The workplace blame game can get a little hairy.

I fundamentally believe that an organization works as a holistic ecosystem, and every part of the ecosystem has an important role and responsibility in how it works together. It’s never just one element in isolation that causes an organization to be out of balance, it’s rather the ripple effects.

That’s why I always make a point to look at the role of senior leaders and middle management and front-line employees in an organization when talking about common causes for decreasing engagement. If managers and leaders are only 20% more engaged than their employees, something is clearly off. There is no doubt that when a leader is only marginally more engaged than his or her team, there is going to be a negative undertow.

In spite of that, or perhaps because of that, all employees have a responsibility to manage their own career. If new data shows that concern for advancement opportunities is the #1 reason employees leave their job, I would argue that there’s an accountability for employees to have development conversations with their manager and create the opportunities they want.

In spite of that, or perhaps because of that, all employees have a responsibility to manage their own career.

When it comes to and owning one’s career, there are 3 key instances in which employees must take accountability. These are also among the top reasons for disengagement in the organization, and this is no coincidence.

  1. You want advancement opportunities. Make sure you are laying the groundwork to be eligible, thought of and ready for advancement opportunities. Rarely are these opportunities are just handed out, but rather you must consciously taken control to take the steps to get there and build the case. You should look at it as building blocks, so take opportunities that push out of your comfort zone and build your story for advancement readiness. Especially when a manager is disengaged, you must develop you own plan and be specific about what you need from your manager to help make the plan a success.
  2. You crave more challenging work. The key is to be observant of the needs, opportunities and pain points in your organization - these are the challenges you can help resolve! You may feel like you’re known as the “project management person” or the “go-to” person for one particular skill or capability, and this can lead to feeling painted into a corner, and then disengaged. Find the stretch opportunity that will help you redefine what you’re great at and change how others perceive you.
  3. You need more recognition. The most obvious and natural way to get recognize is to just DO great work, but often that doesn’t cut through the clutter of complex organizations. Are you actually touting your good work? Are you managing your story? You may not be getting recognized because no one knows the value you’re providing. Until you get comfortable with this one, it may follow you wherever you go.

This is not to say that there isn’t a time and very good circumstances for changing jobs, and when a great opportunity comes to you, you should absolutely take it. You might call this “running to” something great - an opportunity that advances your career and stretches you in ways you may not otherwise get in your current position.

While there are also legitimate reasons to “run away” from a job, I’m suggesting that this is dangerous when you can actually do something to change or influence your situation. Most likely if you can take accountability and you don’t, it will repeat itself elsewhere.

It can be so easy to blame others for one’s situation. The real growth comes from looking at what’s within your control and persevering in the face of challenge, with full awareness that no one else will do it for you.

Where are you ready to say “it’s not you, it’s me?”