Have you noticed that you’re not moving up in your organization any more? Have your last couple of job changes been laterals? Have your last couple of reviews been ho-hum? Are you starting to get the message that you’re stuck in your career trajectory? There are some common causes and, believe it or not, some things that YOU can do about it.
Are You Bored?
Do you find yourself finding other things to do (other than your job) at work? Are you consistently late for work and early to leave? Do you think you can do your job in your sleep? Have you done it and done it and done it and don’t want to do it anymore? Do you remember when you were challenged by the tasks of your job, but that was a long time ago? Boredom is a common cause of burnout and demotivation in a job. And it shows. You may be the most experienced, the one with the longest tenure, but if you aren’t engaged with your job, it shows. People who aren’t engaged don’t get promoted. People who are bored are obvious about being bored. People who are bored don’t get promoted.
Are You Under-Performing?
Have you noticed that people are passing you up? Are they getting promoted (or appreciated and recognized) when you sit there like chopped liver? This is the time to be really honest with yourself. Are you really performing as well as them? I know you’ve been telling yourself that you are, but are you really? Are you making deadlines? Are you over-delivering? Are you looking for ways to improve what you do? Are you looking at what you boss (and her boss) needs and trying to figure out how to get that done in addition to what you’re supposed to work on? If your peers are over-performing, then you aren’t making the cut if you are merely performing.
Do You Have an “Attitude”? That Shows?
Are you pissed? Are you aware that you’ve been treated unfairly, badly, been ‘wronged’? If so it shows. No matter how much you try to keep it under wraps, it shows. If it shows, people back off from you. They can ‘feel’ your anger. They certainly don’t promote angry people-even people who are out-performing others.
Are You Falling Behind?
We are constantly barraged by new systems, new tools, new processes at work. Are you up-to-date on all of them? Even the ones that you don’t need to use very often? These tools, systems and processes change the way our minds work. If you’re not keeping up, then you mind is not in sync with your co-workers’ minds. Or your bosses. People who can’t do the latest systems and tools rationalize it–I can do the same thing–the old way. That may be true. For a while. Then others can take it to the next level and then the level beyond that. And you can’t go there with the old way. You may not even know what you can’t do if you don’t understand the new way. Think about the things that you don’t do. Texting? Excel Pivot tables? Macs? Photoshop? Prezi? Dropbox? Get with it. Do it. Keep up.
Are You Being Rigid?
This is somewhat related to the item above, but that is more about tools and systems. This is more about the way you think. Are you open to new ideas? I do organizational change management for major organizational changes. I do a lot of ‘readiness’ workshops. I see the rigid ones. They are hard to get to the sessions. They sit in the back and glare. They bring up all the ways/reasons/causes that this won’t work. My personal favorite, “We tried this before.” Everyone resists some changes–that is completely normal. If you resist all changes, if you are the one who knows all the ways and reasons this won’t work, then you aren’t fun to have around. You certainly aren’t likely to be promoted.
Are You Not A Good Fit For Your Organization Anymore?
Organizations change. People change. Just like with marriages, sometimes you’ve grown apart. Sometimes it’s time to move on. The hard part is knowing when. I used to work for an organization that was fairly small when I started and very large when I left. It was a midwestern company when I started and an European conglomerate when I left. It had one kind of product when I started and lots of kinds of products when I left. Over the course of time from when I started and when I left there was an ebb and flow to the ‘fit’ for me. Some management changes made it worse and some made it better. Some positions were good fits for me and some were lousy. In the end, it was me who had changed the most. It was me who figured out what I liked about the work I had done for this company and figured out that I could find more of that kind of work as a consultant than as an employee at that company. It was a gradual evolutionary change in the relationship. It happens. It takes considerable thought and analysis to figure out whether it is a normal ebb and flow in the relationship or time to move on. When it is time, either for you or the organization, then it isn’t likely that you will keep moving up.
What Do You Do?
Even if you decide that the fit isn’t right, there are things you can do in the mean time. You have to really be honest with yourself.
- If you’re bored, figure out how you can start to out-perform your peers.
- Figure out how you can over-deliver. Figure out how, in addition to your normal responsibilities, how to deliver something that your boss really needs.
- If you’re angry, get some professional help to understand where it is coming from and to decide what to do about it.
- If you are behind on the technology or systems or processes in your organization, then dedicate yourself to catching up and becoming an expert.
- If you’re rigid, start to experiment with loosening up. If you find yourself having a negative reaction to an idea, explore–privately at first–what would actually be the worst thing that could happen if the event took place. Little steps can take you a long way to letting go of your rigidity. Once you’re comfortable with letting go a little, then start to be more vocal about that openness.
- If you are not a good fit for your organization, figure out why not, what you need in an organization and then GO FIND IT.
- Any and all of these will relieve your boredom. When you are experimenting with new behavior and thinking, it is really hard to be bored.
When your boss and peers see changes in you, it is highly likely that your upward trajectory will restart.