Protecting Your Flourishing | University of Venus
Protecting Your Flourishing | University of Venus

Because we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, our professional and personal flourishing are deeply intertwined. In my previous piece on cultivating personal and professional flourishing, I shared practical strategies for cultivating well-being in the academy. It’s important to recognize that our own individual practices, strategies, and choices play a critical role in our ability to flourish. Yet as a sociologist, I am also deeply aware that individual solutions do not and cannot address structural issues. So while it’s important that we each cultivate habits and strategies that support our flourishing, it’s equally important to recognize that workplace cultures that cause burnout and reward or demand faculty and staff overwork severely limit the efficacy of individual-level strategies for cultivating flourishing. 

As we consider how effective our own individual strategies and practices to cultivate flourishing can be, it’s important to realistically assess whether the organizational culture we’re working within supports or impedes our efforts to cultivate well-being. Being regularly prevented from enacting strategies that help prevent burnout and support well-being is a red flag that our current work environment may be limiting our ability to flourish.

Experiencing frequent pushback against prioritizing flourishing and well-being itself contributes to burnout. A workplace culture that actively prevents or makes it more difficult to engage in practices that support our mental and physical health is one that is long-term toxic to well-being—even if we are able to tolerate it in the short-term—because of the cumulative effects of the stress, time, and emotional labor involved in having to continuously fight to protect our well-being. 

Importantly, even when they are not toxic, workplace cultures that inhibit flourishing limit the effectiveness of even the most rigorously followed individual-level strategies for cultivating flourishing. 

Determining when it’s time to move on is often a complicated decision and there is rarely a perfect answer. The indicators below—especially if multiple are present—are signs that it might be time to consider moving on to protect or rebuild your flourishing:

  • The boundaries you set to protect your health and well-being are ignored

  • Your responsibilities continually expand but are not accompanied by an expansion of support or resources

  • The values and priorities of your institution, department, or unit are in conflict with or misaligned with your own

  • You wake up feeling exhausted, unmotivated, or dreading work on a consistent basis (if you’re experiencing sadness, exhaustion, irritation, or anxiety beyond when you are at or thinking about work it’s important to check in with a healthcare professional who can assess whether an underlying physical or mental health issue may be contributing to your experiences)

  • You’re experiencing harassment, discrimination, and/or microaggressions

  • Your work and contributions are routinely taken for granted or underappreciated

  • You are prevented from or made to feel guilty for prioritizing your physical and/or mental health

  • You are prevented from or made to feel guilty for taking vacations and breaks

  • Your skills and expertise are routinely underutilized 

  • You don’t admire or respect the people in leadership positions 

  • You rarely have opportunities to engage in meaningful work

When reflecting on whether flourishing is possible in your current position or organization or whether it’s time to look elsewhere, it’s useful to take the long view. As you’re considering whether it might be time to move on, consider whether the challenges or frustrations you’re experiencing are short-term or a long-term pattern. A few days or even weeks of frustration, intensified work demands, or work that doesn’t feel especially meaningful are common even in jobs that are an excellent fit and workplace cultures that generally supporting well-being and flourishing. 

As you’re considering whether it’s time to move on, in addition to reflecting on whether the specific organizational culture you’re working in is a poor fit, spending time in intentional reflection about whether your current career path itself is one you’re still excited by and find fulfilling is equally important. If you’re wondering whether a career in the academy is still a good fit for you, reading about the wide range of career paths open to PhDs is an excellent place to start. 

If you do decide it is time to move on, planning a successful exit strategy can help you protect your flourishing as you make that transition. 

Brandy L. Simula, PhD, BCC (she/her/hers) is a professional developer and a Board Certified career, professional and life design coach who works with graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and higher education leaders. She currently leads the Office of Faculty Professional Development at Georgia Tech and is a 2020-22 Leadership Fellow of the University System of Georgia. Read more about her work at


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