When considering staying or leaving a role, you can never really know for sure what the outcome will be either way, but you can take the time to carefully reflect and make informed decisions. One of the old faves of course is the ol’ pro’s and con’s list. Ultimately however, there is always a jump to make with new beginnings!
Sometimes the decision to make is hard. Like for example, you may leave a workplace in which you have played a very important role that you have enjoyed or it feels safe, and it may temporarily seem like there isn’t anywhere for you to go to, to use the same scope of your skills.
This happens for everyone at some point. It is more prominent for people working remote, due to the fact that often there may be a vast incongruence between remote roles, compared to those in cities or urban life; or even different organisational approaches in the same geographical region; that can amplify a feeling that change appears ‘difficult’.
There is always something to look forward to in the next chapter of your working life, but you cannot expect it to be the same. Whether you continue expanding in the same direction, step to another role sideways with a different organisation and different project, or you take a turn towards something different in your working life/career, changes in jobs don’t necessarily need to create a ‘Faultline’ in your life – that defines who you were ‘before’ and ‘after’.
It’s something less talked about in adult-life, about developmental stages throughout the working life, because there isn’t a ‘standard model’ of adulthood; as much so as perhaps childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Kindy > prep > primary school > high school > and university, are all very clear linear stages to either follow, or push back against and reject. Pushing towards or pulling away from a ‘model’ of development, is far easier than creating your own without much reference, or from the guidance of someone who has walked the same path before you.
The difference in adult-life working life, whether it is young adulthood, middle life, or the last 10 years before retirement, there is no such blueprint for ‘everyone’. If we try to compare our working life or careers to our peers, friends or family, we often end up confused with a multitude of different ideas that don’t align with ourselves, backgrounds or where we are at in the professional journey. This is where it leads us to look at the phenomena through ‘Life Course Developmental Theory’ (Glen & Elder, 1998).
Some individuals are able to select the paths they follow, a phenomenon known as human agency, but these choices are not made in a social vacuum. All life choices are contingent on the opportunities and constraints of social structure and culture”
(Glen & Elder, 1998, p. 2).
The working life of an Indigenous person from a remote community, and a non-Indigenous person from an urban coastal area, both as a leader or practitioner in remote Indigenous community, are evidently likely to have very different experiences.
The moral of the story is, developmental processes are complicated by the fact that this basic template – biological differences, experiences in the family-of-origin, and behavioural and decision-making tendencies – differs greatly among groups in society (Shanahan, Mortimer & Kirkpatrick, 2016). The other factor is, evidently people have various motivations they operate from.
There are other dichotomies that often occur in remote areas and workplaces in general. The complex situation where it may appear that a staff member begins to ‘burnout’ for example, and whilst other people can see it, the individual themselves cannot. Have you ever identified a peer, or member of your team is showing signs of burnout, and yet you are also aware they don’t recognise it? This is best explained by looking at the Johari Window, in the ‘Blind’ area.
Sometimes burnout becomes a Johari Window ‘Blind Spot’; whereby something that is ‘Unknown to self’ but is ‘Known to others’ meets. This could be due to a variety of reasons of circumstance or stressors both professional, and factors in someone’s personal life. The bottom line is, a ‘blind spot’ will most likely happen to everyone, even on a small scale, at some point of your working life.
The Johari Window does not however, explain how to correctly respond to this kind of situation, and how to treat a person in your team in helping them understand their ‘blind spot’. Your response or solution will vary depending on your own motivations, and your relationship to the person; whether it is a peer, a supervisor, boss or friend. The Johari Window may be a very good tool in explaining to someone why you have raised they might have a ‘blind spot’, due to certain factors you and your team have recognised.
Constructive and restorative questions for sustainable outcomes might be, ‘how have we or the workplace contributed to this situation if at all, and how can we stop the momentum of burn out in its tracks now to protect the ‘person’ as valuable? Subsequently in HR matters, how do we protect the person whilst promoting the objectives of the organisation?
Obviously every situation is very unique, and there are no ‘magic wands’, but for supervisors it is important the start addressing the situation with a staff member as early as it is recognised – even if it starts as a simple conversation asking how they are doing, what challenges they are facing, and what potential solutions there are.
As discussed in the ‘What is Burnout’ article in March 2019, burnout is not about ‘fault and blame’. There are often also factors in people’s personal lives; grief, loss, health, break-ups, family sickness or other struggles; that may be compounded by a challenging work environment, that can start to negatively and visibly impact the staff member’s performance and health.
Ultimately, the real test that it all comes down to when deciding to stay, go, change or move on is how much; or what percentage of yourself; do you need to sacrifice in order to maintain the integrity of who you really are whilst fulfilling a role in your career. The reality is, unless it is your own privately-owned business, you can and most likely will be replaced at same point in time.
Some of the honest questions to ask oneself might be;
- How well am I really doing in my job now?
- Am I still growing in my role and my career?
- Do I feel more content than anything else?
- Do I need a new challenge?
- Does it seem the right time to move on, and open the role/opportunity and potential up for someone else and those who will benefit from change and growth?
- Does my job jeopardise or interfere with the most important relationships in my personal life? Am I burnt out in this role or in general?
- If my health or relationships are being affected, what is most important for the long term? If I sacrifice my personal life for my job for too long, what impact might it have?
- Does my level of sacrifice or commitment match that of my teams?
- Am I over-committed?
- Am I under-committed to the needs of the role because I’m burnt out, for work or personal reasons?
- If the organisation closed down overnight and the job ended or was defunded, who would I go to for support, and do I nurture those relationships now?
Pivotal decisions like leaving a significant and important role that means a lot to you, should not be done flippantly, or without good consultation like speaking with a professional careers counsellor, your significant other, best friend, parent, a mentor, psychologist or someone who has been in a similar position; or all of the above.
Most importantly, don’t let fear get in your way of staying or moving on. Letting fear getting in the way of staying in a situation sounds counter-intuitive yes? The reality is that it is about truly assessing what the real barrier is to be continuing on in your current role. Is the barrier something you have the time, power, support, resources, rapport and environment to realistically address in a restorative way, but you’ve been avoiding?
It may or may not be possible to address or restore the situation, whilst keeping yourself in a safe position. But it is important to reflect on the true reasons and situation. The same principle applies to identifying fear as a barrier to moving on if you know it is time. Jobs are like seasons in life, or similar to the ‘stages of group dynamics’, after they move through the phases of forming, storming, and norming; whether linearly or not; there is always a time for ‘adjourning’, which often creates degrees ‘mourning’ (Ephross & Vassil, 2005).
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default
– J. K. Rowling
If you do want to leave, there is a multitude of ways that can happen, and it doesn’t look the same for everyone. Whether it is applying for another role before you resign, of whether it is taking a secondment to refresh and return, leaving and travelling around the world, or starting your own project; there are many ways that moving on can happen. You could do so carefully, or with a quick leap of faith. In the end though, there will always be some bravery required to either address the barriers to ‘staying’; if the right ingredients are there to make it possible; or to make the jump to new beginnings.
Written by S. Madden, April 2019
If this article has triggered you in anyway, please seek support from a trusted confidante, your employment assistance, contact Beyond Blue, Lifeline, your GP, a registered Psychologist, or consider finding yourself a Mentor at World Central
Ephross, P. H. & Vassil, T. V. (2005). Groups that Work: Structure and Process(2nded.). Columbia University Press; New York.
Glen, H. & Elder, JR. (1998). The Life Course as Developmental Theory. Child Development 67(1), 1-12. Accessed by: https://www.jstor.org/
Shanahan, M. J., Mortimer, J. T., & Kirkpatrick, J. M. (2016). Introduction: Life Course Studies – Trends, Challenges, and Future Directions. In Shanahan, M. J., Mortimer, J. T., & Kirkpatrick, J. M. (eds.).Handbook of the Life Course: Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research. Springer: Cham. DOI: https://doi-org.
South, B. (2007). Combining Mandala and the Johari Window: An Exercise in Self-Awareness. Teaching and Learning in Nursing, 2(1), 8-11. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/
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