Avoiding Career Pitfalls

  • Oct 26, 2005
  • Vicky Smith
  • Career advancement

Many employees enter a work twilight zone, which distorts their discernment and leads to disastrous ramifications. This zone if not managed well can permanently derail careers.  It occurs when an employee become disillusioned with their job and decides to look for another job. Without grasping the consequences critical decisions are made to let performance slide; to negatively affect the morale of fellow employees; and to act unethically while looking for the next job.


The logical decision when the work environment, boss or tangible rewards change and cause unhappiness and stress, should be to hand in a resignation and find another job.  Unfortunately what seems logical doesn’t happen because of financial insecurity and the inability to take self responsibility to find a better employer fit.  Instead, the employee enters the twilight zone of disengagement and chooses to wreak havoc on the employer and co-workers feeling very justified because it’s the employer’s fault all this is happening.


The reality is that it’s no one’s fault.  Employers have the right to set the ground rules for employment.  If employees accept their pay cheques then a bargain has been struck to work by those ground rules.  If we decide not to accept what’s happening we have the freedom of choice to leave. 


In this state of disengagement performance starts a downward spiral.  A Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll syndrome transforms a productive employee into one who is carelessness, inattentive, uncooperative, and resistant to change. A contributing team member becomes a clock watcher who does only what’s absolutely required to stay out of the manager’s radar scope.


We constantly read that making a successful career/job change requires proactive planning and thinking. The following scenarios are certainly not contemplated before the choice is made to perform poorly:


Ø       Once a new job offer is given the potential employer will want to do a reference check with your present manager

Ø       A new job is accepted and about a year later your old manager joins the same company

Ø       Your manager is very close friends with your potential new manager and in discussions talks about how your job performance and attitude has changed in the last three months and the negative impact that it has on everyone in the department


One of the most important requirements to finding a great job is to have impeccable references. If for no other reason, don’t let your job performance slip because a bad reference will haunt you throughout your career.


In the disengaged zone, it seems like a badge of honour to brag that you are looking for a new job. How many of us have heard ad nauseum the woes of co-workers who feel they are mistreated and can’t wait to get out of this miserable work environment.  The voice is our head is saying “why don’t you just leave because you are driving the rest of us crazy” as we shake our heads commiseratively.


We read regularly about toxic work environments.  A significant contributor is an employee who won’t go but insists on sharing their dysfunctional dramas at work.  If you chose to stay working, your job searching should be a private matter.


People have been fired because they were too vocal with co-workers about their job search and it got back to their manager.  For the manager it becomes the last straw.  Time has been consumed with disruptive behaviour, apathy on the job and dealing with team morale problems.  Instead of the individual making the decision when to leave, it’s made for them and usually causes them significant stress.


Once we lose our ethics we transcend into the gray world of ‘it’s all about me’ and damage our careers.  I am a proponent of always being a job seeker but not on the employer’s time.  So what’s the harm of searching the Internet for jobs at work or taking calls for interview appointments from employers or calling in sick to go to a job interview?  Those unethical actions become habits and the habit of compromising beliefs and principles changes who we are as a person.  Subtly we become a person who is undesirable to ethical companies. 

Nina Spencer a business workshop facilitator stated in an article titled ‘Know when it’s time to stay or move on’ - http://www.workopolis.com/servlet/Content/torontostar/20021028/stay?gateway=work – “If you decide to begin exploring other job opportunities, keep these suggestions in mind:

·         Be clear about your reasons for leaving so you can explain them to your current employer and also so you can articulate these reasons clearly in job interviews. (And rest assured that you will be asked in interviews why you want to leave your current employer.)

·         Frame your reasons for leaving in positive terms. Regardless of how negative your feelings have become toward your job or employer, it's important to view this transition with a positive attitude. Otherwise, your feelings may overshadow your final days on the job and also affect how you discuss your reasons for leaving in job interviews.

Prospective employers tend to be cautious about hiring workers who don't seem to have anything good to say about a former job or company.

·         Be discreet. Until you have a job offer in hand, it's probably wise to keep your dissatisfaction and your plans to yourself.”

How you maneuver the zone of job transition will have career consequences beyond what you can image.  When you hand in your letter of resignation you can be assured there will be no ghosts in your closet to haunt you because you made the decision to maintain high performance, keep your decision to make your job change private and act ethically in your job search.