15 Ways to Know When It's Time to Quit Your Job
Stuck In A Job Going Nowhere Fast?
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?
How long have you been unhappy in a job before actually quitting?
Field of Dreams?
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.
Move On Before You Become Bitter and Burned Out
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.)
Do You Still Eagerly Drink the Company Kool-Aid?
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.
Do you drink the company Kool-Aid?
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.
Sick Again? Maybe It's the Job
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.
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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.
Only One Life to Live? Then Use It Well
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 AloneClick thumbnail to view full-size
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?
Unfair Beyond Words?
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.
Cheap Stress Therapy
Who suffers MOST when there is an employee who wants to quit but stays (for whatever reason)?
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.
Office Mean Girls?
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.
All Work and No Play
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
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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.
Better Get Goin' While the Gettin' Is Good
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.
Fly, Fly Away
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
Find a Job You Can Be Happy With
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