People grow complacent with the work that they do, getting locked into the reliability and comfort of income and predictable routines. We are going to examine 7 reasons why this can be detrimental to you in the long run, as employers are ultimately in the business of utilizing your labour or skills to maximize their own profits. Your well-being and growth becomes secondary.
1. Your Company Culture is Rotten
This is a big one. Workplaces will often feign cultures of compassion, cooperation, customer-centricity. The reality is, the kool-aid being proffered is simply for mass employee consumption. Every company needs a story, a unified goal, a call to action. It is how employee morale is maintained. No different than how a dictatorship will create a cult of personality around its leader: companies will create aura’s around themselves to deflect any sort of negativity. Activities could include community outreach (where management has an excuse to exercise and get their company in the newspaper headlines), charitable donations (tax write-off’s), or circulating weekly newsletters or even company literature and media outlining its “noble and triumphant history.”
Look at the everyday goals, however, and you will find how much the company culture actually adheres to its stated principles. If you are being told that the customer satisfaction is priority #1, but your ultimately goal is to shove products or services down their throats, then this creates a sort of cognitive dissonance. Companies will never outright admit that the customers are the oranges that need to be squeezed for everything they are worth, so they have to wrap their ultimate mission in silk. That is why you see upselling, cross-promoting, sales training, referrals, and performance-driven biases in many jobs. It is not because the customer is paramount, but rather the bottom line is.
2. Your Bosses Were Overpromoted
This is a scenario playing out in many workplaces: managers are hoisted to positions they simply don’t belong in. Promoted not out of merit, but because they endeared themselves to the people who make the important decisions, or they have long tenures at the job and decision-makers feel that this loyalty should be rewarded. What this means for employee’s is that they are subject to substandard leadership involving micromanaging, blatant favouritism, inefficient workplace systems, and a complete lack of concern for your professional development. Not falling in line with the status quo could mean an employee is forced out of the circle, or “clique.”
I’ve seen managers grow to resent people who work harder or more skillfully than they do, as this threatens their own standing in the company. This leaves many wondering why they were passed over for promotions, not given credit for outstanding work done, or subject to overt and petty criticisms that others seem immune to.
Now, overpromoted bosses are quite common and their impacts on company performance and culture vary to certain degrees. There is no question these types of managers engender toxic workplaces. If you find that your workplace is being held back by incompetence, cronyism, and a lack of effectual leadership, it is definitely time to move on.
3. Your Paycheque Doesn’t Meet Costs of Living & Inflation
We have all worked at a menial job at some point in our lives, where the compensation (minimum wage or just a bit more) is just enough to keep the bills paid. These are jobs where the concepts of raises, work-life balance, and benefits are not in the business model. Employee’s often work long hours and weekends toiling away for a life dedicated to enriching some one else. You will know you are in one of these jobs if your paycheque does not rise at least 2%-3% a year or there needs to be a national emergency (like an asteroid impact) for you to have a day off.
Your increased effort at work can actually be taken advantage of and grow to become the baseline, leaving you overstretched and tired when not at your peak performance. This type of job is a stepping-stone, and you should never find yourself locked into one of these.
During the height of COVID-19 pandemic, where many service and production workers were laid off temporarily as economies shutdown, people found that they made more on government benefits than they would at these menial-type jobs. This exposed a glaring defect with minimum-wage compensation in numerous countries, and an ever widening rich-poor gap.
4. No Skills Training or Professional Development
Advancing and learning in a company is not only essential to your continuing growth, but it determines how well you will perform at your current role. If you find that the initial training was hasty and left you underequipped to perform, it is likely a sign that the regard for personal development is lacking by management. This is found in workplaces where managers are self-serving and only pay lip service to company ideals.
I’ve been at jobs where the training took place over several months and was quite involved, and others where 2-3 days was all that was allotted before you were thrown into the furnace (sink or swim). This latter type of environment often goes together with bad management. Where questionable practices and shortcut-taking is the norm. Translating to a poor customer experience and instances where the individual employee takes the brunt of the blame if anything goes wrong.
Why spin your wheels for several years when that time can be used to hone a marketable skill? If your job isn’t willing to help you grow in a symbiotic relationship, or you would never consider using it as reference on your resume, then maybe it is time to rethink your career path.
5. Your Job Will Not Exist In 5 Years
Company outlook must be a crucial consideration. Whether your workplace is not keeping up with the times as far as marketing strategy and innovation, or downsizing and automation threaten to axe whole departments, you need to be looking at your company’s future plans and prospects. If you find that it doesn’t have a clear direction, or the scope your job is slowly being chipped away by new technological systems or outsourcing, then it is likely your role will become obsolete or given to someone else in the near future. Too many employees go about their jobs as though they will last forever. Increasingly in today’s capitalist landscape, a company that lacks competency and relevancy will quickly find itself needing to make painful decisions as a matter of survival. Sure, some employees will get nice severance packages or be afforded the ability to retire early, but for most it just means having to go back into the job market at unfavourable times in their lives. Even having to face costly and difficult retraining.
Companies can also just go broke due to bad stewardship or because they offer products/services that the customers shun. Have a look at your company’s ratings online or get a feel for the experience on the receiving end. If you shy away from utilizing the product and/or service yourself, it is a telling sign that your workplace is failing the viability test. It is important that employees believe in the value that they are creating (this harkens back to supposed company culture). If that value is simply non-existent or being far surpassed by competitors in the market, then this will translate into low retention and dismal new customer onboarding numbers. Management will typically use the opportunity to squeeze existing customers harder for more profit. If we draw parallels to a dictatorship (remember, your workplace is not a democracy), leaders will ignore economic stagnation and quickly move to crackdown on any unrest. The issues, these leaders believe, are not attributable to their own mismanagement, but rather the lack of discipline on behalf of the populace. For companies, if they are failing, that buck is usually passed onto you.
6. It’s Simply Dangerous
Yes, there are workplace safety standards and guidelines in effect, but sometimes these are glossed over for company gains. You don’t want to be left exposed to dangerous working conditions where your immediate or long-term health is at risk.
During my stint at a security contractor, I was asked to repeatedly visit an abandoned and decrepit retirement facility condemned to demolition. The demolition workers left their tools inside the building overnight, and this led to constant break-in’s and thefts. Nevermind the concern about being jumped in a dark hallway by a drug-addled vagrant– this particular facility was undergoing asbestos abatement. After some diligent research on my computer, I asked my employer if they would be providing a hazardous airborne materials briefing and proper PPE (N95 masks and clothing). Only after some wrangling, my employer acquiesced to some of the demands (I was not alone as my other colleagues were beside themselves). Having their disregard for my personal safety foremost in mind, I quickly ceased working for that job. My idea was, say in 30 years my lungs failed prematurely because of this safety oversight (management failure), would my employer be around to pay for my medical bills or console my loved ones? Surely not.
My personal anecdote is played out repeatedly (in different scenarios) across many industries and roles. This is just touching upon the physical aspect. If you feel like your mental health is being degraded by the nature of your work, and you come home with little desire to impart happiness on your friends and family, then it is time to make changes. Every job can be demanding and stressful at times (I would say that is normal), but you can make a conscious decision to reject the depression and angst that you face if it becomes unbearable and detrimental to your health and long-term outlook.
7. The People Suck
This includes not only management, but also your co-worker’s and customers. If you go to work dreading being among them, then it really isn’t a great fit for you. Not I’m not saying you must like everyone. We are inevitably going to have to interact with certain people (sometimes in key roles) that you don’t particularly like or believe to be two-faced individuals. That’s just a fact of life. It becomes a problem when your every interaction at work is dominated by power politics, micro-aggressions, deception, and resentment. Not exactly conducive to a productive atmosphere, and this is why you want to avoid this type of situation at all costs.
I’ve had situations where people actually resented me for keeping busy and productive, as it made them look lazy. For me, it was simply a matter of efficiency and consuming the workday. To others, it was a direct jab at their way of doings things (being lazy and useless). I was called a “try-hard” for simply earning my pay and not lounging around when the constant stream of work turned into a trickle. To top it all off: they often utilized this “down time” to curry favour with management, with their implicit approval. This left me somewhat of an outsider at this particular role. Really, it is just because I didn’t find them particularly interesting. I left this job for greener pastures.
Look, respect is not a hard thing to garner. Be a decent and thoughtful person that does not display malice toward other people for petty or trivial reasons. Some co-worker’s and members of the management team (overpromoted) simply don’t have those behavioural traits. If you find this to be the standard, then it’s time to pack up and leave.
I should have started this by saying that every job is going to have its negative aspects. There is just no way around it: people –and by extension, the companies they organize–are not perfect. That does not mean, however, that you need to accept these the items outlined above if you are facing any of them. What makes our society so great is that there are several options afforded to you, even if you think the door has been shut on your pathway forward. Please comment below on some of the challenges or experiences you have faced in the workplace, and the necessary changes you made to make life better.