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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

Your Company's in Turmoil. Should You Jump Ship?

If you’ve ever worked for a company that’s having a particularly bad year or simply not performing as well as expected, you know firsthand what an unsettling environment it can create. A company facing declining sales or profits quickly turns into a pretty stressful place to work, and employees (at every level) are often at the forefront of the chaos.

Not surprisingly, this type of environment typically spurs people to jump into job-seeking action, hurriedly updating their resumes and networking away. But, as I’ve seen with many companies (and their many ups and downs), that’s not always the right answer.

After all, whether public or private, large or small, businesses naturally go through performance cycles. And while a steady decline or set of unexpected challenges can cause things to spiral downhill rapidly, an occasional downturn is generally nothing to panic about. What’s more, a tumultuous workplace can actually facilitate the creation of valuable opportunities and experiences.

If your company is entering choppy waters, here are three questions to ask yourself to determine if it’s time to jump ship or settle in for the long haul.

Is All Instability Created Equal?

Your first step is to dig into the causes of what’s going on and the factors that might have prompted this change. Read what’s being said about your company in media outlets, and ask your manager or another leader you trust what he or she thinks about the situation. Is this problem something that’s occurring in multiple companies across the same industry? Are there strategies or plans in place to address them? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, you might be more inclined to stay put than if current challenges are tied back to poor leadership or a lack of flexibility to changing market conditions. Or, if other companies are suffering with the same challenges, things aren’t likely to be any better in a new setting.

What Could You Lose if You Leave?

A position with a new company can be exciting and energizing, especially if you’re taking on more appealing responsibilities. But bear in mind that when the prestige wears off, any new role will have its own ups and downs, and being the new kid on the block can be draining. Not to mention, as a new employee, you have to reinitiate the process of gaining tenure and credibility (and vacation time!), comforts you were likely accustomed to at your prior position. This is a natural part of any job change, of course, and nothing to lose sleep over, but it’s important to keep in mind when considering a quick change.

What Could You Gain if You Stay?

When companies enter a period of slow or negative growth, the focus often shifts to manageable expenses, e.g., their workforce. It’s not uncommon to see companies temporarily cease hiring or restructure teams. While this might initially seem like more work for fewer people to share, it can also open doors to new opportunities or collaborations that previously didn’t exist. For example, if a sales team cuts down staff in each territory, it might mean new clients for you, or more direct access to department leaders. You’ll also gain experience working through ambiguity and leading in unsteady conditions, a skill that future employers will undoubtedly recognize and appreciate.

It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of your company’s growing pains and organizational shifts. In serious instances, you might see layoffs and other severe measures taken to preserve financial stability, without much warning or explanation. But if you truly believe in your company and think that your leaders have the drive and ability to turn things around, a lot can be gained by staying the course. (And hey, you’ll always have the option to reconsider your decision at a later point and move on if it becomes your best option.)

Plus, it’s important to remember that throughout history, all the best companies in the world have had their rough years, and most of them still came out on top, no doubt with a greater sense of what is needed for success.

Photo of light at the end of the tunnel courtesy of Shutterstock.

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