The Emotions of Job Change

It looked like the right opportunity.  You’ve gone through two telephone interviews and now two face- to-face interviews. In typical engineering fashion you have been very thorough and very detailed in your analysis of all aspects of the company, the management team, the position and its future growth potential.  They’ve just given you a solid offer, more money and a better opportunity than your current position affords.  Then the TOTALLY unexpected happens.  You get hit by an emotional tidal wave!!

Your family goes from guardedly on board to strongly opposed.  First, your wife (same reaction when the husband is in the passenger seat) is overwhelmed.  She didn’t think you were really serious and now she feels under-appreciated and backed into a corner without sufficient warning.  Second, the kids go from marginally intrigued to hostile.  In typical kid fashion they are scared and overreacting.  How could you do this to them???  Finally, the negativity starts to impact you.  “Maybe I’m being too hasty; we do have a good life here.”  We see this same vignette played out several times each year.  The “right” position meets with the ‘right” candidate at the “right” time and as family emotions boil over it all blows up and goes away.

So what went wrong? 

What went wrong was that several self-defense emotions got triggered simultaneously.  If these emotions are not anticipated and addressed early and often in the interview process they will merge together and grow in strength.  Eventually they will kill any move, even if it is the right one.

Here are some of the bigger emotions:

  1. Fear of change / fear of the unknown / fear of loss. We batch these together because they overlap and are hard to differentiate.  These emotions are often very subtle, usually emerging as nagging doubts, somewhat undefined.  (Many years ago I got a great offer involving relocation.  After much consideration I was beginning to waffle on the absolutely correct decision.  My wife confronted me and said “you just don’t want to leave your mid-court basketball season tickets”.  I laughed at her.  How could she think I would be so frivolous?  An hour later I came back to apologize.  She was right.  With that blockage out of the way I was ready to go.).
  2. Fear of failure / fear of success (the front and back of the mirror). This fear is stronger if you have been in one job/one company for a long time.  Again this emotion can be very subtle and undefined.  New challenges always carry new risks.
  3. Buyer’s remorse. This term is often used by realtors.  It describes the feeling after you have signed the contract on a new home but you haven’t closed or occupied yet.  Your focus turns to what could go wrong and as you get more analytical the faults pile up.  This parallels the time period from offer to acceptance and offer to start in a job search and is particularly insidious when piled onto the raging emotions (and legitimate concerns) of other family members and friends.

What can you do about it?

Being aware of these emotions and how much they can interfere with you and your family making the right decision is a good start.  Discuss your impending interview process with your spouse or if single, with some significant other early on in the process.  If after the first interview you’re really interested don’t be coy.  Tell your spouse what you’re thinking about doing and how you feel about it.  At some point in the process, hopefully before you get the offer, include the kids if they’re old enough to understand.  Just like you, they need time to think it over and deal with their own fear of loss.

Finally, ask lots of questions.  Information is the key to dealing with doubts and uncertainties.  The more you and your family know in advance the better equipped you will all be to make a good decision.  Furthermore, you will be more prepared to either hit the ground running and make a fast start with your new company or go back to your present assignment with a renewed sense of purpose.  As always, if you need a sounding board through the decision making process we’re here to help.


Author: Bruce Whitaker, CPC, CTS, CIPC
In the course of a distinguished career that began in 1968, Bruce Whitaker has personally completed and supervised thousands of successful searches. Starting as a technical recruiter with the largest firm in the search industry, he rose to manager of one of its top offices and spearheaded the start-up of a new division. Bruce left the firm in 1983 to establish The Whitaker Companies, where his visionary leadership and pioneering approach have enabled the company to provide the highest-quality staffing solutions while flexibly responding to its clients’ ever-changing staffing needs.