Knowing When to Leave

Four signs you're in a dead end job

With more than 15 million people unemployed, many feel grateful to simply have a job—no matter how dreadful their job may be. According to a survey conducted by the Conference Board, a business research association, only 45% of workers were satisfied with their jobs. But staying put may not necessarily be the best option. There may be signs that you should start looking elsewhere. Adrienne Graham, CEO of Hues Consulting and Management Inc., a recruitment firm that specializes in executive searches for diverse candidates, offers up four red flags:

There isn’t enough work for you. Some employees might be relieved by a lighter load, but this should not sit well with someone who is really invested in their career, says Graham, also CEO of Empower Me!  Corp., a professional development organization. “There are companies that are outsourcing their work and leaving employees with little to do.” It could be a sign that your position will shortly be terminated or that the company is not confident in your ability to take on additional work. If you want to stay with this company, schedule a meeting with your supervisor and human resources, explain to them what your goals are, and emphasize that you want to stay with the company. Ask them if there are any opportunities in other parts of the company where you may transition.

You’re not getting promoted.
There may be many reasons for not receiving promotions: You may have all the qualifications, but may be lacking in areas that are purely subjective to management, such as style, manner, or how you communicate or handle challenges. You may not be liked by your manager; he or she may prefer or require your abilities and expertise in your current role. You may be hard to replace, says Graham. You should have an open dialogue with your manager about your desire to move ahead, and ask for specific feedback about what you have done well in addition to your professional shortcomings. If that doesn’t work, talk to HR about possible opportunities in other areas of your company.

You’re being disrespected.
“When your supervisor acts in a dismissive manner toward you, it’s time to leave,” says Graham. Signs of disrespect may include interrupting you at meetings, dismissing your points when you are trying to contribute an idea, and leaving you out of decisions that you were formerly a part of. If your employer refuses to validate any of your concerns after you address these problems, prepare to find another position where you are appreciated, Graham advises.

The executives are jumping ship. “If the CFO quits today and next week the COO quits and the following week a director quits, that is a dead giveaway that the company is in distress,” Graham suggests. “Pay attention to what is going on in the corporate suite because they are usually privy to stock information or important projects that the company lost.” It’s also important to follow your company and industry in the trades to keep a pulse on how they’re functioning. If the industry as a whole is struggling, then start looking into what other industries will fit your degree, profile, and skill set.

Corporate Counsel: Managing Demographic Shifts at Work
Stephen A. Miles, vice chairman of the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, says that CEOs in 2011 will have a range of challenges to deal with as they lead their companies to greater innovation and competitiveness. Among them will be understanding shifting employee values. “Managing the demographic changes as baby boomers move into retirement and ‘millennials’ come up through the ranks is something no CEO should overlook or just delegate to HR,” explains Miles, who is also head of his firm’s Leadership Advisory Services. “The CEO needs to understand the motivations and values of his or her workforce in order to leverage organizational capabilities. He or she must also know the risks involved in a less ‘loyal’ employee base who may not, for instance, be as willing to move for a job as were the ‘company people’ of previous generations. The need for constant real-time feedback and sharing of information is something new. Software applications such as Rypple (www.rypple.com) allow CEOs a vehicle [through which they can] communicate deeply across the organization in a reciprocal manner.”

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