Go Back or Go Out
Inês Paler, Coach, Mom, Traveler
It’s so easy to be the person we don’t want to be. It just takes the wrong approach or missing that little bit of energy and time to pause and make sure we are authentic.
I was not authentic. I was tired. The work had become this giant ball of politics between offices, teams and people who each had their own agendas. My job was now very far from my official role. If anything at all, I was learning “the game”, but I didn’t like playing it. I didn’t want to like playing it.
And so, I started looking around. Google is such as big company, with so many marvellous teams and opportunities – inevitably, I would find something great. And I did – it was a team focused on working with developers to create and bring great technologies to countries with low access to good connectivity and high-end devices. However, often they had access to incredible little-known alternatives of doing things (like payments with your phone, etc.) It was fantastic. I went through the whole recruitment process and, in the end, it was either me or someone else.
Unfortunately, they picked me, and I got the job.
Unfortunately, they picked me, and I got the job.
The swift action
I accepted the offer and updated my managers. It felt good to be past that phase, and this new role looked very promising. It was a moment of achievement, relief and stamina. World, here I come.
Of course, it didn’t work out this way. My managers came back and courted me. They explained the reason why I was drowning in politics and doing something that was not my job was that they needed my help, to have someone in the region which they could rely on to get things on the right path. There was no one else to do it, they trusted me, and they knew they were asking too much of me. Could I please come back? And could I return as a manager?
My initial response was “no way”. Politeness (the game?) had taught me to reply this. I didn’t reply beyond a “Thank you. I need to think.” But there was nothing to think; the decision was made. Except that when I went to bed, I couldn’t sleep, I was anxious and couldn’t settle. My mind was way too loud and so busy that I couldn’t tell one thought from another.
It was time to stop and listen. Maybe not to my thoughts but something else. My values. I know, cheesy, isn’t it? But it was when I took a step back and focused on my values that it became evident:
- I want to continue learning and testing my abilities
- It is critical for me to help others succeed
- Being a manager is not for me. I am coach type of person, not a manager type of person. And I am happy with that
- It was time for a couple of hard conversations
So, should I go back or go forward?
I decided to go back to the team but not as a manager. It made everything more difficult. Managing without authority was something I was familiar with but being a manager without being a manager can be confusing and challenging for everyone involved. It was, however, very well worth it. Even if a lot happened behind the curtains, I am confident I had a significant impact on helping everyone through a tough phase.
I learned more than I could have imagined. It was also clear from the beginning that I wouldn’t stay there beyond this stage. I am not a manager; I did not intend to become one.
Going back was the right thing to do. However, I paid a high price: I had to tell my ex-future-manager that I had wasted everyone’s time, that I was going back with my word. For once, I was unreliable and dropped the ball. There was some remorse, and it is a stain on my career. They understood, or so they said.
But someone paid an even higher price: the other candidate, who missed the opportunity so I could throw it away. Eventually, she found her way back, though. For that, I am very grateful.
It was a good lesson for me. In the beginning, I thought the mistake had been to rush into a decision, but I don’t think so anymore. The error was to do it without checking why, if it was consistent with my values and what I wanted. Had I done that, it wouldn’t have been a hurried decision, regardless if it had taken a minute or a year to take it.
Another lesson was that it’s important not to burn bridges, even if you don’t intend to cross them. I could have closed the doors too soon and then not be able to return.
Finally, regardless of the decision, it was essential to me to maintain the relationship with those I cared about and respected.
And so, saying no can’t be just about saying no but keeping in mind everything that was important to me: the relationship, the projects, the other people involved, the possibility to do things together in another way…
If you are considering big career changes, coaching might help you get through it. I would love to help you so if you are interested, visit me at Coaching for Me or just email me at email@example.com
If you are a manager and want to make sure you bring your teams to their best, visit me at Coaching for Work for coaching, team initiatives and Professional Assessments. You can also just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org