Walk away line: why you should know yours!

When you take up Karate lessons you have to make one choice: whether to accept the person in front of you as your sensei – your master – or not. If you do, you are expected to put yourself into her hands entirely and follow her lead without complaint. If you don’t you are expected to leave.  It’s that simple! And you will find out soon enough that this is about the only choice you will have for a while.

This has been satirized in many martial arts movies. One of my favorites among them is Karate Kid: The young Daniel is ordered by his sensei to do household chores like painting or polishing cars. When Daniel finally looses his patience his sensei, the notorious Mr. Miyagi, shows him that the chores really were a hidden self-defense lesson.

The freedom of choice

This relinquishing of freedom could be a cruel arrangement, if it were not for that one fundamental decision: I am accepting my trainer as my sensei voluntarily. And in doing this I am accepting everything else voluntarily too. I can always revoke that decision and walk. Of course that would make life a bit more difficult: it would probably take some effort to find a new club. And that club could be less conveniently located, even more expensive. But hey: if it really is that bad that’s the way to go!

Same at the work place

Things are similar at work: when you have a job this drastically limits your daily options. Like in Karate you are expected to follow your leader (maybe not as strictly). And just like in Karate every day you can decide to walk. Now you might protest: there would probably be serious effort, inconvenience and risk involved. You are right! But I am bold enough to say: if you read this blog and this post up to here I am certain you could find a different job that would keep you and your family afloat. Yes, it might be less well paid for. And yes, it might be less convenient. But still it is a real option. An option that makes you working in your current job a voluntary choice!

The walk away line

Why then do I have so many friends that complain about their work on a regular basis – without changing it? Maybe things are not so bad after all and complaining is just a way to blow off some steam. Maybe it is just inertia winning. Or it is a case of the boiling frog syndrome. No matter: it’s wearing me down!

Working life is a constant negotiation

So I suggest the following: consider your working life as a constant negotiation between your interests and that of your company. If you give this some thought it might give you a fresh perspective on things.

So work is constant negotiation? Let me tell you my most important preparation for negotiations: I spend some time to define my walk away line before the situation starts heating up. By walk away line I mean the line at which the offer of the negotiating party becomes definitely unacceptable. The point at which I know I have to quit.

So what I recommend here is to take a couple of minutes on a Sunday and ask yourself: how bad does it have become for me to decide to leave? How would I notice this?

I also recommend to go one step further: think in some detail about what you would do if you came to that decision. Imagine the look on your husband’s face when you tell him you want a change. Think about your rhythm of life changing. Think about how you would organize a job search. Maybe you even make a plan and put it into the drawer.

Why define a walk away line?

On one hand knowing your walk away line makes it easier not to miss it. Thinking about the consequences in advance takes some of the horror out of that decision. It is just like desensitization.

On the other hand it can help you to be more satisfied with your current situation. Maybe it’s not perfect but it is still good enough!

But most importantly keeping that line in mind always reminds you that you have a choice to do things differently. And by that you go through everything voluntarily. That makes all the difference!

Why are you telling me this?

“But wait!”, you might say, “You are a manager. Why are you telling me to go?”

The answer is simple: if it really is true that in Germany as well as in the US only about 1/3 of all employees are engaged in their work I consider it a crying shame (look here for details)! It is at the same time a waste of lifespan and a waste of potential. And while it is true that manual work is getting scarce through increasing automization information workers are getting scarce even more quickly.

On a more personal note: you know that it is my Kikentai Management philosophy to become one with the task. That’s simply impossible if you can not engage yourself.

So make yourself and your managers happy and define your walk away line. Then make sure you stay this side of it!

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