Feeling Bad Being Happy Where You Are? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I am a veteran employee of a large, very healthy organization. I like the company and my co-workers. I’ve had plenty of advancement opportunities and I think my comp package is fair.

I have been managing people for a long time and feel that I am skilled. I am not just tooting my own hornI get great feedback from my people and my boss is happy with my work. I would go so far as to say that I have had a fantastic career. I only have a few years left before I retire, which I look forward to—lots of grandkids to take fishing, golf, hiking, volunteer work for my local homeless shelter—and really thought I would stay here until I retire.

However, I get calls from headhunters. All the time. I get emails, voice mails, and now, somehow, they have my cell number so I have stopped picking up numbers I don’t recognize. I did have one conversation with someone who tried to convince me that I could have a shot at a senior executive position and a lot more money if I were to consider going elsewhere.

My wife thinks I am nuts not to explore the possibilities, but it feels like Pandora’s box to me. I like things the way they are. What would be the point of starting over someplace new? But then I worry that I might regret it if I don’t at least take a look at what’s being offered.

If it Ain’t Broke


Dear If it Ain’t Broke,

Don’t fix it.

Sorry you handed that to me on a silver platter. But seriously, don’t.

There are two questions here:

  1. What is driving your wife’s agenda? Has she told you that you seem bored? Unengaged? Frustrated with your management team? Does she want you to make a lot more money? Perhaps she is bored with her own life and hopes that your making a big change will be entertaining? Does she resent, perhaps, that you don’t get enough time off to hang out with her? (Not that starting a new job will alleviate that!) The sooner you learn what is at the root of your wife’s opinion that you should turn your wonderful work life upside down, the better. There might be something to learn there.
  2. If you were to stay where you are, what would you regret? Regret is yucky. Because it is wishing you could change the past, which is impossible. Do you judge yourself because you were once more ambitious? Did you once have dreams that you abandoned because of responsibilities? Would you be able to realize those dreams in a different company? Have you always wanted to be on an executive team or be the boss of everyone? If that is the case, you might want to go for it.

But what you really don’t want is to make a big leap to start over someplace else, only to find that you miss what you had. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants?

As a coach, I have a duty to help people get crystal clear about their values (what is most important to them), their needs (what they must have to fire on all cylinders), and their wants. In that order. For people to feel most fulfilled, they need first to be in an environment that feels aligned with their values, and then they must get their core psychological needs met. After that, they can use whatever time and energy they have left to get (or do) what they want. Anytime a person shakes up their environment, they must spend enormous brain power and energy stabilizing in a new system. This is why moving houses feels like a such a big deal. Moving jobs is even more of a big deal.

Moving jobs makes sense when you:

  • can’t use your strengths,
  • can’t change or grow,
  • are crushed by political mayhem,
  • hate what you are doing,
  • hate the people you work with,
  • are bored to tears,
  • have too much responsibility without the autonomy or authority to use your own judgment, or
  • have a fundamental problem with what the company does.

Moving jobs does not make sense to you for a reason; from your letter, it sounds like several reasons. Unless as you read this you get a flood of good reasons to move that you hadn’t thought of, I say enjoy the next few years where you are.

Have the conversation with your wife, though. You might uncover something she really wants that is causing her to push you. Then you can build a plan to help her get what she wants and let go of this conversation.

Love, Madeleine

About Madeleine

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response soon. Please be advised that although she will do her best, Madeleine cannot respond to each letter personally. Letters will be edited for clarity and length.

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