Workplace Moves

What are your workplace options? It’s time to check, mate. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

In my consulting work, I meet people who are unsatisfied in their workplace role. They like their organization, and want to stay in it, but also want to make a move.

They often have no idea what to do, or how to do it.

There are many kinds of workplace moves. The kind of move that’s right for you depends on the nature of your situation.

Consider the many forms of dissatisfaction:

– You have talents that are not being used
– Your role isn’t natural to you
– You are not challenged enough
– You are challenged too much
– You are not being properly trained and supported
– You are being micro-managed
– Your immediate supervisor is incompetent and/or a jerk

Think of your workplace as a chessboard. Each piece on the board has its own style and range of movement. Just like a game of chess, your workplace offers a variety of movement.

In most cases, you can modify your role, through workplace communication and collaboration. Maybe all you need is a small adjustment, which bring us to …

The Pawn


This is the simplest move of all, best suited to cases where you’re in the right role but want a little more (or less) responsibility, authority, or challenge: promotion vs. voluntary demotion. Some companies I know of will even accommodate the request for a demotion without cutting pay.

The King


The King is all about modest incremental, adjacent motion. This is how most moves occur, not only in business but in life. The expert on Italian opera makes a lateral move into the Italian food business. The best-selling author of Car Repair decides to write a book called Motorcycle Repair (rather than, say, Existentialism Explained). It’s about leveraging your proven expertise to move into a neighboring field. This is a logical, step-by-step process, and it makes the most sense in workplace situations where you want a bit more (or less) responsibility, authority and challenge—rather than a huge change.

The Knight


The moves of a Knight are bolder than those of a King. The Knight can leap over other pieces, as well as travel greater distance. More important, the Knight’s movements appear to be non-linear. In reality, the Knight makes a double move—two steps and a turn. This type of movement makes sense when you require a bolder transition that will take you slightly outside your current role and circumstances. In this move, it’s not only the degree of challenge and responsibility at issue, it’s the character of your role. You want something different, but not wildly different.

The Bishop


Here we get into bolder moves. The Bishop is about transitions. Rather than keep on the established path, this piece moves at angles into new territory. This is a more difficult workplace move to make, but it can be done if you’ve demonstrated your talents and competence, or if you’ve completed training. I have seen employees move successfully from HR to finance. I’ve seen an entry-level Admin Assistant become a Financial Comptroller. It happens. As long as there is an openness and trust, and a willingness to create and commit to a plan, anything is possible.

The Rook


The Rook is also about big moves, but of a logical nature. Here we consider a powerful workplace strategy—the lateral move. Lateral moves are great if you want more challenge without more responsibility, or if you want to learn from a mentor in another part of the company. Also, it isn’t always possible to negotiate a better role with your boss, or to work out personality issues. Sometimes you just have to plan your escape. A lateral move is therefore advisable when you find yourself unable to work amicably with a supervisor.

The Queen


The world is a Queen’s oyster. She has it all, because she can see it all. The Queen looks out over the entire range of motion and chooses where she wants to land. This piece reminds us that an organization holds a wide range of opportunities. What if you don’t see the perfect role for your individual skills? Then consider having a discussion about creating a role. Good companies are open to this, so you should be open to thinking, and moving, like a Queen.

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