Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 6: when your work life constraints collide with the needs and preferences of your employer

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on January 7, 2016

This is my sixth installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-5.)

I offered a set of real world workplace scenarios in Part 1 of this series and have been successively addressing them since then. And the underlying quality that binds all of these scenarios together is that each of them represents a set of challenges that would prompt the asking of a same basic question as a jobs and careers due diligence consideration: “should I stay or should I go?”

Sometimes factors from outside of our work lives can intervene and force us to confront this series’ core title question. I first raised the issues and questions of the work life constraints box in one of my earliest postings, and both to this Guide and to this blog as a whole, with: Job Search and Your Constraints Box. Scenario five from my Part 1 list is based on issues that can arise when your constraints box and its requirements becomes an issue. My goal for this installment is to discuss that scenario, which I rephrase here:

• The work life and private life requirements and priorities that we face, and particularly as apparent conflicts arise between our individual preferred quality of life constraints, and the employment requirements of our workplace.

This posting is primarily about quality of life issues. And I begin it by noting that in a fundamental sense every scenario that I have raised here in this series is too, and certainly when they rise to a level of impact for us to prompt us to confront the stay or go question. Just consider in that regard, the within-workplace challenges of Scenario 1 as discussed in Part 2. Here, in the context of this posting, the quality of life issues that I would raise all become points of potential conflict for us because of our larger concerns and needs, going beyond the confines of our work lives themselves.

Let me take that out of the abstract by raising some very real world constraints box issues as working examples:

• You really love your job and working with your colleagues and customers. And you are a good employee and you have solidly positive performance reviews to prove it. But you also have small children and you need to be there for them in the afternoons and evenings. Their school has a program that is open for a couple of hours after classes for kids whose parents work, but you have to pick them up by 5 PM and your boss wants to change your work hours to keep you at work until after then – and every workday, not just as an occasional exception.
• Once again, you really love your job and you have solid performance reviews to show that your employers love having you there too. But you also love living in the community you are in, where your spouse works and your children go to school and where all of you have friends and community ties. And your boss is pressuring you to take a promotion that would require a relocation. And you are unsure of the reception that you would get if you were to turn them down on this.
• You have an elderly parent who really needs your help and support, and certainly if they are to retain any real independence and be able to stay in their own home. And you find yourself in at least occasional scheduling conflict with your supervisor because of this, and with that frequent enough so that they have indicated to you that this is a concern to them.
• And there are at least as many possible entries that I could add to this list as there are people who work, as all of us have at least some constraints and parameters, beyond which we would face quality of life versus work performance issues. And change can both limit and create at least opportunity for conflict there.

The constraints boxes that I have written about in this blog and that I return to, to further discuss here, represent our own individual boundaries, that when crossed create work/live conflicts for us. What should we do if and when we face circumstances where we see real potential for such conflicts, or where we see them directly emerging? I address that question as the core topic point for my discussion to follow here. And I start with the essential first step that has to be taken when these issues arise.

• Know what your constraints box issues and requirements actually are, now, and what their respective priorities are and where you might comfortably compromise on them to reach a more satisfying overall agreement at work.

Outside life situations can force us to at the very least reconsider what our constraints box limits actually are now, as what genuinely belongs in our constraints box can change, and even radically so over time. This is important and particularly because this is a side to our lives that we can come to take for granted and simply assume as a given. Our work/life parameters might seem to be written in stone when initially thought through, but circumstances and needs and priorities can and do change, and certainly over longer periods of time. The work/life constraints that we start out thinking in terms of earlier in our lives and careers might no longer hold the same meaning and relevance to us in our current here and now that they once did, when and as we find that we have to confront them again. Know what is important now, and how and why, and what might no longer matter in the same way. New considerations might need to be added to the constraints box, and old ones downplayed or removed from it. Know where you are now for this and why and with what priorities.

Know as precisely as possible what your supervisor or employer would want from you, where you might be facing a conflict here. In my second example bullet point above, an employee might feel concern that their boss will insist that they have to take this promotion and that they might in effect be forced to either relocate or quit their current job. But the message that their employer was trying to convey might have been different from their perspective, with their hoping that you would make this move but that they would also be content with your staying where you are now too. Make sure you really know if you are facing a hard and fast point of conflict or if this is something that can be more readily resolved and worked around.

This, I add, is not generally an all or none decision. Think through the details and in negotiations terms. If you do not want to relocate to work full time and long-term at a new distantly located office, would you be willing to travel there to help bring a new manager there up to speed? Would you be willing to mentor them when and as needed? Know where you might be flexible, and certainly where that means negotiating to win on the quality of life requirements that you hold more centrally important. And know as best you can where your supervisor or employer might be able and willing to compromise with you too. And seek out a win-win resolution.

And if this cannot be made to work, and to at least reasonable satisfaction, them take a deep breath and re-ask the stay or go question, in developing a best possible alternative to a more positively negotiated agreement. And if this means leaving your current job and moving on, prepare for that and while still working where you are now, if that is realistically possible (see my series: Finding Your Best Practices Plan B when Your Job Search isn’t Working at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 56-72, and I recommend your working your way through the hands-on exercises offered in its installments as collectively they constitute a complete and carefully planned job search campaign.)

I am going to turn in my next series installment to consider the sixth scenario that I initially raised in Part 1 of this series:

• When should I at least begin to seriously consider making a career path change, and with all of the challenge and uncertainties that that brings?

Then after that, I will look into the special case issues of founding a startup, after discussing career path changes in general. And then after that I will discuss retirement as a stay or go scenario, where this increasingly means tapering off employment and making career changes rather than simply moving from being fully employed to no longer working.

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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