Just when you think that you’ve finally found the perfect place to build your career, there are troubling signs that your dream job is turning into a living nightmare.
Even if the signs seem to be there, it’s not uncommon to wonder whether you’re just being paranoid, or there are valid reasons to worry. After all, you’re emotionally invested in your work.
Here are five definitive signs that things have taken a turn for the worse, along with some ways to deal with a job that is keeping you up at night.
Projects Drag On Forever
Most teams miss a deadline every now and then, but when a short-term project takes months to finish, it can quickly turn into a horror story.
“First, it's the client's fault, then, it’s the team's fault,” recalled Carson Aguilar, a freelance UX designer who has witnessed this horrifying ordeal first-hand. “When projects drag on forever, it impacts the way team members interact with each other… Soon, the entire culture becomes toxic and non-productive because everyone is pointing fingers.”
How can you put the brakes on this nightmare? You could start searching for a new job or ask to join another team. However, before you make a beeline for the exit, Aguilar suggests that you discuss the situation with your boss: “Sometimes, the process of diagnosing a problem reveals the solution.”
For instance, when your boss realizes what is really going on, he may remove the “bad apples” from the team and start enforcing better deadlines.
Your New Manager Doesn’t Have Your Back
No matter how much you love your job, getting a new boss can be stressful. But when you get the sense that your new boss is more interested in playing office politics and putting his career goals ahead of your professional development, you’re truly in nightmare territory.
Either transfer to another manager or hit the market, because no one wants to work for someone who doesn’t have your best interests in mind.
Executive Turnover Throws the Company into a Tailspin
When a key leader resigns, well-managed companies avoid disruption by promoting an internal employee or appointing an interim replacement. But when there isn’t a strategy to deal with management turnover, and the company is floundering, things can head south in a hurry.
Once workflow gets disrupted, it places an even greater burden on the remaining employees and can lead to emotional stress, Aguilar noted.
Executive turnover is a sign that a shift is coming, agreed Holly Caplan, workplace issues expert, career coach and author. The changes could be good or bad, so you must keep your antenna up. “Don’t buy the message that everything will be okay,” Caplan said. “If you’re going to leave, you need to do it before everyone goes into panic mode."
Avoid nightmare situations by working for a company that devotes time to contingency planning, especially succession planning for management vacancies (it’s something that will inevitably pop up as you research the company; pay attention to news reports and financial-analyst breakdowns).
Your Company Stops Investing in Employee Development
When a company stops investing in its employees, it often signals that change is coming.
It could be a change in culture or finances; whatever the case, it triggers a cascade of other events. As we’ve previously reported, nearly half of IT professionals feel those who are new to their roles are “unprepared,” while admitting they don’t refresh their own skillsets often enough. For many tech pros, a lack of commitment to professional development is a deal-breaker.
Don’t wait; instead, have an honest conversation with your boss about why this happening and what it means. It’s important to get out in front of changes that are likely to have a significant impact on your career, Caplan advised.
Job Has Vision... But Execution Lacks
You finally took a leap of faith and nabbed a job at a startup because you were captivated by the founder's vision for developing a groundbreaking product or service. But after being in the position for a short time, it becomes clear that the founder doesn’t know how to turn his dream into commercial reality.
The failure to execute is so widespread that it affects more than just startups. For instance, recent studies indicate that strategy implementation fails a stunning 50 to 90 percent of the time.
Worse, working for a startup that is struggling can turn hardworking, talented employees into miserable people looking for a way out.
In order to make a startup work, the founders need to know how to break down grandiose goals into small chunks, performance milestones, and daily tasks. With that in mind, don't be afraid to ask the founders how they intend to implement and execute their strategy before you accept a job offer.
BONUS: Your Boss Starts Taking Advantage of You
Shaun Stone was promised growth, great career progression and a pay raise for meeting objectives when he accepted his first role in the software field. While he did grow technically, and learned a lot from some smart people, things took a turn for the worse after his first year on the job.
He was given lousy assignments and forced to do things outside of his contract, explained the UK-based front-end platform lead in an email. He didn’t get the raise he was promised, either. But when the salesforce over-promised deadlines and features to clients without consulting the development team, Stone knew it was time to move on.
He says that when you feel like you are being taken advantage of, it’s time to leave: “There are companies out there that will value you and treat you with respect."