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I am a mid-career project manager in the development sector. For the past several years, I have worked for a small, privately owned consulting firm. It has been beneficial: My skin is tougher, I work more efficiently, and I have been financially stable.

But the work environment is toxic. My employers yell at staff and make them cry regularly, staff are micromanaged, and I find the criticism both daily and at performance reviews demoralizing and demotivating. Despite great co-workers, I have never felt so poorly about my abilities and capacities as a professional and my potential for growth.

This may just be a case of incompatibility between myself and the organization – I want to perform better, be proud of and passionate about my work. In the current economic climate, I don't want to whine when I should be thankful. The sector is small in terms of networking, so I risk the possibility of word getting back to my company that I am doing informational interviews. So I plan to finish strong when my contract ends in a few months and strategically put out feelers for other posts. However, I am having difficulty with my motivation. Do you have advice on how I could make the best of the remaining months and how I might best prepare to take on a new path?


Gina Ibghy

Chief people officer at Randstad Canada, Toronto

The problem you're experiencing is a common issue that most professionals will encounter at least once in their career: What happens when you are employed by an organization that doesn't share the values you find to be fundamental to your workplace satisfaction and engagement?

The typical professional will spend on average anywhere from 10 to 12 hours per work day either physically at their office, or socializing with co-workers. Therefore, the culture of a work environment is just as important to a professional's overall happiness as the culture of their home environment.

I would recommend you research the job market you are in. How many other companies are out there? How many roles that fit your expertise exist? How do the compensation and benefits compare? Most people are surprised to find that there are many more opportunities than they had thought. While the economy has been growing slowly the past two years, it is not in decline. If you are in a small market, it does open your horizons if you consider the possibility of moving. Once you have seen your worth in the market, then you can evaluate your current role fairly and not from a position of fear.

Whether you stay or leave, in either your exit interview or your review meetings with your employer, be honest and straight forward in giving constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement.


Pamela Jeffery

Founder, Women's Executive Network, Toronto

I respect and admire your desire to finish strong, which I'm taking to mean continuing to do your best for a company that seems not to respect or recognize the efforts of its employees. Good on you.

Your strategic approach to re-entering the job market is spot on. I'm a little confused as to your difficulty with motivation. You have to view your remaining time with this firm as a stepping stone to the next, better, part of your career trajectory that will see you move to an environment that will help you grow .

Referring to your current job as a gift is just wrong thinking. You are doing good work for this company, otherwise they wouldn't keep you. In other words, they aren't doing you any favours.

You have to get clear about what you would like from your next employer and do your homework about organizations you are interested in. Thankfully, social media has just as much to say about companies as it does about individuals, so you should be able to determine if an organization is living up to its values and brand quickly.

I also recommend that you not limit yourself to the development sector. Take a hard look at the skills you have developed and how they might translate elsewhere.

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