By David Ehrenthal, Principal and Coach, Mach10 Career & Leadership Coaching


Components of the Dilemma

We spend at least 40% of our waking hours working. Your work pays the bills and funds your retirement. Your work also flows into how others see you and how you feel about yourself. As you progress with your career, you’ll find yourself facing myriad dilemmas that relate to your personal agenda and what employers will expect of you. Sometimes there will be a near perfect correlation between the two. Other times, a divergence will occur and you’ll be faced with stressful dilemmas. Generally when a significant divergence occurs, you’ll need to make hard choices: you can continue with the status quo, you can mobilize to change things where you are working, or you can change a variety of aspects of your career.

So how do you find that sweet spot at the intersection of you personal agenda and the expectations of your existing or future employer?

Let’s start with our personal agenda. If you’re like most people, these matter a great deal to you:

  • Compensation to fund your and your family’s lifestyle.
  • Living by your values, working with people who share your values.
  • Harnessing your strengths and positively impacting the organization.
  • Pursuing personal growth.

Your employers, on the other hand, expect you to:

  • Drive business value.
  • Shape and influence strategy and/or align with the organization’s goals.
  • Collaborate with others.
  • Align your behaviors with the culture.


Where Tensions May Emerge


The Money Issue

For most, losing income from job loss feels like an existential threat. Call it “golden handcuffs” or the literal inability to cover short-term expenses, this issue complicates our career journey. This perceived threat often impedes our potential in our current position and our openness to explore other possibilities externally that might be a better fit.

As a leader (both of yourself and of other people), it’s important for you to display behaviors that will drive business value. When this seems impossible, it’s time to have a reality-based conversation with your boss and those who may be undermining your efforts. The key to these conversations with your interlocutor is to a) take an appreciative stance, b) frame the issue as a business value issue, and c) listen carefully and understand others’ perspectives. Usually, the issue that’s frustrating you can be resolved through open dialogue and focusing almost entirely on the business goal. And when you do this right, the risk of job loss drops considerably. So if you can feel the potential to like your role and the organization you work for but you’re feeling frustrated, try exploring the source of this feeling and create a plan for change that allows you to pursue your personal agenda and that of your employer.

Conflict of Values

Organizational values are under-appreciated factors that affect your fulfillment at work. Our willingness to allocate energy to work is driven by a purpose, along with our beliefs and principles. While it’s difficult to know where these came from, they have an enormous impact on your work experience. These elements of your work environment vary by industry, organization, boss.

So when you think about where you’re working, how do you feel your values are aligned with the company? How do you feel about the purpose?  How do you feel about workload and work-hours expectations? How do leaders treat their teams? Is the behavior of the leadership team consistent with the beliefs and principles they espouse and seek to inculcate into you? How does your boss treat you and others?

When you conclude that the purpose and values of the organization are not aligned with you, it’s time to explore other on-ramps you’ll find more rewarding and fulfilling. And while you may approach this with trepidation, you should celebrate the clarity around this revelation and the opportunity to find something that will make you happier.

Dislike of Role

You embrace your organization’s purpose, you even identify with the values and culture. The role you’re playing, however, is just not right. Maybe you don’t have an opportunity to apply your strengths. Or maybe you’re just not interested in the scope of the work.

When this happens, it’s time to explore a change. This may mean identifying a more rewarding and fulfilling role within your organization and asking  the organization to support your desire for change. It may also mean exploring external job opportunities. Generally speaking, making the change within your organization, if it’s possible, will be considerably easier because they know you and they want to demonstrate that employees have the opportunity to move around.

Insufficient Control

Feeling in control of what we do at work matters a great deal. Less control means negative stress and tapping into our body budget for more energy. This takes energy away from other bodily tasks and results in negative emotions. The causes of limited control are complex. Sometimes it’s your boss who doesn’t understand how to lead people and maximize their performance. Other times it can be traced to the C-suite and even the economic environment. When this feeling emerges, it’s important for you to think about what changes you could make, that you can control, to feel more in control. When you create and take action on a plan for change, you may very well find the job very fulfilling.




Balancing your agenda with that of your employer is how you find your sweet spot. When these two agendas align, you’re on your way to finding rewarding work. If you’d like to explore my support for leadership coaching or career development, please reach out to me at 617-529-8795 or Or visit


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