Question: I have worked at the same place for over 20 years. I can probably retire in five to ten years. But things have changed so much at work. I feel ignored, overlooked and totally taken for granted. My pay has not gone down, but that’s not all there is to a job. Do I hang on and hate it, find a new job (not easy to do!) or just retire now and keep my sanity?
Answer: There’s a big difference between reacting and responding.
The power to control your response is the power to expand your opportunities.
I don’t know why the folks at work do not seem to be treating you with the level of respect you deserve. Survey after survey shows that employees are motivated to some degree by money, but much more by feelings of meaning, purpose, belonging and accomplishment.
From your perspective they have not done enough to keep you engaged, energized by your work and enjoying your employment.
But that’s their problem. It doesn’t have to be yours.
It was Stephen Covey who first introduced me to the idea that there needs to be a space between any stimulus you experience and your response to that stimulus. The bigger the space, the more control you retain. That’s the difference between responding and reacting.
Example: your mother-in-law calls you a bum (again). You get mad and call her a name back that I can’t repeat in this space. You’re mad. Your spouse is mad. Your mother-in-law is mad. You now live in a very tense house. Are you happy with this outcome? Did you wake up this morning hoping to be mad at everyone?
What if, on the other hand, you had the perspective that no one can “make” you mad. Your mother-in-law may call you a name, but she can’t make you become angry. Becoming angry is your choice for your life, not hers. So you calmly look at her and respond, “I’m sorry you feel that way” and move on. That’s not to say you don’t deal with her comment at a later (more calm) time, but it’s not her (or anyone else) who controls how you will act (or re-act).
So let’s apply this “response-ability” to your work situation. Reading between the lines, I wonder if you are feeling compelled, even controlled, to be unhappy in your work due to the lack of respect you are getting. I wonder if you are reacting.
Are you, in fact, doing a good job? And if so, why let the way they treat you cause you to react?
I’ve seen people leave jobs, churches and marriages because their expectations were not being met. In reaction to their disappointment, they move on to another job, church or marriage with a new, lower set of expectations. The new (lower) set of expectations is met in the new situation and they are perfectly happy. Sometimes the new situation is not really that different than the old, but with lower expectations the satisfaction level is much higher.
I am not recommending that you stay in your current job – I don’t know enough about the situation to suggest that. But I am saying that quitting as a reaction is a poor way to maximize the likelihood of a positive outcome.
Can you see yourself saying, “I know I am doing a good job. They may be taking me for granted, but I’m not taking myself for granted. I deserve to stay in this well-paying job and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Or, you might conclude, “This is not workable long-term. I need to be somewhere else at the soonest opportune time. I will begin the process of looking for work elsewhere, but I won’t leave until the time is right for me.”
Ever seen a daredevil walk on the wings of a plane while it is flying? Someone once told me that first rule of wing-walking is to make sure you have a secure hold on the next wing before you let go of the wing you’re on.
Reacting means jumping off the wing now and figuring out what to do next as you fall. Responding means reaching out and taking hold of the next wing first, then stepping off the wing you’re on.
Don’t let resentment entice you into reacting.
Respond. You have the ability.
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Byron R. Moore, CFP® is Managing Director / Planning Group of Argent Advisors, Inc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Write to him at 500 East Reynolds Drive, Ruston, LA 71270 or call him at (318) 251-5858. The opinions of any single advisor do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Argent Advisors, Inc. No forecasts can be guaranteed. Argent Advisors, Inc. does not offer tax, insurance or legal advice. The information contained in this column should not be construed as a substitute for personalized investment, tax, insurance or legal advice.