Career Advice

Is It Ethical To Stay In A Well Paid Job And Just Coast Through?

Dear Liz,

I’ve been at my job five years, and there are aspects of the job that I love and others I hate. It’s a job I could do in my sleep, and there aren’t really any opportunities for advancement. At the same time, I’m well paid and the benefits are fantastic. The leadership team is great and my manager has been very good to me. On the other hand, salary increases have been tiny for the past two years. It’s a family-owned company and the business is about as recession-proof as you can get, so I’m grateful for that. For the first few years in the job, I was learning a lot, but I’m pretty well versed now and the learning has tapered off dramatically. I basically drift through each day, dialing it in and doing what the job requires and no more, since the opportunity to get a significant pay increase is basically nil. Part of me wants to look for another job, but another part of me says “You’re about to vest in your 401(k) matching contribution, and why leave a stable environment for an unknown one?” What is your advice?



Dear Fred,

Management consultants tell their CEO clients, “Innovate, or die.” When my great-granddad pulled barges down the Chicago Canal, it was possible (and almost guaranteed, for many people) to do a job that required little to no intellectual heavy lifting and involved no complex problem-solving. Today, in the Knowledge Economy, people who don’t stretch themselves to climb bigger and bigger hills and who don’t learn on the job fall behind. They lose muscle tone, you might say – they’re just not as sharp, inquisitive or creative in their thinking as people whose jobs require them to untangle thorny issues every day.

There’s another issue worth pondering, too, one that you may not have thought about. Many people would say that it is unethical to accept a hefty salary and do as little for the company as you say you are doing. Can you feel good about yourself when you drift through each day, going through the motions, in a company that you say has treated you extremely well? I am certain that you hold yourself to a higher standard than that in your outside-of-work relationships, Fred. Apart from the mental and professional stagnation that you’re experiencing, don’t you want a job where you get up every morning full of enthusiasm, dying to get to work and dig into the interesting issues the company is facing? When you find that next assignment, it will be better for you, better for your employers (the old and new), and better for the currently-unemployed person who will get your current job when you move on to greener pastures. You are way too young, Fred (whatever your age) to go to sleep in your career. Two years in a rut is two too many. Get your job-search engine up and running again, Fred, get into your next challenging assignment and pave the way for a sharp, deserving someone to take over the role that isn’t making your heart beat faster anymore.