Have you found yourself in a job where there seems to be no plan, each member of the team is working on their own agenda, with little consistency or synergy?

Perhaps you’ve gone from working with a manager who was very directive to another who is hands-off.

Or maybe there is an impending change on the horizon that raises questions about what should be your priority right now?

Or maybe a global pandemic has thrown all plans up in the air!

When ambiguity in our careers is impacting our ability to a) do the job and b) enjoy it, it can be emotionally and physically exhausting showing up each day as we battle through the fog that is work.  However, there are actions we can take to improve the situation for ourselves.  Here are two approaches on how you can create your own order:

  1.  Ask for clarity
  2. Create your own clarity

Ask for clarity

What is it that you specifically need which will help you to feel more in control of your situation?  A list of what you should be focusing on?  Do you need confirmation of your high-level priorities?  Do you need to have a regular discussion with your manager and what would you want to cover during your time together?

  • Step 1 – identify what you need
  • Step 2 – ask for it

We all have different ways of working and different requirements of our leaders.  Being aware of what you need and sharing this with them can be a real game-changer.  And while we can feel vulnerable asking for help, it’s important to remember, your manager will only be successful if their team is.  A manager doesn’t have a crystal ball and will not necessarily know what you need or how best to support you.

Think about how your current situation is impacting you, how sustainable is it and wouldn’t your manager rather be given the chance to do something about it than lose you?

As you talk to your manager, explain how this lack of clarity is impacting you (and your team) and in turn, the consequences for your manager (i.e. not sure what you should be prioritising and therefore concerned you are focusing on activities that aren't aligned to the needs of your boss) and how the request you are making will benefit you, your team and them.  (i.e. if we can spend some time together clarifying what my objectives are over the next 6 months then we can be confident that I am going to be working on the right things for the department.)

Create your own clarity

However, if asking for clarity doesn’t get you anywhere or isn’t possible (maybe you actually don’t have an immediate boss right now or you work for yourself) then this is about creating your own clarity and to do this start with what you know and what you can control.

You know your job, the role and responsibilities, the expectations on you.  However, if you are new to a job this may not be so clear, talking with your predecessor may be useful if they are around, but if not connect with your key stakeholders, what do they need from you and what do you need from them. 

Your aim is to create stability or a sense of purpose within your area, so stick with what is within your control.  Essentially this is your own work and that of your team if you have one.  You may be able to influence those you work closely with however, start with what is within your sphere of control.

Focusing on your area of responsibility, get clear on what are the normal business activities you need to deliver and then what are the one-off project elements that need to be actioned.  Are there legislative changes you need to look at, technological implications that need to be planned for?  Process improvements or people implications?  What are internal and external factors that you know of that will be impacting your area of control?

  • Step 1 – list all the activities you believe need to be actioned.
  • Step 2 – priorities your activities, what’s urgent and important?  Check out this blog to help you and to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Step 3 – if you do have a manager share your priorities with them, so they can validate them for you and can agree or amend accordingly.

Yes, you could leave the job, but if this is something you enjoy and has the ability to fulfil your wants and needs then take steps first to see if you can clear the fog and create your own sense of order.

To help you create your own structure you may find these resources useful