FlourishAnyway is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist with applied experience in corporate human resources and consulting.
How to Know When It's Time to Move On
You may pride yourself like I do in the fact that you're no quitter. But let's face it: when it comes to work, sometimes you have to be.
You outgrow a job. A better situation comes along. The job isn't what you believed it to be. You no longer fit the company culture.
The truth is that there's no real prize for stamina, especially if you become bitter and burned out by a job you detest. You do not—I repeat, do not—have to suffer years of soul-crushing unhappiness at a dead end job saying, "Yes, sir" to a jerk you can't stand. Don't let it get that far.
You can find other work, you know. As an adult, you can give yourself permission to quit. (Although it's best to have a plan.)
Having been in HR with two Fortune 500 companies, I've seen employees of all levels quit for good reasons, terrible reasons, and occasionally for little obvious reason at all. But how should an employee know when they've had enough?
When Is Enough, Enough?
Here are 15 warning signs to help you understand when enough is enough. Don't let an unhappy situation turn bleak. Know when the time is right to pack up your bags and find a better opportunity.
One person's unbearable work situation may be another's dream job because of people's differing
- work styles
- career goals and
- coping mechanisms.
Don't you owe it to yourself to be satisfied in your professional life as well as in your personal life? Know when enough is enough.
Warning Sign 1: You've Fallen out of Love With Your Work
As a new employee, there was a "honeymoon" period as you settled into your work. You were proud to be associated with the company, its products and your co-workers (well, most of them anyhow). You drank eagerly of the company Kool-Aid, believing in its mission like a young doe munching on fresh Spring leaves.
But somewhere along the way there was some backslide. Reality struck hard. Perhaps it was ugly. Now you find yourself out of love. This happens when a relationship isn't nurtured and stoked properly. (And yes, employment is a relationship.)
Read More From Toughnickel
Now that warm fuzzy feeling you once felt for your employer is just a souring in the back of your throat. You no longer believe in the company mission, and it's getting harder to fake.
The frustrations of your job outweigh any possible rewards: promotions, pay raises, bonuses, a bigger office, etc. Unfortunately, the company can no longer throw money at your deflated heart and make it all better.
Like a couple who is married only in the legal sense, the magic has dissipated. The relationship is hollow and pained. You're simply trading time for money now, baby. You know what you need to do.
Warning Sign 2: You're out of Options
You’ve tried other alternatives, and they haven’t worked. You've sat down to talk about the situation with your manager, Human Resources, and teammates. You've asked for specific help in finding a collaborative solution. But your problems persist.
Warning Sign 3: Your Health Is Suffering
Not only has work stopped being fun but it's also started to interfere with your health. You find work mentally, emotionally and physically draining. You can't wait to leave at the end of each day, and you dread the start of each work week.
You may have also begun to miss more work due to stress-related illness such as migraines, back pain, or high blood pressure. Perhaps you notice that you're catching more colds and flu and hanging on to them longer. You frequently feel sick or exhausted.
Why Accepting a Counter Offer Is Usually Not a Good Move
Warning Sign 4: You're in a Losing Industry or Company
I've worked in industries when they realized their glory days were behind them. They exude a not-so-quiet desperation to regain dominance.
For the employee, the trouble with holding onto such a job too long is this: in the company's constant drive to belt-tighten and "do more with less," innovation and focus often suffer terribly. Companies become understaffed and overstretched while they chase market share for an overall shrinking customer base.
It's hard to bring your best game when you're worried about whether your job or the company will exist tomorrow. Ultimately you have to decide whether you want to aim to be the best employee you can be at
- a losing company in a shrinking industry or
- one that still has substantial potential for growth.
Warning Sign 5: You Have No Future Focus Here
When you think about your career, where you do you want to be two, five, or even 10 years from now? Do you see yourself with your current company? Are you interested in your boss' job?
Organizational changes such as reorganizations, layoffs, and leadership shake-ups are a common turning point. If you've ever been through an organizational change that wasn't managed well, you know that it can cause even to most loyal of employees to second-guess their future with the company.
In addition, sometimes high achievers find that their interests and skills simply outgrow the career options that their current employer can provide (e.g., exposure to international markets). Or they grow frustrated waiting for key leaders to retire.
Other employees achieve an employment milestone and wonder if this is all there is. (Career crisis alert!) Examples include
- completing large projects
- reaching an important service anniversary or
- earning a year-end bonus or other large award.
If you're starting to suspect that there is more opportunity for you outside of the company than in it, you may be right. You may be better served branching out into other industries and problem solving situations, growing your success to include a broader scale or a different environment.
Changing employers offers not only a chance to recharge your batteries but it also offers the possibility of failure—and that in itself is compelling, particularly if you've been stuck in the same role for years.
Warning Sign 6: You Don't Fit the Company Culture
One day you realize that you no longer fit the company culture—or never did. You're the proverbial square peg in the round hole. Or, you realize there's rampant
- tolerance of bullying and verbal abuse
- illegal harassment or discrimination, or
- other unlawful behavior.
Why are you still there? If you don't figure this one out, you will either be consumed by the Dark Forces or you will become one of them.
Warning 7: You're No Longer Learning
You are no longer learning, and the type of fun you're having sure isn't work-related. (Bored, you've resorted to spending work time on social media, writing your novel, or playing Fantasy Football.)
You're stagnating in your job, going through the motions by performing the same tasks—just different client, different year. You need more challenge and responsibility, and you can’t get that in your current company.
Bored at Work? You're Not Alone
Warning Sign 8: Your Contributions and Skills Are Undervalued
Your ideas are not being heard, and it gives you the sinking feeling that you just don't matter here. Although your skills are evolving, you've already been type cast. You are pigeon-holed—stuck in one department and assigned a label no matter what training and development you've undertaken (e.g., "an IT type," "not management material"). It will take heroic levels of effort and personal braiding the change this. Is this what you want?
Warning Sign 9: You're Not Being Fairly Rewarded
Good "yes" person that you are, your job has expanded as you've taken on extra tasks one by one. Your paycheck, however, does not reflect the widened scope of your work. When you compare your salary to that of peers in your industry or profession, it becomes clear that you're being taken advantage of.
In the end, attaboys are nice, but they won't pay your mortgage.
Warning Sign 10: You're Not Getting the Resources You Need
One surefire sign of company trouble is if you chronically don’t have necessary resources to do your job—time, people, money, and materials. A company that is poorly led or in excessive debt, for example, may invoke resource freezes.
One employer I worked for called a moratorium on office supplies for the rest of the year while the organization hemorrhaged money. From October until December, employees brought what we couldn't live without from home! Weird but true.
Employees can also get caught in political turf wars in which department managers compete for head count and budget dollars.
Warning Sign 11: Your Work Relationships Are Troubled
Can't stand your boss? Do you find yourself walking on eggshells much of the time at work? Are your co-workers gossipy, rude, and as petty as middle school students? Is teamwork dead?
Conflict in work groups is natural, and it can be either constructive or destructive. But if your work relationships have disintegrated into huffy arguments, the silent treatment, email flames, or personal insults, then you need to make a decision.
Regardless of who started it and why, you've allowed the situation to get this out of hand, so are you going to ... ?
- stay and try to adapt and problem solve
- let the situation escalate, or
- seek greener pastures, leaving the Office Jerk or Office Mean Girls behind to chew their cud.
Warning Sign 12: You Have No Work-Life Balance
If you can't have dinner with your family, take a Disney vacation, or recuperate from surgery without being pestered about work, something is out of whack, my friend. Fix it while you still can.
In my years as an HR investigator, there have been some jaw-dropping examples of managers failing to honor workers' family time. For example:
- One employee had to literally leave the country to avoid having family vacation time interrupted.
- Another employee's manager requested that she perform work even though she was recuperating from surgery and out on medical leave.
- Then there was the woman whose manager called her when she was in the hospital delivery room while the employee was in labor. The boss wanted information for a grant proposal, and the employee acquiesced but none too politely.
There's a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over—and to let go. It means leaving what's over without denying its value.
— Ellen Goodman
Video Advice: How to Resign From a Job
Warning Sign 13: Your Work Performance Needs Improvement
If you've been receiving a lot of written negative feedback about your job performance, here's a warning. Your performance issues are being documented as a part of a formal performance management process. This is not good.
Written feedback usually accompanies difficult performance conversations about mistakes you've made and conflicts or misunderstandings in which you've played a starring role. Generally, your situation is more urgent the more accurate these are for you:
- several layers of management are involved in your performance conversations or are copied on emails about your performance
- you're now receiving criticism about even small issues and it's perhaps even coming from different directions (e.g., other managers)
- co-workers are increasingly standoffish (if they're honest, they'd probably tell you that you're considered "damaged goods" because of your performance)
- management has used some of these words in discussing your performance: "does not meet expectations," "more is expected," "substantial improvement is expected immediately," "your performance is unacceptable."
- you're put on a formal performance improvement plan (a "PIP"). Snarky HR types call this a "get-well plan."
From an HR perspective, it's been my experience that few people successfully work their way out of such a plan. But even if you do, consider the reputational damage this has done to your career with the company and your future in it.
Warning Sign 14: You've Burned Some Bridges
Whether you fully intended to or not, you've burned bridges in the organization over the years. The people who are keeping score are now in positions to make you sorry. You may want to seek a fresh start somewhere else, building new bridges, depending on the
- perceived transgression
- your career options
- the retaliatory nastiness of the wronged party and
- their position of influence.
Warning Sign 15: You're Staying for the Wrong Reasons
Continuing to stay makes you restless, sad, angry, and resentful, but you're hesitant to admit it to yourself. Your priorities are misguided.
If you're staying out of guilt or obligation (e.g., "what will my company, boss, clients, or coworkers do without me?"), get over yourself. (I say that with love.) Every employee is replaceable, and they'll adjust without you just fine in the long run. Trust me.
Ditto if you're staying because of your fear of change.
Put your big boy/big girl britches on and consider yourself, your job situation, and your personal financial picture. Accept responsibility like an adult, and prioritize what is important to YOU. Is it job challenge, money, your health, relationships with coworkers, promotional opportunity ...?
If staying keeps you from other better opportunities, then you must go seek your future. If you stay even though your head is not 100% in the game, you are short-selling everyone involve—particularly yourself.
Your professional reputation is crafted from everyday perceptions. Thus, the longer that others perceive you as someone who mind-numbingly spacewalks through his or her day, the more your reputation suffers. Don't turn into someone you're not: sad, angry, restless, resentful. You are better than that.
You don't want to turn around one day and realize that you resent the hell out of the same people you cared enough about to pass up those great career opportunities for. You owe it to them and to yourself to fulfill your potential. If outside the company is the only place this can be done, then fly.
Summary: 15 Signs It's Time to Quit Your Job
- You’ve fallen out of love with your work
- Other options have failed
- Your health is suffering
- You’re in a losing industry or company
- You don’t have a future focus with the company
- You no longer fit the company culture (or never did)
- You’re no longer learning and having fun
- Your contributions and skills are not fully valued
- You’re not being fairly rewarded (underpaid)
- You don’t have needed resources to get the job done
- Your work relationships are toxic
- There’s no work-life balance
- Your work performance needs immediate improvement
- You’ve burned some bridges
- You’re staying for the wrong reasons
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2015 FlourishAnyway
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 12, 2020:
Peggy - The guy laying in the photo on the ground actually contacted me saying "that's me!" It was a photo off Flicker. Kinda neat.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 12, 2020:
All of your advice is well taken. Knowing when and how to move on is essential for everyone involved in that process. I loved the photos you used in illustrating this post. Many of these made me smile.
Margie's Southern Kitchen from the USA on May 11, 2018:
Yes it is FlourishAway! Have an awesome day!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 10, 2018:
Margie - I can empathize with the high stress jobs. It's nice to be out of that world, isn't it?
Margie's Southern Kitchen from the USA on May 10, 2018:
I guess, all work and no pay would be me. I am retired now, but always had jobs that were very high stress! Awesome article, thanks FlourishAway!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 12, 2018:
Mary - Many people feel trapped by financial circumstances or other considerations, but they can at least take steps in the right direction to make a needed change. Your advice to work on yourself is great.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on April 11, 2018:
How terrible it is when you're just dragging yourself to go to a job you're not happy about. You could get sick in this kind of environment so the best thing is to leave. Sometimes, you may need therapy yourself so you could deal with workplace issues in the future. Most workplaces have more or less similar types of people and issues so the stronger you are, the better able you are to perform in that environment.You can't work on other people but you can work on yourself.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 20, 2016:
Happymommy2520 - Good for you that you didn't just stay trapped in a job situation you disliked. If you don't like something, then change it! Best of luck to you on a bright and happy future.
Amy from East Coast on June 20, 2016:
This article is packed with useful information on moving on from a job. I like the way you highlighted how most people feel when they don't like their jobs and explained it in detail. Life is to short to stay at a job you dislike with negative people. I have walked away from a very destructive work environment and it felt great. I look forward to reading more of your work!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 04, 2016:
breathing - Thank you for your kind endorsement. Timing is so difficult to get right, but I hope this helps many people know when is the right time to move on. All the best to you.
TANJIM ARAFAT SAJIB from Bangladesh on March 03, 2016:
This is really hard to decide when to quit job. There is hardly any employee who doesn’t go through this phase in their job career. But the author has described 15 excellent points which can help all of us to determine the exact moment when we should say, “okay. I’ve done enough and now is the time to quit!!”Retiring on the right time is indeed something that we can be proud of. After all how many employees can finish their job life on their own terms in today’s competitive job world? So thanks to the hub author on behalf of all the employees for such a nice and informative post!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 01, 2016:
Thelma - Burnout certainly spills over into many other aspects of life and in most cases it's just not worth it. There are lots of ways to make a living. Why stick to a job that makes you unhappy? Thank you for reading and commenting.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 01, 2016:
Rajan - Looking back, so many people say that. I am glad you are happy now.
Thelma Alberts from Germany on March 01, 2016:
What an awesome and excellent hub! I always quit my part time job (I don´t work full time) when I suffered from burnout due to stress and most of all when I had to run after my wages. I quit my last job (which was the best job I had) which was in Ireland because I had to move back to where I am now. Thanks for sharing.
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on February 29, 2016:
I can certainly relate to many of these situations and I took a long, long time quitting my last job. I just wish I had read this then. Very useful hub. Sharing this ahead.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 17, 2015:
swalia - Thank you for the kind kudos. Congratulations on your decision to finally let go of a job that obviously wasn't doing you any favors. And now on to the next chapter of your life! Best wishes!
Shaloo Walia from India on December 16, 2015:
Awesome hub, I must say!
I have recently quit the job I was in for ten years. After two years of extreme stress, I finally made the decision to quit. And now my only regret is why I didn't do it earlier.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 10, 2015:
Julie - Thanks for reading and voting. Have a great week!
Julie K Henderson on August 09, 2015:
Bravo. This is a comprehensive and compelling article. I think you addressed the topic exceptionally well. Voted up.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 11, 2015:
Thelma Alberts - Thanks for your comment. There's more than one job available in the world. Sometimes we close ourselves off to the options that are available and stay in a job that makes us miserable, thereby making others feel miserable as well.
Thelma Alberts from Germany on July 10, 2015:
Those are good reasons to quit the jobs but other people have to work to live. I quit my jobs before in Germany when I was feeling burned out because of the stress but the last time I quit my job, I was crying as I did not want to but I had to because of my health. That was my job as a massage therapist in a spa in Ireland. I had to quit as the weather in Ireland made me sick and I had to go back to Germany for a treatment. Thanks for sharing this hub. Well done. Happy weekend!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 10, 2015:
Nadine - It was helpful to have your perspective as both an employer and someone who has been self-employed. Thanks for stopping by!
Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on June 10, 2015:
What an excellent article. Thank goodness that I 'm self employed for the last 30 years. I have also been an employer but made absolutely sure if these people had an interest and a love for the job I was paying them for. Being a good employer is also very important. People who are desperate to earn money are not always the right kind to employ. They will tell you all kinds of lies and if you not careful they can cost you a fortune. Being self employed is not always possible for people, but what is important is that the work they do MUST be of an interest to them, no matter what the payment might be.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 09, 2015:
Kamalesh050 - I'm glad that you have finally found something that suits you. Thank you for reading and have a great week!
Kamalesh Chakraverty from Sahaganj, Dist. Hooghly, West Bengal, India on June 08, 2015:
Wow, what an EXCELLENT hub ! OUTSTANDING I must say. I am totally in agreement as to what you have written. I have retired having changed my job seven times!! If you are not happy with your job it's always better to quit! Keep on writing my friend. Best Wishes, Kamalesh