Question: I left my job with a software company six months ago to take on a more senior role with another firm. The job spec was promising and after the interview it seemed like a company I would have been excited to join. The salary is reasonably high and I don’t have to commute as far. However, I hardly have any work to do. The team I manage is bright, hard-working and keen to take on more challenges. I’ve suggested projects to my employer and he has turned them down. How can I push to find more work and do what they hired me to do?
Answer: Feeling underappreciated and under-utilised in your role can be very difficult and frustrating, particularly having moved from what appears to have been a fulfilling role. While it seems that you have isolated boredom and lack of challenge as the key issues here, you must delve a little deeper to consider all aspects of the role and organisation.
If your role was to change, would the culture of the organisation still be an issue? If you were given a higher volume of work, would the reporting structure and your level of autonomy be an issue?
A career coach can help you think through your situation. Alternatively, take time out alone with a notepad and create a “pros and cons” list. This may help you to appreciate the aspects of the role, organisation and team you enjoy but also isolate the areas that are more difficult or mundane.
Request a conversation with your manager to discuss your expectations of the role and organisation from the interview and job spec stage and your manager’s expectations of you. Your impression of their requirements may have been biased by your previous role, the reputation of the organisation or by the desire to progress your career. Equally, the hiring manager may have over-promised or over-sold the role. It is important to consider the gaps here and how these may be overcome.
People management appears to be a large element of your new role. While your team is strong and, according to your summary above, requires little assistance, perhaps you need to shift your focus away from being constantly busy with projects and tasks to become more engaged in coaching and developing your team.
Ongoing interactions, support and feedback have been proven to be more effective than an annual performance conversation. Building a successful and fulfilled team may be a priority. Is this something that you would find engaging?
Regarding the projects you have suggested, request feedback as to why they are not being progressed. If there are budget restraints, perhaps you need to focus your attention on cost-saving initiatives or projects that require people resources rather than funding. If the projects suggested are too complex or perceived as unworkable, perhaps there are aspects that are achievable in the shorter term or a staggered approach.
Senior management may have access to bigger picture or longer-term plans that are contrary to the approach you are taking in your idea generation. Aligning your thinking more closely with the real company vision will help you generate ideas that are achievable and beneficial.
It is possible that, having explored all of the above, you feel it’s not working out. While you don’t want your CV to show a series of quick job changes, other than contract roles, your job satisfaction and overall wellbeing is paramount. In evaluating your next career move, be mindful of your experience here.
Develop a vision of your ideal role and organisation with the help of a career coach if necessary.
Read the job spec thoroughly, visit the company website, request a site tour if appropriate.
Create a list of questions that will help you evaluate the job offer and organisation beyond the job spec or the “sell” at the interview.
Conduct informal research by reaching out to family, friends or former colleagues who have had previous experience with the company.
Do not speak negatively about your previous employer at interview. This will likely be perceived as disrespectful.
If possible, avoid leaving your role until you have secured your next opportunity.
Once you have secured a new role, be careful not to rush to judgment or let a past negative experience colour your impression of your new role.
This article first appeared in the business section of The Sunday Independent, on 27th August 2017, and the original article can be found here.
Senior Occupational Psychology Consultant