Q: I’ve been moving into progressively higher roles at my company, with more exposure to the business model and motivations that drive decisions. I’ve been seriously questioning the corporate world and the sheer greed that drives the majority of the challenges I face. What should I do?
LeAnn, 47, SVP, customer service
A: This question places you at a major crossroad. Find a balance between acting rashly and compromising your values.
Let’s be clear from the start: There’s no single right decision. Each person will have a different set of emotional, spiritual and practical considerations to weigh. And those will change, depending on your stage in life. So set aside any judgment about the decision you ultimately make.
Keep in mind, too, that a decision you make this year will not dictate every single decision you make in the future; your options will still be open.
Now, digging into the core issue, what is the impact of the greed you are perceiving, both on you and on other people?
For example, perhaps a bottom-line focus is causing employees to be shorted. Maybe profits are high but raises, bonuses and development opportunities are low. Or maybe staff are being asked to do more and more without extra reward. In those cases, you may feel like you are the unintended oppressor of people on your team.
Perhaps you have become aware of “shortcuts” that save money but harm the customer, and that is weighing on your conscience.
Or maybe it’s as simple as, your company exists to make money independent of the common good, and this is clashing with an orientation toward social action.
Take a look at what you would lose if you walk away from the corporate world.
First, at your level in a corporate job, you are likely to be fairly well paid.
You may or may not have job security in these somewhat tumultuous times, but you have a reasonable chance of landing on your feet. Are you able and willing to walk away from your current level of financial well-being?
If you have been taking pride in title and position, this may also be hard to let go of.
And what is the cost of staying in your role? You may feel like you are actively doing harm. In that case, you could consider ways to improve the situation from within your current position.
It may be preventing you from doing things that make a more direct difference, and maybe on-the-side volunteer roles no longer feel like enough.
After weighing all of this, imagine your future given both options. Then decide what steps you need to take to make either option successful. Have conversations with your spouse or partner, if you have one.
Consider the impact on your kids, if appropriate. And look inside, letting your heart and soul have a voice.
If you really want to change but conclude that now’s not the time, think about ways to express your values more fully day to day.
Also, consider whether a five-or 10-year threshold may be more realistic, and build toward that.
Then create practical plans that will lead to a satisfying outcome, regardless of your choice.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.