should I stay or should I go?

A reader writes:

I have been with my company for over four years and was doing well until I went on maternity leave for a year. When I returned, I had a new boss (making me start the cycle of having to prove again my skills and worth) and a new role, which is more strategic than before. But because of my family commitments, especially with the new baby and sleepless nights, I am unable to give 100% to the job.

My current job involves getting very deep into the industry vertical to be able to participate actively in strategy discussions, sometimes with senior management. I am trying my best, I even joined a consulting course. But learning about the nuts and bolts of the industry has been a challenge, and I often sit through meetings with rarely any input. This is making me self-conscious and I often wonder if I am under-performing. My boss has already told me to take industry-related courses because he feels I need to work on this.

He is also sort of a micromanager compared to all my bosses before. He is very knowledgeable but would like me to rise up to his standards and often shoots down my work, which is very much demotivating. He also keeps talking about bringing a person from his previous company who is supposed to be smart, but mentioned that it will not affect my job.

My work in general has been perceived very well with every company I have worked till date (except with my new boss), and I am considered to be pretty good on deadlines and go to any extra ends to get things done. I like my new role but I am not sure if I will be able to perform according to the desired standards and ever please my boss. I am also worried if he will bring this new person in and slowly sidetrack me or fire me. These days, I have really lost my confidence and interest in the job and I am trying for new jobs. What do you suggest? Should I stick to my job or look for a new job?

It’s hard to say with limited information, but these things jumped out at me from your letter:
– You feel you haven’t been able to give 100% to the job because you have different commitments now.
– You and your boss both feel that you do not have the industry knowledge (at least not yet) to do the deep strategy discussions the job requires.
– You don’t like your new boss’ management style (and let’s face it, that style may be becoming more pronounced because your boss isn’t confident in your performance).
– You’re losing interest in the role.

Rather than asking whether you should look for a new job, I’d be asking why you should stay. It doesn’t sound like you believe this job is a natural fit for you, so why not start looking around for one that is?

We should all want jobs that we’ll excel in. It feels crappy to be constantly struggling to succeed in a job, to see a disappointed or concerned boss, to have to worry about being pushed out. Don’t stay for the sake of sticking it out; if this isn’t right for you — and I’m defining “right” as a role where you’re going to shine, not as a job where you can get by — start looking for what might be a better a fit. There’s no shame in that.

But if you’re not ready for that — and maybe with a new baby you’d rather avoid more upheaval — a middle ground would be to talk to your boss, and ask for some feedback. How does he think you’re doing overall? Does he have confidence that you’ll be able to perform at the level he’s looking for in time? Best case scenario, his answers to these questions could provide you with some reassurance. Worst case scenario, they at least help you stop having to guess and give you some firmer facts to base your next move on.

Good luck!

{ 3 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I wouldn’t worry. My boss knows nothing about my industry, adds zero value in meetings, is widely perceived as detrimental to our company and she’s managed to hold onto her job for 2.5 years!

  2. Wally Bock*

    I’m with AAM. It doesn’t look, from your query, like you’re performing well and it doesn’t sound from your post like you’re happy. Those are usually signs that it’s time to go.

    As you think about moving, I’d spend some time thinking about how you want your work situation to be different now that you’re a parent.

  3. Anonymous*

    Excellent answer as it offers a clear direction in where to go. Thanks and will keep this in mind.

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