Ina Coveney

We all dream of being successful, and for many people, a corporate corner office is the pinnacle of achievement.

But for many of us in the corporate world, it’s just… not.

I climbed the corporate ladder for 15 years as a highly valued project manager, on my way to becoming a future CIO. With a degree in Computer Science, an MBA and a star-studded resume, there was simply no way to go but up. That was until I noticed something peculiar: I did not actually want my boss’s job.

That small but simple realization was the single loose thread in a large and convoluted canvas that would unravel in the years to come, and would result in leaving the corporate arena altogether.

In this guide, I’ll share 5 signs that may explain why you feel stuck, and how you may not even know it’s being done to you on purpose.

1. You fulfill a higher level of responsibility than your job title indicates

What you tell yourself: “They really need me, and it’s not budget season yet. In the meantime, I’m going to do the best job I can so I can prove to them I can do it.”

Newsflash: They already know you can do the job (evidenced by them asking you to do it), so there is nothing to prove. This is not a promotion unless there is a title and pay-grade change.

Manipulation: The company is putting you in an undesirable position by playing off your need for validation, your gratefulness for a “good opportunity,” and your desire to be challenged in order to make you feel happy and content about this non-promotion.

What to do: Demand a title and salary that match your responsibilities.

2. You are asked (or expected) to work nights and weekends without overtime

What you tell yourself: “This is pretty standard in every company. They give me a laptop, and I really only work when I want to if I want to… even though in reality, I feel like I’m on call all the time.”

Newsflash: Salaried employees cannot get overtime, so they can’t “make you” work nights and weekends. However, with the advent of global technologies, you are given all the tools to work anytime from anywhere. This is not an accident.

Manipulation: The company is making you believe that working around the clock is what great team players do. You’re put in the position to never even think of asking for more money for working more hours. What kind of leader are you if you do? Probably not one that deserves to be promoted.

What to do: Set boundaries and expectations that make sense.

3. Your annual review does not align with the timing for raises or bonuses

What you tell yourself: “It can take a while for each boss to perform a review on all their employees, so I get it. But now that I want to leave, it would be smart to wait until I get my bonus, and then jump ship.”

Newsflash: Businesses need to hang on to their cash for as long as legally possible and still deduct it in their previous year taxes. Despite the legal/tax implications, there ARE companies that give bonuses in December, because it’s the right thing to do.

Manipulation: It can take months to actually land a good job once you start looking, so waiting for your bonus in the spring may turn into you reaching the end of the year and just deciding to wait until the next bonus comes around. It becomes a vicious cycle that keeps you from making a change.

What to do: Detach yourself from the need for that raise (by saving or negotiating an equivalent sign-in bonus), and prepare to leave when the best offer comes along.

4. You receive gifts and perks, which you are expected to be grateful for

What you tell yourself: “I get box Red Sox tickets every year. My manager really wants to keep me happy! I’m never leaving her!”

Newsflash: Someone had to take those tickets because the leadership probably wanted to spend time with their family; the company will not hesitate to let go of your position if they have to. Perks and gifts CAN be used for motivation, but they should not be confused with loyalty.

Manipulation: When someone gives us a gift, we take it as a personal sign of affection and appreciation. Keeping you emotionally attached to the company through perks and gifts is part of the loyalty game. You feel indebted to them, so you stay.

What to do: Notice when the company lets go of positions that felt as secure as yours. It’s a business, not a marriage.

5. You do not know how your salary compares to others’ in the company

What you tell yourself: “I don’t want anyone knowing how much I make,” and “Nobody else is going to pay me this much.”

Newsflash: Keeping our salaries hidden is a perfect way for the company to continue to underpay you (or others.) If you don’t know, you won’t ask, and they keep all the cards.

Manipulation: When you feel like you are already making a lot of money, it’s hard not to feel grateful for the job, and to create the belief that nobody else will pay you this much, so you stay. Talk about Stockholm Syndrome.

What to do: Educate yourself on your market value. Don’t take the company’s opinion of your compensation at its word.

What did you think of this article? Spot on, or missing the mark? What is your experience with this topic? I look forward to replying to your comments and questions below!

Photo credit: Megan Weaver