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Are You Stuck in a Toxic Job?

Robert Half International Inc.

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When it comes to your career, it's often wise to play it safe arriving 15 minutes early versus 10 minutes late for an interview, over-preparing for a presentation rather than winging it, or ordering a salad at a business lunch even though you really want the ribs.

Sometimes, though, it's smarter to take a risk, especially when your happiness and professional goals are on the line. If you're continually bored, unchallenged or overlooked at work, throw caution to the wind and consider exploring other employment options rather than toughing it out.

Following are a few situations that are potentially poisonous to your career and some quick fixes:

The Wimpy Workload
A short break between major projects can be advantageous, but too many days of underutilized time might spell danger. If you've asked your manager for more assignments but still have time to construct paper-clip chains and sort ballpoint pens by brand, something is wrong. Request a discussion with your supervisor and remind him or her that you'd like to take on greater responsibility around the office.

The Sideways Shuffle
You've assumed increasingly complex and visible projects and acquired the skills and knowledge necessary to reach the next level, but the position you seek is occupied by someone who shows no sign of leaving the company anytime soon. In this case, have a candid conversation with your boss about your career path or opportunities in other departments within your organization.

Big Brother Blues
If your boss is constantly checking up on you or asks for a daily activity report when your co-workers submit theirs weekly, he or she may not trust you to produce quality work. Assess your professional behavior to identify problem areas. For example, have you missed important deadlines or found it challenging to work effectively in a team environment? Then set up a meeting with your boss to discuss plans for improving your performance.

Dynamic Deficit
Maybe you've been doing the same work for three years, and what was cutting edge when you began feels like ancient history now. If you've mastered the basic functions of a job and it has become routine, you either need more responsibility, a different position or both. Speak to your manager about taking on assignments that are more diverse.

If you've found yourself in one of these situations, and all your corrective measures have failed, it may be time to plan an escape strategy. Here are some four steps you can take to exit your job with grace, confidence and style:

1. Clarify your goals.
Write down what you like and dislike about your current job to determine if a different type of position or industry better suits your skills and interests. Taking a class in an area that appeals to you, consulting a career coach or interviewing people who have jobs that pique your curiosity also may help you hone in on your true passion.

2. Explore every option.
If you enjoy your organization, consider an internal transfer. Speak to colleagues in other departments or a human resources representative to learn about potential opportunities. Even if nothing turns up, you'll know you did all you could to find satisfaction at your current company which will make you feel that much more confident about your decision if and when you decide to move on.

3. Be discreet.
Resist the urge to share your dissatisfaction or intent to leave with your manager or co-workers. It's best to end on a high note and you don't want your boss to start lining up a replacement until you're ready to make a move.

4. Don't burn bridges.
When the time comes, pave the way for a positive exit you never know if a future employer will call your old boss for a recommendation or when you will cross paths with a former colleague. Keeping relationships cordial and maintaining productivity as you leave a job will ensure you're remembered as a true professional.
Tolerating a dead-end job, especially for a prolonged period of time, can take a huge toll on your health and happiness. If you've done all you can to improve the situation and you're still not satisfied, you may want to seriously consider taking the leap and moving on.

Robert Half International Inc. is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 330 offices throughout North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. For more information about our professional services, please visit

Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM

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