Many years ago I found myself in a job that seemed completely suited to me in every way, in an amazing company, working with awesome people.
And I almost quit.
I wasn’t coping with the stress of the job. I didn’t like the sustained pressure and challenges. The pace was high and seemed never ending. I wasn’t comfortable not being in control, and the nature of the work meant I was a consultant, an influencer, an intermediary, but had no direct control over final decisions. This didn’t sit well with me. My previous roles were stressful and challenging, but I had felt more in control of my outcomes.
After 18 months of burying all of this inside, I began quietly identifying for myself all the external reasons why this great job in this great company wasn’t right for me.
I could point to all the external “causes” of my issues – market dynamics, clients who changed their minds, people being unpredictable.
While I was “succeeding” in business terms and bottom line results, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t succeeding by my standards. I genuinely couldn’t see myself keeping it up for years to come.
I was honest enough with myself to know that in the past I usually got the “18 month itch” in jobs, and typically would go looking for new challenges to extend myself, preferably with “a better boss, in a better company”. And I was also aware that this unsettled point in my role had arisen around the 18 month mark, but now I had no excuses, because I was in a better company (the best!) and I was with a better boss (the best!). I couldn’t see any logical reason to quit. This confused me.
The defining factor I locked onto was this job was more stressful than all the previous ones, with more responsibility, more pressure and higher workload. And while I had dealt successfully with “full on” jobs in the past, I was tired of paying a personal price for it. I wanted balance, well-being and happiness. I didn’t want to feel like a headless chicken wrung out by the end of every week.
Intervention + Investment = Retention
Luckily for me, being in a great company with a present and people-oriented boss, meant they saw me quietly melting down. Perhaps I was vocal about it too from time to time. But the main point is – they saw my potential, and they saw a way to bridge the gap from where I was at that time to where I could be if I was given the right guidance. Perhaps they could see what I already knew but didn’t really want to admit – that I was heading toward resigning and moving on if I couldn’t figure out a way to sustainably deal with the challenges I was experiencing.
In my mind, this was my problem, not theirs.
I figured “the job is the job”, and the pressure came with the territory. So deal with it, or leave. That was true. But I had also been thinking, “I am who I am, and I’m not suited to this”.
I hadn’t stopped to consider that perhaps I needed to change. Perhaps it was time for me to pull up my big-girl socks and figure out how to personally be more capable of dealing with higher pressure, higher workload, stress and difficult situations. Perhaps there was a way to operate with more detachment, more calm, more grace, more effectiveness and less stress in the face of exactly the same situations and triggers. Perhaps I didn’t have to feel wrung out at the end of each week.
Rather than pointing the finger outward, to all the stress triggers, it was time to consider the thumb pointing back at me. Maybe this was one of those moments in life where you either blame everything else around you and carry on your merry way blissfully ignorant to your own limitations, dragging them with you into your next career role, or you “woman-up” and are willing to glaringly see your own areas for development.
Thanks to a boss who knew the value of investing in people to lead them into their full potential, the company made a decision which resulted in me staying with them for a total of 6 years, thriving to whole new levels of success, reaching my full potential, paying back their investment in me many times over. They gave me 3-4 sessions during work time with a psychologist for the specific purpose of coaching me on how to take back control in my work situation – how to process stress triggers differently, how to see things from a new perspective, and therefore how to be calmer and more effective. Those sessions resulted in me recalibrating and staying with the company to enjoy a much longer tenure.
Not only did this “intervention and investment” mark a pivotal turning point in my personal and professional development, but I’ve also since provided the same coaching to other people in the workplace where it turned them around in the same way – either high performers ready to walk away due to disengagement or stress, mid-level performers whose full potential was simply untapped, or performance management scenarios where valuable talent was totally disguised due to surface level issues.
In every person there is gold waiting to be mined.
Companies that treat their people like treasure troves, that are willing to intervene and invest when they spot a gap between where someone is and where they could be, are the companies that benefit.
And from an employee perspective, there is nothing like it when your company believes in you enough to do that for you.