Stop settling and reclaim your professional agency

One of my coaching clients was dealing with a stressful work environment because of a toxic leader. This leader had been with the company for over twenty years, was politically connected, and was unwilling to receive constructive feedback. 

My client, worn down by the negativity and lack of support for her team, eventually gave up trying to address the concerns with her boss. She could get by everyday if she just stayed out of her boss’ path and made sure her team was staying on track. 

I know she’s not alone. How many times have you tried to find a way to “go along to get along”?

At first it might seem like a workable solution. But it’s not a sustainable way to live your life or find joy and fulfillment in your career. 

That’s the way it went for my client. She settled into a miserable groove until her health became noticeably affected. At that point, she knew it was finally time to reach out for help. 

Finding workarounds to settle yourself into a toxic environment is never a long term panacea. You know you’re at the Settled Stage when you surrender to the current situation. 

You don’t really like the way things are but feel this is just the way it is. Efforts to get out of the situation didn’t get you anywhere. You can’t see an easy way out, and you’ve given up trying. 

It’s hopeless. 

You begin to get comfortable with where you are. You settle in. You’re coasting along and convince yourself that things are going OK. Why rock the boat? You can fly under the radar and no one really notices. You didn’t cause this crisis and you can’t do anything about it. 

This too shall pass. You can ride it out. 

Settling affects your whole life 

Your loss of a sense of meaningful purpose and opportunity may cause you to lose interest and energy for the activities in which you once engaged. You might also become isolated because you feel embarrassed when comparing yourself to colleagues, friends, or family. 

But these are only the first steps…

Settling can manifest itself as sadness, transitioning into depression. You are being reactive, rather than proactive. You don’t see a need to continue learning and growing, as it won’t lead to anything. 

You feel like you don’t have a voice, expecting that you have little influence over changing the situation. You “do what you have to do” at work to get by, believing that any extra effort will make little difference. 

Your glass is mostly empty.  

When you’re in the Settled Stage, your sense of helplessness often turns into complacency. You don’t do much to help yourself when you are in this stage – you just go along for the ride. 

You don’t speak up – you just meet the basic expectations of your job. People perceive you as less valuable. You exist in a position of fear. Relationships are strained as you become more isolated, and you fear sharing what is really going on inside of you. 

There is hope for resilience

Settling is corrosive to you, your team and your organization. It’s certainly hard to see yourself as resilient. But once you’ve identified that this is where you are, you can take steps to regain control and harness the tools of resilience to reclaim your personal and professional agency.