Check for warning signs that your job is in jeopardy

Do you get Sunday-itis? Do you dread going to work on Monday morning? Do you feel queasy when you think about work on Sunday or find that you are tired or depressed even when you're not at work?

Psychiatrist Stephen Cohen works with people who recently quit or were fired from their jobs. He finds that many don't pick up on early warning signals that trouble is brewing. Clues usually existed before problems actually surfaced but these people hesitated to admit, even to themselves, that there was a problem.

In his book, When the Going Gets Rough: Best Strategies for a Job Going Sour (Bantam, 1984) Cohen created a personal checklist that helps to determine if your job is in jeopardy. He suggests that you write down your honest answers and analyze them for your own clues.

1.      Do you look forward to returning to work after a weekend?

·        Force yourself to write down one thing you dread about work.

·        List five distinct reasons this thing is so unpleasant.

2.      What do you like about your job?

·        List five things you enjoyed in the past six months that benefited the company.

·        List five things you did that were harmful to your job standing or the company, such as things you did wrong or inadequately.

·        List five negative work-related circumstances that were due to how the company is managed or to the nature of the task.

·        List five things you or others have tried to accomplish at work, using the proper channels that somehow were never accepted by the company.

3.      List five ways your boss or people at work have implied you should improve.

·        Of those five, which did you not change even though you could have?

·        Which did you not change because you were certain you couldn't?

·        Write down the reasons you didn't or couldn't change.

4.      List five ways your personal life has gotten better and worse since starting this job.

·        For example, have you been drinking more? Did you make a close friend at work? Have you quit exercising? Are you spending more time with your family? Consider both feelings and behaviors that are better or worse.

5.      Would you leave your job to work for another company, if you could without making major sacrifices?

·        Before you took this job, what made it attractive? Which of those things actually occurred? Which successes surprised you?

·        List five things that keep you in your job. List five sacrifices you'd make to change to a more enjoyable work situation.

Study your responses to discover your expectations and how you're reacting to your job. You may find that you need to explore the situation in greater depth with a career counselor or someone who can understand you and your job. A healthy discussion may reveal how much of the problem is the job or within yourself.

If you are a good performer, you may decide that you aren't the problem. Often, the culprit is simply a mismatch between you and the job. Perhaps the qualities that originally attracted you to the job may not have proven true or you outgrew the job. The problem may rest with the boss or the work environment.

The April 1988 issue of The Pryor Report (Pryor Resources, Inc.) revealed that only 14% of high performing employees leave their jobs because they dislike the job itself. Instead, how they are supervised is much more important. In the article, Top Performers: Why They Stay, Johnson and Higgins, a human resources consulting firm in New York, found that control over the work environment is crucial for job commitment. The study states, "Frustration with top management’s changing priorities and slow decision-making are the most significant dissatisfies."

In addition, 75% of the high performers planning to leave said it was unsafe to say what they felt. Fifty percent of the dissatisfied high performers said their supervisors did not deal fairly with everyone, and 57 percent said their supervisors rarely expressed appreciation for a job well done.

Some healthy introspection may help you isolate the problem. Perhaps you will discover that your Sunday-itis is coming from your own lackluster performance and that you have been ignoring some danger signals. If so, take some aggressive steps to clean up your record. On the other hand, if you are a high performer who finds that the work environment is not nurturing your talents, perhaps it's time to find a company that will. 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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