Fear makes us do things that we normally wouldn’t do. Being fearful makes leaders give in when they normally wouldn’t. Feeling scared makes leaders try harder to protect themselves, when they normally look out for their team.
Why Are Leaders Scared to Leave Their Jobs?
In my experience, there are a number of reasons why leaders may be fearful of leaving their jobs:
- In a bad job market, leaders may become fearful because they see fewer options. They feel as if they can’t leave their current job because they won’t be able to find a position elsewhere.
- Some leaders have lifestyles which require large salaries. This means they are unable to take on lower-level roles if they need to. Instead, they need to stay where they are.
- A leader may have held a role at the same company for years. This familiarity causes a fear of the unknown of a new organisation, prompting them to stay.
- Sometimes leaders are desperate to gain promotions up the career ladder and they worry they’ll go backwards if they leave. Instead, they cling desperately to their current job.
- Other leaders are scared of feeling like a failure. Instead of leaving a toxic work environment, they try harder and harder to prove they are capable and avoid being fired.
Sometimes leaders might say “I can leave whenever I want”. But they never do. Let’s look at some of the ways that this fear of leaving your job damages leadership, and then what we can do about it.
Related post: Toxic Workplaces: How Leaders Can Stop Them.
Fear of Leaving Your Job Makes You Focus On Your Boss, More Than Your Team
When leaders fear leaving their job, they focus more on managing the expectations of their boss than they do on their own team.
Soon they fail to notice what’s happening in their team, as they try to make sure their boss thinks they are doing a good job. They make sure they focus on their own work and their team becomes an afterthought.
Unfortunately this is when things get out of balance. You used to focus on your team, now you focus on your boss.
This is when your team starts to lose motivation and respect for their leader. Performance will suffer, and before long, you look worse than before because your team is performing poorly.
The worse cases occur when leaders develop Corporate Stockholm Syndrome, where they start to identify with, and become loyal to a manager who mistreats them. This is a horrible place for a leader to be, and they’ll never be able to do their best work.
Related post: Corporate Stockholm Syndrome by Psychology Today.
Fear of Leaving Your Job Makes You Stop Pushing Back
Leaders who have a fear of leaving their jobs stop saying “No” and pushing back, because they feel powerless. They keep taking punches, taking on more and more work until they are swamped, along with their overworked team.
These leaders are so fearful that they believe pushing back will make them seem like they aren’t a team player and instead start to agree to things they normally wouldn’t.
On the other hand, effective leaders push back when they need to. They sometimes say “No”.
They fight for their work life balance and to stop being overwhelmed with low-value work, because they know that this enables them to continue to do a better job in the long term, without burning out.
Leaders who compromise their behaviour begin to suffer emotional labour. They know deep down that they should be making a stand, but they feel they can’t. Doing this for a long time increases stress and increases the risk of burnout.
Related post: Why Good Mental Health is a Leader’s Best Friend.
Related podcast episode: Thoughtful Leader Podcast Episode 15: The Power of Pushing Back.
Resource: If you struggle to say “No” and push back on unreasonable demands, Thoughtful Leader can help. Check out the Managing Upwards eBook, for tools and techniques to build confidence and help you say “No”. You and your team deserve better… try the eBook today.
Fear of Leaving Your Job Makes You Focus On Looking Important Instead of Being Valuable
People say perception is important, and they are right.
But if you believe that people think you work hard because you are always working long hours or you always look busy, you might be surprised at what others *really* think.
It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.
– Mark Twain
People think you’re busy right? They must know you work so hard because you put so much effort into appearing like you do.
But are you actually adding value? Doing real work that needs to be done? Or are you making yourself look busy and important so that nobody could possibly want to get rid of you?
Are you stepping in front of your team to take the credit, when you’d normally stand back and acknowledge the good work they do?
How to Overcome Your Fear of Leaving Your Job
It’s not easy. After all, everybody needs to earn money. Your family, house and all your cars depend on it. More than ever, our employment plays a part in our self-confidence and self-esteem.
But is that all you are working for? Money, prestige and possessions? What about your integrity and the knowledge that you’re doing a good job?
Here’s how to take steps to ensure you’re moving forward and creating your own insurance against downturns and the fear of leaving your job.
1. Work Hard Outside of Your Day Job to Give You Options
It’s time to put in the effort to develop yourself outside of your day job to make you more employable.
Find some other work to supplement your income and network with people to keep your connections strong and to build new ones.
Putting some money aside is also valuable, if you ever find yourself out of work for a little while.
Not only will this make you more valuable to your current employer, it gives you the feeling of having options outside of your day job. No more do you feel like that day job is the only thing you have.
These are the things that are easy to forget during the good times. Why bother? Things are going great, you don’t need to focus on this stuff.
Wrong. You should focus on these things during the good times, so that you set yourself up for success in the hard times.
2. Reduce Your Fear of Leaving Your Job By Improving Your Skills
Often leaders stop learning and developing their skills because they become complacent, forgetting that their skills and experience helped them get their job in the first place.
If your employer won’t help you develop your skills, you should invest in this yourself. Most qualifications will be tax deductible if they are relevant to your work, so you often don’t need to pay the full price (But check with an accountant for professional advice – I’m not a tax professional).
However, many new skills can be learnt using platforms like LinkedIn Learning or EdX which have online training courses for free, or at reasonable prices. Sometimes you might not get a fancy certificate, but you are still learning and keeping your skills current, which is valuable.
Related post: 5 Ways Great Leaders Keep Learning.
3. Do a Great Job to Reduce Your Fear of Leaving Your Job
Work hard and provide value. Be careful not to appear as if you are trying just to be seen as doing a good job. Many people will notice when you’re faking it.
Stop being a “Yes” person, because often “No” is where the magic happens.
Be reasonable and build credibility by noticing both the positive and negative things about situations in your workplace, and start to make improvements.
It’s hard to fault somebody who is genuinely trying to improve the way things are working.
Part of doing a great job is looking after your team. Defend them from unreasonable attackers, but take on constructive feedback and improve where you can. Push back on people who try to force work onto you when it isn’t justified.
When you are doing a great job, your confidence will grow, and you’ll notice your fear start to decline.
Related post: 3 Ways to Build Your Leadership Credibility In a New Team.
Have the Courage to Do Your Best Work
Fear of leaving your job makes you a less effective leader and manager. A good way to perform at your best is by knowing that you have options if things don’t work out the way you planned.
Feeling free to be yourself, lead and support your team the way you want to and pushing back on unreasonable demands is critical to your mental health and wellbeing.
As leaders, we need to build ourselves up, to give ourselves the confidence to do what’s right. And if what’s right doesn’t fly in your workplace, then it’s time to find one that suits you better.
And you can, because you’ll have options.
Build Your Confidence & Resilience: If you’d like to feel more confident and comfortable leading your team, enrol in the Leadership Confidence Coaching Program. This program is a combination of online course material and individual coaching sessions, which will help to hold you accountable and achieve results, and tackle your individual challenges. Enrol now.
Do you agree or disagree? How do you think fear of leaving a job affects leaders? I’d love to read your comments below!