Having Your BestDay

June 1, 2022

Gagging on your toothbrush

I had a dream that I was running out of a building that was collapsing. As I ran down the hallway, the ceilings and walls behind me were caving in. I made it out of the building in one piece. Most dreams I can’t remember, but this one sticks with me. A loved one suggested the dream was instigated by our family’s binging on Mission Impossible movies for a week. Maybe. At the time I was working for an organization that on the Thriving to Surviving scale was seriously in the red zone. Now back to the dream - a short time after waking up from the collapsing building dream I left that organization. It got me thinking - how do you know when it is time to leave an organization that feels like it is figuratively collapsing around you? Here are a few indicators that worked for me:

You have a physical response thinking or going into work. You know what I mean - on Sunday night your tummy starts to churn as you think about the meetings you have to attend the next day, the office politics you will witness, or a myriad of numbing meetings where nothing is accomplished - other than the scheduling of another meeting. A colleague once phrased it this way - when you are getting ready for work and you gag on your toothbrush because you know when you are done you are on your way to work - then it is time to move on.

There is an amazing body of research regarding what makes work meaningful - called the Two Factor Theory. Basically, to have a meaningful day, week, month, career is when your “hygiene” factors are right - pay, benefits, parking spot, etc. Ultimately, these things don’t make you love your job more when they are right, you just hate your job less. In addition to hygiene factors, you need motivating factors - meaning you are part of a team, you are shown gratitude, you do work that feels important and makes a difference in the world. When the hygiene and motivating factors are right, you thrive. So, what does this have to do with the collapsing building dream? If your organization focuses heavily on hygiene factors “Hey, you are paid really well so you should be happy.” Or, as was the case with my organization - the predominant attitude was you should be happy to even have a job here. When the threat of firing is the motivator to keep you working hard - it will only last so long before you will, well, start gagging on your toothbrush.

The last measurement is super easy - are you having fun? Do you enjoy what you are doing? If not, is this a temporary lull that will end - or does your Magic 8-Ball tell you nothing is going to change as far into the future as you can see?

If any of the above are your situation - then it is time to plot your exit strategy before the ceiling and walls start to crash down on you. Even though it is a lot of work to find new work - especially in a place where the hygiene/motivating factors are balanced - wouldn’t it be nice to brush your teeth in peace again?

Your friends at BestDayHR

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