Making a Difficult Decision when Faced with Choosing Between Financial or Emotional Well-Being

Linda Was Facing a Difficult Decision. Her Bank Balance Was Telling Her One Thing. Her Heart, Mind and Gut Were Telling Her Something Else.

Photo by Elena Mothvilo on Unsplash

Linda’s role at her last company had been made redundant due to the economic crisis and downturn in the market. The financial sector where she had always worked was severely impacted with significant job losses across organisations. People who had survived the slashing of roles, were hanging on to their jobs for dear life. This coupled with recovery and growth being slow, almost to the point of standstill, had led to months of unfruitful job searching for Linda.

There was simply a scarcity of new positions, and stiff competition for the small number of new roles that did appear on the horizon. It was the same story across all sectors and industries, and although Linda had tried to reposition herself as an attractive candidate to organisations outside of the financial sector, that had yielded absolutely no results.

Then four months into her job search she secured an interview for the role of Customer Relations Manager at Street Business Credit Card Company.

At first Linda was delighted; but as she began to research the company in preparation for her interview, she began to feel uneasy, as she uncovered and discovered what the company employees and customers said about the company values, which were described as very destructive. It was all very damming.

Linda was very driven by her values, and at times in her WorkLife when she had experienced situations that went against her values, it had impacted her emotional well-being. This caused her a lot more unease, driven by concern.

But she needed a job, and so she kept on going with her preparation. But the sense of unease never left her, and was in fact intensified at the interview, by the way in which it was conducted — which was very robotic and not at all personalised. She left the interview feeling cold and completely uninspired.

She had been told they would let her know their decision within a few days; and when she found herself hoping she wouldn’t receive an offer, she knew in her heart, mind and gut, that this job, this company wasn’t right for her, and she wasn’t right for them. 

But once again, her bank balance was telling her something else: she needed to support herself, and it would be very difficult, if not very irresponsible, to turn the offer down if it did come her way. And come her way it did, which is how Linda found herself in this position of facing a dilemma, and having a difficult decision to make.

A weekend of inner turmoil ensued for Linda. She talked it through with friends, all of whom advised her to take it, saying: “It may well be that you’ll discover your concerns are unfounded. If they’re real, you may be in a position to do something about that; and if you discover it really isn’t for you, you can ride it out until something better comes along.”

While Linda knew this was all good advice, she was really concerned about being part of an organisation whose values were considered by employees and customers to be destructive, and the impact this would have on her emotional well-being.

Nevertheless, it kept coming back to needing to survive financially, leaving her to question if she would need to choose between financial or emotional well-being. She further questioned if she was losing the plot and being completely irrational in her thinking and making more of it than was necessary. She got to the point where she was questioning her own sanity.

Book Wisdom

Linda was reminded of a chapter from Your Music and People by Derek Sivers. The chapter ‘Compass In Your Gut’ talks about your instincts having a compass that points in two directions:

  1. What excites you;
  2. What drains you.

The chapter goes on to say: “No matter what advice anyone gives you — no matter how smart they may be — you need to let this compass drive you.”

The chapter shares the following:

Words of Wisdom

“But nothing is worth losing your enthusiasm. Nothing! Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it. You have to pay close attention to that compass, even in little day-to-day decisions.”

“You get offered a gig. They’re on the phone waiting for an answer. Does it excite you or does it drain you?”

The chapter shares the following:

Sage Wisdom

“If it doesn’t excite you don’t do it. There’s almost nothing that you must do.”

“Work towards this ideal, and soon you’ll be doing only what excites you the most.”

“Then you’ll find that doors open for you, opportunities come your way, and life seems to go easier, because you’re doing what you’re meant to do.”

All of this resonated with Linda, she already knew the prospect of joining the company drained her, and moreover was a threat to her emotional well-being. But as much as she couldn’t shake that off, she also couldn’t shake of the prospect of not being able to support herself financially.

She asked herself the question: “What is the best and right decision for me to make — do I accept or decline this offer? Then she decided to sleep on it. The following morning she woke up to self-feedback that said: “Enough is enough, I have to find a way to make my decision and then accept that. I need to do it objectively while taking my own personal values into consideration, because it’s my perceived thinking that it’s the jarring of values, that will cause problems for my emotional well-being.”

So, she thought through her own values and what they could mean in relation to the situation, both around the decision she needed to make, and why she was feeling the way she was feeling.

Mental Wellness: Being able to cope with the ups and down of everyday WorkLife and taking these in my stride. The ability to be productive in the knowledge that there is a support system in place to help should there be times when I’m overwhelmed because of workload or a situation either in or out of work that’s impacting my wellbeing.

Linda had no way of gauging this from anything she had discovered going through the interview process. She hadn’t mentioned her discovery of the company’s destructive values, and her concerns about the impact this could have on her well-being. It hadn’t come up at any stage, and that in itself was not unusual. She recognised that she could have taken responsibility for sharing this. She chose not to because she didn’t know how it would have been received. Again, that in itself was not unusual. She had learnt the need to be self-protective in sharing what she needed to share about her concerns of values on people’s well-being. All of this meant that she wasn’t in a position to make a decision based on this core personal value being honoured, because she simply didn’t know whether it would or whether it wouldn’t.

Make a difference by being different: I want to spend time where I can make the biggest impact. I want to be part of a company that works on big ideas that are going to drive success, because they offer the opportunity for transformation.

Nothing about her experience gave her the belief that this would be possible. The way in which the company communicated who they were, how their customers and employees talked about the company, how the people she’d been interviewed by spoke about the company and their growth plans, was all very uninspiring. Nothing about anything she’d discovered or heard captured her imagination, made her curious, or gave her any confidence that she could be part of something that could be transformative. Linda reasoned that while much of this thinking was based on a strong sense of what was and what would be, rather than strong factual evidence, that this was a good enough measure to factor into her decision making. Her reasoning was that this should have been evident to her; and the fact that it wasn’t was enough for her to make a good-enough informed decision about taking the job. Based on this it would be a ‘no’.

Good Citizenship: I want to be part of a business that takes an active role in making the world a fair place. Beginning with the company itself, then taking this to the community we serve, and then to communities that are underserved and suffering because of it being an unfair world. I want to be supported as an individual and as part of a collective to play my role in striving towards achieving this.

There was absolutely nothing that gave Linda even an inkling of a sense that she would be supported in honouring this core value at her workplace. While this value was integral to Linda, she recognised that it may prove difficult to find a company that would support this. And that maybe she would need to find a way to achieve this in some way outside of her work, perhaps in a volunteering capacity at an organisation that strived to achieve this. For these reasons, Linda allowed that her belief that she would be unable to honour this core personal value within her job, could not play a part in her decision making in accepting or declining the job.

Autonomy: Self-direction is really important to me in my work. It allows me to be more effective because I do better and more work when I can get on with things and I’m trusted to do so. I want and need to take ownership of my work because that allows me to tap into the meaning that underlies the work.

Linda had gotten a distinct impression of micro-management being rife throughout the organisation, from the customer and employee reviews she had read — which very clearly demonstrated that autonomy given to individuals in being able to deliver in their role was a scare commodity. There was something about the interview that reinforced it, although Linda couldn’t pinpoint exactly what that was. It was something about the conversation, which wasn’t a conversation in a way that was free-flowing. It was simply a series of questions and answers, which she felt would be accessed and reassessed before a decision was made. That in itself of course is understandable, but it was more about the interviewers simply being information gatherers that bothered her.

To get an understanding of what exactly it was that gave her this sense of ‘botherment’, she replayed her interview in her mind, from the time she arrived at the office to the time she left. Suddenly it struck her like a lightning bolt: it was as though she had been in the “land of the ‘working’ dead” — people behaving in a zombie-like fashion, waiting to be told what to do next. 

The interview was question and answer, rather than conversation-based, because it lacked engagement. There simply wasn’t employee engagement, and autonomy is one of the essential elements in building true employee engagement. This was the opposite to autonomy; this was control. This was not an enjoyable place for employees, or managers for that matter. That was what she had experienced, and that together with believing her core value of Making a Difference by Being Different would not be honoured was enough for Linda to make her decision from an objective standpoint, while taking her own personal values into consideration. And so, the following day, having slept on it, she followed through with her decision and declined the offer.


Having done so she felt an immediate sense of relief from a belief that she had made the right decision for her. And so, she continued going about her job search. It didn’t prove to be easy. The days ran into weeks without a single response to the jobs she applied for. It was so disheartening, but Linda kept on keeping on. Then one day several weeks later she was invited to an interview. 

This time her experience from start to finish was very different. This time throughout the process she discovered a company that was completely aligned with her values. This time she left the interview feeling warm and inspired. This time she knew in her heart, mind and gut that she wanted the job, that she wanted to be part of the company. This time when the offer came through, she didn’t face a dilemma, nor did she have a difficult decision to make. This time accepting immediately was an easy decision.

Today’s featured book is: Your Music and People, by Derek Sivers

WorkLife Book Wisdom

The intention of this story is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.

Linda’s story is one of the stories featured in my book: How To Make Your Values Matter, from The School of WorkLife Book series.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.