“You do your best work if you do a job that makes you happy.”
~ Bob Ross ~
Client Lindsey Asks: Lately I’ve had a funny feeling at work. I’m apprehensive because I don’t think things are going well. I’m doing my job, the same as always, but I seem to be left out of the loop. I’m not invited to meetings but later I find out through the grapevine that people have made decisions that actually affect my work. Am I about to get fired? This isn’t exactly my dream job, but it’s been a good job and in this economy, I don’t want to lose it. I’m feeling very scared.
Coach Joel Answers: There are several clear signs that you’ve fallen out of favor with your boss and your job may be in jeopardy. You’ve already mentioned one of them. If you suddenly find that you’re no longer in the loop about things, that’s typically a bad sign. It’s often the first and most subtle sign that your time may be short. When you’re being kept out of decisions and new information that you normally would have been involved in, that’s a red flag. And if you’re seeing a reduction in your responsibilities, it could mean you’re being phased out.
A more obvious sign that your job is on the rocks would be overt criticism from your boss, or a poor performance review. Often companies will “build a case” for letting an employee go in order to avoid a potential wrongful termination suit. This case building typically includes documentation of performance issues, as well as written warnings and documented disciplinary actions. It may also include mentoring or coaching from your boss. This could have one of two purposes: it could either bring your performance back in line with the company’s expectations or it could serve as more documentation to support firing you.
Other obvious signs include: seeing a job posting or ad that matches your job description; being notified of a pay cut, or being moved into a position with fewer or no employees reporting directly to you.
What can you do to turn things around? What can you do to turn things around? First, decide if this is the job you really want. You mentioned that this isn’t your dream job. Would being terminated open the door to new opportunities?
If, however, you really want to hold onto this job, you need to take immediate positive action.
If you know your performance has been sub-par and you feel like you’ve fallen out of favor with your boss, talk to him or her. Explain that you’d like to make an immediate course correction and really become a valuable member of the organization. Ask what specific changes s/he would like to see and write them down. Then develop a written plan based on what your boss has said and have it on his/her desk within 48 hours.
Keep your enthusiasm high and your attitude positive. Schedule a follow-up meeting with your boss to discuss your progress. Assuming that the decision to let you go hasn’t been written in stone yet, your actions could give you a second chance to turn your situation around.
Assuming you want to stay where you are, make a list of things you like about your job. Make another list of specific tasks or areas where you think you could improve. Within the next week, schedule a meeting with your boss to work out an improvement plan.
Talkback: Have you ever been almost fired? What actions did you take to avoid it? Share your story here.
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“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
~ Henry David Thoreau ~
Client Kevin Asks: I am so stuck in a rut with my present job—it feels like walking through quicksand. I know what the next step is, the promotion to the job I want but I’m so busy doing what the current job demands that I have no time to even plan a strategy for moving ahead. How can I get out of this swamp?
Coach Joel Answers: Unfortunately, many companies easily overlook the people who labor in silence, who do what it takes to get the job done, but never manage to get ahead. If you really want your paycheck and your job title to match your capabilities and the amount of work you do, you need to focus on creating visibility—and you need to be happy while you’re doing it. Appearances count for a lot, and you need to love the job you have while planning your next move. Here are three important steps you can take right now.
- Love the one you’re with
- Divide and conquer
- Create a new model
1. Love the one you’re with. I see you stressing out a lot because you don’t have the band-width or energy to do everything that’s on your plate right now. Before you can move ahead, you need to enjoy being where you are. Start having fun at it. A few things you can start doing today:
- Ask for positive feedback. Don’t wait for your annual review. Look at your current projects and ask your team members or your boss for some positive input. Focus only on what’s going well.
- Start the day on a high note. When you look at your current projects or to-do list, pick the most enjoyable item and start there. It will change the tone of your whole day by creating energy and enthusiasm.
- List your accomplishments. Once a week, write down everything you’ve accomplished—from small things to big projects. You’ll be amazed at what you’re getting done.
2. Divide and conquer. Even though you’re doing a great job now, what got you here won’t get you there. First, lay out all your current projects and responsibilities. Ask yourself what HAS to get done to continue your success at a base line level so you don’t create any red flags. You might have 1/3 that has to get done, 1/3 that relates to the job you want to have (visible stuff) and the other 1/3 is the stuff you might be able to get rid of, or put less time on. This will create more time and energy for new activities. Here’s the key to making delegation work: keep your name on key projects so you are getting some of the credit while not actually doing the work.
3. Create a new model. You need to show continuously visible productivity, or put plainly, work on the things that everyone sees. Make sure you understand your boss’s priorities and make them your priorities. Volunteer for high profile projects or new company initiatives. Speak up in meetings. Be enthusiastic and make sure everyone knows you’re happy to be part of the team. Call attention to your successes while sharing plenty of credit with those around you.
Keep your eye on the prize. You already know what your next career move looks like. Keep focusing on that. Ask yourself each day, “What did I do today that fits my new model? How did I move closer to my next dream job? Before long, you’ll be exactly where you want and deserve to be.
If you’re struggling to break out of the pack and move to the next level, contact Joel today for more strategies you can use to move to the next level.
Talkback: Are you stuck in a rut? Do you have some success strategies that have helped you break free? Share your experience here.
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“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.”
~ Ralph Marston ~
Bill was a middle manager with a large financial institution. He had always felt secure in his job and felt he was making a real contribution to his department. But his last performance review was disappointing. His boss pretty much told him he’d better “kick it up a notch” if he wanted to keep his job.
Now what? Bill felt frustrated and more than a little insecure. Rather than react defensively, Bill decided on the spot to see this as an opportunity. He decided there were three steps he could take immediately to put his career back on track.
- Ask the right questions
- Develop a visibility plan
- Maintain continuous course correction
Step 1: Ask the right questions. Although he was surprised and frustrated, Bill was smart enough to save the emotions for another time and place. Most bosses would probably even anticipate that Bill could be defensive and confrontational. Andy may have been prepared for an adversarial conversation. Instead, Bill used this situation to make an immediate U-turn in his career path.
Questions Bill asked:
- How could I have avoided this situation?
- Give me an example of something I could have done differently.
- What actions should I take now to improve my work performance?
Bill listened to Andy’s answers and took careful notes. This accomplished two things: It let Andy know that he heard him and understood his point of view and it gave Bill a head start on creating an action plan for performance improvement.
Step 2: Develop a visibility plan. Based on his conversation with Andy, Bill already had the framework in place for an action plan to improve his work performance. Rather than settling for the status quo, Bill realized that he needed to find ways to exceed (rather than just meet) Andy’s expectations. His first move was to clean up the unfinished business that Andy highlighted. Unfinished projects and unmet deadlines should always come first in a situation like this.
Once that was done, Bill volunteered to take on a department analysis project that he knew Andy and been putting off and really didn’t enjoy doing. He became more visible in staff meetings, looking for ways to step up to the plate as a problem solver and a team player. He also looked for ways to enhance his profile outside his department by attending meetings and asking questions of other leaders and managers in the company.
Step 3: Maintain continuous course correction. Bill knew that the secret to his success would come from open and positive communication with Andy. He followed up their initial meeting with a written summary that included what he heard Andy say, as well as the action steps he planned to take. He asked Andy for a weekly five-minute “How am I doing?” meeting, and scheduled a more formal review of his work performance for three months later. Needless to say, it was a good one.
Do you know the right questions to ask in your situation? If you need help developing a visibility plan and monitoring your progress to maintain course, contact Joel Garfinkle today to find out how he can help.
Have you had a negative performance review? Are you looking for ways to increase your visibility and move ahead in your organization? Try some of Bill’s ideas and share your story in the comments below.
“You cannot always control circumstances, but you can control your own thoughts.”
~ Charles Popplestown ~
Are you worried about keeping your job? Let’s face it; there are many things out of your control, from the sad state of the economy to downsizing and cutbacks to the worry of putting food on the table and getting your kids through college.
But that’s not what worries me. What concerns me more are not the looming factors beyond your control, but the casual attitude towards the things that are within your control. Many people who come to me for help have the attitude, “I’ll just have to work hard and hope for the best.”
Have you heard the old saying, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten?“ Carrying on hoping for the best is just not good enough. No matter where you are in your career you have to learn to enhance your skills and change with the times or you most certainly will be left behind.
The first step to recession-proofing your career is to make your company see you as a valuable asset. How do you achieve this? Head over to this blog post, Desperate Times, Different Measures and read about the three key things you must do to increase your worth and protect your job.