When we work with one organisation for an extended period of time, the environment, people and the tasks become very familiar. This is particularly true if we really enjoy and feel passionate about the work we are doing. Just like relationships between two people, long relationships between an employee and an employer can accumulate unspoken expectations and promises. Psychologists call this the ‘psychological contract’.
Essentially, if you are a talented and passionate employee who has given years of service to your organisation both you and your employer will have unwritten expectations that you will fulfil your obligations to each other. In other words, “if I work hard for you, you will look after me”. Much like any committed relationship, dedication and commitment feed security and attachment. To walk away from any such relationship can be difficult and emotional.
Fernando Alonso has recently completed his final Formula One race for the Ferrari team before joining McLaren. How will he manage this transition? Fear is the classic emotion that is likely to arise at such a time. Fear that the new role may not work out as he hopes, fear of letting go of what he has known for so long, fear that he might not live up to expectations.
If, when making a change in career or a change in your employer, you pay too much attention to fear, you could become paralysed by thought processes that make it almost impossible to take new risks and opportunities. Ask yourself what is the worst that can happen? Work through that eventuality and see what comes up. Re-visit your values and evaluate to what extent the new role and employer fulfil them. Try and envisage your 80-year-old self. Ask him or her what advice s/he has for you. If you can overcome your fear and find the courage to walk away from the comfort of a familiar job, you might just discover a fulfilling new aspect to your career that you didn’t know was possible.