I'm in my late 40s and have spent the last two years firing IT engineers in my division. I have worked hard to support my people by either transitioning them out or getting used to doing more with less. But I have lost faith in the leadership of the department (we've just started hiring some of my people back as consultants) and I dread the thought of being around to see (or be blamed for) the consequences of the current cost-cutting craze when they start showing up in the medium term. I have devoted the last two decades of my life to a public service career, at the expense of my family life, and have no idea what to do next.
It's hard to know from your letter whether an epiphany, a moment of fatigue or the ache of middle years is upon you – it's also possible you are experiencing all three. Your letter reflects integrity, commitment and hard work, as well as a sense (on behalf of your people) of unfairness. It also points to the kind of slow and quiet injury to family life that's caused by staying away too much for work, and between the lines of your letter lurks a weighing-up of what's been lost and gained, and some disquiet about whether it was worth it.
Organisations, no matter how well their messaging is crafted, don't love you back. This is a chicken that returns to roost with noise and a fertilising manure whenever organisations are behaving badly.
If you have spent a significant period in your current mood, I would diagnose an epiphany – a realisation that makes you question everything. These are inconvenient creatures that wreak havoc on health and relationships if either ignored or followed too romantically. The larger the epiphany (measured by your sense of surprise), the greater the potential for turmoil and the more time it will demand before it is resolved. Befriend it, or it will bite.
Don't go making big decisions without a lot of reflection, nor until your confusion begins to give way to clarity. Some trust in the inherent wisdom of the process will be needed – and if you are an executive with high control-ability this may well be the hardest part. Your values, gifts and sense of purpose will be signposts along the way of the process that seems to be unfolding.
Please get yourself a good organisational (executive or career-transition) coach to stay the course with you – over months or even years. That coach will support you to reacquaint yourself with what you like, what and who matters to you, and how to move your career in a direction that will help you have more of both. A good coach will also keep you accountable to yourself and your goals when change resistance (all the forces that kept you so long in your current role) begins to kick in. I wish you well.
Jacqueline Jago is a certified executive coach and the principal of Bloom Coaching & Consulting.