Difficult Decisions: When Should You Give Up?

These three executive women all found themselves in situations they considered untenable. In order to decide what to do they each had to examine their most significant priorities. 

Yvonne, an executive, felt paralyzed by her boss' new rules that required her to get approval for even the smallest expenditures. Yvonne was also representing her company in merger negotiations. The potential partner considered her boss expendable, and asked her to stick it out until their process is complete. The negotiations were going slowly. She wondered whether to get out or stay on, hoping things would change. 

Marianne's new boss did not trust her. All her routine requests for staffing changes were returned with demands for additional irrelevant information. For several months Marianne complied gracefully with all requests. She finally realized that other work was suffering as she tried to comply with these demands, and she was still not getting the staffing she needed. Marianne considered resigning, but was only months away from being vested in her pension fund. 

With the agreement of the executive committee, Louise, vice president of human resources, assured her branch managers that remarks they made during a managers' staff development retreat would be kept confidential.

After the event, she learned that two executives who disliked the resulting report were pressuring managers for details of the meeting. When she protested during a subsequent executive committee meeting, the two executives ridiculed her concerns. 

Decisions about whether to stay in difficult business or personal relationships can feel excruciatingly difficult to resolve. 

Balancing potential losses against maintaining dignity and financial stability are some of the most common issues faced by my clients. There are no simple answers, but following the process they used to make their decisions may help you through a similar situation. 

Each first clarified the outcome she most desired. Yvonne wanted stimulating work and recognition of her talents. Marianne wanted to stay with her company at least until her pension was vested. Louise wanted to be treated with dignity. 

Each decided to do everything possible to change her own situation. As coach, I helped them choose appropriate strategies to communicate their  dissatisfactions. 

  • Yvonne asked her boss (the company president) to change the procedures

  • Marianne decided that even if her new boss tried to fire her, her pension would be vested by the time that could take place, so she politely refused further demands to stop her other work to produce additional reports. 

  • Louise spoke privately to each member of the executive committee about treating her and all members of the company with dignity. 

They all evaluated the results of their actions. 

  • The president of Yvonne's firm changed the subject when she talked to him. 

  • Marianne's boss became so frustrated and she made herself look bad to her own boss. She was given orders to treat Marianne differently. 

  • Louise was told by the company president that she should adjust her values to match the values of the other executives. 

They made decisions by balancing all of these elements. 

  • Yvonne developed an outside consulting practice while waiting to see if the takeover would happen. She was prepared to resign and eventually did. 

  • Marianne developed a reasonably respectful working relationship with her boss. 

  • Louise resigned and eventually found a new opportunity. 

If you enjoyed this blog post The Integrity Course will provide much more information I believe will be useful to you. Included in this course are stories of how over 25 people confronted issues about integrity in the workplace. Learn more here.

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