Should I change jobs?

QUESTION: I'm having trouble deciding whether to change jobs. For a number of years, I have worked for a small local company. I can walk to work and go home for lunch, which is a great lifestyle benefit. The pay is fair, but there is no room for advancement, and the business owners are greedy, arrogant people.

After looking for other opportunities, I have finally found a position that interests me. This job would provide a better compensation package and more career potential, but the downside is that I would have to travel 30 percent of the time.

I'm hesitant about leaving my current job, but I also think a change might be healthy. My crystal ball just isn't working, so I would welcome any suggestions.

ANSWER: Choosing between two alternatives with different benefits inevitably creates a psychological dilemma. Selecting one means giving up the advantages of the other, so people often have a hard time with these choices. On a small scale, it's like deciding whether to have the creamy chocolate cake or the sensible fruit plate for dessert. Either way, you gain something and you lose something.

To help structure your decision-making, try this simple exercise. First, make a comprehensive list of all the factors important to you in a job, such as pay, interesting work, competent management, etc. Give added weight to any that are especially critical. For each position, rate these factors on a 1-to-5 scale, then compare the scores.

Viewing the ratings side-by-side should give you a better idea of how these two jobs stack up. Ultimately, however, you will need to take a leap of faith and choose the path that appears headed towards the most desirable future.

Q: Our company has a large number of Indian employees who bring lunch from home, heat it in the microwave and eat at their desks. Unfortunately, the smell is very pungent and lingers in the air for at least half an hour. I have tried spraying air freshener, but that didn't help.

When I commented on the smell, a few people accused me of being racist, but that is not true. I like my co-workers. I just think eating smelly food in close quarters is inconsiderate. Should I discuss this problem with human resources or just shut up and live with it?

A: The issue of food smells is difficult to address, because few odors are universally offensive. For example, many people despise the smell of microwave popcorn, while others don't mind it at all. The same is true of fish, gasoline and that air freshener you were using. In India, many might consider the aroma of an American hamburger distasteful.

In this situation, however, the practical question is whether other lunching locations are available. If your office has a decent break room, the HR manager might reasonably implement a "no eating at your desk" policy for all employees. But if desktop dining is the only alternative to eating out, I'm afraid you will simply have to adjust.

(Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." Send in questions and get free coaching tips at, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.)

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