6 Red Flags That Say It’s Time to Look for a Better Job

We’ve all experienced it at some point or another in our careers: new management comes in, and suddenly a surge of closed-door meetings has the office buzzing. Or a new boss is hired, and you quickly sense tension throughout your department. Sometimes you can’t quite put your finger on it, but something at work just doesn’t quite feel right. Perhaps it’s your gut saying that it’s time for you to look for a better job?

These are all signs your job could be jeopardy, and experts say that more often than not, the problem isn’t just in your head. The human instinct is smarter than people give it credit for. When you feel threatened, you usually are.

Here are some of the biggest red flags that require your attention … and maybe a search for a better job:  

Red Flag #1: Your boss’ attitude towards you changes

Regardless of whether you and your boss currently have an amazing relationship or an difficult one, if you notice changes in the way he/she treats you—from something as seemingly innocuous as avoiding casual conversation to the more concerning move of taking away some of your responsibilities—it could be a sign your job is in jeopardy.

First, try reaching out. If you’re feeling excluded, follow up with your boss directly, if you can. If you can’t—if you feel that it would be way too awkward—that’s a sign there’s something wrong too.

Schedule a meeting with your manager … do NOT drop in and start this particular conversation without warning. I guarantee that it will not go the way you want it if your boss feels ambushed. When you schedule a meeting with your manager, be sure to keep your check-in positive. Tell your boss something like, “I’m doing some self-assessment and I want your advice as to what I could be doing to make me a stronger performer.”

This gives your boss the opportunity to give you honest feedback, and also makes you an ally instead of an antagonist. Employees who want to know how to be better workers are like catnip to bosses.

Keep in mind, however, that your boss could be experiencing his or her own stressors, particularly if your company is under new management, so take the responses at your check-in meeting at face value. Sometimes if they’re less engaged, it means that they are preoccupied themselves.

Red Flag #2: You have a new boss and feel more tension than what would normally be expected

In today’s business world, getting a new boss may be something that happens to you on a yearly basis. And while the fact that you get a new boss isn’t a warning sign in itself, how this person treats you can be. If your boss is being mean to you, or your boss is ignoring you, it can be a blow. But don’t automatically assume that you need to go out and start looking for a new job that day. Ask yourself, “Now what do I do?’”

Why temper your gut reaction? Because it doesn’t always mean the end is near. There are always mixed messages with a new boss, because he/she may be more demonstrative, or because of the lack of familiarity, you could just be misreading his or her attitude.

So what can you do? If you have a mentor in the company, ask for advice on how to deal with your new boss. Or, reach out to your new boss directly to better understand their expectations for you. This gives you a chance to show that you support the new boss and could lead to a much better relationship. However, if the situation hasn’t improved once the dust settles from the new boss coming in, then start thinking about your next move.

Red Flag #3: You’re getting left out of meetings you once attended

Ouch! Sad to say, but this is an almost telltale sign that you need to at least start putting out feelers in your professional network. While you shouldn’t jump to catastrophe mode quite yet, don’t sit there like a bump on a log either. If you’d like to stay within your current organization, look for new opportunities that your HR department announces. Also, reach out to trusted associates for more information about the environment and working relationships in other departments.

If you’d feel more comfortable at a new company, put out feelers to your external contacts. If you’re not involved in professional organizations or networking, you need to start doing that now, regardless of your job status. The time to start building your network is NOT when you desperately need it. If the thought of networking makes you want to pass out, read this great blog by Devora Zack for Forbes. Even though it was written a few years ago, it still packs a positive message for networking wussies.

Red Flag #4: Your Company says that it is heading in a “new direction”

[Oh, oh … cue the theme music from “Jaws”] New management comes in, and though you still have a job, it’s not what you originally signed up for. If such a change doesn’t excite you, you need to ask yourself a few key questions. The first one is, “Is this the organization I had hoped it would be?” And if it has changed, ask “Am I fully behind the change, or is this problematic for me?” Only you can answer.

And the answer you come up with will be a huge sign. If you can self-assess that staying with the organization is going to cause you an inordinate amount of stress, you’re better off making the move earlier rather than later.

Red Flag #5: You’re suddenly feeling uncomfortable

Amid any kind of change at work, you may find yourself wondering if your current job is the right one for you. That’s normal. The issue is when the problem persists. My best friend and I used to work at the same company and we jokingly started a thing we called “The Football Test.”  If we started dreading going to work the next day while watching the Sunday afternoon National Football League games, we knew it was time to go.

Whether you watch the NFL or not, if Sunday dinner becomes a depressing time for you, it’s time to start researching your viability as a candidate for a new job. Age will help you determine what you do for this as well, especially if you are midway through your career. If this is the case, you should be focusing on making your career choices fit you, rather than making yourself fit into a career.

Red Flag #6: You feel TOO comfortable

Yes, it sounds counterintuitive, but being comfortable in your job occasionally can be a bad thing, too. If you’re too comfortable at work, you’re likely not very engaged—something no boss likes to see. If you can’t remember the last time you asked for new training, or to cross-train with another department, or dozens of other things engaged employees do, then it’s time to show your boss you still have that fire in your belly, so to speak.

And, you won’t truly know if you’re too comfortable until you test the market. One of two things will happen. Either you’ll go exploring and realize how great you have it where you work, or you’ll see how much better it might be somewhere else. If it’s the former, appreciating your current situation drives better performance in the future—something every boss likes to see. If it’s the latter, then getting out of a bad situation is ALWAYS a good thing.

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