#1 Way to Outsmart Your Workplace: Hang in There!

Reading: #1 Way to Outsmart Your Workplace: Hang in There!

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#1 Way to Outsmart Your Workplace: Hang in There!

Bored of your job? Bad boss? Sometimes endurance creates success

By Lesley Jane Seymour

I am sitting at a table in my office with the head of circulation on one side and my new boss (and my new publisher) on the other. This is my third new boss in six years (and my second publisher) and she has a new direction for the magazine. Instead of continuing to sell More as it was conceived, as a kind of People for women 40+, she wants to mimic one of the competitors and make it about “stuff,” by placing makeup brushes on the cover. She has been pushing this concept with me for a few weeks already and I am resisting. She has gathered the honchos in one place to make it clear she means business.

I am not resisting the change to be a jerk. I’m resisting because I know deep in my heart that the DNA of More is the defiant women on the covers who are doing amazing things but are ignored by other publications for being “over the hill” at age 40. A popular column inside the magazine, “Second Acts” promises readers who’ve experienced ageism an almost phoenix type of resurrection. Makeup products can’t help you fight ageism!

I am resisting because as a lifelong good girl I took the advice of the board in my previous job at a French fashion magazine, but then watched everyone in the room back away from failure when their suggestions didn’t work. It’s the old saying that success has many mothers and failure is an orphan — and it’s true. Even in France!

After 45 minutes of back and forth the room goes silent.  

I’ve thought about this moment for months. Poor More has been the red-headed child in a brunette family. Though it grew out of Ladies Home Journal, the readership is more sophisticated and professional, and for that reason has a higher household income. The problem with More is not its cover; it’s the fact that its Midwest mama — whose other publications focus on cooking and cleaning and the ads that go with that — doesn’t have connections in the fashion and beauty advertising area needed to make More soar. 

I am finally tired of being a good girl. I am ready to resign.

“Here’s something I learned long ago,” I say. “More is like an airplane. It doesn’t belong to me; it belongs to the company. I am just its pilot for a few years.” I look around the table and see certain eyes giving me the courage to continue. “If the company wants to fly this plane into the World Trade Center, I certainly can’t stop you. But I just can’t be the one to do it.” 

The meeting adjourns. I’m waiting for the call from HR.

Several months later boss #3 is gone! 

When I explain this miracle to a very savvy friend in DC politics who has weathered all kinds of horrendous storms she agrees, “hanging in there is highly underrated.” She recounts the story of our mutual friend, a well-known TV anchor, who has persisted through bad bosses and terrible personal press — and is still on air and picking up a hefty paycheck. I also recall my stint at an educational institution where I was asked to help improve an alumnae publication. The editor was not interested in covering alumni and for years produced a direct-to-trashcan product read by few. They wanted me to corral him — but refused to threaten his job. After a few years of being their cotton hammer, I quit. The editor, who was clever enough to know the benefits of hanging in there, had simply waited me out. And he won. 

Of course, no one talks about persistence as a management tactic. And no one teaches it. But I often find it can give you the breathing space you need to figure out your next move. And sometimes, the truly unexpected happens. 

Here are a few pointers on making hanging in there work for you:

• Every job has what I call “stir-the-pot” moments. When you’ve mastered the challenge. When you understand the players and their positives and negatives. When you can close your eyes and do your job on autopilot — like stirring risotto on the stove. That doesn’t mean your job is bad or you should move on. Sometimes a STP moment can offer you a chance to take a breath, regroup, explore new interests or angles in your profession that could expand your knowledge or abilities. Use the STP moments to upskill, improve your game, expand your personal life. I promise, something will eventually happen from the outside or from within that will propel you forward. (Of course, a STP moment that goes on for years means it’s time to move on.)

• In a speeded-up constantly changing work environment like today’s, persistence can be your secret weapon. While others bail out as soon as the job gets tough or uncertain, you can hang in there and see what happens and perhaps mold the change to your advantage. I recall a moment when I was editor-in-chief of Marie Claire. I looked around at my peers and wondered where all those young turks who had made it to EIC five years ahead of me had gone. The truth was many of them had gotten fired or demoted or simply walked away to “spend time with their family.” Some never got back in.

• If you really love what you do, you deserve to hang in there. The CoveyClub motto is: “It ain’t over till you say it’s over.” That means that, especially as we age and encounter more ageism, no one gets to tell you when to leave the stage. Not your boss. Not your family. Not society. Only you get to decide when it’s time to hang it up or go for something else. Come join us at CoveyClub and find a fabulous support group that will help you do just that. 

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