In the early 90s, we were given the opportunity to serve one of California’s largest employers. After a series of market events, the company was unraveling. One of their human resource executives came through our Inspired Work Program. She was impacted so deeply that within weeks, hundreds of employees were using the program to elevate the difficult event as an opportunity to change their lives for the better.
A year later, the chief human resource officer asked for a meeting. I had barely sat down when she fired the first question, “What do you feel is our biggest problem?”
I’m impressed when someone gets to the point so quickly.
“Your biggest problem has already come and gone. Your creative and adaptive talent has left. They observed what was happening, dusted off their resumes and called their support systems. Many of your remaining employees don’t believe they can change until they walk into our program. But, the ones that continue without growing their creativity and adaptability are holding on for dear life, hoping they don’t hear from you.”
Not long after that conversation, the organization merged with what had once been a much smaller competitor.
For our vantage point, we could see the job for life was coming to an end. As many of these employees came through our program, some affirmed they were in the right career and devoted their energy to finding the ideal job. But, about an equal number of participants made radical career changes. We find that when professionals are given the opportunity to redefine their work around higher standards such as joy, getting laid off becomes a positive turning point.
It would be an understatement to say that the world of work has changed since 1990. The opportunities for those of us who develop creativity and adaptability have only grown with time. These are the individuals who take advantage of change by telling themselves their best version of the truth and pivoting towards better platforms for their growing gifts.
About half of our country’s workers characterize themselves as “underemployed.” These are the individuals we ought to be helping to learn the ropes of positive self-change. Perhaps we can begin with the truth that organizations and entire industries are changing far more quickly. Today, when an employer shrinks, unless the downturn is clearly temporary, leave.
Working in an organization that is circling the drain demoralizes the spirit. When someone allows their fears to keep them in place, the inner resources that could be devoted to positive change shifts gears into surviving another day with the problem. Over time, it gets worse. People are told to be happy just to have a job. As other colleagues leave, those left behind are asked to take on more work. The morale would be better if all of the woodshedding was leading to a breakthrough, but this isn’t the case.
But here is the counter-intuitive insight that has grown within me as I’ve watched these patterns over time.
It is usually a good idea to leave because the kind of mentors that could help you grow and become more capable, visionary, effective, engaged, and educated don’t stay in companies that are, once again, circling the drain.
Much of my viewpoint is probably rubbing some of my readers the wrong way. But, I cannot tell you how many conversations have taken place where someone is describing a workplace and both of us know it isn’t going to get better. There are some that need to be pushed by the pain. There are others that get pulled by their vision.
Jack Canfield once told me, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
If the people you work with lower the average leave. All too often, these are the organizations that require we smother our light just to get in the front door. But, the people that work in modern, visionary, and capable environments will push you to grow those qualities.
When I launched Inspired Work in 1990, I wrote out my highest standard for talent:
“I will only work with brilliant and loving people.
That one sentence changed my life forever. I suggest this may be the time to raise your standards as well.