Should I Leave? (Part III)

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Photo adapted from photo by Shuwen Lisa Wu.

What should you do? You decide you have done all the things suggested in my previous two posts and are still convinced that the problem runs deeper than self-knowledge, interpersonal knowledge, or organizational knowledge.* Clearly, the time to move on may have arrived. One question remains: “Will staying with this organization require you to violate your own core values?”

If the answer is “yes,” you should move on as soon as is ethically and practically feasible. Being forced to violate your own core values is harmful to yourself, to the organization, and to your family. This is one of the key causes of long-term burnout, an experience you want to avoid at all costs.

Even if you are not required to violate your core principles, the organization may not be the best place to realize your values. In this case, you may be able to effect values change in the organization—over time and with much patience.

We come full circle with this question: at what point should you say, “Enough is enough”? You alone can answer this question. You should, however, set some perimeters to protect your peace of mind and help you make the difficult decision to move on. The following questions may help.

  • How many years are willing to give this effort? One of my best friends is the pastor of a church in rural Eastern Ohio. The church sits in the middle of a corn field. Their attendance was running around 35 members and they had no vision for growth when he got there. Today, their attendance is around 350 and growing. His willingness to stay in one place for a long time was a key to his success. He said it took seven years before the congregation started taking his suggestions for change seriously. The transformation of values is possible, but this requires either a massive restructuring or a long-term investment in patience.
  • Do you see any reasonable chance for improvement? This is a subjective call. You get a gut feeling as to whether this situation can change. If your answer is no, you should start looking elsewhere.
  • How is the situation affecting your family? If your experience of values dissonance is affecting your family negatively then you may want to start looking elsewhere.
  • Did you give it a real chance? Did you make an honest effort to make your current situation work? In other words, beware of the green grass syndrome where it always looks greener on the other side of the fence. Some people get into a situation and soon begin longing for the way things used to be because we forget they were not so good back then either. All work includes its fair share of tedium and difficulty.
  • Are you in danger of burnout? Here are some telltale signs: Are you beginning to resent the very people you were hired to serve? Are you always tired with a tiredness which is not alleviated even by a nine-hour sleep? Do you find yourself responding with anger? Don’t let it get to the point of burnout. No job is worth burnout.

Sometimes we get the idea that an organization could not survive without us. Not so. Most organizations fill the void of our absence and go on to develop their one, sometimes greater, histories without us. We too can find new life and a new direction in ways that surprise us when we give ourselves a chance.

*This is the third and final post in a series dealing with the question of when to leave an organization when you discover that the organization does not share your values? The two previous posts are: Should I Leave? and Should I Leave? (Part II).

If your team would like to learn more about burnout and how to avoid it, contact Greg at DrGregWaddell@LeadStrategic.com. Please share your experiences in the comments section below related to a time in your life when you had to make the difficult decision to leave an organization because of a conflict of values.

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