Practical or Paranoid: Keep Your Job and Your Sanity

Practical or Paranoid: Keep Your Job and Your Sanity

By Caroline M.L. Potter, Yahoo! HotJobs

Eighties pop star Howard Jones sang, "Things can only get better." And they will soon enough. But today, professionals remain cautious. 

What happens if you feel like things are too slow around the office? Too sleepy? If next quarter's forecast doesn't include an uptick in business? If your boss suddenly starts behaving differently toward you? If you're sure another round of layoffs is just around the corner? Is there a way to protect your job and predict the future? Of course not.

However, there are things you should -- and shouldn't -- worry about when you're at work, according to Jason Seiden, author of Super Staying Power.

Don't worry if you get tough feedback after a single assignment.
Do worry if the negative feedback becomes a trend.

"If you get negative feedback, you have to accept it," says Seiden, a management consultant. "The second thing you have to do is get creative and find out where you think it's coming from -- pay more attention to what you're doing. But, if you receive negative feedback multiple times, it shows your boss that you're not listening and you're not doing anything with the feedback you're given."

Don't worry if your boss gets more autocratic.
Do worry if your boss gets more political.

"When things get more execution-focused, you become more of a cog and you just grind out the work," Sieden says. "In that environment, your boss will be more of a taskmaster and it's not cause for alarm. But if your boss is getting political, that means she's afraid, acting from a place of fear. And that's when she may throw you under the bus."

Don't worry if you get challenged on your numbers/projections.
Do worry if you get cut off halfway through your justification for the numbers with, "Let's come back together and try this conversation again tomorrow."

"If your boss challenges your numbers and is looking at what you've done and saying, 'What about this or that?' then your boss is sitting on the same side of the table, and you are working together," Seiden says. "But if your boss cuts you off, it means your basic assumptions are bad. Now you have a bigger problem. Your numbers are not only being challenged; you are being challenged."

Don't worry if your boss invests to get you coaching/training.
Do worry if your boss tells you to "figure things out -- quick!" without giving you any resources.

"If they're willing to make an investment in you, that's a good thing," says Sieden, who blogs about professional development. "Your boss sees the potential. However, if they're not willing to make the investment and are simply telling you to fix it, you could be out the door."

Don't worry if you get a job that's close but not quite your passion.
Do worry if you still think the labor market is a "seller's market."

"If you're going to pass on all the opportunities that come your way, you're going to be in trouble," Sieden says. "The world is not just waiting for you to come along." Keep your antennae up and keep your mind open to everything, he says.