Ask any hiring manager what they look for in a candidate, and “honesty” will almost always rise to the top. But let’s be real: what they’re really talking about is being honest in the RIGHT MOMENTS. You’re probably not going to be able to sustain a career by constantly beomg brutally honest and dropping “truth bombs”. And yet — the more successful we become, the greater the temptation is to avoid these uncomfortable moments, to delay, because on some level we know that deep change will arise out of it.
These are 3 situations where you need to cast that hesitation aside and be brutally honest in the interests of your career:
1) When Salaries are Frozen and/or Benefits Begin to Erode at a Company
Sometimes the best cue you’ll receive for being brutally honest comes out of the DISHONESTY of others. Companies can be incredibly cowardly when it comes to addressing a period of turmoil. Oftentimes out of ego or a misguided sense of keeping a disaster “contained” senior leadership will avoid being upfront with their employees and instead begin rolling out a series of “temporary” changes. A temporary freeze on salaries. A temporary rolling back of perks and a much tighter view on things like travel expenses. In these cases, they will inevitably tell you not to worry, that we all just need to “ride it out” and things will be fine.
Don’t believe them.
Any time changes like this start happening at a company, you should prepare for the worst. Schedule a face-to-face meeting with your boss and come ready with some hard-hitting questions designed to figure out exactly what’s going on behind the scenes. Make it clear that these types of changes are NOT what was agreed upon when you accepted this role, and that you’re genuinely concerned about your future at the company. If you get some valuable information, great. If not, fine. Either way, you should immediately begin getting your job search materials in order and start a covert search. And if that covert search begins to yield fruit, you should have ANOTHER meeting with your boss and let him or her know that you’re in the midst of considering other opportunities. They’re trying to blind side you. That doesn’t mean you need to respond in kind.
Remember: just because you work at a company DOES NOT obligate you to accept the ramifications of the bad decisions of others!
2) Total Mismatch Between the Job You Were Hired For, and What it Really Is.
Let’s say you’ve gone through an entire, multi-stage hiring process and accepted an offer. But immediately upon start, you realize that the realities of the role, what you’ll be spending the BULK of your time doing, is in no ways representative of what was presented in the job posting.
This is rarely an accident.
Let’s be brutally honest here: they either purposefully duped you because they KNEW a candidate of your caliber would never accept the role as-is, OR the company is in such an extreme state of dysfunction that the right hand truly has no idea what the left is doing, and MULTIPLE people in the hiring process proceeded on totally false information.
Both are deal-breakers. And both are reasons to have a very direct conversation with your boss, as well as (possibly) your main point person during the hiring process about this issue, and opening the door to an amicable parting of ways. You can’t solve a problem like this- the best you can do is keep from being tainted by it.
3) When You’ve Reached a Breaking Point.
This may sound weird coming from a career coach but- your career is SECONDARY to your health and well-being, and that of your loved ones. Your career should SERVE that health and well-being; it should never be the other way around (despite what the toxic vultures in Corporate America would have you believe). And that’s all fine and good, perfectly easy to agree with…UNTIL it’s tested.
Here’s the moment you need to be on the lookout for: when your daily routines and tricks for managing the stress of the job begin to fail, when your mind seems to constantly be at least 3-5 steps behind where it needs to be, when you’re having trouble managing the intensity of your emotions….you’ve reached a breaking point.
And in this kind of a situation, you need to transform from an EMPLOYEE into a FIERCE ADVOCATE for your self-preservation.
Sit down and create a “disconnection plan” that relates to work. How can you step away from the job and NOT create huge negative repercussions? What is most essential to have in place to make this happen? if you have unused vacation days, use them right now towards this purpose. If not, fine. Go into a meeting with your boss, make it clear that your health is in jeopardy and that you need a period of time to recover to full strength, and lay out your plan for how to do it. You set the time period. And during that time period, be kind to yourself. Reconnect with your loved ones. Fill that emotional and spiritual tank up again.
And only once you’ve regained that equilibrium should you take a brutally honest look at your job, every single detail and action, and make an assessment that is designed to answer the question: can I RESTRUCTURE things to prevent a breaking point in the future? If the answer is yes, push to restructure accordingly. If the answer is no, begin exploring new roles and career opportunities.