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Reactive Versus Proactive Job Changes

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By Terri Jacke

There is a significant difference between running away from something and running toward something.

Sometimes people leave jobs just to get away from someone or something they find unpleasant, unsuitable, or otherwise objectionable. When a coaching client of mine, Jeff, announced that he intended to quit his job without having taken the time to assess what could be done to improve it, I knew he was operating from a reactive mindset. It was evident that Jeff had allowed his current situation to frustrate him to such a degree that quitting and running away seemed like the most sensible options for dealing with it.

While it is perfectly acceptable to leave a job that one doesn’t enjoy, I believe that lousy jobs can be the perfect place to develop one’s character and grow one’s professional skills, particularly communication and conflict resolution. So, my guidance for Jeff was to pause for a moment and to quiet the reactive chatter in his head. I invited him to explore more specifically with me the issues that he found objectionable.

Once I understood the difficulties he was experiencing, we worked together to identify his mental and emotional reactions to those issues. It was important to honor his experiences and to help him see how he was reacting to them. That insight allowed Jeff to determine that he was not satisfied with his reactions; they were not representative of the character and professionalism he wanted to model.

There is a significant difference between running away from something and running toward something. Sometimes people leave jobs just to get away from someone or something they find unpleasant, unsuitable, or otherwise objectionable.Click To Tweet

We reached an agreement. Together we would map out various steps and approaches he could take to address the problems in his current role, and we would use what he learned from that situation to clarify the type of role and environment Jeff desired. In other words, Jeff would actively attend to the issues at hand, while also using what he learned from that process to paint a picture of the role he would be looking for if his efforts to improve the current situation failed.

During our coaching conversations, we focused on shifting Jeff’s reactive mindset to a proactive, problem-solving mindset. Several benefits arose from his new mindset. For example, it allowed Jeff to:

  • Be intentional about aligning with his character and professionalism during a tough situation
  • Have greater insight into and feel a renewed sense of control over the unpleasant situation he was facing
  • Identify growth opportunities for himself that offered a sense of purpose, which helped to offset his frustrations and refocus his energy
  • Take the time to know exactly what he would be looking for if or when he began to look for a new job

Importantly, had Jeff simply run away from his job, he may have taken the first job offered to him as a way to get out of his current position. He may have overlooked warning signs about the new job or the organization. His frustration and haste may have landed him in another lousy job.

Instead, Jeff chose to take advantage of his difficult situation. He focused on seeing the circumstances clearly and developing skills for dealing with them. This afforded him time to be thoughtful and intentional about his potential job search, should he still decide to pursue a new job.

As of the writing of this article, Jeff is still at the same job, but experiencing less angst. He continues to operate from a proactive mindset and remains focused on learning what he can from the situation. If he does choose to leave, I can rest assured that it will be a thoughtful, proactive job change in which he will be running toward a role and environment he desires.

Terri Jacke is the author of Is This A Lousy Job Or Is It Just Me?: A Real-Life Guide For Achieving Success At Work: and serves as the president of Inspired Training Institute, an executive consulting firm she founded nearly 20 years ago.

Is This a Lousy Job or Is It Me?
$24.95 $23.50

In IS THIS A LOUSY JOB OR IS IT ME?, executive coach Terri Jacke explores how every success and every struggle at work can be used to develop your character, which determines the way you handle each experience. It is your character that shapes your behavior in the workplace and informs the quality of decisions you make at work and about your career. 

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05/27/2024 07:20 pm GMT

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