Kristen Wiig exited her Apple series due to a ‘Wonder Woman’ sequel scheduling conflict. Here’s how to decide whether to leave one work opportunity for another.
“Saturday Night Live” alum Kristen Wiig recently hit a scheduling snafu, Deadline reports — scrapping her plans to star in a yet-to-be-titled Apple comedy series due to a conflict with the upcoming “Wonder Woman” sequel, in which she’s reportedly set to play a villain named Cheetah.
The Apple series, based on Curtis Sittenfeld’s “You Think It, I’ll Say It” short story collection and produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine media company, sealed its deal in early January, with Wiig also attached as an executive producer. She was cast in the “Wonder Woman” sequel about two months later. But her commitments to the superhero franchise — as well as to other projects — made the Apple series’ timeframe untenable, the trade publication reported. The latter project is “currently on hold as Apple and the producers evaluate their options, including proceeding with a different actress,” according to Deadline.
There’s a lesson for workers outside Hollywood in Wiig’s decision to leave one opportunity for another. Whether you’re an employee at a large company or a freelancer in charge of your own portfolio, here’s when to bail on a work project, according to experts — and how exactly to go about it:
Decide whether you want to leave your current project. Part of this, career coach Julie Cohen told Moneyish, comes down to the question of how miserable you are: Are you bored? Are your skills not being used to their fullest potential? Is the work not meaningful? There might also be lifestyle conflicts, like the length of your work day or a lack of remote and/or flexible work options, she said. Other warning signs might include waning support or sponsorship for the project from people at the top; overwhelming stress and frustration; and low morale that leads to absenteeism, low productivity, conflict and turnover on your team, leadership expert Todd Dewett told Moneyish.
With that said, Cohen added, “just because a project is boring doesn’t mean you should immediately leave it.” “Part of your responsibility in your job is to do what’s needed, and 100% of your day and your work may not always be meaningful, stimulating and engaging,” she said. “In our ideal world that would be, but sometimes stuff isn’t that way.”
Figure out what’s so great about the new project. Workplace psychologist Christine Allen suggests asking whether it’s something you feel passionately about that fits right into your wheelhouse, or whether you’ll look back in 10 years and regret not going for it. Perhaps the opportunity would put you in contact with heavy hitters who wield greater political capital in your workplace, added Cohen. “It might enhance your career working with a different team,” she said.
Do your homework. Ask around to find out if the new project would really be that much better. Try talking to the other project’s manager to learn more about the scope, its deadlines and desired outcomes, and whether it’s a good fit for you, Cohen said — “because if this is within the same company or organization, you might just be going from one frying pan to the other frying pan.” Use experienced mentors as sounding boards, Dewett added.
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Frame your ask in terms of what’s best for the business. “I don’t think there’s ever anything wrong with starting a dialogue,” Cohen said. Mention to your boss that even though you’re fully occupied with project X, you heard about project Y — and think you can add more value, have a bigger impact, and better use your skill set on that project. Explaining why your move would be a win-win is more likely to breed support than giving an ultimatum, she said.
Even if your manager says no, you’ve still opened up a dialogue, Cohen said: “I get you need me; I’m going to work on this; and can we continue to talk about how I can move in that direction?” she said. “Engage your boss (or) project manager so you can be more honest about what you want more of.”
Ask the other team leader to advocate for your joining, Cohen suggested, if you hit a dead end with your own. “There might be more leverage coming from (your boss’s) peer than coming from a direct report,” she said. But keep in mind the office politics around having someone else advocate for you, she added, given that your boss still controls your performance reviews and promotions.
Balance your competing values. Your decision to split for greener pastures may boil down to weighing values like creativity, fulfillment and meaning, Allen said, with ones like loyalty, perseverance and stick-to-itiveness. “Those values don’t always line up perfectly,” she said, “and sometimes we have to make choices about which one is more important to us at that time.”
Show compassion for your colleagues. Be direct, tell them why you decided to join the new project, and leave room for them to have their own feelings, Allen said. Whoever put you on that team also “deserves to understand what you’re doing and why,” Dewett said, “because their reputation matters, not just yours.” Do the requisite PR work, he added: Give thanks, wish them luck, offer to stay in touch on a key project-related issue, and be supportive.
Hand off your work properly. “Have empathy,” Cohen said. “If this happened to you on your team, would you want a bunch of messy files dumped on your desk or emailed to you with no background, no information, no status reports?” If you’re the project lead, Dewett said, backfill your role with a lieutenant or someone from another division. If you’re just a member of the team, he added, scout out resources to help ease your absence — whether those are fellow team members, temp workers, interns or administrative staff. “You’ve got to have a good answer for how you’re replacing yourself so people don’t go, ‘Look at that resource leaving us — now things are going to be worse,’” he said.
If you’re a freelancer or work as your own boss, remember that your personal brand and reputation are on the line. Try to budget time to wrap your existing project before jumping to the exciting new one — but if that’s not an option, Cohen said, line up an associate or colleague who can deliver the same caliber of results, and consider refunding some of your client’s money. “I would do something to placate and acknowledge, ‘This is not my normal way of operating … To remedy this unprecedented approach, I want to find you this all-star who can do the same thing. And to acknowledge this is not ordinary, here’s a little refund.’” Make sure whatever you’re jumping to is far more interesting, important, visible and profitable compared to what you’re currently working on, Dewett added.
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