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If you're concerned about career advancement, never sit on your laurels

As you read this, about 80% of middle managers like you are thinking about leaving their current job. As I wrote in my first post in this series, I’ve identified three categories as to why most middle managers are contemplating new pastures: your intrinsic satisfaction, the organizational environment, and the need to develop - signs of how to measure success at work and your career. In this post, I’ll be talking about the organizational environment.

Many middle managers begin their journey at a company either as an entry level employee or after having risen to the middle management level at another organization. In both cases, when you began your current position, you were happy with the organizational environment. You liked the direction of the company, the general atmosphere suited your personality and work patterns, and your team mates seemed to be on the same page with you. All of these are tangible indicators of how to measure success at work. Things have seemed to work out well over the last few years. But now there’s something bothering you.

 

Too much shifting

Remember when departments were more or less permanent fixtures in your company? If you had a specific question or concern, you knew exactly which department (and many times whom) to contact. Now it seems as if it’s anyone’s guess regarding where you turn to if you need to handle a specific issue. Is it Finance? Accounting? HR? When you first came to the company, the lines between departments were pretty clear. Now, getting an answer to a simple question requires actual research just in terms of whom to contact. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? It’s more the feeling that the company you joined not so long ago just isn’t the same - not with department responsibilities being blurred all of the time. You begin to wonder if you still feel at home…

 

Changes in corporate culture

At the same time that structural changes have been taking place, you’ve been feeling a difference in the corporate culture. Your company has just not been behaving the same way you remember - or identify with. You might’ve heard of rumors in which the organization has been tiptoeing around some ethical issues or that certain customers haven’t received the first-class service you thought your company was committed to. Certain budget cuts have made you uncomfortable as well, leading you to think that the organization’s priorities are just not the same. The real question for you is if you’re feeling left out in the cold.

 

Job morph

When you took on your new job, the job description fit you to a T. You were excited not only about the new responsibilities but also about the directions to which you’d be able to take some of these responsibilities. You envisioned yourself using your position as a way to truly upgrade your team and be a source of pride for your department. But recently, certain aspects of your job have been de-emphasized - strangely enough, those you felt were very important. And other aspects have been added - ones you’re not sure you understand or identify with. This has resulted in more pressure on you - prompting you to question if this is still the right job for you.

 

You’re being set aside

Once known as the Boy/Girl Wonder of your department, your boss wouldn’t think of making a move without asking your opinion - even in matters only marginally related to your expertise. You also served as an informal sounding board for team members who were always happy to pick your brain as they considered new ideas and directions. Days and weeks seemed to fly by. Lately, however, your feel as if you have too much spare time. As you make your way towards the water cooler, more doors seem shut than before. You don’t see your boss as much anymore, as he or she always seems engaged with others. “Do I no longer fit in”, you ask yourself. Am I no longer useful?

 

So many goodbyes

In today’s corporate world, we expect a certain amount of employee turnover. As an experienced middle manager, you’ve seen your share of people coming and going - a natural process both in people’s careers and company lifecycles. But the amount of goodbyes you’ve witnessed recently seems a little out of hand. Are others feeling the signs mentioned above? Is the company possibly going through something so major that many of your co-workers feel it’s time to go as well? Maybe you’re not alone...

 

Sitting on your laurels = failure

As a middle manager, it’s much too early in your career to be complacent. If at least two of the factors above are gnawing at you, it’s time to make a decision. If you decide to stay at your company, you’ll have to adopt a flexible mindset and “roll with the punches”. Who knows, maybe the new (and possibly improved) organization will once again feel like home. However, if you’re not sure you can tough it out during what looks like a transition period, it’s time to find an organization with a better fit. Whichever you decide, I wish you great success on your journey to the corner office.

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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