Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 2: interpersonal conflict and related challenges

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on November 20, 2015

This is my second installment to a series that I initially began with a warning: my goal here is to address an aspect of job search and career development that is both crucially important and that becomes more so every day, but that many if not most of us find very uncomfortable to think about or plan for. That creates potentially significant blind spots in all of our work life and professional planning. And as the working title to this series notes, this blind spot for many of us centers around both asking and answering a single core question: should I stay or should I go:

• From where we are right now, professionally, with a job change?
• From the type of work we are primarily doing now, with a career change?
• Or in some other fundamental manner, and with all of the uncertainties and all of the apparent risk that this can entail our having to accept?

I offered a briefly sketched out list in Part 1 of this series, of a set of contexts and circumstances where prudent judgment should all but compel us to ask this question. And I ended that posting by stating that I would start addressing its set of workplace challenges with the first of them as raised there, which I repeat here:

1. What are your options when facing workplace interpersonal stress that will not go away where you are, and that reach a level of impact upon you so as to affect your quality of life? Would the sources of stress that you face qualify as workplace harassment under the legal system in place where you live and work, or under company policy there? If so, how is the at least on-paper protection against this enforced? Or are employee protections against harassment and related workplace challenges only paid lip service to, at most? When would it make more sense to move on, and when would it make more sense to stay? And what are at least a few options that might be tried in negotiating a more positive resolution to this if you do seek to stay?

And I start addressing this here, by noting that I have recently paved the way for this discussion with postings added to a second, related series: When Expertise Becomes an Enemy of Quality Service (see my supplemental postings section at the end of Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 69 and following, and particularly see its Part 3 and Part 4, which address the topics of interpersonal skills and the challenge of problem behavior in the workplace.)

I began my core discussion of Part 3 of that series by briefly recounting the still very recent and still very painful experience faced by a friend and colleague who was effectively forced to leave a job that he would very definitely have wanted to remain at – if it were not for the toxic behavior of certain of his immediate co-workers and the acting out by so many of his other colleagues there as their response to that challenge. I made note of this progression of events and its outcome, at least for this one now-former member of that business’ staff in that series, as a foundation for a discussion of working with problem employees. And my focus there was primarily oriented towards staying and to trying to positively resolve problems where that might be possible. But when is enough, enough and when would it make more sense to leave a job and move on to another, as this individual in fact did?

I raised the possibility of staying and of attempting to positively address and even resolve this type of problem in that second series, in its Part 4 installment. And I offered there an outline to an approach for attempting such a fix, adding here that realistically this type of effort cannot always work. What if you are in a position where you really cannot step in and try to calm matters down and resolve some of the conflict that you face?

Thinking back to a second (non)working example of interpersonal stress and the challenges that it creates, and one that I saw first-hand myself, what do you do if the key source of these behavioral problems is a member of senior management? And I ask this question with essentially anyone at least two steps lower than them on the table of organization in mind, whose manager reports to this person. And these managers are always in effect running scared and trying to cover themselves protectively and in ways that simply help the problems from higher up to radiate down, and with ongoing toxicity to all involved. One really dysfunctional executive can raise havoc throughout an entire branch of a table of organization and even throughout an entire business. And it is rarely possible to address this by encouraging them to change their behavior, and certainly where that would have to be attempted by people lower down on their lines of that table of organization.

I would start addressing this scenario by stating that if you have any other options elsewhere at all, you should start looking for them and cultivating them. And if you think you might not have any other options, because of your age or for whatever other reason, start looking even harder and as widely as you can – but on the side while still working where you are, and cautiously so as not to tip your hand there, at least until you are ready. And this last point, and the importance of not divulging that you are actively looking until you are ready to do so and on your own terms, applies no matter how many options elsewhere you start out thinking that you might have. Look, and without letting your current employer know that, to preclude their simply getting rid of you before you are ready to leave. And look, and both to know your options and to have some genuine options besides just your current work situation at hand, even if you think you would likely end up wanting to stay where you are.

• It can be all but impossible to make a genuine, unbiased stay or go decision when you have what seems to be an unacceptably bad job, if you do not see yourself as having any alternatives to it. So this part of this discussion at least, is all about developing options.
• This is all about pursuing jobs and career paths with a goal of developing flexibility and resiliency in what you do and in what you can do, and both in facing the unexpected and in pursuing long-considered and long-planned for goals.

I write about this basic approach on a business and organization level, and have sought to develop this type of capability in my own professional practice at that organizational level and for essentially all of the businesses that I have worked with. And I have sought to develop this same basic approach and capability at an individual job and career development level too, and in ways that would work for us as individuals too. And with that in mind, I turn here to offer at least a few starter resources for thinking through and beginning your search for those jobs and career options, with some of the resources that I have developed for job seekers:

• You might want to start with the first page of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, though I also offer relevant material in its Page 2 and Page 3 as well. And as an initial starting point here, I would recommend your reviewing my series: Finding your Best Practices Plan B When Your Job Search Isn’t Working (on the first page of this directory, as postings 56-72.) I initially developed this resource with job seekers in mind who have been searching without success, but have found it helpful for a much wider audience for its hands-on exercises and for how it systematically outlines best practices for all of the specific steps of a search, starting with the first step of even knowing where to look. Some of my more stand-alone postings there on issues such as addressing gaps in your resume might be useful here too.
• Professionally oriented and focused social networking can be crucially important here, and in that regard I offer my series: Jumpstart Your Networking (which you can find separately listed towards the top of my first directory page for Social Networking and Business).
• And in this regard, also see my series: Using Social Media as Job Search and Career Development Business Analysis Resources (at Page 3 to my jobs and careers Guide, as postings 397 and following.)
• And as a final resource category that I would make note of here: I have posted throughout that Guide, and in both its regular postings and series, and in supplemental material added to the end of each directory page, about the job market and employability and how they are being redefined. The more you know about this, the more informed the choices you can pursue and the better the decisions you can make.

I offer these resources only as starting points. Do not stop with them; look for resources that would be most relevant and helpful to you and both in more clearly understanding where you are now professionally, and where you would seek to go in that. And do this due diligence research and this professional networking in order to give yourself the flexibility and the resiliency that you need, for essentially any jobs and careers planning and its follow-through.

I am going to proceed to the second topics point of my Part 1 list in my next series installment:

2. What are your options and what precisely are the issues that you can and should address if you find yourself in a dead-end job?

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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