Is that job or relationship you went rushing into increasingly disappointing?
Do you find yourself looking for reasons to stay?
Do you sometimes tell yourself you’re being too demanding?
Are you still hoping something will change?
Lucy is as gung-ho a person as you can imagine. She works hard and plays hard. A New England native who can survive harsh conditions – 100 mile bike rides are right up her alley and she talks about her work as a forensic accountant like most people talk about their favorite hobby: she LOVES to dig into the details of that P&L or Balance Sheet that doesn’t seem quite right. She is a defender of what is right and fair in her work and in her life.
Less than a year ago, Lucy joined a new accounting firm. She was attracted by the breadth of their practice, their business model and what she believed were their shared values. But recently Lucy scheduled a meeting with me because she was frustrated, sad and uncertain what to do. This was definitely NOT Lucy’s style.
She didn’t want to seem overly demanding but the accounting firm wasn’t what she had expected. They didn’t have the systems in place she thought they needed and she had hoped to be able to understand their budgets and contribute to running the firm more efficiently. Except nobody seemed to know or be willing to share that information.
Lucy approached the managing partner to clarify internal policies , but the managing partner said he would get back to her and still hasn’t. It has been several months.
One of the things that had attracted her to the firm was the chance to bring in new clients. She’d had several opportunities to introduce the managing partner to potential clients, but when she did, he exaggerated the size of the firm Even though he said it was OK because they can always call on outside professionals, Lucy just didn’t feel right.
Then in a hushed, almost embarrassed voice, Lucy said she had been contacted by another firm. They wanted to talk to her about possibly joining them.
I feel guilty even talking to them. Especially when my current firm has promised to let me take charge of the project I’m excited about.
Except that it turns out there is no budget for the special project and no explanation of when there would be.
They have hired an intern, so maybe it’s just a matter of time.
But the intern’s manager has yet to make time to sit down with her, and she’s been there a month.
The more Lucy told me about her situation the more I could see she had fallen into a trap that it’s easy to fall into. She had fallen in love with an idea, a perception.
This can happen in our careers and in relationships. When we first engage we see only the good things. When little disappointments come up, and they will, we dismiss them. And we should. After all seeking perfection is a thankless task.
However there are times when in spite of frequent and recurring evidence that what we believed was the truth is actually not true, we continue to maintain our hope that what we wanted to be true, is indeed true, even if it’s not.
Was it ever true? Maybe, maybe not.
Facing the truth of our situation is hard but not facing it exposes us to on-going disappointment in a no-win situation.
If you think you are caught in this trap ask yourself the following questions.
What did I believe about this situation at the beginning?
What is the evidence – the behavior and practices – that suggest it is still true?
What suggests it may no longer be true?
What are the risks of staying where I am?
What are my fears about leaving this situation?
Rate your fears – Look them in the eye – What options do you have for handling them?
If you have experience getting out of this trap, or if you need help, come on over to the comment section where the conversation happens and share.
Until next Tuesday. YIPPEE!