First-Class Coach

I've just taken a new job in a company I thought would look good on my CV, and I hate it.

by Miranda Kennett

 Although the role is interesting, I just don't fit into the firm, morale is low, and I find my boss very difficult to work with. What should I do?

A. Ah, the perils of choosing an employer on the basis of reputation!

The trouble is there is always a time-lag between current reality and public perception. Companies with fine reputations may be basking in the sunshine created by their original founder or a previous, enlightened management, but time has ticked on and all may not be well there now.

Similarly, organisations that have made great strides in turning themselves into successful operations and model employers may continue to be hampered by negative perceptions, long after deserving positive reappraisal. Just look at Marks & Spencer, for decades cited as the paragon of good retailing and management, then falling from grace and now fighting to turn round public and City perceptions.

The moral is: before you join an organisation, make strenuous efforts to find out what it's really like to work there. Discover what the culture is - not just its published or ascribed values, but what goes on every day. Some cultures are cut-and-thrust, such as Dixons and Sky. Some people find this type of culture stimulating and thrive in that environment.

By contrast, some organisations, although ambitious and striving for quality, are focused on supporting and developing their staff - Carphone Warehouse, for instance.

The question for you is: should I stay or should I go? Staying could be the best option if you sense any possibility that what you feel is mainly due to the newness of the job and the difference in culture compared with your previous company, where you knew the ropes and shared mutual respect and friendship with your colleagues and boss. In that case, sticking with the job and trying to improve relationships with your boss and peers could make sense.

You know yourself best: try to stand back from the situation and see whether there is a pattern here. In previous jobs, did it take time to feel at home and settled in your job, or did you enjoy it from the word go?

Staying would also make sense if you're the kind of person for whom the work you do is more important than the environment in which you do it.

The world is divided into those who focus on tasks and their completion, and those who are more concerned with the process and relationships. The first group see themselves as being there to do a job. If their peers like them, that's a bonus, but it's not essential for them in achieving job satisfaction. For those who focus on the quality of the daily interchange, who like to be liked and prefer to work in harmony with others, their relationship with the boss and close colleagues is paramount. However much they may enjoy the tasks their job requires of them, if they don't feel appreciated, or if they experience a conflict between their values and the organisation's, they're unlikely to be happy in their work. Sadly, this may make them feel demotivated and unable to achieve top performance.

There are sound arguments for cutting your losses and leaving now. If you suspect that things will not get better and that nothing you can do will change the way you feel, it may be best to talk it over with your boss and agree an exit strategy. He or she is unlikely to be pleased by your decision, but there are advantages for the organisation in making your move now rather than later. If you are still in your probationary period, it's likely that some of the recruitment fee can be recouped, and other shortlisted candidates may still be available to take your place.

Of course, the decision to leave is easier if there are other jobs to go to and your career to date shows reasonable tenure in previous jobs.

You could see whether your old job is still available, but unless you can negotiate a more stretching and better-paid role there, this would be a retrograde step: you must have had good reasons for making the move in the first place.

If you can set a time limit on your current employment while you look (more carefully!) for a more suitable place to work, and decide you're not going to be a victim of your situation but instead will do the best work you can, staying is an option. But if you're likely just to linger, miserable and under-performing, you'll do your self-esteem or your CV little good, so get out now.

Miranda Kennett is an independent coach. If you have an issue you'd like her to cover, e-mail:

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