Operation GTFO: Quitting Your Job & Reclaiming Your Life

Let me start this one by saying the following: This is not one of my favorite topics. I have a hard time with the fact that SO MANY people are in work environments that are hurting their health and well-being.

I could talk about the injustice of that in a world so full of injustices or I could get on my rant of “Aren’t we all people?! Why do we treat each other in horrible ways at work?!” but I’ll leave it at this: I’ve seen many friends, clients and colleagues go through this cycle of pain, and I have gone through it myself.

There’s a position that I do not list on my resume or LinkedIn. I had a nine-month stint there, and I was so appalled at the way the company operated ethically and treated their employees (including me), that I quickly launched Operation #GTFO (Get the Eff Out) and ending up quitting outright. However, there were a couple of really confusing weeks before I did that when I felt so beaten down, scared of what I was going to do and unsure of how I was going to come into work everyday. An additional layer for me was that I had also seemingly figured out my previous unhappiness when I moved to Argentina, so it felt like a huge failure in those early, dark days. I was someone who “had it figured out”, so to feel these familiar pangs of terror and dread felt like this Paula Abdul video (minus the opposites attracting part).

I remember my birthday that year. I was out with my friend Molly for a nice birthday dinner. She had offered to come to my neighborhood and take me out for dinner and a glass of wine. Supposed to be fun, right? Well, I ended up getting myself so worked up after she left that I spent the entire night puking and crying. I lived alone at the time and was too embarrassed to call a friend for support, so I suffered alone.

That is not recommended. 

Soon after Puke-Gate, I had a super strong conviction that I had to #GTFO. (Puking, feeling physically ill, actually BEING physically ill, going to the hospital, having chronic pain, etc, etc are all bodily responses to an untenable situation at work B.t.dubbs) Anyway, I started to put actual feelers out to my peeps and I was also sending good vibes to the universe and all that jazz and soon enough, my friend Lauren contacted me with a mid-term contract position she thought of me for. I went in, interviewed, got the position and was happy helping that company out while I built this business on the side.

So, if you are in an untenable situation at work, and you know it’s gone on long enough, how can you figure out when and how to go about quitting your job? I’ve created a checklist you can use to make sure you’re ticking all the important boxes for yourself before making this big quitting decision. I do not take quitting outright (much less without a job) lightly AT ALL, so I hope you are not reading this post that way. Instead, I want to make sure you’re prepared and feel supported so you can reclaim your life.

Get the checklist here. 

quitting

Because life is short, as we see time and time again with all of the crazy and horrific things that happen in our world. Hating your job and making yourself sick over it should absolutely not be on your list of things to worry about. Ever.

What to Do When Your Job Makes You Feel Insane

Maybe you can relate: you’re doing a good job, your work is of high quality and you’re feeling like you’re getting into your groove at your new-ish job, when suddenly things don’t seem as good as they were at the onset. Suddenly, you’re told you’re not meshing with the culture or it’s not “as much of a ‘culture fit’ as we originally thought.” Say WHA??? You may ask yourself if you’re going insane.

Whoa, what? But everything was going so well! My work product is great and on time or early, you might be thinking. I am displaying all the signs that I want to learn, you might be telling your management team. What gives?!

 

insane

This kind of situation can be confusing and make for an almost out of body experience. I remember when it happened to me a few years ago, I was so confused, scared, flummoxed, flabbergasted, and every other word that basically denotes “WTF!” I remember feeling like I was going insane- the things that management was saying about me and to me were so foreign and weird, that I didn’t know what to do. (I’m still trying to find the words to share more of that experience, in hopes it can help someone in a similar situation, but I haven’t quite gotten there yet.)

I felt the need to write something in the interim about this, because I’ve recently worked with two clients on issues like this. They’ve broken down in our meetings, and my heart goes out to them, because I know what it’s like to be in those shoes. (I got so upset on my birthday a couple of years ago, and I worked myself up so much, that I vomited.)

Now, of course, there are difficult employees. But assuming that you are not one of them, and you’re dealing with this very real situation where you’re feeling the tide is turning and this wall of resistance is building against you, I wanted to share the following advice/perspective.

1. You may feel insane, but you most likely aren’t. Since you’re spending so much time there, their interpretation of this situation can feel like reality and like you’re doomed, but you’re not. Once I realized that I was dealing with an untenable situation, I developed an exit plan and developed a relationship with another company where I worked as a contractor for a couple of years as I built my coaching practice. Working there was a fabulous and nurturing experience and it reversed my PTSD-esque brief experience with the other company.

2. The good news is, you’re not entrenched. What I mean by this, is the majority of times that I’ve seen this happen, it’s early on in your ‘residency’ at the company. In other words, things turn bad quick, and it’s easier to disentangle yourself from the situation. You’re not on a million projects and a key lynchpin at the company. Of course, it IS possible for that to happen, but it’s not as likely. This makes your exit plan that much easier. You can likely move on and remove the experience from your resume, as I did. (My experience was also with a less than ethical company, in my opinion, so I didn’t want my name associated with them.)

3. Take Care of Yourself. I can’t believe how when this was going on how I wasn’t paying attention to how I was feeling and what I was doing. I threw up for Pete’s sake! Know that it WILL get better and try to focus instead on your wellness. Meditating, going to the gym, talking with a coach or therapist or friend about it- whatever it takes to not internalize the horrible insane situation and instead let it out in a cathartic way. Do what makes you happy, get to a good baseline and when you’re feeling calm and ok, develop your exit plan and GTFO (get the eff out) ASAP. This involves getting in touch with your network- another good reason to keep them top of mind always- and seeing what’s out there, even if it’s a temporary fix to your situation (freelance, project based work, for example).

What else can you do to maintain your sanity when you feel like you’re going nuts? Leave some comments below for me!

 

What is 100% Effort?: Changing Careers Edition

I was working with a client today, and she said something that really stuck with me: “What is 100% Effort?” She was talking about work, of course, rather than say, training for a marathon, although I suppose the same conversation could be had about any of it.

What she was driving at was the notion that she doesn’t know when to stop. She’s looking to drastically change her career, but just because she’s made that decision doesn’t mean she immediately stops caring about her current company, company mission or her professional reputation.

I grappled with this when I left my job and life as a financial services event professional at the end of 2011. I had been with the company for nearly 6 years and essentially ‘grew up’ there. I worked hard, earned some great opportunities and learned a ton. So just because I decided that wasn’t the life for me didn’t mean I stopped caring overnight! And given my more central role in the company/division, I wasn’t about to leave anyone high and dry.

evnt planning

Me as a Financial Services event planner back in 2009 at our pension fund football event. Yes, really. 

So what my client said this morning to me really took me back and put me back in those shoes- of caring for many reasons but wanting to move on. How do you go at a pace that allows you to straddle current responsibilities and frankly caring about something with moving on to a better opportunity for where you are in your life now?

Obviously everyone’s blueprint to work through this will differ based on company culture, function in the organization, etc, but the point is that all of ya’ll working through this- this notion of ‘what is 100%? and where do I stop?” should be thought of in a way that supports both your long terms goals (MOVE ON!) and short term goals (DO THE TEAM A SOLID!) And the other point I’ll make is that coming up with a plan – and WRITING IT DOWN- will be key. A lot of times we just ‘think about it vaguely’ or don’t put intention behind it and then we walk into the office and get railroaded by requests or demands, leaving us drained and unable to focus on our next move or next phase once the workday ends.

Here are some approaches – a combo of ideas I used in my transition and things my clients have used in theirs:

1. Boundaries & Mindset: This is huge, and is absolutely the place where everyone must start when considering a plan like this. Questions like:

  • When does my workday begin and end?
  • What will I do if there’s yet another firedrill ‘demanding’ I stay longer or log in at night?
  • Which meetings are absolutely necessary and which am I invited to but have no real impact? (That happens SO much!)
  • How will I communicate I will not attend in those ‘unnecessary meetings’ situations?
  • If I work in an environment where everything is urgent, how will I prioritize and most importantly, communicate to the person bringing the urgency my plan for addressing the urgency? (e.g. delegate, give a time when you’ll get back to them, etc)
  • Can I work from home or remotely one day per week to cut out commute time?
  • If I feel overwhelmed by requests or uncertainty, what practice will I put in place to right myself? (e.g. go for a walk, use a meditation app, get out of the office, go to the nearby coffee shop and get a cookie (that’s what I used to do!))
  • What is my intention for the beginning of the day? Can I write that down in a notebook and review it each day?
  • How can I set myself up for success for the next work day? (e.g. physical space cleaned up, to-do list set, etc?)

2. Priorities: List out the various projects you’re on or the various things you’re responsible for. Keep it broad buckets/broad brushstrokes. Now pick the top 3 and put a proverbial stake in the ground or line in the sand. An example would be, “I’m going to spend 90% of my time and energy on the top 3 priorities.” Then, you have some time left over for the rest of the lesser important things. If you have a boss or manager who is constantly moving the needle, try and have a frank talk with them about this. Don’t make it about you and your time, though, but instead think about it in terms of the impact you’ll have if you’re able to focus on x, y and z rather than a,b,c,d,z,y,x. Put it in terms of the biz when you talk to your manager and come to the table with solutions for how the remainder of the lesser important stuff will be handled.

3. Track It. So just because you’d spend 90% of your time on those TPS reports doesn’t mean it magically happens You gotta put the intention out there and the work toward it. But if you don’t have a stopwatch in your head, use something like Toggl that will help you easily track your time.

4. Weekly (or Bi-weekly) Check Ins. Look at your tracking reports (maybe from Toggl if you choose) and how you’ve done getting the top x priorities handled. Did it work? What needs to be recalibrated? How did you feel doing it this way?

5. Openness: This one depends on your work environment. I’m not about to tell you to march in somewhere and let them know the real deal. The client I mentioned at the beginning has a very open environment where they encourage open dialogue about moving on and finding new opportunities- and they mean it. If this sounds like your company, you can always approach your manager and give ’em the skinny. Then come up with an exit plan or a racheting down plan that works for you AND them.

Bottom line: whatever you take from the above perspective, know that having any plan at all is the key point I want you to take away from this. When you just go into the workday or work week willy nilly, you can tend be eaten up by the tidal wave that is the workday at many companies and in many industries. Having the right mindset and setting boundaries and checking in on your plan can go a long way to keeping you sane while you straddle the two worlds of keeping up with your current work while finding work that feeds your soul long term.

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You CAN mail a pumpkin- Leadership Lessons from Top Women in Advertising-

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

 

And so started a transformational evening last week at The WSDM™, the well-being salon for women I’ve been hanging out at this year. The idea is that it provides a place for people to tell their stories in the hopes of inspiring other women. The result is that there are powerful takeaways, amazing perspective and no “business-y jargon” and platitudes that often happen at your typical industry conference.

So, I’m including 3 of my favorite stories from the event here in the hopes that it will inspire YOU with something you’re currently working through. (By the way, it was so hard to pick just  three- all of the women on the panel were incredible.)

1. The Pumpkin Story: Allison Arden, the VP and Publisher of Advertising Age, informed me that you really can mail almost anything through the USPS. She heard you could mail fruit, for example. Just slap a stamp and address on an orange and it would arrive at your desired destination. So she mailed herself an orange, and a day later she received it. The point of this, really, was to get her to challenge what was really actually possible. In actually undertaking that seemingly small challenge, she opened herself up to what else was possible. So the next day, she was waiting for a client in a lobby of a hotel, and because she was early, she used the time to write on paper an outline for a book she’d had a vague idea about in her head. Then the next day, on a train somewhere, she opened up her laptop and wrote half the book. You see where this is going. A bunch of these steps (and yours could be smaller!) eventually turned into a book deal.

Lesson: Powerful leaders challenge what is possible- not just at work or with the team, but within their own lives.

2. The Bippity Boppity Boo Guy Story: Jennifer Zimmerman, Global Chief Strategy Officer of McGarryBowen, had a presentation coming up with a guy, dubbed Bippity Boppity Boo in her story, who was new-ish to the group. During the run through, he was sweating, stumbling, stuttering– you know, just plain nervous (we’ve all been there!). The head of the group told Jennifer that she was going to have to do the big presentation because no freaking way was that going to fly with BBB. Jennifer, without skipping a beat said, “It’s either both of us, or it’s neither of us- your choice. He’s going to be great, but if you still have reservations, you have the choice for neither of us to be there.” The head of the group backed down and BBB was stellar. It for sure took cajones, and in getting over that cojones threshold, she was able to instill confidence in BBB and he rose to the occasion. And now they’re life long colleague besties who have worked together for years. The end.

Lesson: Letting go of the need to react/swoop in/fix it and instead instilling confidence and allow what happens to happen is a huge mind shift, but when you’re able to be selfless in that way, you’re building life long partnerships and instilling your team with confidence in you and themselves.

3. “We are all humans having a work experience.” Kim Bates, the founder of the WSDM, taught me this. Well, I was already on board and knew it, but she made it real and tangible and a ‘thing’ for me. Kim told a story about her mentor who always wanted to measure things and make things quantifiable and understand the level to which employees were engaged.  And throughout the years, in various matters, Kim would always tell him that we are all humans having a work experience. So when they were trying to figure out how to name a new IT security product so it would appeal to IT guys and gals, they decided to call it something with “Secure” in the name. Why? Because IT people’s biggest fear is a security breach that could cost them their job, which would then impact their ability to take care of their family. The product was a success. See? We’re all humans having a work experience.

Lesson: Being empathetic, while wonderful in its own right, doesn’t only have touchy feely benefits. In this case, it launched a product to success – because the ad agency understood the customer’s inner motivations. 

I could seriously go on and on about the stories and lessons I learned and re-learned last night, but I did want to share three of my top three for any of ya’ll out there grappling with leadership issues. As a former leader in a successful organization, I was reminded of times when I rose to the occasion like these women did and do each and every day, and times when I did not. It’s inspiring to know good leadership, whether in an official job title capacity or just in life, is within all of our collective reach.

4 Critical Ways to Prepare for a Tough Conversation

We’ve all had them- those tough conversations with a co-worker about a delayed project, a performance issue or any number of things that we’d just rather not talk about.

Alternately, maybe it’s a disagreement with a client, and they hung up on you or vice versa. Even worse, right?!

Well, kind of. It may seem like all the blood is rushing to your head and your heart is beating faster either in anticipation of the conversation, during the conversation or directly after. And while that may be biologically true sometimes, it doesn’t actually need to be that way.

Some people I’ve talked to about these types of scenarios look at me like I’m from another planet because they just can’t visualize what it’s like NOT to have a sweaty palm-like conversation with a manager, peer or direct report. And what I say is: it’s all in the prep.

Oftentimes our conversations feel so out of control because they crash down upon us like the angry waves in the 1990 Patrick Swayze classic Point Break.

Continue reading on Ivy Exec’s website here. And if you’d like to join a free class on this topic, click here to register.