Question: The employer I work for, the branch office for a large, national corporation, is considered the best in our industry. They may be the best for clients, but they’re not the best for employees. Our branch manager hires talented employees, works us hard and pays us as little as possible.
I’m cynical now, but when I first landed my job, I had stars in my eyes. I believed I’d go far and perhaps land a regional position for our corporation. The branch manager, who I work directly under, promised me a lot. I soon learned this was his style. He knows how to make promises but not how to keep them.
I worked my heart out for the first nine months and then realized the branch manager was taking advantage of me. I hung on, because moving to a different company would be a step down. After several more months, I looked around for a better job. While I found other jobs, I didn’t find another that fit my work/life balance as nicely. I have almost no commute. I like my coworkers.
I even like the work I do, or at least I used to, until I realized that when I really put muscle into projects, my manager took credit for what I did. While clients appreciate me, it doesn’t help me move up in my company. The only position I can move into is held by the branch manager, and he’s not going anywhere. Even if he leaves, no one above him in the corporate leadership knows what I can do, which ends my dream of a regional position. My manager takes credit for the products I create and for the accolades my clients give me. I tried blind-copying some of the corporate managers above him on a few project emails. That got back to my manager, who let me know those above him considered blind copying “troublesome” behavior. I won’t try this again, nor can I go to our corporate HR manager. She’s a close friend of our branch manager.
I’m at the point of “why bother?” I do the minimum, which is enough to keep my job. I like leaving work at 5 p.m. and not bringing work home. I admit it feels satisfying to turn the tables on my manager, who can’t use me anymore to promote his image with our corporate leadership. For a while, I contemplated starting a small business on my own time but haven’t been able to get started. I read one of your articles on quiet-quitting, and I don’t think I’m alone in how I feel or the truth that many employees don’t work hard because they work for career-stifling managers. I’d like your thoughts.
Answer: Stop hurting your career to win a gotcha battle with a manager you disrespect. You’ve successfully rationalized yourself into stagnation. In a career sense, it’s as if you’ve veered off course and begun walking across the Cook Inlet mud flats. Now you’re mired. No wonder you haven’t been able to get started on developing your own small business.
You deserve better. “Quiet quitting,” or not going above and beyond because it’s not rewarded, doesn’t bring happiness or success. At best, it gives you the ability to enjoy your nonwork life, but like other passive-aggressive tactics, it can kill your spirit and dreams.
Here’s the truth you need to grapple with: You’ve grown accustomed to the addictive pleasure of doing little, but that’s like eating cotton candy. While it tastes yummy on the way in, you’re left with little other than sticky fingers. Meanwhile, life passes you by as you paddle in place.
Re-engage and take back control of your career by setting goals. Think back to what you wanted a year and a half ago when you took this job. What do you want to achieve in your career? What are you good at? Start doing those activities again. Create forward movement.
I don’t buy the stories you tell yourself, that you’re stuck working for this manager or employer. Reach beyond your manager, to clients who’ll learn your value and might offer you a job. Create thoughtful LinkedIn posts that achieve visibility with national employers that might offer you a remote position. Your employer might be the leader in the industry in Anchorage, but is there an up-and-coming competitor? Could you get hired by an “Avis, we’re #2, we try harder” and leave your “we’re Hertz, we’re #1″? Can you make your current job a steppingstone and not a career-ender?