The Devils You Know

The Devils You Know

The surveys start to appear shortly after a recovery takes hold. As many as sixty or seventy percent of working men and women say they intend to leave their current employer as soon as they can. Historically, however, few actually do. Is that a mistake?

Typically, there are three circumstances that cause people to leave an employer.
• They think it took advantage of or abused them during the recession.
• They feel uncomfortable with the culture and values of the organization.
• They find or receive an offer that seems better than their present situation.

These circumstances are all perfectly rational reasons for making a change. So why, in the end, do so many people stay right where they are? Basically, it boils down to this: The devils they don’t know seem more ominous than the devil they do know.

Now, I’m very respectful of the anxiety and even trepidation people feel when making a change. We’re all more comfortable with what’s familiar and understood, even it’s less than perfect. But, is the emotional security of the devil we know enough of a justification for standing pat? I don’t think so.

I’m not advocating that you run right out and switch employers, but I am saying that you should determine whether or not it’s beneficial to do so. Changing jobs is a cognitive exercise, not an emotional one. Analysis is the key to making the best decision for you and your career.

I recognize that performing such an evaluation is not easy. First, you have to damp down the fear of making a change. Then, you have to steel yourself to be dispassionate and rigorous, careful yet bold. You have to invest the time and make the effort to uncover all of your options, gather the facts about each of them, confirm the validity of those facts, and then assess their importance to your career by rank ordering their potential upside for you.

Understanding what constitutes your upside – what you’re striving for – is the essence of making a smart choice. Your goal should always be to optimize both your satisfaction – the sense of fulfillment you get from performing at your peak in the face of a challenge you find meaningful – and rewards at work – whether they’re measured in financial terms or in your prospects for growth and advancement. Never settle for something less if you have the chance to give yourself something more.

That “more” may, of course, be the opportunity you have right now. Your current employer may offer the best option you have. However, you’ll never know whether that’s true or not unless you do your homework on each of your options. Or, to put it another way, success is achieved by getting to know all of the devils in your career and then selecting the one that is most likely to become your better angel.

Work Strong,

Note: To read more about Career Fitness and Career Activism, get my books, A Multitude of Hope: A Novel About Rediscovering the American Dream, Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System, and The Career Activist Republic. All are available at, in many bookstores and on