Waiting– the Symptom of Failure

Much of my professional career was spent waiting.  Waiting for the right moment, the right time to sit down with my boss or to talk about new responsibilities.  I’d wait to discuss my professional goals or career objectives.  Waiting till my review.  Waiting to start my life.

In New York City, the cumulative amount of time all working professionals in the city spend in elevators in a twelve month period spent waiting is 16.6 years. Imagine 16 years.  At my funeral I really don’t want someone saying, “That Jessica.  She can ride a mean elevator.  Yup, one of the best.”

Silly, huh?  So why are you waiting?

There never really is a right moment especially when it comes to leadership.  Leaders and managers within an organization should know it’s the little moments, those moments often spent waiting that are critical to your organization, working with your team, and also in your life.  As leaders and individuals we often are remembered and remember those defining moments instead of the moments spent waiting and preparing to step in the spotlight.  Remembering the moment when we hit that home run and forgetting the hours playing catch with dad and hours spent at the batting cages.

But life and leadership is only made of a handful of those moments, and like New Yorkers in elevators, we spend a lot of time waiting.

Waiting- the Symptom of Failure

You can’t afford to wait.  Life insurance companies like to remind us about the cost of waiting, and they just might have  right.  Because waiting is often the symptom to a bigger problem.  Waiting results in lost customers and increased employee turnover.  Last week, I spent waiting 45 minutes on hold to talk to a technical service representative about my home Internet. Companies and leaders often hold off to talk to employees about their performance waiting for their scheduled quarterly meeting missing an opportunity to provide a real-time teaching moment.

Managers and leaders wait because situations and encounters like performance discussions are uncomfortable and unpleasant so we avoid what we don’t enjoy.   We wait to hear employee feedback about the organization until only after the employee has given their notice.  Imagine if we didn’t wait.  What impact would this have on the organization or your life?

Waiting is not only a symptom to a broken organization, life choice, or process, but waiting is fear gussied up.  It’s an excuse to be better prepared.  An excuse not to take ownership.  Waiting to admit your failures or fear to put yourself in front of success.  We spend so much time waiting, that we forget what it’s like living.

Quit worrying.  Quit waiting.  Stop reflecting.  Start living.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions


  1. Kay Stout says

    Jessica – this has been brought close to home for me and my family when my 44 year old son died suddenly. Yes- – you do not wait – you embrace your life both professionally and peronally.

    I’ll reference this blog frequently when talking with clients and friends.

    It is to the point – causes me to think and reevaluate.

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says


      Greg, Ryleigh, and myself visited Greg’s dad over the weekend. It’s our third Father’s Day without him. The thoughts and feelings I have even 2 1/2 years later are what inspired this post. We only have one life to live and if managers, leaders thought this way work would be so much different in a good way. I base my business on this model because waiting is what holds you back. I want to make the right life decisions for me and my family. Fear and waiting shouldn’t stand in the way of that.

      Thanks for the comment, Kay. And I’m so sorry about your son.


  2. Rishona says

    {sigh} – This post hits close to home. I am in a dead-end job and I know that I need to make a change! But no other offers are coming through via my on-again/off-again job search. A big part of me just wants to pack up an leave for greener pastures; but EVERYONE says “Don’t move without having a job first”. However I’ve actually had phone screenings where the HR manager flat out says, “Oh we thought you were local….”

    So I really feel as if I’m wasting my time away…..with every day that passes!


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