeling overburdened. It is important to have some hours in your day when you don't have to deal with your job.

How Can Change Management Help Employees Deal with Changes in the Workplace?

Organizations change over time, often in response to changing economic conditions in society as a whole. For individual employees this can mean changes in job status, working conditions, and workload. Change management is a process employers may use to help you transition into a new role. While change management strategies will vary from organization to organization, most focus on including employees in the process so that everyone has a voice in the way the transition happens and in designing the “new” organization.

Communication is key to effective change management. A more favorable outcome is likely when changes are introduced soon after they are conceived, with management providing employees with a rationale for the restructuring as well as an explanation of when and how the transition will occur. If you are included in a change management meeting, you should ask questions and be willing to offer honest, constructive feedback to the management team. Your contributions can play a valuable role in helping shape the company where you work.

How Can I Build Job Security?

Once you settle into a position and learn the necessary skills to perform your job duties, it is easy to become complacent, but you should not take your job for granted. The best way to establish job security, as well as position yourself for advancement, is to stay abreast of developments in your field and keep your skills up-to-date.

It is generally beneficial to regularly scan industry news sources to keep on top of trends that may affect your company and job. Particularly if you are in sales or marketing , you will want to be able to anticipate opportunities and act on them as they arise. You may use traditional news sources such as newspapers and trade publications, but blogs and social media sites such as LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com ) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com ), with their real-time updates, have become increasingly vital as well.

Overview: Keeping a Job or Knowing When It's Time to Move On

Marketing: The process of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.

Relationship building can also help you stay current on industry trends as well as learn new skills. Approaching a senior colleague to serve as a mentor is a good first step in this process. Mentors often have inside information that may benefit you, and they can help you achieve a more sophisticated understanding of the way your company functions. Trade organizations are another great place to network. Through such organizations you can meet and learn from others in your field.

Workplace etiquette extends beyond your relationships with coworkers to the way you maintain and behave in your work area. You should always keep your space neat and appropriately decorated. Refrain from playing music or talk radio at an intrusive volume, and from having loud phone conversations at your desk, especially if they are not work related. In general, you should not allow your work area to become the social center of your office, as this may be a distraction to those working around you. While it is good to maintain friendly relationships with coworkers, you should not be spending large chunks of your workday socializing.

Workplace rules vary widely, so it is wise to check your company's employee manual for a list of guidelines specific to your organization. Handbooks may address policies related to dress code, food consumption, and the use of cell phones and the Internet, among others. If any of the policies are unclear, it is wise to clarify them with your supervisor, because your conduct reflects on him or her as well as on yourself.

How Can I Keep My Career Moving Forward?

As part of your overall career development plan you should periodically evaluate your company and the direction in which it is headed. Doing so will allow you to make sure you are well positioned to benefit from the company's growth as you grow your own career. Such evaluations may also help you see when your own goals and the company's vision are out of step. For instance, if you are looking to move into a marketing position, and your company has recently decided to outsource its marketing to a specialized firm, it may be time to consider looking for a position elsewhere. In general, you can get information about your company's plans from news releases as well as from your mentor and other senior colleagues.

Overview: Keeping a Job or Knowing When It's Time to Move On

A detailed plan can help you move forward and make well-considered choices about your daily activities, including fulfilling your job duties as well as pursuing extracurricular professional development. Some activities you may choose to this end include taking classes or seminars, attending conferences, and networking in your field. It may be useful to show your plan to a mentor or other senior colleague who can give you feedback about your goals and your plan for achieving them.

What Should I Do If a Job Isn't Working Out?

You may reach a point when it becomes apparent that you will either need to make some changes in your working life or look for another job. If you find yourself at such a juncture, you should take some time to assess your own attitudes and behavior to see how they may be contributing to your situation. Often job satisfaction may be impacted by psychological factors such as lack of self-efficacy or poor habits such as procrastination. Employees who do not feel good about their abilities or knowledge may have a hard time asserting themselves and working effectively with others. These difficulties, along with issues such as poor time-management skills, may keep you from advancing, another factor in job dissatisfaction.

If the obstacles preventing you from experiencing career satisfaction are personal, internal issues, you may be able to ameliorate them through career or personal counseling, or by learning strategies to improve in areas such as time management or public speaking. In other cases, the problems in your workplace may be external and not subject to change. Therefore, it may be time to move on. Once you have made the decision to transition elsewhere, you should begin working on your résumé and building your professional network, if you haven't already done so. This is also a good time to assess your current skills and how they may transfer to other sorts of positions and organizations.

How Can I Project a Professional Image during a Career Transition?

Overview: Keeping a Job or Knowing When It's Time to Move On

It is becoming increasingly common for prospective employers to investigate the online profiles of candidates under consideration for a position. Therefore, it is more important than ever to curate your online presence carefully. As a general rule, you should assume that anything you post online may be discovered when a company investigates your background. It can seem safe to post photos and comments on Face-book, for example, with “friends only” privacy settings in place. However, such personal information has been known to migrate, especially if you have a large number of friends on social media sites. Stay on top of posts and pictures where you are tagged and un-tag those that cast you in a less-than-favorable light.

In addition to eliminating potentially damaging content from your online profile, there are several ways to maintain a positive online presence. A great first step is to build a profile on LinkedIn, a professional networking site that allows you to share your résumé and to network with others in your industry. Referrals are a great way to get in the door for an interview at a company, so professional networking is very important when you are planning to change jobs or careers. Also, if you have a personal website or blog, this can be a useful way to showcase skills or passions that demonstrate personal characteristics that employers find attractive, such as discipline and perseverance.

Leaving a job can be difficult, but there are things you can do to make the transition go smoothly and to maintain your integrity. First, you should always give your employer at least two weeks’ notice and more if your employee handbook or employment contract demands it. This gives your employer time to begin searching for your replacement and to assign your workload to other employees in the interim.

Even if you are leaving under less-than-pleasant circumstances, it is best to deliver your resignation in a professional manner. Keep your explanations brief and fact-based, and avoid getting into heated discussions with your manager or other employees. It is also important to maintain your usual standards of work during the final period of your employment rather than slacking off. You may encounter your supervisor or peers again later in your career, and it is wise to make sure that your working relationship ended on a positive note.

For More Information


Bolles, Richard N. What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2013.

Hiatt, Jeffrey M., and Timothy J. Creasey. Change Management: The People Side of Change. 2nd ed. Loveland, CO: Prosci Learning Center Publications, 2012.

Johnson, Dorothea, and Liv Tyler. Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top. New York: Potter Style, 2013.

Stone, Douglas, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. 2nd ed. New York: Penguin Books, 2010.


Korkki, Phyllis. “Modern Offices, Chock-Full of Offenses.” New York Times, September 29, 2013: BU9. This article can also be found online at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/jobs/modern-offices-chock-full-of-offenses.html?_r=0 .

Quast, Lisa. “Office Etiquette: Tips to Overcome Bad Manners at Work.” Forbes, April 7, 2014. This article can also be found online at http://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2014/04/07/office-etiquette-tips-to-overcome-bad-manners-at-work/ .

Richmond, Anne. “How to Quit Your Job the Right Way.” Forbes, May 30, 2013. This article can also be found online at http://www.forbes.com/sites/85broads/2013/05/30/how-to-quit-your-job-the-right-way/ .

Warrell, Margie. “How to Handle a Bad Boss: 7 Strategies for ‘Managing Up.’” Forbes, January 20, 2014. This article can also be found online at http://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2014/01/20/6-strategies-to-hanhandldlinga-bad-boss/ .


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“Coping with Stress at Work.” American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/work-stress.aspx (accessed September 23, 2014).

“Manage Your Online Presence.” The Career Center at DePaul University. http://careercenter.depaul.edu/networking/onlinepresence.aspx (accessed September 23, 2014).