Blog Post

The Stress of Career Transitions: 8 Stress Behaviors That Can Sabotage Your New Role

We are right in the middle of what’s being called the “Great Resignation,” a term coined by Anthony Klotz, professor of management at Texas A&M University. Although his prediction was made all the way back in 2019, Klotz’s crystal ball was right on the money. In September, the US Bureau of Labor reported that an unprecedented 4.4 million workers quit their jobs in September, a figure was up from 4.3 million in August. These numbers reflect the highest number of people leaving their jobs since the US started recording the statics more than 20 years ago.

Change creates opportunity, and one aspect of this employment trend is that the Great Resignation naturally leads to the Great Advancement, as individuals take on new and more challenging roles. Career transitions are exciting, but they can be fraught with challenge. Leadership transitions in particular are hard, with 50% of leadership transitions destined to fail, according to Inc and McKinsey.

No one sets out in a new position with the expectation of failure, but, as humans, our natural responses to stress can create challenges, both in relationships and adapting to a new culture, as we tackle new roles. Here are eight of the biggest stress behaviors that can lead to problems.

  1. Isolating yourself: It’s normal to feel vulnerable in a new position – particularly in a leadership role. You want to be seen as competent, and the right choice for the job. However, this is not the time to proceed alone. Reach out and ask for the help you need, and take advantage of the resources that are available to you.
  2. Knowing it all: Coming off as a know-it-all or referring often to the success in a past role or company can alienate you from others. Trust that you will be valued, and give yourself the gift of time to prove what you can do in the present. Resist the temptation to impart all of your wisdom or compare past successes to your current situation.
  3. Focusing on the wrong things: One potential pitfall of a new role is the tendency to spend time and energy where you are most comfortable, rather than where the need exists in the business. Seek feedback in the new role to validate the needs of the business and be sure your time, attention, and actions reflect your desire to fully understand the highest priority business needs to address them.
  4. Being too aggressive: An overly assertive initial approach in a new role is not the way to achieve quick success. A willingness to learn and understand something new is one test of a good leader.
  5. Needing to be liked: Building relationships that are available versus strategic is highly inefficient and can limit credibility. Purposefully seek connections that are based on mutual respect and shared vision and values. This will help you build productive, strategic relationships.
  6. Appearing to be out for yourself: Seeking information and knowledge that is for your benefit alone is risky business. Be collaborative rather than competitive, and you’ll achieve success.
  7. Repeating old habits: Thinking the way to be successful in a new role is just like the previous role can limit your momentum. Instead, adapt to the new environment by understanding the unique organization, culture, political environment, leaders, and how achieve results in the new role. For example, leaders who struggle to delegate will find similar challenges in a new role.
  8. Neglecting your own wellbeing: Getting so focused on work that you neglect essentials like sleep, good nutrition, exercise, spending time with your loved ones and friends, or attending to your spiritual needs can lead you down an unhealthy path. Don’t underestimate the detrimental impact this can have; keep an eye on these things and proactively manage them so you can function at your highest level.

These behaviors get in the way of a leader’s success. They cause disconnects and lead to a failure to adapt to the culture of the new organization. There are easy ways that you can support your success as a leader in your new role. First, build strategic relationships with individuals who are well placed to help you make the transition. Second, learn and adapt to the culture of your new organization before you attempt to lead it or change it.

This article is based on information found in chapter 1 of Diane Egbers’ book, The Ascending Leader. Find it on Amazon here:

This material is also discussed in Leadership Excelleration’s Ascending Leader program. For more information on that program:

Learn more about the Ascending Leader program.